Black and Blueprint

At the end of yesterday’s 2-2 draw between the San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy, the Quakes’ shoo-in MVP candidate Chris Wondolowski headed to the supporters’ sections behind the north goal to do his ritual handshakes and celebration with the fans. A camera followed him over and suddenly, in view, was a large sign featuring a drawing of Lew Wolff’s head. The banner thanked him and John Fisher for, well, being the owners of the Quakes. There were no mustaches or devil’s horns drawn on the image, no effigies of Wolff hanging nearby. Whether it’s love is based on one’s perspective. Clearly, there is a level of appreciation among Quakes fans that isn’t being felt in Oakland, and perhaps never will. Being more tuned into what’s happening in Oakland, I thought my eyes deceived me at first. Thankfully, another observer saw the image on television as well.

That appreciation was on display earlier in the day, as the Quakes held their stadium groundbreaking ceremony on the other side of the tracks from Buck Shaw. 6,256 fans showed up at 1125 Coleman Avenue for what would eventually be declared a Guinness World Record for the most simultaneous participants in a groundbreaking. During the typically long __, Quakes President David Kaval thanked Wolff, his son Keith Wolff, and Fisher for bringing the team back and getting the stadium underway. That elicited hoots and hollers along with the expected applause. Lew was introduced and spoke briefly, thanking the fans. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and the City Council was there too, keeping the procession of dignitaries going.

Pretty shovels, all in a row.

Kaval and Quakes defender Jason Hernandez explained to the crowd how the groundbreaking was supposed to work. A large painted soccer ball was hooked onto the end of a crane. When the ball dropped and hit the ground, an airhorn would go off, signaling to the “crew” that it was time to start digging for two minutes. Thousands of commemorative shovels were stuck in the dirt field, which had painted lines and goals at each end. When the horn went off, the assembled crowd started digging. Since we were all in a fairly compressed space, many of us found that within a minute we had pretty much dug up most of the loose dirt in our respective vicitinities, leaving the next layer of hard clay to deal with. For me, that made the second minute of digging more a minute of manicuring. A countdown led to a second horn announcing the end of the two minutes. Public address man Danny Miller laid down a little suspense as he said that the Guinness people had to tabulate the crowd on hand. Miller announced “Six-thousand…” and was quickly drowned out by the crowd’s roar. Kaval held up a certificate in victory, and the masses started to depart.

Dig for two minutes and you get a free shovel.

It’s no secret that the stadium has taken longer than anticipated to get built. Whether it was concern over sponsorships needed to get it built or process issues like permitting, fans have been waiting long time for the first permanent, unshared home for the franchise to materialize. When AEG took the first MLS incarnation of the Earthquakes to Houston, Colts-style, after the 2005 season, a pall descended on the fanbase. The logos and branding would remain in San Jose, but there was no indication that a new franchise would materialize right away. AEG, which operates the Coliseum complex, Staples Center, and owns the LA Kings NHL team, is reviled in San Jose even more than Lew Wolff is in Oakland. Don Garber, the MLS commissioner who flew in to attend the ceremony, was AEG’s evil puppet and accomplice in December 2005.

Commemorative shovel

The expansion Quakes franchise took the field for the 2007 season, when Wolff and Fisher swooped in. For MLS, Lew Wolff and John Fisher represented enough money and local ties to keep the team going throughout what would be trying times ahead. Fisher may well have been the most interested person within the ownership group in getting a franchise. As for Wolff, building a stadium for the Quakes would be a good warmup for doing a much larger, more expensive stadium for the A’s, whatever the location. Wolff’s son Keith would focus on the details. As the recession struck and sponsorship dollars disappeared, the Wolffs pursued land deal concessions, which they received. The vision for the stadium was scaled back, then when the economy recovered, expanded. When the Earthquakes Stadium opens in March 2014, it will have been over 8 years from when the team was purchased to opening kickoff. If the Wolffs are tired of going through the “process”, the outward signs are slight. Still, Lew has talked about not being around for when a ballpark finally happens, and Keith has certainly dealt with enough that he may be gunshy about saddling up for an even bigger battle. Yet that’s what will be necessary if they want to get something built for the A’s. Maybe it’ll be in San Jose, maybe it’ll be in Oakland. However it proceeds, there are probably a lot of lessons from the Quakes stadium experience that are applicable for an A’s ballpark. Given how hard it is to get something funded and built in California, having that experience can’t hurt one iota.

96 Responses to Black and Blueprint

  1. pjk says:

    Yes, the A’s certainly don’t have much of a fan base to begin with. Their own “territory” seems to be dominated by the Giants these days. Unless it’s the Yankees or Giants in town or a playoff game, the place is empty. Are the A’s supposed to stay in Oakland just to keep happy the 12,000 a night that show up, many of whom want to the cheapest seats possible? San Jose gives the A’s a chance to build a large new fan base while maintaining the current small fan base, which admittedly would be inconvenienced by a San Jose ballpark until BART comes through.

  2. jgmj says:

    San Francisco is a brand, just ask the Warriors owners. The Warriors sellout their games but are trying to move to smaller venue. If the Sharks see a state of the art arena in a better location that can both boost their prestige and give them a modern facility, they would be doing themselves a disservice not to consider it. I’m sure there is plenty of corporate support in San Francisco to make up for the losses from San Jose sponsors leaving.

  3. Dan says:

    jgmj, keep dreaming. While the SF name may have some cache, it’s not being used by the Warriors reportedly. They’re going to remain Golden State (or so they claim). And on top of that, you’re ignoring the reality that the Sharks control all aspects of their current venue. They’d have to give that up to be tenants with no control to move to SF. They’d be stupid to do so.

  4. pjk says:

    …if the Frisco arena seated 18,000 for hockey, then I’m sure the Sharks would take a look at it. But 15,000 seats for hockey? Why bother? So they can have fewer seats to sell and be tenants of the Warriors when right now, they run the show?

  5. jgmj says:

    I don’t care about hockey and can even less about San Francisco – Just throwing this out there as a possibility. The new arena wouldn’t open for years, and things change.

  6. steve says:

    I think Sharks ownership would be intrigued by a potential move to SF, and would love the idea of using the SF name (I’m 100% a San Jose partisan and I readily admit this), but after they penciled it out, for many of the reasons already cited, they would choose to stay in SJ.
    On the Giants’ run, I think it can only help the A’s open up SJ. Other owners have little sympathy for them, with their 40K sellouts and on-field success. And it suggests that there is a surplus of baseball support in the Bay Area that is not being tapped.
    Based on all the available evidence (which admittedly isn’t much), I am confident that the A’s will get the green light for SJ….eventually. I think this winter. But I thought the same thing last winter.

  7. JH510 says:

    I for one think that the Sharks could move to San Francisco and easily make up for the loss in seats through a higher premium on ticket prices due to a brand new state of the art facility. If we look ahead to 2015-2020 and a 30 year old HP Pavilion, are the Sharks owners’ really supposed to just stay in San Jose just to keep the 17-18k fans (barely more than the scant max of 12k that show up for A’s games) who show up to games on a regular basis happy? They can move to SF, charge more for their tickets, while maintaining their current SJ fanbase, which obviously would be inconvenienced until high speed rail comes through.

  8. pjk says:

    You think they can start charging $40 for the cheapest seat in the house and work their way up from there to make up for the lost 2,500 seats? Quite a gamble. If they lose on that gamble, they lose big time….Here’s the equations for the Sharks: Playoff failures every year but always sold out. Now, for the A’s: division winners, cheapest seats in pro sports but ranked 27th in attendance and subsidized by the rest of the league. Easy to see why the A’s owners are reluctant to spend $500-$800 million of their own money just to stay there.

  9. jgmj says:

    More than likely the SF Sharks would be dependent on a new San Francisco fan base. Sure some of the hardcore fans from San Jose would make the trip, but in reality, the arena would be filled with a whole new group of people.

  10. GoA's says:

    When did SF become a sports town? According to the gints 70% of their fan base is redwood city south

  11. Juan says:

    “I don’t care about hockey and can even less about San Francisco – Just throwing this out there as a possibility.”

    So basically you’re just trying to piss people off?

  12. jgmj says:

    If hypothetical situations posted by anonymous people on a blog comment section piss you off, then that’s on you.

  13. JH510 says:

    @Juan: what about this is specifically “pissing people off”? Is it the part about a city possibly losing its team to another nearby city? I won’t speak for jgmj, but personally I was just imagining options for a franchise like the Sharks to possibly better their future potential as an organization by pursuing a new facility. I believe thats the focus of this site, new sports facilities for sports teams, and not trying to factor in the “emotions” of a teams’ fan base, wherever it might be.

  14. Dan says:

    JH510, the HP Pavilion won’t be 30 years old any time in the 2015-2020 timeframe. As for once the arena in SF is complete, you’re all assuming that no improvements would be asked for or made to HP Pavilion (or a new SJ arena built someday). Which frankly seems far more likely given that the Sharks could have tried to build in SF the first time round, and they chose not to.

  15. pjk says:

    The Sharks wanted to be in Frisco but the place was uninterested in having an arena. Since San Jose already had an arena approved and financed, the Sharks ended up there, after kicking in $35 million(?) of their own money and up-sizing the place to 20,000 maximum capacity. The original 15,000-max capacity would have left the Sharks with about 12,500 seats.

  16. JH510 says:

    @Dan: my mistake; the Shark Tank will only be 27 years old in 2020. My point was, a brand new Tank on the water of SF might look a bit shinier and attractive than an older one in San Jose in the next 10 years.

  17. pjk says:

    Yes, it will be newer but that’s about it: It’s 45 miles from the fan base that sells out the current arena every night and probably 2,500 seats too small. And of course the Sharks become second fiddle – tenants – as opposed to running the arena like they do in San Jose….

  18. bartleby says:

    A Sharks move to SF makes no sense. The difference between controlling an arena vs. being a tenant is reason enough, but putting that aside:

    The Sharks currently sit at ground zero of the Bay Area’s corporate base. Moving to SF would mean reducing the amount of corporate base nearby, plus having to compete far more directly with the Warriors for it.

    Also, the NHL’s record in non-traditional hockey markets is spotty at best. Would you gamble an established record of persistent sellouts on the bet that hockey will sell in San Francisco, of all places?

    As far as wringing more revenue out of a newer arena: Hockey is already one of the most expensive sports to see in person. Nearly all the tickets at HP Pavilion are over $40; probably half or more are over $100. There are limits to what the market will bear. It is highly questionable the Sharks could raise ticket prices enough at an SF Arena to offset the loss of 15% of their seating capacity, let alone provide enough upside to justify the risk when they already have a good thing going.

  19. Briggs says:

    Well, the Shark Tank should be due for another renovation in 2020. Whereever they play after their current lease, you can betcha bottom dollah that the Sharks will have conversations with SF and maybe even the Oracle Arena operators to create leverage in gettin g the best deal from SJ.

  20. pjk says:

    Sharks to Oakland? To play in an arena with thousands of obstructed-view seats? Not a chance. Frisco? Highly unlikely…

  21. Briggs says:

    Sharks to Oakland? To play in an arena with thousands of obstructed-view seats? Not a chance. Frisco? Highly unlikely…

    Crazy german says, “ZAT IZ NOT ZHE POYNT!”

  22. Briggs says:

    Try the snozberries. They taste just like snozberries.

  23. Tony D says:

    Love how jgmj and eb think they have some kind of “gotcha!” Moment With pjk’s post. A’s moving to San Jose and this ridiculous notion of the Sharks moving to a modern version of the Cow Palace (ain’t happening!) is beyond apples and oranges. Trying to compare the two is so utterly ridiculous that I won’t even waste my time further on that.
    FWIW, a major renovation of HP Pavilion puts it right there with all the newer arenas of the NHL/NBA.

  24. jgmj says:

    Of course it is apples and oranges – A’s moving to SJ is a realistic possibility and the Sharks moving to SF is a topic thrown out on a blog. As for what pjk said, well that speaks for itself.

  25. Dan says:

    SF maybe, they won’t be having any talks with Oracle. People keep forgetting Oracle is already pushing 50 and will be pushing 60 by 2020. The only future the place has long term is something like the Great Western Forum in LA, or more likely a date with the wrecking ball. That’s also another thing to consider when wondering if the SJ arena would be hit by loss of events when the new SF arena opens. The reality is that most of the events that SF will be stealing won’t be coming from SJ (50 miles away in an affluent area that largely doesn’t come north). More likely the SF arena will be stealing the vast majority of current events from Oracle (10 miles away catering in part to the same market the SF arena will be while being in a less affluent and far less desirable area).

  26. damon389 says:

    I’m trying to see the silver lining of the A’s losing to Verlander in game 5 and the Giants getting to the WS, thanks to Scott Rolen, Johnny Cueto and StL for beating Washingon (who I feel matched up much better than StL).
    So here are my wishes for the next year:
    1. Detroit sweep away the Giants in 4 or 5. Keep it from going back to the Bay Area.
    2. Selig acknowledge that the Giants will do just fine, thank you if OAK gets the new park in the South Bay.
    3. The A’s re-sign Drew and McCarthy, and heck even get a mid-level C so that Norris has one final year in AAA to develop.
    4. Restore an ‘even playing field’ in the Bay Area between the A’s and Giants.
    5. A’s draw 2-mil in ’13. Not an earth-shattering #, but one that is not unrealistic given the ’12 on-field success.
    6. Stop hearing about fans ‘boycotting’ going to games because they don’t like Wolffe.
    7. A’s get further into the post-season than the Giants in 2013.

    I view all of these as ‘realistic’ goals. And Let’s Go Tigers!!!

  27. Jeffrey says:

    Wow. The stretches in logic and lack of critical thought on display here are befuddling and amusing. When’s spring training start?

  28. eb says:

    “I don’t care about hockey and can even less about San Francisco – Just throwing this out there as a possibility.”
    “So basically you’re just trying to piss people off?”
    Why would that piss people off? They’d still be a Bay Area team? (sorry, just had to do it) Go Tigers!

  29. pjk says:

    FWIW, another reason why the Sharks ever leaving San Jose doesn’t compare to the A’s wanting to leave Oakland is that San Jose has given the team whatever it’s wanted: Brand new arena, millions of dollars in upgrades, control of the building, control of events scheduling. In Oakland, the A’s asked for baseball-only improvements and had their facility turned into a football stadium, instead. The city has proudly neglected the team, even firing the city manager for wanting a new ballpark. And now that the A’s want to leave, the city plays the victim card…

  30. Columbo says:

    “Less affluent.” Per capita you probably have a great argument. If X% of the population earns minimum wage that will bring down the average. SJ= lots of tech workers/other prof.; Oak/EB- lots of mixed professions (older established area). I have clients in the Oakland hills earning $1 mil per year in income. I have some clients in San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Castro Valley, Hayward with incomes and net worths that are in the “1 percent.”

    Doctors and lawyers dominate Montclair, Piedmont, Walnut Creek, Orinda, Morage, Alamo, Bay O Vista, etc. etc.. Small business owners dominate large pockets of the East Bay. One of my biggest clients, a longtime Oakland A’s fan, has a net worth of over $50 million and lives in Castro Valley. The difference in my opinion is that, in San Jose, you may have 10 engineers living on a given block earning $150k. In the East Bay you will have a business owner earning $500k and his/her next door neighbor is an electrician earning $70k, and another neighbor might be a mechanic earning $40k. But on the next block you’ll have an orthopedic surgeon who earns $400k. It’s mixed.

    Remember, the East Bay has over 2.5 million people and there is a lot of diversity. I have a brother who is a complete tightwad and never spends his money. He lives in a house in San Leandro that has no mortgage and he has over $2 million in investments and a $200k income. He’s a cheapskate. My father (RIP) lived in Piedmont for 8 years and his neighbors were plastic surgeons, personal injury lawyers, business owners, and VP’s. I’m only saying this because I think this whole concept of the less affluent East Bay is largely overblown. The Bay Area in general is a hotbed of wealth, no matter where it is. There is wealth in all bay area counties, but some of that wealth is more concentrated.

    Like I heard on 95.7, if you just look at paper figures without actually being there, you are not seeing the whole picture. I’m not trying to start an argument at all but please realize there is immense wealth in the East Bay just as there is poverty.

  31. A's Fan says:

    “The denizens of San Jose, that Silicon Valley gem, haul in a median household income of $76,593, making the city the wealthiest in the country.”

  32. eb says:

    Well, this is the worst possible scenario. Giants are the comeback kids, beat the pitcher the A’s couldn’t and will probably win the whole thing. When did this A’s curse officially start? As much as I hate to say it, everything the Giants organization is doing for the last ten years has been turning out gold (even Zito in a roundabout way.)

  33. Columbo says:

    A’s Fan – That’s cool. I’m proud of that statistic because SJ is part of my Bay Area and that makes the area even more spectacular. The city of Los Angeles had a median household income of less than $50,000 as of 2011 yet it is 4 times as large as SJ. It’s the law of large numbers. It’s the difference between batting .583 in high school (65 at-bats) and .300 in the pros (500-600 at-bats). Of course, I’m not counting George Brett’s amazing .390 when he had a mere 475 at-bats. Give me a city with 5 million population and the average is $75,000 income and I’ll be impressed.

  34. Columbo says:

    FYI – Here are the highest income cities in California (these happen to be in the top 100 in the US not counting population). #1 Hidden Hills (LA County), #3 Fairbanks Ranch (SD County), #4 Rolling Hills (LA County), #5 Rancho Santa Fe (LA County), #9 Atherton (San Mateo County), #19 Diablo (Contra Costa County), #20 Hillsborough (San Mateo County), #31 Los Altos Hills (Santa Clara County), #35 Woodside (San Mateo County), #40 Newport Coast (Orange County), #58 Portola Valley (San Mateo County), #62 Danville -Blackhawk (Contra Costa County), #63 Monte Sereno (Santa Clara), #87 West Santa Clara (Santa Clara County).

  35. Tony D. says:

    @ Columbo,
    Give me folks making $75,000 living within 20-miles of a proposed privately financed ballpark and I’ll be impressed. I think that’s what the wealth talk is all about…

  36. Tony D. says:

    Perhaps a large percentage of those rich East Bay folk you mentioned are currently yelling their asses off donning black and orange. That’s why it’s so important to geographically separate the Giants and A’s: to take full advantage of the rich Bay Area you’re so proud of…

  37. berry says:

    Ouch tony d. Yet so true. I can imagine ppl from wealthy parts of the east bay from piedmont, walnut creek martinez pleasonton san Ramon fremont union city yes I bet they are all at the sf giants game and I hope bud let’s the A’s move. Maybe Oakland has baseball heart , but too small to support it now.

  38. berry says:

    Remember guys , sf giants should be lucky to play Detroit, Damn wish our A’s got last Detroit and the washed up Yankees and stuck it to the giants again. Anyway 2013 ws A’s will be there. Book it

  39. pjk says:

    Seems lime most East Bay folks I know are all Giants fans.

  40. xootsuit says:

    Antoinette D: “East Bay folk you mentioned are currently yelling their asses off donning black and orange . . . .”

    Hey, watch it, man. I resemble that.

  41. Dan says:

    “Seems like most East Bay folks I know are all Giants fans.”
    Same here. I can count on far less than one hand the east bay folks I know who still root for the A’s (it’s 1). The rest have all either switched to the Giants by 2010, didn’t give a shit about baseball until 2010, or were Giants fans to begin with.

  42. eb says:

    I live in the East Bay and know plenty of A’s fans. There’s fans of each team in the area, just like throughout the most of the Bay. The problem is the Giants probably control 70% of the fan base in Northern California. A WS win only widens the gap. What’s sad is this group of Giants will have won more WS than the LaRussa A’s, I’ve already heard some Giant fans on FB make the dynasty claim. What a sick time we are living in, indeed.

  43. Dan says:

    No kidding. It’s like the sad state of education, the economy, terrorism, extremism (both religious and political), etc… weren’t enough. Now we must live in a world where the Giants are not only world champions, but a dynasty. These are troubling times indeed.

  44. Tony D says:

    Advice: stay off of FB during these “tough” times. The perfect anecdote to all of this: an announcement before years end that a NEW A’S BALLPARK will built in the Bay Area. That would/will be awesome…

  45. Briggs says:

    Yes. Stay away from Facebook. If the A’s reached the WS, it’d be obnoxious to hear Giants fans being negative. The Giants getting to the WS has already been a bitter pill to swallow. If they win, that pill might have to go elsewhere. Whatever. Baseball is as much fun and/or misery as you allow it to be.

  46. Columbo says:

    I can admit when I’m wrong. The South Bay has much more wealth than any county in this area. I suppose, since I’m an East Bay native (although no longer living there), I got a bit defensive about it. I don’t feel the need to apologize for that though because I think you’d understand being defensive of your “home turf.” Forgive me SJ guys. I’m not being sarcastic by the way. SCL Co. is f’king wealthy as hell.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>