A’s sign 4-year radio deal with KBWF-FM 95.7 “The Wolf”

The A’s press release is available now.

For some part of the next four years, A’s games will be broadcast on 95.7, KBWF-FM, a.k.a. “The Wolf.” It’s a country station, broadcasting with a Class B license atop San Bruno Mountain at 6,900 watts. The coverage map from radio-locator looks like this:

While 6,900 watts is not the most powerful of signals, KBWF is augmented by a 186 W (that’s right) repeater near Mt. Diablo, which is meant to help the station’s coverage in Contra Costa County. The FCC’s service contour map can be found here, though it should be pointed out that the single line in that map reflects the same coverage as the red line in the map above.

Perhaps the biggest and most unknown takeaway of all of this is the fact that the deal was with Entercom, the radio giant that owns Sharks broadcaster KUFX. Entercom isn’t looking to sell individual stations, so the chance that it might unload one of its properties to a non-radio entity like the A’s is slim. It’s unclear what this means for KTRB. The A’s press release makes no mention of Comerica Bank-owned station. If this was yet another hardball tactic in ongoing negotiations, it may push the bank to take a less hard line stance. As for KTRB, the A’s pursuit of the station is over according to Susan Slusser. Via SuSlu’s Twitter feed:

The #Athletics pursuit of 860 AM is at an end. They offered more than double what it was worth and had signed letter of intent to buy.

#Athletics VP Ken Pries on the receiver’s motives for terminating team broadcasts: “You can speculate. Leverage? Up the offer? Hardball?”

If the receiver for 860 AM was trying to play hardball, she lost big-time. Only the #Athletics had incentive to overpay for troubled station

Pries says the team will now try to find affiliate in Monterey area with demise of 860 AM. #athletics

That last tweet is for Bleacher Dave. If the A’s simply thought the price was too high, it’s possible that KTRB’s existence as the other sports radio station in the Bay Area will be short-lived, as whomever buys the station will surely go with a different format.

We can’t end this without a joke, this one from Ken Arneson:

So I’m assuming that the A’s new radio station “95.7 The Wolf” will soon change its name to “The Wolff”?

It’s a sad day for the many of us who wanted an alternative to the KNBR hegemony. At least the A’s have a broadcast deal going forward. How long this one lasts… well, we wouldn’t be A’s fans if we knew.

P.S. – Wherever you are in the Bay Area, please turn on KBWF and let us know how the coverage sounds. The signal is constant day and night, so it should not be affected by the transmission power rules that plagued previous stations.

P.P.S. – Pre and postgame coverage will remain as is with Chris Townsend doing the honors (he is employed by the A’s). Over the last couple of months, KBWF has garnered a 1.1 rating, good for 26th in the San Francisco market (#4 nationwide) and just above rival country station KRTY, which pulled in a 1.0. In the San Jose market (#34), KRTY gets a 3.1 while KBWF (13th) pulls in 0.7 (30th).

State Budget Talks Collapse

The word from the Capitol tonight is that budget talks have broken down. Governor Brown took to YouTube to explain his side of things, laying blame on the Republicans for holding out for more cuts.

Brown says he’s not given up on the process, but it sounds more and more like the Democrats are going to try to do this on their own. What that means is highly uncertain at this point. It could mean Draconian cuts, it could mean getting concessions from public employees unions – just about anything is up for grabs at this point. That anything includes redevelopment. Safe again for the time being, redevelopment was supported by the Republicans in a smaller, compromise plan. It remains to be seen whether some (or many) Dems will start supporting redevelopment again or if they stay unified behind the Governor.

One thing’s absolutely certain: This isn’t getting resolved anytime soon.

Baseball Season means it’s time for Homeroom

Updated 7:00 PM – The Merc’s Tracy Seipel has a Q&A on the A’s-to-San Jose effort.

I went to the A’s ticket office to pick up some extra seats for this weekend, and while I was there, I figured I’d check out a little eatery I’d heard about, Homeroom. Located at 400 40th Street in the Temescal neighborhood, Homeroom is only a few blocks east of the MacArthur BART station and a few more blocks from Fenton’s Creamery.

Homeroom’s thing is Mac ‘n Cheese. As American as baseball or apple pie, mac ‘n cheese is perhaps the ultimate comfort food, and is clearly my favorite American food. When I heard that a restaurant dedicated to serving up the dish was opening in Oakland, I squealed like a little girl. Today just happened to be a day I could partake in cheesy goodness, so off I went.

The decor is reminiscent of an elementary school classroom, with a wall-sized chalkboard in the back. Tables are made out of refinished remnants of old gymnasium bleachers, a huge plus in my book.

Seeing that this was my first visit, I chose the Classic, which is the simple Cheddar-based version with no toppings. Breadcrumbs are great from a textural standpoint but don’t impart much flavor, and bacon, frankly, is a cheat. Just about anything can be improved with bacon, so I wanted to see what the dish was like without embellishment. Mac n’ Cheese is generally a vegetarian dish, but they also had a vegan option and just about everything can be ordered gluten free.

The menu has both wine and beer pairing suggestions. The proprietors are apparently big beer coinnoisseurs, since they do occasional beer-food events and had spent some time puttin together the solid, but not exceptionally long list of beers. I asked for a Racer 5 from Bear Republic, but it was out and they had Acme IPA from North Coast instead. I went for the suggested beer for the Classic, Lost Coast’s Downtown Brown, which inevitably was a very good idea.

Texture is everyting when it comes to mac ‘n cheese. I wasn’t disappointed. Sharp, molten cheddar had the perfect balance of heft and creaminess. Portion size at $7.50 was just right. The brown ale took the edge off the sharpness. Lather, rinse, repeat. Dessert was a homemade oreo cookie, sweet but not cloying. Total bill was a shade north of $18, not including tip. I went mid-afternoon, hoping to avoid the reportedly long lines.

It’s too bad the Broadway Auto Row concept never gained traction, either 4 years ago when I sketched it out or last year when Let’s Go Oakland was looking at sites. Homeroom and Fenton’s would be great for families attending a day weekend game to simply walk over to these establishments. With some luck, Homeroom will continue its early success and attain the kind of longevity experienced at Fenton’s. Even though it’s a ways from the Coliseum and not within walking distance of Victory Court, Homeroom is worth a visit. Perhaps not everyday as you were mandated in grade school, but once in a while, maybe every other homestand. How else are you going to try the various great mac ‘n cheese variations they have on hand?

Radio update and other news for 3/28/11

The weekend came and went with no movement on the KTRB front. Strangely, the Bay Bridge Series will be broadcast on former flagship KFRC-1550 AM. Why? I don’t know, but I guess it doesn’t hurt to have a Plan B. Still holding out for a final resolution, which Rick Tittle suggests could be coming today. Time for a poll.

The Chronicle’s Ron Kroichick wrote what amounts to a eulogy for the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. Worth reading.

In related news, details are emerging about the deal that will bring the Kings to Anaheim. Not included in the $75 million relocation cost are the payment terms of existing debt the Maloofs have with the Kings.

The Maloofs inherited the terms of a $70 million loan from the previous Kings owner when they bought the team, and there’s a reported $67 million left on the loan, which also stipulates a prepayment penalty of $9 million.

That $76 million would have to be paid in full if the Kings relocate or else the Maloofs would lose their arena and the City of Sacramento would acquire a $25 million stake in the team.

Wondering how the 2022 World Cup in Qatar can occur in the hot desert with no domed stadia? Try artificial clouds.

That thing hovering over the stadium? That's a cloud.

Attendance at the Cactus League is down, leading me to believe that it’s oversaturated. From USA Today’s Bob Nightengale:

The Cactus League has essentially been divided into the haves and have-nots, with nine of the 15 teams located on the economically troubled west side of Phoenix. Instead, fans in Arizona are choosing to watch games on the Valley’s east side, where the San Francisco Giants, Rockies, Diamondbacks and Cubs are responsible for more than one-third of the Cactus League’s draw.

AEG chose Gensler to be the lead architect on the downtown LA football stadium, if it happens.

gojohn10 is promoting a worthwhile fundraiser event.

Please join me in supporting Children’s Hospital Oakland by attending an A’s game. I am organizing a fundraiser for the Aug 13th game vs Texas. This is Ray Fosse Bobblehead day and will likely be an important game that will propel the A’s toward the AL West Crown. Tickets are in the Plaza level and are $20 (regularly $24). $8 from every sale gets donated toward the hospital.

If you are unable to attend the game, please consider purchasing a ticket or two anyhow, and donating them. We will be working with various departments in the hospital to identify patient families in need and we will donate as many tickets as possible so that the kids and their families can be present at the game too!

Tickets sales have to go through us and are on sale at the hospital. Since this is inconvenient for most of you, I can purchase the tickets for you if you paypal me. For more information contact me at the email I’ve set up for the event: ballgame@mail.cho.org.

P.S.
I want to sell as many tickets as possible so I am willing to split up the seating so pro-Oaklanders and pro-SJers can enjoy the game in peace ;)

Thanks,
John

More on the radio situation as it happens.

Update 4:00 PM – Rich Lieberman has the latest. Have the A’s walked away from the table? Is it like going to a car dealership and getting up to leave as a negotiating tactic? We’ll see.

KTRB broadcast deal in jeopardy

Apparently, playing hardball extends to the board room when you’re the A’s. They started the offseason haggling with Hisashi Iwakuma, now they end it haggling over a radio station. BANG’s Joe Stiglich reports tonight that the A’s and Comerica Bank are still duking it out over the final price to buy KTRB. The bank, which owns the station as part of bankruptcy and receivership proceedings, may be pulling A’s broadcasts off the air as a negotiating tactic.

According to the source, the receiver is looking for a higher bid than the A’s are willing to offer, and might be threatening to pull games off the air as leverage.

But it’s also possible that one of the sides budges and a compromise is struck to continue airing games before next Friday’s opener.

I was afraid that this would hold up the sale. Lew Wolff and Ken Pries have a week to prevent this from being a disaster. Do the right thing. Git er done.

MLB may change debt rule

At the end of last season I wrote about how MLB’s lightly-enforced debt rule might impact the A’s in the future. Now that the Mets have been practically sunk by the Madoff scandal and the Dodgers handcuffed by the McCourts’ divorce proceedings, Bud Selig may be looking to actually monitor the situation more closely and even act on violations.

The NY Post kicked off today’s news by indicating that a change to the existing debt rule may be in order. The article cites the now obsolete 60:40 rule, which was mothballed in favor of a multiplier-based system in which debt couldn’t be more than 10x operating income, or 15x if a new stadium were in operation. The kicker is that MLB is looking to include holding company debt in the calculation, which has potentially enormous implications. For ownership groups that were heavily leveraged to buy TV networks and radio stations, enforcement could have crippling effects on how much they can spend in the future, whether it’s on players or anything else. MLBPA may be pushing in favor of such a plan since it would provide a more honest assessment of each club’s financial stability and risk.

A source who represents players said, “I think it [a rule change] is positive,” even if it could have a negative impact on salaries.

That kind of agreement is nowhere to be found among the NFL, NBA and their unions. Craig Calcaterra has a short take on the rule change as well.

Where I’m not clear on the impact is whether or not additional teams and their debt in other sports is applicable. After all, Tom Hicks overreached to buy Liverpool F.C. and lost both the soccer team and the Texas Rangers because of it. While that’s clearly an outlier case, crazier things have happened. Ask Fred Wilpon, John Moores, or Frank McCourt.

The upshot of this is that while the A’s appear to be clean at the moment, things will get a more stringent in the next CBA and with the building of a new ballpark. MLB will look at any stadium deal and the A’s ability to make it work very, very closely. And while Selig may be supporting his friends Wilpon and McCourt right now, it wouldn’t surprise me for Selig to make an example out of one of them in the future, and to use the A’s or Rays as an example of how to properly run a lower-revenue franchise.

To further explain this, let’s take a look at operating income for the A’s as reported by Forbes for the last three seasons:

  • 2009 – $26 million
  • 2010 – $22 million
  • 2011 – $23 million

The average of those is $23.7 million. With a 10x multiplier, the A’s debt ceiling is $236.7 million. They’re nowhere near that point right now. Once they add a ballpark, that number will shoot up considerably. The ceiling will be $355 million, though that’s not enough to fully cover construction costs (and outstanding debt). The stadium cost number may go down by MLB’s definition if more corporates are locked in early and long term, I suppose that’s at the league’s discretion. Just as important, the debt number will be as high or perhaps even higher than the franchise value. Whether the debt rule stays the same, just with greater enforcement, or evolves to include holding companies, it’ll be interesting to see how individual teams respond in terms of fiscal restraint. That a debt rule change is on the table would also reinforce the idea that the A’s stadium resolution may not come until after CBA talks are complete. Will that happen before or after the season ends? We’ll find out soon enough.

Interesting Oakland news 3/25/11

The following nuggets were too big to relegate to the end of the last post, so they’re getting their own.

Former Oakland fire chief and San Diego city manager P. Lamont Ewell was named Interim Oakland City Administrator. That interim tag means five months, as Ewell was brought in to take care of the budget. Ewell also had a stint as Oakland’s assistant city manager. Dan Lindheim, who was placed in the City Administrator role by former mayor Ron Dellums, will stay on to handle various contract negotiations, including a Victory Court ballpark if it comes to fruition. This comes over two years after Robert Bobb was brought in as a consultant to clean up the budget mess left by his one-time successor, Deborah Edgerly. Bobb was offered the permanent position and declined it to take the helm of Detroit Public Schools. I’m not sure why Oakland’s had to bring in two people to do effectively one job twice in the last four years, but that’s gotta stop. Surely there’s someone out there who’s qualified and actually wants the Oakland City Administrator job.

Oakland is in the bidding for a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory campus. Among the locations being considered are the Oak-to-Ninth site which we’d covered here a while back, the area across the Nimitz from the Coliseum, where the Zhone Technologies building now sits, and the Kaiser Center (the office towers, not the arena). The Trib’s Cecily Burt reports:

Oakland has stiff competition. The cities of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Dublin, Richmond and Walnut Creek have all responded to university’s request for proposals. And UC could very well decided to scrap them all and build the second campus on land it already owns in Richmond. The university is expected to announce the finalists by mid-April, and could make the final choice in June at the earliest.

Nevertheless, Oakland’s putting out several potentially feasible sites. One of the unique wishlist items is space for a 3,000-foot long building. That would seem to rule out O29 since the length of the entire site is barely more than 3,000 feet and would require filling in the bay in a spot. However, this is a government project we’re talking about, so the environmental process could have exemptions or waivers to help it along. Other wishlist items include a desire for minimal environmental cleanup, which may be why LBL is looking beyond the brownfield albeit UC-owned Richmond Field Station.

Landing this project would be a huge win and would more than offset last year’s loss of Clorox’s research pool to Pleasanton. If Oakland doesn’t win the bid, it’ll lose jobs associated with the LBL-run National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, which is located near the Kaiser Center. At least 800 employees would move into the new second campus by December 2015.

How any of this fits with the ballpark is anyone’s guess, since there’s no clear cut favorite. Berkeleyside has more info on what LBL is aiming to build. The RFQ and clarifying Q&A can be found here. An internationally renowned research facility near either the Coliseum or Victory Court is bound to create some kind of halo effect, making surrounding land attractive for peripheral development. Then again, it could also hike up land values in what could be a very speculative market. Either way there’s huge potential. May the best bid win. Going back to the quoted paragraph – a decision could be made in June. Can you imagine a big, bureaucratic government agency (DoE) acting more swiftly and decisively than Major League Baseball? Say it ain’t so, Bud.