Dolich supports a new “multi-use” stadium

A reader alerted me to Andy Dolich’s piece last week in the Biz Ball section of the CSN Bay Area/California website. Dolich goes back through the postwar history of stadia in America, going from the multipurpose bowls of yesteryear to the new single purpose venues of the last twenty years. He then summarizes the current difficulty experienced by California teams when it comes to getting stadia built. After that, he proposes an idea so strange it might have come out of the 60′s: the 49ers, Raiders, and A’s should all share one stadium where the Coliseum currently sits. In supporting this “multi-use” concept, Dolich cites major technological advances, such as the movable seating decks at ANZ Stadium and customizable LED displays used everywhere nowadays.

While Dolich’s sense of history is sound, he left out a major factor that has sent both the NFL and MLB on different tracks. The Neo-Classical ballparks are much smaller in terms of capacity than their predecessors, while the new football stadia are much larger. 40,000 has emerged as a sweet spot for MLB, while 65,000 is preferable for the NFL. No amount of new technology is going to be able to mask or easily move 25,000 seats, not even tarps.

The requirements for baseball and football have diverged so much that it’s hard to envision even attempting to make a multipurpose stadium work these days. Let’s take a look at how the two sports’ requirements differ:

  • Proximity to the field. In baseball, it’s customary to have the first row at the same level as the field, or perhaps a foot above the field. In football, the first row may be 6-10 feet above the field.
  • Quantity of premium seating. Football stadia tend to have 7,500 club seats and 100-200 suites. Ballparks have 3-4,000 club seats and around 40 suites.
  • Confinement. Colder seasons force football stadia to enclose their suites behind glass, whereas ballparks like to take advantage of the summer by putting the seats outside the glassed-in parts of the suites.
  • Surfaces. While Field Turf and other advanced artificial surfaces have gotten better at mimicking grass, they’re still far away from being truly comparable for baseball applications. The fake stuff is welcome in football, where there’s no need to worry about having a true ball bounce or roll. If a stadium were to utilize grass, the dirt infield problem emerges.
  • Environment aesthetics. In football, the stadium is the scene. In baseball, ballparks are frequently designed take advantage of a pastoral or urban backdrop.

ANZ Stadium's pitch. Note the tracks used to move the seats in and out.

The technology that Dolich espouses does little to address the differences in fan experience that the single purpose venues achieve. For instance, ANZ Stadium‘s movable seating sections could be an inspiration. Prime lower deck seats are mounted on tracks that expand and contract based on each sport’s specifications. It sounds good until you realize that the difference in capacity between ANZ’s rectangular (rugby, soccer) and oval (cricket, Aussie Rules) is only 2,000 seats. As a cricket venue it is severely compromised in terms of dimensions, with far more cricket tests played at Sydney’s older Cricket Ground. Movable seating decks have been employed to mixed success in the United States, the most prominent examples being the Louisiana Superdome and Candlestick Park. Aloha Stadium and Mile High Stadium both had novel methods to move entire seating stands. At Aloha, four double-deck stands either pinched in for football or widened out for baseball. Eventually the stadium was locked into its football configuration, much the same way The Stick’s east stands have been kept in their football mode.

LED displays are great replacements for signage. They make an excellent platform for disseminating game information. But they don’t address the capacity disparity. From a fan experience standpoint, it could be said that the displays are sometimes counterproductive since they are so distracting. Either way, they’re just window dressing.

Dolich uses the current economic state as justification for building a multipurpose stadium. Why bother, if the fan experience will only be marginally better than the current stadium, and will always be compared to superior experiences at single purpose venues? Dolich worked for the 49ers as a consultant to help improve the experience at The Stick, and was not particularly prominent in the selling of the new stadium to Santa Clara residents. He was unceremoniously let go at the beginning of this calendar year, and now he’s practically endorsing an alternative to the plan. If this were the 60′s, when both baseball and football were played in 50,000-seat ashtrays, it might be feasible. Times have changed. Until someone figures out how to make 25,000 seats disappear, the idea is not really worthy of discussion.

31 thoughts on “Dolich supports a new “multi-use” stadium

  1. I think we now know why Dolich was pushed out by the ’9ers—

  2. Aren’t some of the main issues with the A’s and Raiders sharing a stadium now the whole infield dirt and crappy field condition when there are short turnarounds? On paper it would make all the sense in the world, but put it into practice…

  3. Good analysis, ML. Actually all Dolich is describing is the set up at the old Mile High Stadium. That wasn’t a terrible baseball park, in terms of the aligment of seats between first and third bases (it’s orgins were as a minor-league baseball park) but it had about 40,000 outfield seats — exactly the problem M.L. points to in this post.

  4. If they want a multi-use stadium, why not take the Coliseum, level the bleacher area with all the yellow flowers and view of the Oakland hills, and build stands with thousands of new seats and 100 luxury boxes? They could airlift in and out by crane several thousand more seats on Raiders game days so the stadium could still be used for baseball. Oh, wait a second…

  5. ANZ Stadium is not even good in rectangular setup because the grade of the stands is too flat and the front row is far from the touch line. Nobody benefits from a Transformer stadium.

  6. i wouldn’t say “no one benefits from a Transformer stadium”. Actually, in reading Mr. Dolich’s article, it seems that taxpayers would benefit, because building one stadium is cheaper than three. But, i agree … these days everyone wants retro-stadiums. This idea by Dolich, while having it’s merits, will be filed away with Bryan Grunwald’s 980 plan.

  7. sure would like to see August and September when you have two nfl teams and a baseball team trying to play in the same facility. We know the football team would alternate weekends, but where does that leave the baseball team. And no the NFL will not want to have the raiders or niners always be sunday or monday night (as the other team would have to play earlier in the day)..This idea is a total non starter if you have two NFL teams involved

  8. Dolich is an idiot and several 49ers/A’s fans know this from years ago. He is old and the times have passed him by as evidenced by this article.

    Multi-purpose? Really? What a brain dead moron.

    He suggest to build it in Oakland where there is such a small private sector that it would need a huge public subsidy?

    Dolich is one of the those “Newhouse type” guys who think San Jose is pruneyards still and not a sprawling metropolis with a very strong private sector.

    This guy needs to be “committed”, send him away!

  9. Dolich was a big part of the Haas era A’s that brought championship-level play to Oakland. His new idea may not be doable, but i think he deserves our respect, IMHO.

  10. @Sid–”he is old and the times have passed him by” Sounds like your buddy LW, who had that crazy, hair-brained Fremont Ballpark Village idea; built out in the middle of nowhere; no Bart; most parking far-away (1/2 to 1 mile away) cuz the overpriced condos and Santa Row II need to be closer to the park; and the potential name change to Silicon Valley A’s of Fremont. Talk about who should be committed??

  11. @jk–I think I would actualy pay money to you if you would just one time have a post that contributes to the discussion and is based upon facts—just one time man—

  12. re: build out condos in the middle of nowhere.

    In the 1500s, North America was the planet’s “middle of nowhere.” Not so today. Risk takers came over and made it the greatest place on Earth. It’s risk takers like Wolff that create jobs and opportunities for people But even he is not willing to take on the risk of a new ballpark in Oakland.

    Incidentally, that “middle of nowhere” in Fremont was something like a quarter mile west of Route 880 in Fremont. The project made sense before the real estate market collapsed and the big box retailers whined about losing their precious parking, apparently oblivious that some A’s fans might actually patronize their stores. Now, they can rely on NUMMI plant workers as customers. Oh, wait a second…

  13. @GoA’s–you owe me a lot of money, because I’ve contributed to the discussion based on the facts MANY times.

    Here’s just one of many that contributed to the Raiders stadium discussion, and it’s based on facts:
    12/10@2p–”Cal’s Stadium will be renovated by the 2012 season, so the Raiders can maybe play there.”

    Please donate$100 in my name to St. Vincent De Paul of Oakland. Thank you :)

  14. jk, your misguieded belief the Raiders can play in a renovated 100 year old college stadium in Berkeley at a is not a fact…

  15. Raiders playing at Cal? Not likely. I hear the Cal renovation will feature no luxury boxes. And of course the parking nightmare for Cal football games means tailgating for Raiders games can only take place in BART parking lots from Fremont to Hayward.

  16. @Dan &pjk–okay, then where do you think they would play if the Coli gets torn down? The Stick, AT &T, ?
    So there’s no tail-gating at Cal? The Raider Nation will get over it. $321 million renovation at Memorial Stadium will make it a very nice venue, even temporarily for a pro team. 3 levels of club seating for 3k fans may fill that luxury box need.

  17. re: then where do you think they would play if the Coli gets torn down?

    …the LA or Oakland coliseum? If they stay in Oakland – a big if – they’d probably be welcomed at Candlestick. If they move back to LA, well, I don’t know if Pasadena wants them in the Rose Bowl.

    No luxury boxes at Cal mean no Big $$$ luxury box rentals to corporations. Al Davis moved back to Oakland because they built him something like 130 luxury boxes (that he’s never been able to lease). Think he’ll move to a building that doesn’t have any?

  18. One of the obvious things overlooked in the costs associated with the proposed re-construction of the Coli is just what pjk is pointing out–who is going to make the Raiders financially whole while they play in a temporary location for a few years. Uncle Al will expect Oakland/Alameda County to take on this financial burden also–

  19. jk, they’d either play at the Coliseum itself while the new park goes up next door (ala Cinergy Field) or they’d go over to another NFL stadium at Candlestick. They would not spend a season at Berkeley. Access is too restrictive there, not enough luxury suites, plus no night games. To say nothing of the NIMBYs.

    And that assumes the Raiders don’t bolt to Santa Clara or LA (again).

  20. @pjk–yeah, probably the Stick, the dump that it is,but it would be nice to keep the money in the east bay. Cal playing at AT&T next year means more money for SF taken out of the east bay again. Looks like another blackout this week against Denver. A win yesterday may of helped. I’m going to the Indy game in 2 weeks.

  21. Funny…some of these supposed pro-oakland backers are saying they will never attend an A’s game if they move to SJ, yet they are caving in to Al Davis and attending a raiders game even after he left Oakland, returned to ruin the Coliseum, and left a colossal debt for the city. Go figure….

  22. If Oakland even looks at building a new stadium for the Raiders before the first pitch is thrown at a new Oakland A’s ballpark, MLB ought to move the team out instantaneously.

  23. Ironic in this Dolich proposal which is ridiculous—who would get screwed again–the A’s—playing in a football stadium and having to deal with 2 teams, not one, beating up the playing surface—but I think that there is a bigger message here—-and that message is that perhaps that Dolich realizes that Oakland afford an A’s ballpark—and that this would be “the strategy” to keeping the team in Oakland—keep in mind that Perata realized this—and at some point in time—the new Oakland leadership is going to realize this–picking a site and doing an EIR is the easy part…and that took way too long to even get to this point.

  24. ST, not only that, but the Raiders maintained a significant fanbase even after moving a whole lot further than San Jose.

  25. @jk-usa- Lew Wolff was going to “privately” finance the ballpark in Fremont with Residential entitlements that were coming from the condos he was proposing. It was a great idea before the recession hit and now that is not possible anymore.

    LW idea in Fremont is more feasible than Andy Dolich’s ridiculous article on a multi-purpose stadium. LW was trying to create jobs and not use taxpayer money for his new ballpark.

    LW is actually far more honest than most owners. He doesn’t want your money and he wants to do this with his own money…just in San Jose where there is a large private sector to support it privately and not Oakland where there is a weak private sector.

    Also the Raiders cannot play at Cal’s new memorial stadium as the local residents only signed off on the renovation if the NFL was never allowed to play there, even temporarily.

    That is because those residents didn’t want Raider fans invading the area on Sunday’s.

  26. So when Wolff is formally expected to pay $500 mill for a privately funded ballpark in Oakland and lose Big Time $$$, he gets to look like a disgusting greedy capitalist who wants to kick Oakland when it’s down. I wouldn’t blame him if he just turned back the whole franchise to the league, took a nice compensation check and walked away. Then MLB can find other investors willing to build the ballpark under these conditions – $500 mill of private funds in a place that doesn’t have the private sector to make this venture profitable.

    Like I said: Oakland feels entitled to the deal Frisco got. But Oakland aint Frisco and this aint the booming late’90s anymore.

  27. @ST–I was a huge Oakland Raider fan back in the day and went to Super Bowl XI at the Rose Bowl. $20 for a ticket. I was pissed when they moved to LA in 1982, and didn’t follow them at all, spending more time and money on my beloved A’s and Warriors. When Al came back, I was kind of happy to see them again since the BA turned to 49er country, but was not happy about the revamped Coli, which was bad for baseball and not that great for football. I see R’s games on and off since they came back, but the crazy idiots at the games turns my wife off and she doesn’t go anymore with me. It wasn’t that way in the 1970′s. The bad elements from the LA years spread up north.

  28. FYI – Noted SJ Mercury news is reporting that the RDA is selling a parcel of land for $31 million: http://www.mercurynews.com/top-stories/ci_16851476 . Just like that, between the FMC Quakes site and this new parcel of land, thats $120 million extra to the RDA budget….which can be used for a variety of reasons, including the final land acquisitions and infrastructure for the Diridon site, or even expand it further for a larger park?

  29. @ST – Expansion unlikely. Understand that the $89 million for Airport West doesn’t have to be paid until 2015, and maybe not even then. The Brandenburg deal has been waiting in the wings, I suspect it’s Barry Swenson helping to get the ball rolling w.r.t. the ballpark.

  30. @ML – understandably, its more wishful thinking in terms of a stadium expansion, but if it does happen, would it require a new EIR or process? You’re probably right that Swenson is helping this along, but it may also be because of possibly losing the $24 million in state funds for North SJ project as well…

  31. @ST – Doesn’t matter. The project is a ballpark at 32,000-45,000 seats. Certified EIR either way.

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