San Jose’s uphill battle against MLB continues in 9th Circuit court

This is how oral arguments started today.

For San Jose, it pretty much went downhill from there. City of San Jose Attorney Philip Gregory was up first, and he had a very tough time against the three man panel of judges: Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, Judge Barry Silverman, and Judge Richard Clifton. Gregory asserted that the Portland Baseball case limits the antitrust exemption to the reserve clause. Kosinski and Clifton took issue with that. Gregory argued that the prior cases often cited (Portland, Curt Flood) are more about minor league-major league system interactions/transactions than major league franchise movement. The judges didn’t appear to be swayed. Gregory was left to argue that the case shouldn’t be dismissed at this early stage, and should go to discovery.

MLB lawyer John Keker was next, and he had a much easier time. He was able to go at least 2 minutes without being interrupted, which indicates that the judges had little to question.

The most resistance Keker got into was a hypothetical that Kozinski put forward. The judge first asked Keker if baseball has an antitrust exemption, doesn’t that mean that this case automatically doesn’t have standing? Keker agreed. This was also a key tenet of MLB’s filings going into today’s hearing. There was even a playful back-and-forth between Kozinski and Keker, in which Kozinski prodded, “Just between you and me…” That was followed by a chuckle from the much larger-than-normal gallery. Keker kept to his argument.

That left the rebuttal to Joe Cotchett, who brought props. That led to this exchange:

Cotchett tried his best to take down MLB, calling the territorial distribution as outlined in the Major League Constitution one that builds an “economic wall” around San Jose (Santa Clara County) because no team is allowed to move in there. He also brought up the recent decision in a US District Court to allow an antitrust case to move forward against MLB and broadcasters over TV blackouts and exclusive territories. Judge Clifton didn’t appear to be swayed by this either.

Despite the poor outlook for San Jose, Cotchett got to hold another presser outside the courtroom after adjournment, which for him is just as important as the actual proceedings inside. Even if he loses this case in the Ninth Circuit, he aims to bring it all the way to the Supreme Court. The way things look now, getting there would be the equivalent of a six-run home run.

Courthouse coverage comes from the Merc’s Howard Mintz and Fangraphs’ Wendy Thurm.

What happened to the Stand for San Jose case?

I really should check into these court cases more than once every couple weeks.

While many eyes will be focused on the City of San Jose’s Ninth Circuit appeal against Major League Baseball this Tuesday, another case appears to have been resolved. That would be “citizen group” Stand for San Jose’s lawsuit against the City in Santa Clara County Superior Court. A hearing was scheduled for the end of this week, August 15. However, that was wiped away as the court vacated the hearing. In fact, the court now has the case status as disposed as of July 24. In other words, the case is resolved, over, done. Big hat-tip to Wendy Thurm, who alerted me to this on Friday.

The only recent action leading up to that point was notice that the Oversight Board of SARA (Successor Agency of the Redevelopment Agency) would file its own motion to dismiss by July 25. The idea was that since the Oversight Board was given the power to dispose of the Diridon ballpark parcels however it saw fit as long as it took care of financial obligations to the state. That was to lead for a motion for pleadings on August 15. Then suddenly, the dismissal on July 24. It’s important to note that it’s a dismissal without prejudice, so it could come back at some point. Regardless, it’s a surprising move for all concerned. I’ve asked around to understand what happened, and haven’t gotten any answers yet.

Besides the legal maneuvering, one other thing has happened this summer that might have brought all parties to the table. That would be the A’s and the Coliseum JPA approving an extension at the Coliseum through at least 2018 (up to 2024). Obviously that’s speculation, and the filings may reveal something else, which is why I’m heading to Superior Court tomorrow afternoon. Be forewarned: I don’t expect to get much out of my inquiry. When cases are resolved in a non-public manner as this was, the parties can sometimes choose to reveal little about the motivations to do so.

Then again, there’s this update which came in on Friday:

081414

Some day all this legal stuff will end and there will be a ballpark under construction. Maybe.

The “new” architect and a great old Coliseum idea

Out of the formality that was the Coliseum extension news on Tuesday was a related item that got Oakland fans all excited and hopeful. Lew Wolff, in full photo op mode with the various assembled pols, mentioned that he was working with an architect on a ballpark design at the Coliseum. Wolff gave few specifics, other than saying that “several design ideas” were being considered. Wolff declined to say much else, or even identify the architecture firm he’s working with.

The general sense of astonishment I saw in articles and social media feedback, and in Damon Bruce’s lighthearted take on it on his radio show yesterday, confirmed yet again the fact that the average fan is not going to be bothered to keep up with much of the news. Not that they should be expected to, this is a fairly boring subject at the planning and political stage, and has niche value once shovels hit dirt. Still, fans called in and mused with great hope about one feature or another being integrated into a new ballpark at the Coliseum. But it seemed as if they weren’t going to believe in Wolff’s overtures until he uttered those magic words, I’m working with an architect. My goodness, an architect! Fiddle-dee-dee!

Of course, those who have been following this stadium saga for some time probably already know that Wolff has been working with a prominent architecture firm for nearly a decade. That firm is 360 Architecture, a company that had roots in HOK and created an offshoot, Heinlein Schrock Stearns, before merging with another to become 360 in 2004. They opened an office in San Francisco in the fall of 2005, as the Coliseum North plan transformed into Fremont’s Pacific Commons. Later they worked up plans for the Diridon site and the soccer stadium near San Jose Airport. And if you read SVBJ scribe Nate Donato-Weinstein’s interview with 360 principal Brad Schrock from Tuesday, you might’ve picked up a hint of what was happening next.

Donato-Weinstein: What’s your dream project?

Schrock: We’ve been working with the A’s for such a long time. I’d love to do a ballpark for the A’s. I’d love to do one in San Jose or Oakland. The A’s are just such an interesting franchise. Trying to craft a facility that meets their mojo is a lot of fun. The other one I would die to be involved in is if the city of LA ever gets an NFL team. That would be phenomenal to work on.

While there are no major league ballparks under Schrock’s new shingle, his firm is responsible for the lovely Huntington Park, which I visited a few weeks ago. During his Heinlein Schrock Stearns days he was responsible for Safeco Field, which to me is #1 or #2 in the bigs. 360 is more well known for arenas than stadia, having designed Sprint Center in KC, but with most arenas being early in their lifespans, the firm has done outdoor venues. They cut their NFL teeth on MetLife Stadium, whose soullessness is not 360’s fault but rather the design-by-committee, tug-of-war conducted by the Giants and Jets. Now they’re working an an incredibly ambitious project, the new Atlanta Falcons Stadium. They also have the upcoming Rogers Place in Edmonton under construction, and the Earthquakes Stadium, which is set to open next year.

Some of the plans under consideration in Fremont included a truly retro design featuring columns, similar to legacy ballparks Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. Partly motivated by cost savings and a desire for better sightlines, the concept didn’t appear to go far thanks to the stigma held by obstructed view seats. Assuming that column-free, minimal-cantilever is the chosen path, I think there are some very important positive lessons than can be taken from being stuck at the Coliseum – not just the Coliseum of yesteryear, but the current tarped-off, Mt. Davis-eyesore version.

One of those lessons has to do with the noise level. Sure, the expansive foul territory makes the seats down the lines terribly far away from the action. The activity of the crowd, which is good even on 15k nights, makes up for the lack of line-hugging seats. Yet there’s one other thing that contributes to the noise factor, and it only really started when the tarps were installed in 2006.

Simply put, about 90% of the Coliseum’s seats (in current baseball configuration) are lower than 60 feet above the field. That’s about 32,000 seats. That vertical conservation concentrates crowd noise to a degree not known since old Comiskey and Tiger Stadium were still around. That’s why today’s MLB players are so taken aback when they come into the Coliseum, because despite the old girl’s decrepitude, it’s uncommonly loud.

Why? Just look at how ballparks are constructed these days. It’s easy to point to levels of suites, and yes they are largely responsible, but there are also regulatory standards that come into play. On the lower concourse, wheelchair rows need to be 30-36 inches above the row in front of them for proper compliance. That height grows the higher you go. Plus architects have their own guidelines to prevent people in the back rows from having their views clipped by an overhang, which happens in the back rows of both the Field and Plaza levels at the Coli.

In new ballparks, especially those that follow the familiar HOK blueprint, you have a lower deck of about 30-40 rows, then the elevated wheelchair row merged with the concourse, then decent height so standees can properly see the action. Then there are club and suite levels in different configurations. Finally there’s the upper deck, which these days is split into two decks. When you look at a cross section of a ballpark, it’s easy to identify 4 or 5 separate seating levels, all the better for the teams to separate those levels by price.

Coors Field, which is similar to AT&T Park. Top row is 105 feet above field.

Coors Field, which is similar to AT&T Park. Top row is 105 feet above field.

Take Coors Field, which is pretty much the standard bearer among the modern, HOK/Populous breed. Lower deck, Club level, Suite level, Upper deck. It’s a big building that was downsized before the start of the season. That’s good, but it won’t fix the sightline problem. The top row is 105 feet above the field, which makes the action truly look like it’s a Mile High. Add to that the limited cantilevering and it’s pretty far from the action, nearly 235 feet from home plate to that back row in the upper deck. Could be worse, though. Mt. Davis’s top row at the 50-yard line is 335 feet from the near sideline. That’s longer than a home run in the LF/RF corners.

pitch-low_two-med

A two-deck ballpark design with no suites in between

Now look at this cross-section, which somewhat mimics the first two decks at the Coliseum. It has 32-36 rows down low, 24 rows up above, then skyboxes over it. The last row is only 56 feet above the field. There is only one regular concourse, but it’s 65-83 feet wide. There are club seats and a separate club concourse up top, probably with no fancy lounge or restaurant. Above the suites is a rooftop deck, which can be used the same way the 49ers use theirs at Levi’s Stadium. Or it could simply provide expanded seating in the future. The roof is only 88 feet above the field, or almost 2 stories lower than the top row at Coors.

Overlay of Coors and two-deck concept

Overlay of Coors and two-deck concept

There are compromises. The suites and club seats are about 20-25 feet further away from their counterparts at Coors (AT&T). Does that matter? I doubt it.

To be clear, I have no idea if 360 and Wolff are pursuing anything like this. It would be a great way to go. It brings over that vertical conservation that no other ballpark in the majors save for PNC Park attempts to accomplish. If the goal is the best baseball viewing experience, I hope that this is something that the A’s-360 team is exploring. We’ll all be better off in the end if they did.

Alameda County approves A’s lease unanimously 5-0

After a relatively brief, much less heated discussion over the A’s lease extension than was had by the City two weeks ago, Alameda County’s Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve the extension. The deal keeps the A’s in the Coliseum until at least 2018, and up to 2024 if the team chooses to stay there. Though the deal is characterized as a 10-year lease, the 2014 season runs concurrent with the new deal.

Supervisor Keith Carson asked the most pointed questions of JPA negotiator Jon Streeter, mostly about the debt and the characterization of the new lease as a better deal for the County (and City) than previous leases. Streeter noted that the more money comes in upfront, plus the A’s have to pay off the lease even if they leave the Coliseum early. Miley noted that the original A’s escape provision calls for no payoff if the team pursued a new ballpark elsewhere in Alameda County. The language was changed to Oakland only, meaning the A’s would pay full termination even if they made a stadium deal in Fremont or even San Leandro. Streeter also repeated the notion that the upcoming scoreboard project, which the A’s are paying for, means that the JPA no longer has a potentially big liability item to worry about, since the JPA has been to date responsible for the outdated, frequently failing scoreboard.

To recap the major deal points:

  • A’s stay until at least 2018, up to 2024. A’s must give at least 2 calendar years’ notice if they plan to leave early.
  • The JPA must also give the A’s 2 years’ notice if a Raiders stadium deal comes to fruition and forces the A’s to vacate.
  • Lease payments are $1.75 for this year, $1.5 MM in 2015, $1.5 MM in 2016-19, and $1.25 from 2020-24.
  • A’s will spend at least $10 million on new scoreboard system. A’s retain all revenue from A’s games, Raiders/JPA can split non-A’s game revenue as they see fit.
  • JPA sets aside $1 million per year (increasing 5% annually) to establish a stadium maintenance fund (presumably for fixing plumbing, leaks, etc.)
  • JPA will pay $200,000/year for the O.co signage caps above the scoreboards. A’s may end up replacing those caps as part of the scoreboard project.
  • A’s and JPA will continue stadium discussions on land at or adjacent to the Coliseum (nowhere else like Howard Terminal).
  • The parking arbitration matter is resolved, all claims dismissed.

The JPA and County clarified that there is $191.4 million in outstanding debt at the Coliseum complex: $106.5 million for the stadium, $84.9 for the Arena. Bonds will be retired in 2025 and 2026, respectively.

Next up is MLB’s expected approval of the lease, and the City of Oakland’s next steps in negotiating with the Raiders and BayIG over Coliseum City.

A’s approve City-revised lease, await County vote

No drama this week. The A’s approved the last-minute changes the City of Oakland made to the lease agreement. When Alameda County approves next week, everyone should be square. The A’s put out a press release, in short:

The Oakland A’s have come to an agreement with the JPA on all outstanding points regarding a new 10-year lease at the Coliseum. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors, are scheduled to vote on the lease July 29.

We appreciate the cooperation and efforts of Oakland city officials in this process and are optimistic that our negotiations have led to a fair and mutually-beneficial relationship. Most of all, we are happy for our great fans who, pending the county’s vote, will know that the Oakland Athletics will continue to play its games at O.co Coliseum.

More coverage is available from SFGate and BANG.

With the lease issue very close to resolution, the NFL is once again talking about a football team in LA – at perhaps a league-owned stadium, no less. Curious timing to say the least.

Still, there will be those who keep saying to never trust Lew Wolff, don’t give in, etc. I’ll just leave this snippet from another East Bay legend here:

If I speak at one constant volume
At one constant pitch
At one constant rhythm
Right into your ear
You still won’t hear

Wake up, Oakland

“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” – Confucius

There are any number of ways to rephrase the idiom above. Some might use “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush,” though the meaning is not the same. Voltaire coined the phrase a little more directly.

The perfect is the enemy of the good.

As I listened to Don Knauss make yet another sales pitch about the virtues of Howard Terminal (and Damon Bruce’s softball handling of it), I started to write a point-by-point rebuttal of everything he said. Then, thanks to BANG’s Matthew Artz, I read a 6-page letter from Lew Wolff to Oakland Interim City Administrator Henry Gardner. The letter outlined Wolff’s desire for a lease extension at the Coliseum before leading into the questions surrounding the future of the Coliseum.

Two pages of the letter are devoted to a section called “The Raiders”. Instead of pointing fingers at the Raiders or Mark Davis, Wolff mostly pans BayIG, the Coliseum City plan, and all of the work that has gone into it so far.

I contrasted words from both Knauss and Wolff. The Clorox CEO talked about a transformative project that could hugely benefit downtown Oakland, which it could. A similar description has been made about Coliseum City by its proponents, comparing it to LA Live among other developments. Then there was Wolff, going detail by detail about the process, the difficulty, tedium, and the obstacles. He even lashed back at “Negative Forces” agitating at every possible turn, which could be construed as a critique of Don Knauss or others allied with Knauss.

The argument, which has stretched as long as Wolff and John Fisher have owned the A’s, comes down to Voltaire’s quote. Wolff’s #1 job this entire time has been to get a ballpark. Let’s understand some of those efforts.

  • 2003 – Wolff was hired by Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann to be the VP of Venue Development. During that brief tenure, Wolff proposed building in the Coliseum’s A Lot and at the Malibu/HomeBase lots. The A Lot option went nowhere because Schott was only willing to put up $100 million for the ballpark. The Malibu option was not available because it was not JPA-owned land. Eventually the JPA bought the land in order to assemble a larger complex for what would be become Coliseum City.
  • 2005 – Wolff exercises an option to buy the team, phasing Schott & Hofmann out and bringing Fisher and numerous associates of Wolff in. Wolff soon proposes the Coliseum North (66th/High) plan, which would redevelop a large swath of industrial land north of the Coliseum complex into a ballpark and mixed-use (residential, retail, commercial) plan. The plan received great fanfare at first, but quickly died as numerous existing landowners showed no interest in selling.
  • 2006 – The Fremont Baseball Village plan is proposed in south Fremont near the Santa Clara County line. A compromise plan of sorts, the idea was to court Silicon Valley corporate interests without crossing into the Giants-held territory of Santa Clara County. Again, there is great immediate enthusiasm, this time from Fremont city leaders. This time, a combination of the Great Recession and big box stores vetoing any developments they didn’t approve of killed the plan. Another attempt in 2010 was made to put the ballpark near the NUMMI (now Tesla) factory across the Nimitz. That was met with hostility from well-heeled residents on the other side of I-680 and fell apart quickly.
  • 2009 – San Jose becomes the next plan, with a partially-acquired site downtown, major corporate and civic support, and a certified environmental impact report ready to go. Again the plan stalled as the Giants remained intransigent about their held territory. A lawsuit filed by people associated with the San Jose Giants (eventually a SF Giants-owned property) threatened the project and is still ongoing. The City of San Jose became frustrated and launched its own lawsuit in 2012 against MLB. That too is ongoing.
  • 2009 – Let’s Go Oakland launches with support of three sites in downtown Oakland: Victory Court, JLS West, and Howard Terminal. Victory Court becomes the preferred site in 2010. LGO promoted Victory Court as much as possible, backed by local developers. No significant activity occurs in 2011, and by the beginning of 2012 the site is dead due to the death of redevelopment and spiraling site acquisition costs.
  • 2012 – Not long after Victory Court goes away, murmurs about Howard Terminal becoming the new preferred (not by A’s ownership) Oakland site begin. In 2013, the Port of Oakland negotiates a settlement with SSA Terminals to vacate the site in order to consolidate facilities and kill a lawsuit against the Port. That allows the Port to look into non-maritime uses such as a ballpark, which it does in spring 2014. A new investor/support group, OWB (Oakland Waterfront Ballpark), emerges, led by Knauss and former Dreyer’s CEO T. Gary Rogers.
    While Wolff has been trying to deal with the on-the-ground demands of planning and building a ballpark, many in Oakland have been fixated on grand concepts like Coliseum City and the far-off promises of Howard Terminal and Victory Court. Even yesterday, Knauss couldn’t help but bring San Francisco into the discussion, talking up how a HT ballpark would have better weather and views than AT&T Park. Coliseum City would be a transformative project that could attract Super Bowls and give Oakland new cachet.

Oakland’s desires to become something bigger and better are completely understandable. But they’ve been so pie-in-the-sky, so big, that there’s always been huge doubts about what, if anything, the City could pull off. I’ve mentioned before that Oakland has never built anything by itself, and that it needed the County and the business community to come together to make the Coliseum work nearly 50 years ago. That need hasn’t changed, but the sense of teamwork has. In Oakland’s attempt to keep all three teams in place, it has gotten away from what got them the teams in the first place: strong partnerships and sensitivity to the teams’ needs. Nowhere is that more evident than in Coliseum City, where the County is playing the realist role in questioning the project and in looking to the A’s, while the City brings in big names with no commitments, entirely footing the bill along the way.

Oakland keeps searching for the perfect project, the ultimate solution, the one that will finally vault them past the City beyond its rival across the Bay. Some politician(s) would take credit when it gets done, a legacy-defining moment. So they keep dreaming, keep hoping, clearly not worried about the little details that need to be addressed or the problems that arise when undertaking big projects. At some point, someone in Oakland will recognize that the dreams need to be tempered with what can realistically be done, and understand the work that will be required to get it done – establishing partnerships with the teams and stakeholders for starters. If not, the teams will get frustrated and give up. Those dreams will die. The biggest pro sports Oakland will be able to get will be minor league (which for some is okay). And the Coliseum, home of six world championships, will end up unused, even more unloved, and ultimately, something generic like a shopping center. That’s what happens when the well-intended keep pursuing the ever-elusive perfect instead of understanding that good is actually pretty great.

Lew Wolff is getting ready to offer what could be a pretty good deal. If Oakland wakes up, they may be able to react in time to take it.

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P.S. – I’m removing comments from the site for the time being. It’s not because of the commenters or specific comments – although they can be especially inane at times – it’s because those comments and the constantly attacking spambots (which you don’t see) are causing heavy server load, for which I’ve been warned by my provider. I hope that by having no comments there will be less server load. Thanks for your patience.

Oakland City Council approves amended lease 5-2, now goes back to JPA/County/A’s for approval

A lease agreement was passed tonight. Not the lease agreement the JPA sent to Oakland’s City Council. Instead the Council voted 5-2 (with 1 abstention) to approve an amended lease that included fairly minor changes. Among those changes:

  • A clarification on how the A’s use their termination clause. Example: If the A’s provide notice on January 1, 2016, the lease ends on December 31, 2018. If they provide notice after 1/1/16, termination doesn’t occur until 2019. This was not actually a point of dispute, it’s just that the language was somewhat confusing so an example was provided.
  • A typo in the the agenda document indicated that the the developer fee/deposit for continuing redevelopment at the Coliseum (Coliseum City) was both $10 million and $20 million. This was clarified as $10 million, and was agreed upon in the lease approved by the JPA on July 3.
  • A new section 42.7 that codified lease practices defined in the 2013 (current) lease.
  • A section on Licensor (JPA) default was removed for some reason. It has been added back to the agreement.
  • If the A’s are sold, there is a clause (16.1) that explains how the team transfers the lease to the new owner without requiring JPA approval. The requested change is to include the fact that new owner must be MLB-approved.
  • Removal of language that makes the JPA liable for Raiders’ acts/omissions that are approved by the JPA. The language now solely deals with the A’s revenues and benefits going strictly to the A’s, not to any third party.
  • There’s also a need to clean up language, which is customary in contract negotiations. It’s unclear what those cleanups are.

All in all, there’s little reason for the A’s to decline the lease. On the other hand, these changes are so minor it’s a wonder why they had to be debated in public, with the exception of the typo in the second bullet point.

Council President Pat Kernighan put forth a motion early on to consider the lease with these amendments. That caused CM Larry Reid, who is also a JPA board member, to put forth his own substitute motion that would have the Council vote on the lease as is. At the end of the session, Reid’s substitute motion lost 4-3. Kernighan’s won 5-2. After the votes the Council tried to clear up whether or not the JPA or the Alameda County Board of Supervisors would have to vote on the revised agreement. Naturally, the answer is YES. The BoS will meet on July 29 to go over this new lease and perhaps the old lease two, so they may end up voting on both. The JPA will have to take another special session vote shortly thereafter, and A’s ownership will also have to sign off.

A’s President Mike Crowley was on hand to witness the festivities. After JPA counsel Jon Streeter presented the lease in great detail and asked questions, Crowley was asked to provide a comment on the amended lease. Kernighan was concerned about putting Crowley on the spot, while Reid encouraged Crowley’s opinion. Crowley said that he preferred the original lease as is, though he allowed for the typo correction. After the vote he said he was “disappointed” by the Council’s action. Whether he’s disappointed in the terms or in the fact that everyone’s in for 2 more weeks of gestation over a lease wasn’t clear. Crowley reserved further comment until he had a chance to review the terms.  Kernighan mentioned that she talked with Lew Wolff earlier in the morning, and with a caveat that she wasn’t representing him, revealed that the changes didn’t seem like showstoppers.

There was plenty of time for grandstanding, so several Council members took turns doing it. CM Desley Brooks considers the lease a regression from terms outlined last November. Streeter rebutted that, explaining the back-and-forth of the lease talks that dated back to a year ago. Streeter’s main points were that the A’s are paying double the annual rent of the pre-2013 deal, were guaranteeing $20 million even if they stayed less than the full 10 years, and provides flexibility for all interests (A’s, Raiders, BayIG, JPA, City/County). CM Dan Kalb was unusually high-strung,

Kalb went on to chastise the A’s in advance, in case the A’s don’t approve the deal with the changes. Reid and Noel Gallo were the dissenters, instead voting for the original agreement. They both sowed FUD in their comments, Gallo was more restrained while Reid pulled the full “do what you want, it’s not my fault” card.

Libby Schaaf’s comments were noticeably brief, calling an approved lease (without saying which one) a crucial step towards keeping the A’s in Oakland. Both Schaaf and Rebecca Kaplan opened with some campaign speak, which I necessarily tuned out. Schaaf, Kaplan, Kalb, Kernighan, and Lynette Gibson McElhany provided the Yes votes.

A bizarre moment came late when Alameda County Supervisor and JPA President Nate Miley took time to explain to Gallo how the City of Oakland’s Coliseum City discussions with BayIG worked. At least an hour was spent explaining details that the Council not only should’ve known weeks ago. Current former JPA members such as Reid, Kaplan, and Brooks talked up their knowledge of the issues, yet the rest of the Council seemed inexplicably in the dark. Before Kernighan made her motion, Brooks asked for a full presentation, this after Streeter answered numerous questions about the lease and negotiation.  Communication between the JPA, City, and County is so broken that it’s hard not to be skeptical about the group’s ability to work out a deal as large and complex as Coliseum City. The lack of preparation on the Council’s part was on full display and it wasn’t pretty.

Nearly 30 public comments were given. They included Raiders fans like Dr. Death and Bauce, who raged against the Council. Lil Bartholo spoke first about the team’s and MLB’s blackmail and extortion techniques. The anti-lease, generally anti-Wolff crowd was well represented. However, interspersed among them were several A’s employees who mostly spoke about simply keeping the A’s in Oakland. Out of the five employees I observed, only one overtly called for the lease to be approved. They talked about how they were both fans and employees, about how some of them had union jobs, about how they were trying to collectively bargain for benefits, but the lease fiasco puts such negotiations on hold. An SEIU rep even called for the lease to be tied to a 10-year labor agreement, which is probably an overreach. Regardless, the image of employees coming forth to stand for their jobs was powerful.

Also present was a rep from the scoreboard installation company that could be contracted to work on the Coliseum. The man (whose name I didn’t get) emphasized that the lease had to be approved soon to allow for the equipment to be ordered and installed in time for the next baseball season. Emperor Nobody got some good anger at the system in, though he ran out of time (he’s on the KTVU clip so that’s good, right?).

Attorney Streeter acquitted himself well, handling all of the questions that came his way. He had to explain the rent provisions at least twice, and covered all of the major lease aspects well. It took 2 hours and 10 minutes, but the $200 million debt elephant finally came up. There’s no obvious answer as to how it the debt gets retired. Miley mentioned that the A’s are looking to buy the Coliseum land. Those who distrust Wolff don’t believe that. Streeter then boiled down the whole point of the lease. 

Streeter addressed the A’s-Oakland parking fee dispute. Arbitration is pending. Oakland is asking for $5.4 million. If the City wins they could also be reimbursed $600,000 in legal fees. The amount that the A’s are willing to pay was not disclosed. Streeter factored a discounted amount of a potential arbitration award into the lease. Why? There’s the inherent risk that the City could lose the arbitration. That makes the lease a sort of hedge.

Finally, as further questions were asked about the leases of both the A’s and Raiders, especially the ongoing operating subsidy. While I’ve always known about the subsidy, I’ve never heard it explained in such simple terms. Basically it goes like this:

  • The A’s pay for all gameday operations: power, water, groundskeeping, security. This is for a 180-day season.
  • The A’s pay $1.5 million in rent per season.
  • The A’s receive revenue from pouring rights, stadium advertising, and a chunk of concessions.
  • The A’s keep parking revenue with the exception of the tax that has to be paid to the City & County.

Contrast this with the Raiders

  • The Raiders pay $400,000 per year in rent.
  • The Raiders split parking revenues with the JPA, their share being roughly $1.75 million for the 2013 season.
  • The Raiders pay for zero stadium operating costs, and are subsidized to the tune of $7 million per year, including the costs to convert the stadium between baseball and football (and vice-versa).

Late tonight, word came that the Raiders may want a year extension, though it wasn’t clear if that’s on top of the 2015 option year or something else. I hope the Raiders’ lease gets the same kind of scrutiny the A’s lease gets. It’s the painful yet needed part of the ongoing adult conversation.

P.S. – Wolff met with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed yesterday at the SJ Fairmont. The meeting was described as a “check-in.”