Three parties appeal EIR certification

Following last week’s certification, three parties have appealed the planning commission’s decision.

The San Jose Sharks, Stand for San Jose (a coalition backed by the San Francisco Giants) and a resident who lives near the stadium site allege that the report, which the commission approved last week, does not adequately analyze or disclose potential impacts from traffic and parking, among other issues.

Chances are that the City Council will move forward despite the appeals. It’ll be up to the various parties to see whether or not a lawsuit is filed. The important piece of news to come out of this is the date of the council’s hearing: June 15.

Rangers file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Strange goings on in the Metroplex. Tom Hicks’ mismanagement of his sports empire has finally caught up with him, with his HSG Sports Group filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to avoid paying off some $540 million in debt.

Here’s how bad the situation is:

In January, Mr. Hicks reached a deal with Messrs. Greenberg and Ryan to sell the Rangers, the Ballpark at Arlington, and some 150 acres adjacent to the stadium in a deal valued at about $530 million, although the value has escalated with the rising amount of liabilities the new owners are prepared to assume. According to court filings those liabilities include almost $25 million that the team owes slugger Alex Rodriguez in deferred compensation and almost $13 million it owes pitcher Kevin Millwood. Neither player is with the team anymore.

The “Ryan” in the above paragraph is possible future Rangers managing partner Nolan Ryan, who wrote an open letter to the team’s fans in the Dallas Morning News. It’ll be interesting to see how much longer it takes for this to be resolved, as it must have MLB’s undivided attention at this point. Perhaps the league won’t broach the A’s situation until the Rangers’ issues are resolved. Not that they’re in a hurry, mind you.

Supreme Court strikes down NFL’s antitrust bid

As part of the NFL’s ongoing legal battle with former cap vendor American Needle, the league decided to make a claim that it had a “single entity” structure which allowed it to make unified business decisions of all kinds, not just branding. In a 9-0 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the claim, which if granted would have put the NFL closer to the antitrust exemption that MLB enjoys.

Soon-to-retire Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the opinion, which included the following gems:

“Although NFL teams have common interests such as promoting the NFL brand, they are still separate, profit-maximizing entities, and their interests in licensing team trademarks are not necessarily aligned.”

“Although two teams are needed to play a football game, not all aspects of elaborate interleague cooperation are necessary to produce a game.”

The NFL Players Association, which has been seeking any kind of leverage in its difficult negotiations with the league, thinks it found some in the decision.

“The Court’s decision affirms our belief that the NFL should not be allowed to operate as a monopoly to the detriment of fans, players and the government. In a country where competition and fair play are so highly-valued, the Court wisely declined to give the NFL a leg up by usurping the role of Congress and ignoring both the letter and the spirit of its anti-trust laws.”

Obviously, the league disagrees. In any case, I don’t expect the situation to get much less contentious, even though some observers think that the decision could get the two parties back to the table more quickly. The NFL just did this as a tactic, whereas the actual debate between league and union are about major dollars-and-cents issues, several of which have the two sides miles apart (revenue sharing formula, first round draft pick salaries). As for American Needle? The case now goes back down to the lower courts.

More on the case and issues can be found at SCOTUSWiki, Forbes’ SportsMoney blog, the National Football Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

Quick Note On Attendance

You’ll notice that today marks the first date this season in which the A’s attendance has surpassed last season’s attendance (thanks, Giants fans). The Green and Gold head out for a 10-game road trip and don’t return until June 4th for a 3-game weekend series against the Twins and a 4-game set vs. the Angels.

To stay ahead of last season’s pace, attendance would have to average 18,600 fans for that week’s worth of games. Here’s to a successful road trip, and to rally the troops when they come back…

(Yes, I know that Rob Schneider happens to be a Giants fan. He’s also half-Filipino. You take what you can get.)

So THAT’S Why They Got Chris Townsend

Before the beginning of the season, longtime pre-pre-game radio host and overall nice guy Marty Lurie was unceremoniously dropped by the A’s/KTRB. No reason was given, only an announcement that former KNBR update guy and Sports Byline late night host Chris Townsend would inherit the position. While I liked the direction because of Townsend’s edge and SJSU ballplayer roots, I felt bad for Lurie, who is as congenial and full of history as anyone local gets. I’m glad he was able to continue his work on the other side of the bay.

Townsend came in and didn’t immediately try to set the fanbase on fire. He measured the audience, sought to gain their confidence and a trust, which is not the easiest thing to do – Robert Buan was often vilified by anyone who wasn’t a regular caller to the post game show. Over the first month or so, that edge started to show itself, as Townsend implored callers to “bring it.”

Yesterday, after the Gio gem, we finally got to see that edge fully unleashed, and the callers (as well as this listener) fed off it big time. Was it emperor nobody who had what amounted to a nice, lengthy segment? And did Bleacher Dave seem a bit restrained, yet insightful as usual? Whatever the case, Townsend was in fine form as his San Diego boy roots showed, along with his full and complete hatred of the Giants. He ripped into bandwagon fans, Will Clark not becoming the next Ted Williams, the 51 years of no rings, and I was loving every minute of it for the entertainment value. (If you’re wondering, I don’t hate the Giants myself, I only pity them and their fans.) There was even room for T-rights and Oakland-vs.-San Jose in the discussion, and without the usual vitriol.

What you’re hearing is a changing of the guard. Townsend took over for Buan and Lurie. It’s only a matter of time before Carney Lansford takes over for Ray Fosse. Now, Carney definitely needs more seasoning at the analyst desk before he steps into the broadcast booth full-time, even if it’s the TV role. For the future, especially if it’s in San Jose, Carney’s the bridge to the previous era. He’s from Santa Clara and sent his sons to Bellarmine St. Francis. He also was part of Baseball San Jose, and I fully expect him to pop up in a TV ad here and there prior to the November election. Come 2012 I would love to have Cotroneo/Lansford in the TV booth (where there’s more room for mistakes), and Korach/Hendu in the radio booth. Of course, there is the possibility that newly retired Eric Byrnes could step in, but I suspect he’ll have a national job coming soon enough, perhaps with MLB Network.

As I write this over Sunday brunch, washing it down with a Sierra Nevada, I have to say the future is bright.

Wolff says Fremont still not happening

I stand corrected. Warm Springs is a no go, according to Lew Wolff, because of a lack of a residential component as envisioned in the Pacific Commons plan.

“The entire activity in Fremont was based on the ability to sell residential entitlements,” he said.

And Wolff doesn’t anticipate the market supporting the magnitude of housing envisioned in the ballpark village plan. “I think we missed our opportunity,” he said. “We have to be in an existing downtown.”

Oh well. Now that we’ve heard ownership’s perspective, the circle is complete. (Thanks Matt Artz/Argus)

Three’s Not A Crowd: Tesla + Toyota + A’s

In what can only be described as a miraculous turn of events, Tesla and Toyota have worked out a deal to build the upcoming, <$50k Model S sedan at NUMMI in Fremont. Toyota’s providing the shuttered plant and $50 million of funding, Tesla will 1,000-1,200 jobs back to the plant in South Fremont.

Strategically, it’s a great move for both. Let’s look at what each company gets. Toyota gets:

  • Some good PR back from the NUMMI closure
  • A cheap investment on all-electric technology, which is not currently in its portfolio (Toyota has bet largely on hybrid powertrains).
  • A use for the original plant that is compatible without having to pay for cleanup

Tesla gets:

  • Toyota’s legitimacy in the industry
  • An already built facility only minutes from the headquarters
  • Access to a good, capable workforce trained the right way
  • Tax breaks from the state on equipment
  • Rail access, which is important for suppliers

Of course, you’re wondering how this could affect the A’s. According to Argus scribe Matt Artz, it wouldn’t affect a ballpark project much at all. Straight from CEO/Iron-Man 2 cameo Elon Musk’s mouth:

“Tesla doesn’t have any objection as long as it doesn’t impact production of vehicles, which I don’t think a ballpark would.”

Imagine that! A ballpark and a plant may be compatible after all. Wonders never cease. As stated previously, Tesla’s space requirements are far less than what’s available at NUMMI (20k cars/yr vs. 400k cars/yr under NUMMI), it wouldn’t be surprising to see some of the unused plant facility reused as warehousing for suppliers. Tesla also operates on a build-to-order model, so you won’t expect to see large numbers of cars on the massive prep lot. It’s likely that plenty of space on the north end will be available for development, whether that’s offices, retail, or a ballpark – any or all of which could work together with the plant.

Could anyone see this coming? Probably not. It seemed that Tesla was set on a factory in Downey, but this all came together extremely quickly. Whether or not anyone at Fremont City Hall can legitimately claim credit for this, the quick change happened on its watch. A green, progressive business that has the cachet that most cities would kill for? That kind of political currency heading into the next election is, well, priceless.

In my estimation, this news does nothing but make a Fremont ballpark a much more tangible option. Whether or not Wolff/Fisher have made the same conclusion is anyone’s guess.