Sticker shock for 49er fans becomes real

According to Team Marketing Report’s NFL Fan Cost Index for 2011, the San Francisco 49ers had, on average, the 9th highest priced tickets in the league at $83.54. That price was a 9.4% rise over 2010. Given the facts that the team was in the bottom 10 in terms of payroll, and the 49ers play in one of the more decrepit stadiums in the NFL, that’s a bit of a shock. But that’s nothing compared to longtime season ticket holders experiencing sticker shock when they found out how much their locations would cost in the new Santa Clara Stadium.

The 49ers have been preparing for the blowback for a while. It’s happened everywhere else seat licenses have been offered: Dallas, New York, and yes, Oakland. Priced at up to $80k per seat for the premier 50-yard line lower club locations, it’s clear that these seats aren’t for the guy who makes less than $80k per year. These seats are for the corporate crowd. Will they sell? Of course they’ll sell, just as suites are selling. Even so, don’t worry about whether they sell or not – the NFL doesn’t count club seats against its minimum ticket sales requirements for games.

I’ll put the stadium financing dilemma in the most basic terms. Let’s say you’re buying a $1 million house. You have 15% down, or $150k. You need a loan of $850k over 30 years. Your credit isn’t the best, so your interest rate is 8.5%. That puts your monthly mortgage payment at more than $6,000. Every month. Now add three zeroes to that payment and convert it into an annual payment. That’s more than $72 million per year.

Now let’s take the attendance the 49ers can expect every season. The Santa Clara stadium will have a capacity of 68,500. They’ll play eight regular season games and two preseason games, or 9+1 if the league ever gets around to moving to an 18-game regular season. That means that every year the team needs to 685,000 tickets to pay for that $72 million mortgage. Broken down per ticket, that’s $106.42 baked into the cost of every ticket. That’s 27.4% higher than the entire current ticket price.

Of course, the 49ers won’t be adding $106.42 to each ticket to cover the cost of the stadium. They’ll make it a more progressive payoff. The premium seats and suites will carry much of the burden. Sponsorships, naming rights, pouring rights, and other revenue sources will cover a piece. When I wrote an analysis in 2009 trying to suss out how the place would be paid for, the financing was fairly well separated, the public burden lower ($330 million then vs. $850 million now). Perhaps fans in some of the cheaper sections will only be stuck with $15-20 per ticket of stadium building costs. The truly interesting part hasn’t begun yet, as the team hasn’t announced prices for its lesser club and non-club seats, many of which will also have seat licenses attached. If those don’t sell, we may see a return of the dreaded OFMA. Of course, the Giants sold their seat licenses without much difficulty and a secondary market even thrived for a long period, so there are success stories to be found.

I still remain skeptical as to how to everything will be paid for, at least by the 49ers themselves. Having the Raiders onboard would help an enormous amount. Yet even if the Raiders had signed on at the outset, it’s unlikely that the 49ers’ seat license prices would be much different. They’d probably just pay down the debt earlier or plow the money into the team at different points. Without the Raiders, I wonder if it’s more sensible to have a domed stadium in Santa Clara despite the good weather. At least with a dome, it’s a more flexible venue that can hold all sorts of other events, including multiple Super Bowls and the NCAA Final Four. Then again, the Marion County (Indianapolis) Capital Improvement Board is expected to lose money at this year’s Super Bowl. Nevermind on the dome idea.

Official: Victory Court is dead

And that’s how the drive for a downtown Oakland ballpark ends – with a whimper.

Yet another dream dies.

The Trib’s Angela Woodall reports that as a result of redevelopment cuts, the Victory Court ballpark site is now officially dead. We called it before the New Year, so it’s no surprise. But wait, weren’t there two sites near Jack London Square?

Left: JLS North. Right: Victory Court

JLS North was dropped quickly. Perhaps it was too expensive to acquire. Or maybe there weren’t enough business interests pushing for the site. Whatever the reasoning was, it wasn’t disclosed. Now Victory Court has also gone quietly into the night with little explanation by those who pushed for it.

Let’s step back through memory lane on Victory Court. Our time writing about it, your time reading about it, gone forever:

I guess it’s Coliseum City or bust. Or something.

Wolff: 2016 more realistic

In a session with the print/broadcast media yesterday (before the blogger session), Lew Wolff suggested that 2016 would be a more realistic date for Cisco Field to open due to the permitting process. To understand why this might be the case, it’s best to look at what’s happening with the Earthquakes stadium project, only two miles northwest of downtown San Jose.

Nearly a year ago the Quakes got a demolition permit for the Airport West/FMC plant site. A large industrial building had to be torn down and the ground had to be graded for the eventual construction. A soft groundbreaking ceremony was held, after which the demo took three months. Now it’s the end of a January 2012 and the actual building permit has yet to be granted, thanks in large part to objections by a neighborhood group near the stadium site. San Jose’s Planning Commission will have a hearing on February 22, at which point all grievances and objections should be aired in public. If you read this list of items to discuss regarding the project, you’ll see that it is on par with what has been (and would continue to be) discussed for Cisco Field.

If slipping to 2016 is real it brings up one critical issue for the franchise in that the “2014 situation” stretches out to 2014-15. Either a two year lease  (maybe with an option year just in case) would have to be negotiated with the Coliseum Authority or a two-year temporary home would have to be found, the latter seeming less likely. There may also be an inside baseball reason to slip a year: if MLB and Commissioner Bud Selig (thanks for waiting) has a compensation plan worked out that is too costly for the A’s and/or the other owners to swallow, allowing one less overlap year between the remaining mortgage on AT&T Park and the opening of Cisco Field may be more palatable. To me this is one of the more frustrating aspects of making such a deal. As I was pointing out to Lone Stranger yesterday, high eight figures or more in compensation is a big deal for anyone, including a billionaire who owns a franchise. I get that. Big picture, $75 million is only 1% of MLB’s annual revenue. Stretched out over three years, it becomes 0.3%. That amount shouldn’t cause extended bellyaching. It should be manageable.

At FanFest

I’m in, credentialed and good to go. Line wrapped from the arena entrance down through the north VIP parking lot. Gates opened at 10 sharp. I’m heading to the clubhouse tour right now. At 11 I’ll meet folks inside the entrance and to the right, where the Warriors inside ticket booth is.

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Update 12:50 – The retired player panel (Rudi, Tenace, Blue, Hatteberg, Justice) fielded a question about a move to San Jose. Many boos rained down. Rudi spoke up, saying that the Coliseum was ruined by the return of football (followed by applause) and a plea that the A’s need a ballpark, whether it’s in Oakland or not. Very diplomatic answer.

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Forbes loves the Warriors

As part of Forbes’ annual analysis of the NBA, staff writer Tom Van Riper put out a piece on our hometown heroes, the Golden State Warriors. Much of the info in the article has been dealt with elsewhere, such as the differences between Chris Cohan and the Joe Lacob/Peter Guber ownership group, or the latter’s interest in a new arena in San Francisco. More interesting and revealing is this tidbit about the new TV deal negotiated between the Warriors and Comcast:

That agreement paid the Warriors approximately $50 million up front—enough to take the sting off the purchase price—and roughly tripled the annual rights fee to over $25 million from $9 million. The agreement is for 18 years, with provisions to periodically renegotiate along the way.

Indeed, the $50 million probably did help pay down debt associated with the franchise purchase. Plus they didn’t take too much upfront, as $25 million per year is a healthy amount for an NBA team – though far less than the $150 million per year the Lakers are getting. No matter how bad the team gets (and they’re still bad despite a new coach this year), the Warriors remain an attendance and ratings bonanza. So hats off to Lacob and Guber for working the numbers. The TV deal runs well past the end of the new CBA, though it’s likely the team will option out and negotiate a new one before the decade is out.

When it comes to building a new arena, the obstacles are clear. It’s hard to build in this state. It costs 20% more to build than in most other markets. There is no redevelopment money available, let alone other public funds. The Bay Area won’t approve a stadium or arena tax. Yet it’s clear that ownership sees the gleaming lights of SF and wants to turn them into dollar signs. The only issue is the cost of a new arena, which Forbes pegs at up to $1 billion. That may be true, especially if the arena can’t open earlier than 2018. I think that $1 billion is the line of demarcation. Anything under that it and it would be worthwhile to invest in arena. Above that and it’s prohibitively expensive.

The actual raw cost to build at Mission Bay shouldn’t be more than $750 million even in 2017. Material and labor costs shouldn’t rise that high. The additional cost would be to furnish the arena, which would be co-owned and operated with the Giants, Burdened by a high construction cost (mortgage), both parties would be motivated to sell the arena for every kind of event from tiny to large, so the club areas, suites, and auxiliary spaces would be decked out to a degree never before seen in the Bay Area. And it’s likely that given the locale, the teams would attract a third party interested in fronting some of the construction cost in order to secure the operations contract for the venue. That could be AEG, Global Spectrum (a Comcast subsidiary), or even the Sharks, who operate HP Pavilion.

Right now the Warriors are a mere renter at Oracle Arena, and not for cheap at $4.7 million per year and little access to non-game revenues. They don’t have a say on who runs the arena, which has led to allegations that SMG didn’t try very hard to bring in events. Last summer, AEG and Live Nation were set to bid on the next deal to run Oracle Arena. Can’t exactly blame Lacob and Guber for trying to maximize their investment, though building in SF as opposed to staying in and improving Oracle Arena could prove a more cost-effective decision in the long run.

A perfect spot for a new arena is Lot C near AT&T Park.

As the Warriors reach the end of their contract, SF and Oakland will be “forced” into a bidding war for the W’s. SF and the Giants will be ready with an infrastructure/development rights deal, probably at Lot C on the other side of Mission Creek. The lot measures 400′ x 514′ not including sidewalks, which should be enough for a typical roundrect or oval arena, though not wide enough for the circular bowl layouts utilized at Oracle Arena or Staples Center. (HP Pavilion is roughly 440′ square). If Lot C were used, only 800 parking spaces would be lost, which would be easily replaced by a garage and ancillary development on Lot A. Lot C has a T-Third stop right outside it, plus Caltrain is only a few blocks away.

Oakland and Alameda County’s pitch lies squarely in the Coliseum City concept. By the time the cities get to brass tacks, we should know where the A’s and Raiders will be playing in 2014 and beyond. The A’s have a long-term play, the Raiders have both short and long-term scenarios. If both teams were to sign onto Coliseum City, it’d be very easy for the Warriors to partner up with everyone else. If the A’s and Raiders are headed elsewhere, it would be difficult to convince W’s ownership to shoulder the load for Coliseum City, especially if a compelling offer were coming from across the bay. I’ve advocated in the past for a downtown Oakland arena or one at Victory Court, but the cost to make that happen would probably be higher than the already city-owned lots in SF, so that’s not happening.

All the while, David Stern (or his replacement) would be pumping up the “need” for the Warriors, just as he’s done in practically every other city. The Cohan-era Warriors were analogous to the Autry-era Angels, in that they were generally undervalued and have great potential. Lacob and Guber intend to make good on the potential, preferably both on and off-court, though they’ll settle for off-court at least in the near term. If that path leads across a shiny new east span of the Bay Bridge, so be it. At least they don’t have territorial rights standing in their way.

Wolff talks with Shea, on with The Rise Guys Friday morning

Update 10:57 AM – Link to the archived interview here. MP3 download here.

Prior to FanFest, Lew Wolff is making the media rounds again. Friday’s Chronicle has decent length discussion between Wolff and John Shea about both on-field and off-field issues. There isn’t anything new on the business side other than Wolff’s admission that the team actually made $370,000 post-revenue sharing in 2011 thanks to the World Series going seven games. Wolff can thank fellow St. Louis-area native David Freese for that.

Wolff’s scheduled one-on-ones with fans are going to be interesting. I see why he’s doing this, but I don’t expect much to come of it. Maybe if he convinces a few fans regarding the earnestness of his effort it’ll be worth it. It just seems like people on one side or another have such ingrained opinions that it’s a futile task.

Later this morning, Wolff will be on The Game with The Rise Guys at 9:15, probably talking about FanFest, Johnny Gomes, Bartolo Colon, and maybe Manny Ramirez.

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Quick note about FanFest – I expect to be there at 9. Jeffrey should be there around 11. I will be tweeting throughout, so pay attention to the @newballpark feed for updates from FanFest.

Earthquakes to play at AT&T Park in March

Here’s a curious nugget: the San Jose Earthquakes have changed the date and venue of their March 18 home game against the hated Houston Dynamo to March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day) at AT&T Park. The match will be the undercard of a tuneup match between the Mexico and Senegal under-23 (Olympic) national teams. Previously the Quakes had doubleheader arrangement when Mexico and Iceland played at the Coliseum in 2008. Presumably the Quakes have the first game so that there won’t be the lingering image of Mexican fans leaving the stadium during the MLS match. That day pulled in 45,000 in attendance, over four times the capacity of Buck Shaw Stadium.

In the somewhat distant past such a game would be held at the Coliseum, but it’ll be played across the bay instead. Considering the Giants and A’s generally do nothing together other than appear at the compulsory media day before the baseball season begins, it’s a move out of nowhere. AT&T Park doesn’t have 45,000 seats and at least a thousand or more have terrible sightlines for soccer (LF corner upper deck), so it’s not as if they’ll outsell a game in Oakland. However, the tickets could be priced higher and find a very willing audience at a nicer venue. I don’t know what the revenue split is for a date like this with so many stakeholders, but I figure the Giants should be able to clear $200,000 just for hosting if they get $5 a ticket, plus probably all of the concessions revenue. With two weeks between the event and the Bay Bridge Series, that’s plenty of time to get the field in good condition.

According to the Stanford University sports calendar, there are no events that could conflict with the staging of a game at Stanford Stadium. The Stanford women’s basketball team is a powerhouse as usual, so they can be expected to host the first and second round of the women’s NCAA tournament at Maples Pavilion that weekend. The Quakes are playing a match against the L.A. Galaxy at Stanford on June 30, and I’ll be sure to attend then. Why not have the Dynamo/Mexico-Senegal event at Stanford? Maybe the NCAA tournament rules. Maybe the university and City of Palo Alto didn’t want an overly rowdy St. Paddy’s day crowd.

Does this event mean a thawing in the relationship between A’s ownership and Giants ownership? Hard to say. The ballpark business unit of the Giants could say it’s working independently from the team and in conjunction with the Quakes, who are also an autonomous unit within the Wolff/Fisher group. It’s been over 20 years since the last trade between the A’s and Giants (Darren Lewis for Ernest Riles, not counting the Adam Pettyjohn “deal”). At the very least it’s a sign that the two ownership groups can work together on something business-related. That can’t be a bad thing.

(Hat tip to Dan for pointing out the scheduling change.)

“We were in denial”

Last night I caught much of the Oakland City Council/Redevelopment Agency special session, which was held to discuss the impending shutdown of ORA and CEDA, the City’s economic development arm. Plenty of angry citizens and city employees were on hand to voice their displeasure with the 105 layoffs and cutbacks to numerous programs and nonprofits. It was an alternately sad and angry meeting, and the presence of Occupy Oakland protestors didn’t help advance the discourse.

The Council passed a resolution in support of SB 659 (Padilla), a bill requesting a two month “stay of execution” of RDAs. It appears to be symbolic, as numerous legislators have said that it’s unlikely that the bill will make it out of committee and Governor Brown would reject it if it ever landed on his desk.

Of the Mayor and City Council, only Councilmember Libby Schaaf actually pegged the situation down cold. She said that the City Council was in denial about the future of redevelopment. Mayor Jean Quan tried to deflect any criticism early on by saying that the City had set aside the $40 million “ransom” payment and was planning to move forward with reduced scope redevelopment, as many other cities and counties were. Quan also mentioned that the City had heard in November (probably around the time of the oral arguments) that there was a possibility that RDAs throughout the state would be shuttered. Puzzlingly, the Mayor and Council did not make any contingency plans at that point or at any other time through the end of the year.

Worse, Quan has had limited discussions with the public employees unions about the impact. Today on KQED’s Forum, host Michael Krasny asked about those limited and belated discussions. Quan replied that she made a call to a union rep the night the Supreme Court’s decision to shutter RDAs was handed down, plus one meeting last Saturday and one other meeting between City Administrator Deanna Santana and SEIU on the 9th. That’s it. Things really got testy at the session when Councilmember Nancy Nadel asked Santana if she would be willing to take a paycut from her $278,000 salary. Santana didn’t answer directly and said she’d have to consult her attorney. To the City’s credit, they already done 10% across the board cuts in the last budget cycle. Unfortunately, that didn’t take into account the redevelopment shutdown. Now, just as last year, the City is looking at three different budget scenarios and will vote on one to put forward including redevelopment shutdown-related impacts. It’s also in a special kind of flux as it has 450 redevelopment projects that it is waiting for the State to determine whether some or all of them can move forward.

Callers on Forum echoed many of the sentiments of commenters at the session last night. The City was late to react, took things for granted, had their heads in the sand, etc. And that’s where it gets me. There is a clear pattern of behavior here. On three very disparate issues: Occupy Oakland, the budget post-redevelopment, and the state of the sports franchises, the City has routinely and consistently been late to react and lacking in its planning efforts. It has also waffled on occasion, something directly related to confusion that comes from the lack of planning. That is simply pathetic. Oakland needs clearer, more focused leadership now more than ever. Its residents deserve that. Forget the sports franchises for a moment. There are life and death, real quality-of-life issues at stake here. Hiding and not having an ongoing dialogue with your employees and constituents is thoroughly inexcusable.

During the radio interview, Quan was quick to mention Oakland’s place on the NY Times’ 2012 45 Places to Go list. Which is great, one of the mayor’s jobs is to sell the city every chance she gets. At no time during that hour or during the session last night did the fates of the sports franchises come up. No surprise there. When people say that Oakland has more important things to do than worry about pro sports, there is substance to that argument. That’s not a sign of weakness. That’s an acknowledgement of reality.

P.S. San Jose voted Tuesday to shutter its own redevelopment agency. The lion’s share of cuts that needed to be made were done six months ago.

More FanFest info

Today I and a half-dozen other bloggers got our info package via email from A’s Media Relations and Broadcasting coordinator Adam Loberstein. We’ll have the 1 PM hour dedicated a press conference with several A’s players and prospects. Here’s the schedule for FanFest on Sunday, January 29:

1:00 p.m.          Blogger/Interview Room Opens

1:15-1:30 p.m.   A’s Manager Bob Melvin

1:30-1:45 p.m.   Shortstop Cliff Pennington and pitcher Brandon McCarthy

1:45-2:00 p.m.   Outfielders Josh Reddick and Seth Smith

Smith replaced pitcher Brad Peacock. Maybe I’ll ask the OFs which one will kneecap the other first to get more PAs (I keed!). Because of this part of the event, I’d like to put the meetup between 11 and noon, inside the East entrance to Oracle Arena. I will be arriving at 9 to set up early and get a feel for the event. Plus, as BANG’s Joe Stiglich notes, Lew Wolff will be around from 9 to 10:30 throughout the event to answer fan questions via one-on-ones. Sign ups will occur from 9 to 10:30. Now that should be interesting, and well worth getting there early to watch.

Please comment with the following:

  • Questions for Melvin or the players
  • Whether or not the meetup time works for you, suggestions if it doesn’t
  • Whether or not you’re up for anything after FanFest, including a tailgate

The best thing to come out of this is that if this event goes well, it’ll be the first in a series of blogger events throughout the season. Now that sounds great and is something to look forward to.

Moneyball nominated for 6 Oscars, my DVD extras review

Today the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that Moneyball was nominated for six Oscars. The film received four nominations in roughly the same categories that it received Golden Globe nominations:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Best Actor: Brad Pitt
  • Best Supporting Actor: Jonah Hill

Unfortunately, Moneyball didn’t win at the Globes, though that could be chalked up to the Hollywood Foreign Press not caring much about an American film about an American sport like baseball, instead favoring The DescendantsHugo, and The Artist. The latter two films were set in Europe or were produced outside of Hollywood. That’s not to say that those movies aren’t deserving, far from it. All three of those films are more deserving of Best Picture than Moneyball.

The other two nominations were technical: Editing and Sound Mixing. While not as showy as Hugo and The Artist, I think Moneyball has a shot at both of those awards. Real footage of the 2002 season was seamlessly integrated into the film, and the sounds of the game are better and more realistic than in any other sports film I’ve seen/heard.

Deleted scenes

  • Billy Tells Art: Play Bradford – Ambivalent. Leaving the scene in would’ve shed light on Mike Magnante’s issues, which weren’t covered in great depth in the movie. On the other hand, Beane comes off as mean, calculating, and unsympathetic. That’s probably not what they were going for, even if there’s some truth to it.
  • Tara and Billy Dinner – Was this the only deleted scene featuring Kathryn Morris? I knew going into Opening Day that her scenes were left on the cutting room floor. As much as I like Morris as an actress, it’s better that the character of Tara Beane is not in in the film. Some obsessives on the big screen do better with a good wife as emotional support. The Moneyball Beane is not one of them.
  • Peter Offered GM Job – Should’ve left it in. Another great bit of repartee between the two leads. Plus it’s closer to the actual truth.

Billy Beane: Re-Inventing the Game – Part epilogue, part Cliffs Notes version of Moneyball the book. More for the casual/non-A’s fan. A’s fans know this inside and out. Still good to have quotes from Michael Lewis, Aaron Sorkin, Beane. Plus props to the unseen Paul DePodesta. Includes a jarring, unwelcome interview with Alex Rodriguez, who arrogantly touts his “character”.

Drafting The Team – Emphasizes that many actual/former ballplayers were cast in player roles. Nice interviews with Stephen Bishop (David Justice) and Ken Medlock (Grady Fuson).

Moneyball – Playing the Game – My favorite featurette in the package. Covers set design, costumes, and cinematography. I really loved Wally Pfister’s (Christopher Nolan’s go-to cinematographer) explanation of how and why he shot the movie the way it was shot with lots of shadow and on film instead of digital video. When the A’s finally leave the Coliseum for a new ballpark somewhere, Moneyball will always be a reminder of how good the Coliseum could be.

Adapting Moneyball – A little back-and-forth among the team of screenwriters and the producer Rachael Horovitz. Watch it and read Roger Ebert’s recent blog post, which has a little inside baseball about how the script(s) came together.

The notable feature missing from the package is a commentary track, whether from the director or actors. The featurettes are a good substitute, but I really wanted a commentary to get a lot of the small details. That’s okay, maybe there’ll be a collector’s edition down the road. If the A’s hadn’t won a World Series in my lifetime, I might feel a little more bitter about how the 2002 season ended. But think about it for a second. One of our favorite teams of all time was documented in a bestselling, critically acclaimed book and a lovingly crafted movie adaptation. We’ll have that forever. How many teams get to have that? Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch was a great memoir of his lifelong love of the Arsenal soccer club. The British film adaptation was not bad, though it strayed far from the book. The American adaptation was so terrible that the miracle of the Red Sox finally winning couldn’t salvage it. No, I don’t expect Moneyball to win the Best Picture Oscar. Is it the best baseball movie of all time? Most definitely. And that’s good enough for me.

P.S. – As of yesterday, Moneyball has made $106 million in domestic and foreign box office revenue. Someday the A’s payroll might actually approach that number.