Timeline from KC years through today now available

Many of you have asked for it, I never got around to it. Until this week.

A timeline. That’s right, a timeline. Point your browser to http://newballpark.org/timeline and off you go.

It covers the years from when the Mack family sold the team to Arnold Johnson until now. It covers 60+ years and is 4,500+ words long, requiring a lot of curating and editing to get it down to that length. For the most part, I’ve included important events in the stadium saga. I’ve excluded much of the posturing and back-and-forth that, while entertaining, is ultimately unproductive.

I hope that this timeline helps you in terms of understanding the full scope of the struggle the A’s have always had in trying to finding a permanent home. Links are provided to my articles or outside articles. For now I’ve kept it to a simple bulleted list format. That may change to a linked list or an interactive format. For now I’m forcing you to scroll all the way down if you want to reach 2014. It’s worth reading the whole thing if you can. Appreciate the struggle.

If you have suggestions or you feel I’ve missed anything, comment away or send me a tweet.

Wolff to meet with New City’s Kephart over Coliseum City on Monday

An early reason for Thanksgiving? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet. Floyd Kephart, the point man for the rejuvenated Coliseum City effort, has a meeting with Lew Wolff scheduled for Monday.

The encouraging news is that Kephart may have put together a plan to keep either the A’s and/or Raiders while paying off the outstanding Mt. Davis debt. That previously was not on the table, at least under the Raiders-centric plan.

birdseye-view_north

As of this writing, there are 58 days left in the recently-extended Coliseum City ENA. Kephart has to deliver at least one team and a master developer to sign on, otherwise CC is toast.

Or is it? Is there anything stopping yet another 3 or 6 months? Presumably the Raiders will have to decide whether to make a run for LA in January or February, when the NFL’s relocation window opens. Mark Davis, Stan Kroenke, and Dean Spanos will all be tempted to be first movers, if only to stake the first claim to LA despite the lack of concrete new stadium plans. What would happen if the relocation window and the ENA both expired with no action by Davis? Davis would be forced to work on a lease extension somewhere, whether at the Coliseum, Levi’s, AT&T Park, wherever. The JPA and the City of Oakland would prefer to keep the Raiders locked into a multiyear lease, which would buy them additional time while they waited for Coliseum City to magically pencil out. Naturally, Davis would be most comfortable with a year-to-year agreement. Inevitably, it all comes down to Davis being the first domino. Little else substantive can happen without his involvement, at least if Oakland wants to keep the Raiders within city limits.

A hidden issue for all three potential relocation candidates is the need for a practice facility and headquarters. The Chargers might be able to get away with keeping theirs temporarily in San Diego. The Raiders could also keep theirs in Alameda via a lease extension while flying down to LA for games, though the JPA may choose to slam the door in Davis’s face if he brings in the moving vans. Kroenke has vast land holdings, including that Hollywood Park purchase from earlier in the year, so if he wanted to build a facility in conjunction with the move, there’s little to stop him. However, that would take at least a year to complete with no temporary facility in place, and the NFL would prefer that these teams not use a local JC or high school in the interim.

Going back to Wolff, there’s little reason to think he’ll be significantly swayed by Kephart. Wolff already has his own designs on the Coliseum complex, so a third party would add needless complication. Kephart might have a third way that suits Wolff and New City’s investors, though it’s hard to see what that is. Perhaps if Wolff gets the complex to develop, while New City takes the area between the complex and the BART station and the “Area B” west of 880, all parties may be satisfied. It was always assumed that the $500-600 million funding gap made using all 800 acres necessary. Since the A’s would probably need only a fraction of that for the ballpark, there stands to be more wiggle room for all parties. For a project as large as this it’s not unusual to have several developers handling different sections and phases. Getting them all on the same page, making their respective contributions, and not getting too greedy – that’s the hard part.

 

Coliseum Authority casting a wider net for open General Manager job

With the Guy Houston hire apparently on the outs for political reasons, the Coliseum JPA still has an opening for a general manager to fill. Matter and Ross report that one candidate is Scott McKibben, a longtime newspaper industry veteran who in 2009 was tapped to run the Rose Bowl and Parade in 2009.

McKibben is also commissioner of A11FL, a startup spring football league with an unusual rule difference: all 11 players on offense are eligible receivers. That league was supposed to launch last spring, was forced to cancel for untold reasons, and may launch again next spring. Not sure how McKibben’s involvement with A11FL and other ventures could impact the Coliseum Authority gig, but I’d prefer to have a local guy who isn’t spinning plates in LA while trying to negotiate gigantic deals in Oakland.

Which brings me to Andy Dolich. He’s local. He’s visible and well-liked. He was mentioned in the M&R column. In 2012 I wrote this about Dolich:

Reading between the lines, it looks like Dolich is appealing to someone in the East Bay to become a frontman for the Coliseum City plan – if not now, when the plan has legs. That would be a great idea assuming that Coliseum City got off the ground. It’s always good to have someone who has credibility in the sports industry, a history of past successes, and local ties. In December 2010, Dolich floated the idea of a new multipurpose stadium in Oakland, one with the technology to be less of a “neither fish nor fowl” problem than the 60′s-era stadia. I deconstructed the concept and explained why it wouldn’t work. Dolich read my post and sent me an email, which led to a very pleasant exchange on stadia and arenas. I think I even promised to meet him for lunch to talk shop, which never happened, unfortunately.

The bottom line is that it’s nice to hear someone advocating for Oakland and the East Bay, even if his office is actually in the South Bay. Those putting together a Coliseum City plan wouldn’t hurt themselves by having Andy Dolich in a prominent position. To be clear, that’s probably at least a year down the road if it happens at all.

Perhaps the plan Dolich works on wouldn’t specifically be Coliseum City. He’d still be tasked with a major deal if an A’s-centric alternative plan were discussed. Dolich has been a staunch advocate of the Coliseum as the best site for the A’s and Raiders, even if his “multipurpose stadium” thinking was stretching advocacy to unreasonable proportions. There isn’t a bigger fan of the Coliseum area than Dolich, and unlike some other rumored candidates, he wouldn’t be taking the job as a stepping stone for other political endeavors. Dolich’s chief disadvantage is that he doesn’t have experience on the public side of the negotiating table, instead frequently representing teams. Then again, considering how Oakland has botched previous negotiations, maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.

If Dolich wants the job (he wanted the JPA’s PR consulting gig previously), he should be given every opportunity to get it.

OWB terminates Howard Terminal ENA, then explains why Howard Terminal is great

We’re having some dissonance here, folks. OWB leaders T. Gary Rogers and Don Knauss wrote a letter in today’s Tribune declaring that the group is terminating the ENA, effectively killing Howard Terminal on their end after A’s ownership and MLB removed the site from consideration earlier in the summer.

The relevant part of the letter is quoted below:

And, for a multitude of reasons, we had high hopes that the A’s ownership would seize on the opportunity to develop this prime 50-acre waterfront site into a ballpark and ancillary retail. It is now clear, however, that the current ownership has no intention of seeking a new ballpark at Howard Terminal, or anywhere else in Oakland for that matter.

Thus, it is with great frustration and sadness that our group has elected to release the Port of Oakland from our Exclusive Negotiating Agreement on Howard Terminal.

The rest of the letter reads like a long passive aggressive complaint against ownership, sour grapes more than anything else. Before I get into that, there’s a thoroughly unfounded allegation that “current ownership has no intention of seeking a new ballpark at Howard Terminal… or anywhere else in Oakland…”

Seriously? Lew Wolff presented a plan to redevelop the Coliseum to the JPA weeks ago. The front office is starting a reorganization with a PR hire meant to interface directly with public officials and local government. At the Coliseum, that is. Not at Howard Terminal. You’d think that a group that had publicly been happy with simply keeping the team in Oakland would’ve applauded this. Not so. In fact, they didn’t mention the Coliseum at all in the letter. Strange, right? It’s almost as if they only cared about Howard Terminal and getting their hooks into the team – but I wouldn’t want to cast aspersions on them. It’s all about keeping the team in Oakland. I’m sure that omission was purely unintentional.

Rogers and Knauss go on to mention how they’ve studied the site, they consider it viable, etc. And they can rest with that argument knowing that they never have to show any information to back them up. There’s no draft EIR published, no feasibility study, no economic impact report. Nothing public to back them up. Just their word, which some in Oakland were happy to swallow without question. Without any of that information we have little to go on but our own research and statements from the Port indicating that the ballpark would be difficult to pull off.

OWB and Howard Terminal’s backers had been in contact with MLB for the better part of two years. If they had a truly compelling case to press that could’ve allowed MLB to recommend the site, MLB would’ve been swayed at least a little. In this ongoing saga MLB’s constant indecision actually worked in Oakland’s and HT’s favor. A plan could’ve been presented that showed HT was superior to the Coliseum, San Jose, or any other site that could’ve been presented. Yet that didn’t happen. And now OWB wants to whine one more time about it. OWB referred to Wolff’s and San Jose’s court strategy as a Hail Mary when they could’ve said the same thing about their own strategy. They hoped that Wolff would get frustrated enough to sell or do something that would compel either John Fisher or MLB to consider an ownership change. Even now, they’re calling for the current ownership group to sell, a trademark attack of Quan-era combativeness. Absent a compelling story, they had their own desperate plan.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

The untold story is that the Port is losing $10 million a year for the next several years while they figure out what to do with the land. At the moment the Port is looking into providing shore power so that some types of operations can be carried out. Otherwise there are few ways to eat into that $10 million. Rogers and Knauss should consider figuring out ways to make Howard Terminal a revenue generator. 50 acres is a good start for a football stadium-cum-convention center. That suggestion’s on me, fellas.

If these businessmen truly want the A’s to stay in Oakland, they’d be best off offering assistance to the A’s than in publicly spitting in their faces at every turn. After all, they’re not spending money on the ballpark. They spent $50,000 on incomplete studies. The ballpark will cost $600 million to construct, of which they were going to pay practically nothing. The Coliseum’s not a sexy site. The plan is probably not going to look like a pie-in-the-sky fever dream that Coliseum City resembles. But if it’s offered by the A’s and has broad public support, it will be the best chance the A’s have EVER had to have their own ballpark in Oakland. Not everyone will be happy. OWB doesn’t like the Coliseum site. Wolff prefers San Jose. It’s a compromise, which is a lot better than a fantasy.

P.S. – I wrote a summary of Howard Terminal news on March 19. This was the conclusion:

That’s why I’m glad all this is happening. Someone’s gonna get to say I told you so at the end. As childish as that may sound, it’s better than not knowing.

I was wrong. We never even got to the point of knowing. Hey OWB, about your letter – Cool story bro.

P.P.S. – When the old Gas Plant at Howard Terminal had to be cleaned up, PG&E had three estimates for the project. Only one, Alternative 3, would’ve made the land developable. The other two were some form of asphalt cap to protect the land.

cleanupcost

Alternative 3, a full cleanup with hauled away toxic dirt much like China Basin, cost $4.125 million – for 1.58 acres. Scale that to 50 acres (31.6x). Now you’re starting to get an idea how much Howard Terminal would cost.

A’s let go of PR man Bob Rose, signal possible stadium-oriented change

The A’s hired Bob Rose in 2008 to be head of the team’s public relations. Rose handled many of the tasks you’d expect of a PR guy, handling inquiries directed towards ownership. He also occasionally wrote a blog called Clubhouse Confidential, which provided player profiles and reflections on the team during the season.

Today Rose was let go for reasons that were initially unclear. Then came this:

The PR department is already siloed to an extent for media relations and broadcasting, so it makes sense for the front office to have someone who can also work with public sector. For instance, the Giants have a 4-person public affairs group. The A’s currently have no group or person in that role. Ironically, Rose was the PR guy for the Giants in the lead up to the opening of China Basin.

It makes even more sense if you read into the move the need for a person to work in concert with counterparts at the Coliseum Authority (JPA) and/or the City of Oakland. Robert Bobb’s consulting group is going to handle much of the deal specifics on the JPA’s side, whether or not Coliseum City moves forward successfully. For large projects it’s common to draw up team org charts so that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. I try to do that for every large project I work in my day job.

Org chart supplied by The Robert Bobb Group

Org chart supplied by The Robert Bobb Group

Does it mean that an Oakland ballpark is happening? Not yet. But this is a solid step in preparation for a ballpark.

P.S. – I’m curious to see if this affects media access among bloggers. I wouldn’t expect any big changes.

Interview on Swingin’ A’s Podcast

Yesterday I did lengthy interview with Tony Frye (@GreenCollarBB) of Swingin’ A’s about all manner of stadium stuff. Since it came on the heels of the election, we talked a lot about that and the Raiders. We talked a good deal about the A’s too, and I tried to show how the two are interrelated and how the teams’ fates are intertwined as long as they’re in Oakland.

Swingin’ A’s Podcast Episode 4

My part of the interview comes about 36 minutes in and runs a whopping 50 minutes.

In the interview I discuss Walter Haas and Steve Schott, the latter a subject of a Frye blog post from earlier today. I focused on Haas, partly because of some renewed interest in what he did towards the end of his ownership tenure. Take a look at some of these articles:

A’s fight economics to build dynasty 

haas_1990-lodi

Athletics to move if Raiders return?

boca_raton-athletics_to_move

Athletics seek protection against return of Raiders

deseret-athletics_seek

While we remember Haas for his great generosity, winning teams, and partnership with Oakland, what has gotten lost was that when the winds started to swirl around the Raiders and their potential return to Oakland, Haas picked up on it early and voiced his worry about it. He soft-played it, didn’t want to make appear like he was threatening to move out of Oakland. He made it clear, however, that the team was losing money because of his family’s sacrifices. He was going to sell at some point if it got much worse, which it did. He ended up selling at a heavily discounted price because of the big debt load. Haas felt his business was threatened, so he reacted the way you’d expect a business owner to do – to try to protect his team. Some owners have taken this to unseemly extremes, and it’s unfortunate that Oakland has had to suffer the worst of that behavior from Al Davis and Charlie Finley.

I’ve mentioned this before and it bears repeating: it’s no coincidence that the A’s salad days occurred when the Raiders were gone. The three-peat A’s won the most, but turnout was not particular good and Finley whined about it frequently. With no competition from football on or off the field, Haas didn’t feel a threat. He allowed the Giants to explore the South Bay, in hindsight a strategic error on his part. Haas was as genial guy as ever existed in the Bay Area. But he was still a businessman who knew what was Priority #1 when backed into a corner.

Listen to the interview, rate it on iTunes, and give feedback here in the comments section. I had a good time talking to Tony, and I expect to do another one of these in February, after the Coliseum City ENA expires. Then we can talk next steps. For now, give this a listen.

P.S. – The day Frye asked me to do the interview, Mike Davie of Baseball Oakland wanted to be on too. He’ll have his own episode at some point with a lot of Oakland cheerleading and ownership bashing, I assume.

Election Aftermath 2014

A wise person would’ve turned off the lights and gone to sleep early, waiting to let the election news wash over them until the following morning. Not this guy. As the various county registrars were plagued by reporting delays traced back to a vendor in Florida (that’s your first clue right there), election observers sat at their computers, thumbs properly inserted.

Eventually we got our results. Though not certified, we have a pretty good sense where everything’s leading:

  1. Libby Schaaf is the apparent winner of the Oakland mayoral race.
  2. Sam Liccardo narrowly defeated Dave Cortese in San Jose’s mayoral race.
  3. Alameda County’s Measure BB passed with 69% of the vote, approving a 0.5% sales tax hike for 30 years.

Last week Schaaf did an interview with Athletics Nation in which she discussed current efforts to keep the A’s and other teams in town, as well as her own ideas on doing things differently. She said many of the right things about the City working with greater transparency. She criticized certain aspects of the Coliseum City plan, such as the fanciful replacement arena for the Warriors (who are working on their own arena in SF). Fans of the A’s and/or Raiders will definitely seize upon this:

AN: Do you see keeping the A’s and Raiders as mutually exclusive? What are some of the challenges that go along with keeping both teams in the city?

Schaaf: There is enough room for both teams, and my clear priority is keeping both teams. But from an economic point of view, the A’s have a larger economic benefit for Oakland that should always be kept in mind. They play more than 80 games a year, compared to 10. But I just want to be clear, I’m a very proud Oakland native; my parents were season-ticket holders for both the A’s and the Raiders throughout my life.

If Schaaf is going to work via a straight economic comparison of the two sports, there’s little doubt that the regular season of baseball is far more impactful than a football season. Football’s big payoff was to come via a Super Bowl, though that’s perhaps more of a pipe dream than Coliseum City itself. If Schaaf moves towards abandoning visions of a Super Bowl or retractable roof stadium, it would lead to much more productive discussions between the City and the Raiders. The team and the NFL don’t particularly care about Oakland’s Super Bowl fantasies, and the added cost ($200-300 million at today’s rates) makes an already difficult project even more prohibitive.

Schaaf also led off by saying there’s enough room for both teams, a common refrain from many candidates during the campaign. The problem is not a matter of physical room, it’s whether or not the assembled parcels and other resources can properly pay for the bulk of two stadia. Later on in the interview she emphasizes that the venue(s) will be built with someone else’s money, which is fine as long as someone else can figure out a way to make it pay for itself and turn a profit to boot.

For now Coliseum City remains lame duck mayor Jean Quan’s baby, one covered with the stench of desperation and imminent failure. Schaaf won’t be sworn in until January, which will leave probably one week for her to determine in concert with a new city council how to proceed. She can choose to carry on Quan’s work as Quan conceives the project, leave certain processes going (EIR) while regrouping to think up another strategy, or abandon the project altogether to come up with a completely different plan. How Schaaf proceeds will largely dictate how the A’s and Raiders act, since both teams are waiting for each other to vacate. Complicating matters is the NFL’s activity, which includes a special meeting of its stadium and finance committees to further plan potential Los Angeles relocation(s). In February the relocation window officially opens, which could allow the Rams and/or Raiders to apply to move. If that happens, it’s expected that the NFL will have the procedure in place for relocation candidates to move forward.

If the Raiders leave Oakland only one month into Schaaf’s tenure, her legacy won’t be defined by it. She has worked just about everywhere in Oakland government except as part of the JPA or with the JPA. She has been a sitting council member, sure, but that’s much different from working deals the way Rebecca Kaplan did recently or Schaaf’s old boss Ignacio De La Fuente did previously as members of both the City Council and the JPA. If Schaaf allows both the A’s and Raiders to leave with the Warriors already one foot out the door – now that could be terribly damaging to her. Quan has been scrambling to keep all three teams without a cohesive plan. Schaaf doesn’t want to repeat that. The Raiders leaving would allow Schaaf to devote resources to the A’s, an idea the JPA is already on board with. If the Raiders decide to stay in Oakland and partner with Coliseum City everything remains status quo, though Schaaf will also have the new task of negotiating a short-term lease with Mark Davis.

If the Raiders choose to nix LA and work on a new stadium in Oakland, Schaaf will have to decide if it makes sense to devote more resources towards an A’s ballpark. She expressed support for Howard Terminal, yet the A’s lease and stance leave the site out of the picture. Perhaps Schaaf could work with Doug Boxer and Don Knauss to better present a plan to pay for the ballpark at HT while smoothing over the bad relationship between Quan and Lew Wolff – it is a new regime, right? However, that may be a bridge too far for a site that neither Wolff nor MLB supports. Building a stadium in California is hard. If Schaaf can guide her city towards the realization that they’ll be more productive by putting more wood behind fewer arrows, they stand a better chance at turning that dream of a new stadium into a reality. Schaaf will have to remember one guiding principle: If she’s going to plan for a stadium with someone else’s money, chances are that someone else will have a lot more say about how that stadium gets built than a publicly-built stadium.

P.S. – One other thing. Without knowing that much about Schaaf’s work in her district, all the talk about her work ethic and positive attitude reminds me of fictional city bureaucrat Leslie Knope. Is that a reasonable comparison? Oakland could use Leslie Knope’s kind of determination. Maybe we’ll be able to see that now that the craziness of the campaign is over.