Category Archives: Baseball
Added 1:00 PM – I’ve taken the liberty of posting the text of Mayor Reed’s letter to Commissioner Selig.
Mr. Bud Selig, Commissioner
Major League Baseball
777 E. Wisconsin Avenue, Ste. 3060
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Dear Commissioner Selig:
When will the A’s be moving to San Jose? That’s the question that is most often asked of me by CEOs of Silicon Valley companies competing to retain and attract global talent, by youngsters excited about competing in little league baseball, and by fans throughout San Jose.
The A’s ownership continues to express its desire to locate the team in San Jose and I strongly endorse that outcome. There should be no doubt of San Jose’s ability to be a great host city for the team and for Major League Baseball. There should also be no doubt that the stadium could have been under construction by now.
We respect your desire to examine fully all aspects of allowing the A’s to move to Northern California’s largest city. In 2011, former MLB President Bob Dupuy, speaking on behalf of your office, asked that our City Council delay approving a public vote to advance a planned stadium project in Downtown San Jose. We abided by that request. Mr. Dupuy also indicated that you would soon make a final decision and, if favorable towards San Jose, the MLB would assist the City with the costs of a future election. Two years have passed since. As you know, we have been contacted many times by the MLB’s Blue Ribbon Panel and we have responded promptly and thoroughly in every instance. Meanwhile, we continue to communicate with leaders in the community and are prepared to advance implementation actions to the City Council following your decision.
Direct communication between us will help resolve any lingering issues about our commitment to having the A’s home plate located in San Jose and could reduce the probability for additional litigation. I’d appreciate an opportunity to discuss this with you and have asked my Chief of Staff, Pete Furman, to contact your office regarding scheduling a meeting with you. I hope you will look favorably upon the request.
c: Lew Wolff
It’s probably not a coincidence that in the span of two hours, Lew Wolff spoke for the first time this regular season about the stadium situation on Chronicle Live!, followed by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed asking for a meeting with Bud Selig via a one-page letter sent to the Commissioner’s office.
Reed is positioning the requested meeting as something that could head off future litigation. Over the last year, San Jose has become more vocal about challenging MLB through the courts. So far MLB hasn’t budged. I can’t imagine that this will work either. Regardless of whether San Jose actually has standing in a case against baseball, the sport still has the lion’s share of leverage. If granted the meeting, maybe Reed will come with a phalanx of high-profile lawyers to shake down Selig. More likely is the idea that Reed will continue to pitch San Jose’s positives (of which there are many) and try to allay any fears that the A’s can be self-sustaining in the long run. Remember, they have to be off revenue sharing in a new Bay Area stadium.
As for Wolff, he was peppered with a lot of questions by ChronLive’s Jim Kozimor. Unfortunately, Wolff refused to talk about any progress on the decision-making front for a stadium location, citing the Selig-imposed gag order on both teams. He was able to comment on other matters. On the prospects of the five year lease Wolff requested last year:
The environment of getting a (lease extension) is very positive.
That’s encouraging. All A’s fans hope that the flying rhetoric stops and the team and the JPA can work out an extension that benefits both sides. That’s not going to be easy with the Raiders asking for more revenue control. We’ll see over the coming months if a proper agreement can be worked out for all sides.
Asked if Wolff and the Fisher family would consider selling the team if Wolff doesn’t get his wish to move the franchise to San Jose:
The answer is no… we want to keep this generational.
Following the 14-minute interview, in-studio guest Mark Purdy further elaborated on the “generational” aspect. Purdy indicated that Lew could cede more of the stadium effort in the coming years, as he approaches 80. Next in line is Lew’s son Keith Wolff, who has been working on plans for Cisco Field and the Earthquakes Stadium, where major site work started happening in the last week. Lew says that the Quakes stadium is on track, but process could slow it down. For now he says that the Quakes stadium should be open for the 2014 MLS season, conceding that there could be delays in completing the project. I figure that once that venue is up and running, Keith Wolff will assume his father’s place as the public face of the stadium effort, if not the franchise itself. With the recent trend of teams acting as investment vehicles and development anchors, this is naturally hard-to-believe. Considering how Wolff views his ownership of the franchise and how he attends games frequently with his grandson, it’s not necessarily that far-fetched. Wolff dismissed Kozimor’s suggestion that the team is just fine collecting revenue sharing checks, responding that he wanted to leave the team and the sport in a better place than he found it. As long as there continues to be an impasse vis-à-vis San Jose, that’s inconceivable.
A little over six years ago, the renovated Stanford Stadium opened. Recall that the 50,000-seat stadium was built by area real estate magnate John Arrillaga in nine months for $100 million. It had a proper mix of seats and bleachers, a small club beneath the press box, and far better amenities than the old, dilapidated stadium had previously. While it lacks significant architectural character and can be best described as serviceable and utilitarian, no one’s going to complain about the cost (low and all paid for) or features it may lack compared to Stanford’s Pac-12 rivals. It was built efficiently and quickly, and unlike the review I wrote back in 2007, Stanford Stadium has a good team to go with the more pleasant surroundings.
On Monday, the Los Angeles Dodgers played their first game in their renovated (yet again) Dodger Stadium, yet if you went to the game, you might be hard pressed to identify what that $100 million paid for. The project, announced shortly after Guggenheim Partners assumed ownership of the team, sought to upgrade several areas that needed refreshing: scoreboards, restrooms in the upper decks, and concourses. Much of the money went towards ripping out a large amount of the lower deck so that the Dodger clubhouse could be expanded to twice its original size. Since Dodger Stadium was literally built into a hill, this meant pulling out concrete risers and excavating the dirt beneath them to increase square footage.
Under the field level is a batting cage which people in the Dugout Club will be able to view. Photos of the clubhouse look impressive, though I wasn’t able to tour the clubhouse last year even when the team was on a road trip. I suppose that if the owners are going to start supporting $200 million payrolls, they better fix up the house enough to keep all those overpaid players happy.
Other fan friendly changes include an expansion of the concourse behind the third (reserve) deck, including a play area. A few rows at the back of the club and lower levels were removed and replaced with standing areas with drink rails. Since seats were removed, the Dodgers will officially declare a sellout at 53,000 paid. Anything above that number will come from standing room admissions. By eliminating those back rows, the cramped concourses will be 8-9 feet wider, enough to accommodate groups of standing fans while freeing up some of the concourse area for concession lines or circulation. Perhaps most importantly, the troughs behind the top deck are gone, replaced with urinals. (Sorry trough lovers, your days are numbered.)
The only obvious improvement was the replacement of the scoreboards in left and right field. Now both have the signature hexagon shape, and both are versatile score/videoboards provided by ANC Sports. Both will also have a small ribbon-like strip beneath them, which should work well for showing the line score or captions.
When Frank McCourt bought the Dodgers, he envisioned a vast redevelopment of the 260-acres at Dodger Stadium to include new commercial and residential to surround the stadium. For now, Guggenheim has stayed mum on their future plans for the land, these changes portend a re-engineering of the experience at Chavez Ravine. The expansion of the upper gate area is probably a trial balloon for further expansion of the paid area into the parking lots. For most of Dodger Stadium’s life it has lacked circulation between levels, a hallmark of its exclusive, segregated design. While a set of escalators behind home plate provides one way to circulate among the levels, the only practical way to increase that movement is to create spaces behind the existing concourses. To successfully execute this, project head Janet Marie Smith (of Camden Yards and Fenway renovation fame) will have to strike a balance between utility and the impeccably manicured grounds at the complex. Take away too much greenery and it will start to look like a cookie-cutter stadium. Remove too little for preservation’s sake and the solutions may prove too time-consuming for fans to use. In the coming years, Dodger Stadium is expected to undergo numerous small renovations in conjunction with major changes to the complex. It’ll be a good test of whether the stadium can be integrated into Downtown, and perhaps the last major “redevelopment” project in LA. Hopefully they’ll do it right.
Eager to see pics of what a MLB game looks like in San Antonio’s Alamodome? No? Well, tough, here they are anyway.
The field was purchased for the games by Ryan Sanders, the baseball holding company partly owned by Nolan Ryan and his son Reid. It’s expected that additional exhibition games will be played there over the next couple of years. I hate to say it, but as silly and dome-y as it looks, the Alamodome could work as a temporary home. Maybe not for a full regular season. For a 22-game Expos-in-Puerto Rico barnstorming stint? I could see it. It could even work to the Rangers’ and Astros’ advantage if A’s “home” series against those two teams were held at the Alamodome. As long as the gate was divvied up to all parties’ satisfaction, it could work quite well as long as everyone understood that San Antonio’s role was truly temporary, instead of the threat of relocation experienced with the New Orleans Saints post-Katrina. Nolan Ryan’s future with the Rangers is a bit murky at the moment, so there’s no telling what will happen there. Still, Ryan Sanders will continue to have a big presence in terms of baseball in Texas, so if Bud Selig wanted to use a temp venue such as the Alamodome, he knows who to call.
The guy in the middle of the final picture above is a City Councilman whose name I didn’t pick up during the interview. He and the Rangers broadcast team talked about MLB in San Antonio. The discussion was framed in terms of San Antonio getting a future expansion team if MLB went to 32 teams. There was no discussion of San Antonio as a relocation candidate.
Attendance for the first game was 34,641. The Alamodome’s capacity is 65,000 (slightly less for baseball), so as you’d expect, the place looked half full. Or at least the upper deck looked empty. Perhaps they could’ve used some tarps.
Finally, take a look at this video showing the conversion of the Alamodome from empty floor to half-grass, half-arena football layout, then the installation of the infield. They even went to the trouble of laying down a dirt pattern for the entire infield, even though like most artificial turf indoor ballfields, they used dirt cutouts instead of a true dirt infield as in Tropicana Field.
For me, when the Forbes MLB valuations are published every March, it’s like Christmas nine months early. Forbes goes to the trouble of sleuthing around baseball even as team financials are meant to be heavily safeguarded. It provides this blog and others with that last bit of off-the-field news just before the season starts in earnest. Thanks to Mike Ozanian and Kurt Badenhausen for putting the 2013 edition and previous editions together (full list).
As expected, the combination of the Dodgers ($2.1 billion) and Padres ($600 million) sales plus new TV contracts on the horizon pushed franchise values up. Way up. No team has a valuation lower than $450 million. Credit also goes to MLB Advanced Media, whose expanding product line includes MLB.tv, the At Bat apps for phones and tablets, and Tickets.com. Forbes estimates that if it were public, MLB AM could be worth $6 billion on its own. Slow, deliberate baseball is not the kind of enterprise one thinks of when looking for examples of startup culture, yet the success of MLB AM is undeniable and felt in every owner’s pocketbook every year.
These new valuations result in an aggregate $3.5 billion rise over last year. The A’s, who were last in 2012 with a $321 million valuation, are now 28th with a $468 million valuation. That’s a whopping 45.8% gain, all without negotiating any lucrative new media deals or the benefit of new ballpark revenues. $468 million is reflective of the new national TV deals that MLB will receive starting with the 2014 season. Even with the increase, the A’s are $160 million below the media franchise value and $276 million below the average valuation. For reference, the big market Giants got a $143 million boost and moved from 9th to 7th place. As we observed last year, the bubble is real. Thanks to baseball’s solid, diverse revenues, the bubble is also not going to burst anytime soon.
Debt that the A’s are carrying appears to be unchanged at around $90 million. This is no surprise because haven’t signed any big contracts since Yoenis Cespedes. By staying put, the debt-to-value ratio has gone down from 28% to 19%. That’s important because if Lew Wolff is going to build a new stadium in the next several years, it’s best to keep debt relatively low and operating income high so that they can borrow big for a ballpark. The downside of that conservative approach is that much of the A’s young talent could be out the door sooner rather than later, as we’ve seen frequently over the years.
Forbes also explained a little of their methodology this go-around.
Our team valuations are enterprise values (equity plus debt) and are calculated using multiples of revenue. Thus while teams value MLBAM and BELP on their balance sheets on a “cost basis,” which understates their true value, we incorporate market value estimates for those assets. Two more significant ways our accounting differs from the P&L statements of many teams: we include revenue teams keep from concerts, soccer games and other events at their ballparks; and we deduct from revenue stadium debt payments that are paid with stadium revenue. In short, our team values are meant to reflect what a buyer would be willing to pay in an arms-length transaction and our operating income measures are meant to indicate how much cash is generated.
Basically, Forbes is making the distinction that their numbers are reflective of how each team is run as a business, as opposed to P&Ls reported to baseball which may be products of arrangements designed to hide or minimize secondary revenue sources and expenses. While commissioner Bud Selig and the owners will downplay or write off Forbes’ figures, we can feel a little more confident in their soundness based on what they’ve dug up and the new industry information that has come in over the last two years.
Wait, what’s that BELP thing? BELP stands for Baseball Endowment Limited Partners, a sort of internal baseball hedge fund. It was started when the owners collected the franchise fee for the Washington Nationals into another partnership called Baseball Expos Limited Partners. The owners and Selig decided to reinvest that $500 million instead of distributing it to each ownership group. The strategy has literally paid dividends for the owners, because once money from BELP I was rolled over into BELP II, baseball started getting major profits from the fund. BELP was first exposed a few years ago when Deadspin received leaked financials from several teams, but the kinds of investments BELP chose to venture into were kept under wraps. In the past, I’ve put BELP in the category of “Other” when accounting for Central Revenue. I’ll probably break it out going forward, though that will be based entirely on estimates since BELP isn’t public.
The main article ends with a few notes on the A’s, which is somewhat unusual. It’s pointed out that the A’s got another fat revenue sharing check of over $30 million, and an attendance boost coinciding with the team’s division crown. Local revenues continue to lag, so revenue sharing and central revenues are (more than) keeping the team afloat. That’s a double-edged sword, as it gives critics of Wolff and John Fisher ammo to say the team is again being “cheap” with regards to how it runs the team. Now that payroll is taking up less than 40% of revenues, it’s worth asking if the team is saving money – perhaps for a ballpark. If the marginal cost per win in terms of talent is difficult to justify (see: $11 million/year for Kyle Lohse), filling the piggy bank for a ballpark wouldn’t be a bad way to go.
Of course, there’s another side to the revenue-payroll debate. With all of the money that’s coming in, Wolff, Fisher, and the other partners would have to be absolutely nuts to sell the team. They’ll only get more money next year, which they can invest in one of their cornerstone players. The windfall also makes it even more difficult for interested East Bay parties such as Don Knauss to get the team. Last year, as the Dodgers and Padres sales happened, I predicted that the A’s value would hit at least $500 million. They haven’t that number yet, but they’re almost guaranteed to hit it in 2014. So again, that puts the cost to keep the A’s in Oakland at $1 billion: $500 million for the team + $500 million for the ballpark. Good luck with that.
Update 3/23 1:30 AM – Pillbury made its own motion in response. They’re aiming to “augment the administrative record; memo of p’s and a’s” (points and authorities), so they’re providing their defense of their behavior in the case. I’ll try to get a copy of the motion ASAP.
There’s a fairly new term being used in baseball talk on the internet these days: TOOTBLAN. It’s short for Thrown Out On The Bases Like A Nincompoop. It’s very popular on Twitter, and its lineage dates back to some misadventures on the basepaths by Ryan Theriot, who naturally was on the Cubs when the term was coined. When it comes to baserunning, Theriot is the polar opposite of Coco Crisp, whose recent profile by Grantland’s Jonah Keri elevated Coco to ninja-like levels between the bags. Still, Theriot has two World Series rings in the past two years, so who’s the nincompoop now? Well, it’ll forever be Theriot. Sorry dude.
The City of San Jose committed its own TOOTBLAN in the Stand for San Jose lawsuit. During the suit’s discovery period, the City inadvertently released several documents that clearly should have been protected by attorney-client privilege. When City attorneys found out, they asked S4SJ’s attorneys at Pillsbury to return the documents. Instead, Pillsbury held onto the privileged docs and sought to augment their own case with the documents. That forced the City to file a temporary restraining order against Pillsbury, which was granted by a judge in January 2012. Suspecting that Pillsbury lawyers would use the information anyway, last week (3/11) the City filed its own motion to disqualify counsel (read the PDF for the blow-by-blow), saying that Pillsbury’s conduct during discovery should force them off the case. From the motion:
By this motion, respondents and real party in interest seek disqualification of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP (“Pillsbury”) from further involvement in this case. Pillsbury attorneys closely examined and attempted to use nine privileged documents inadvertently produced by the City of San Jose. Pillsbury was ethically obligated not to review these documents any more than necessary to determine they were privileged and to immediately notify the City of its possession of the documents. In derogation of these obligations, Pillsbury not only reviewed the privileged documents in their entirety and failed to notify the City that it possessed them, it refused to return the documents after the City discovered the inadvertent production and requested that the documents be returned. Instead, Pillsbury affirmatively sought to incorporate the documents into the administrative record in this case and use the information in them to support petitioners’ claims, threating a motion to augment the record if they were not included. The City was forced to bring a TRO and preliminary injunction proceeding, which resulted in an order requiring Pillsbury to return the privileged documents and all copies. The documents contained highly confidential attorney/client communications and attorney work product bearing directly on the issues in this case. Pillsbury’s possession of this information prejudices the defense of this case, and there is no effective remedy short of disqualification.
I consulted with some folks who have a better grasp of the legal issues here. Apparently the motion to disqualify counsel is not something that is successfully granted often, and any such claims have to pass a fairly stringent test to force such an action. At the same time, the inadvertent release of privileged or confidential information during discovery isn’t all that uncommon, given the reams and boxes of documents that have to be made available for a trial. Still, this is an embarrassing moment for the City and it seems like they want to be rewarded for making a pretty big mistake.
The documents in question include marked up versions of the EIR, analyses and comments from the City Attorney’s office, and to my surprise, a draft of a Disposition and Development Agreement – effectively the lease terms for the ballpark and/or land. Frankly, I want to see this information and the public should have the right to see it. For now, records requests may have to be filed to gain access, and that may not happen until after a trial ends. Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how Judge Hubner rules on this next month. Just like last fall’s motion to compel, this is a long shot at best, but Pillsbury’s conduct could result in sanctions if not disqualification. If Pillsbury were thrown off the case, S4SJ would be forced to bring in new counsel and prepare a new case, creating considerable delay. Plus the new legal team wouldn’t be the Giants’ own firm. Considering how the Giants may have pressured the Controller’s office to take actions against San Jose in the ballpark land rollback, just about anything’s fair game at this point. The hearing will be at Santa Clara County Superior Court on April 12, 9 AM. I expect to be there for the proceedings.
Note: I spent a couple of fruitless hours at the Superior Court trying to get a copy of the motion, because it hadn’t been properly filed yet. I strolled a few blocks over to City Hall and went to the City Attorney’s office to request a copy. I received it via e-mail within an hour of the request.
Update 7:30 PM – Added link to Controller’s report.
Yesterday we got word that the 49ers and Santa Clara prevailed in its lawsuit to reclaim $40 million in redevelopment funds. Today comes the news that the State of California has ruled that land transfers from the City of San Jose to the Diridon Development Authority were ruled illegal.
The Controller’s ruling on the ballpark land seems to hinge entirely on the fact that the City/RDA didn’t enter into a sale agreement with A’s ownership until November 2011, after the June 28, 2011 cutoff when AB 1X 26 took effect.
The RDA made unallowable asset transfers of $29,137,727 to the San Jose Diridon Development Authority (Authority), a joint powers authority made up of the City and the RDA. All of the property transfers occurred during the period of January 1, 2011, through January 31, 2012 and the assets were not contractually committed to a third party prior to June 28, 2011.
The graf above comes from the 12-page report released today, a draft of which was sent to the City on November 15, 2012 to allow for a response. The City argued that “there is no statutory or legal support” for the 6/28/11 cutoff to no avail. The Controller disregarded this argument and directed the land be turned over to County-appointed Successor Agency, whose oversight board will make the final determination of what to do with the land. City has cutely shortened “Successor Agency” to SARA and for good reason. What does SARA stand for?
Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Jose
If the Diridon Development Authority is the “son” of revelopment, SARA is the daughter. What does SARA make of this mess?
Ordering the City to return the assets to the Successor Agency only to have the Oversight Board direct that they be returned to the City is simply form over substance and wastes valuable time, energy and resources to arrive at the same result.
Regardless of what happened with the Controller’s decision (which was expected) the City still feels that the land will end up with the A’s. If they had inked the sale agreement in March 2011 instead of November, the transfers would’ve been in the clear. Now they could sue the State the same way the 49ers did, but since that would be even more costly and the City and County are already working on a proper land disposition agreement, that seems like a terrible idea.
What will happen next? My guess is that the land won’t actually be sold. Instead, the parties will work on a lease agreement that would allow the A’s to build on the public portion of the ballpark site while the A’s buy the rest over time. The alternative is to sell the land for “market value”, with a yield large enough to be approved by the Controller. The purpose of this is two-fold: get a sale so that funds can be sent to the state, and ensure that the land is assessed at a value high enough to get adequate proceeds to the state, county, and schools. Mayor Chuck Reed, who is on the SARA oversight board, released a statement in response to the ruling just a few minutes ago.
I am disappointed in the findings made by the State Controller regarding certain properties transferred from the San Jose Redevelopment Agency to the City of San Jose, San Jose Diridon Development Authority, and City Housing Agency.
The properties transferred to the City include assets that serve a civic or government function, and likely will fall under the government use provisions of the new redevelopment dissolution law and my expectation is that the Oversight Board will make the same findings.
With respect to the Diridon Development Authority properties, the State Controller failed to recognize an Option Agreement validly entered into between the JPA and the Athletics Investment Group. Any transfer of these properties to the Successor Agency would be subject to the contractual rights of the Athletics Investment Group as required under state law.
The City Council and County Supervisors have both made their desire to have a ballpark built on the site known through formal resolutions in the past. My expectation is that we will continue to work together to bring the Athletics to San Jose regardless of the ultimate ownership of the JPA properties.
Coincidentally, an oversight board meeting is scheduled for tomorrow morning at City Hall. While this news came too late to make the meeting agenda, I would expect the matter to be discussed. I’ll attend and report back.
It looks like this.
For Sunday’s World Baseball Classic semifinal matchup between Japan and Puerto Rico, most of the suites at AT&T Park went unused, while both the field level and mezzanine clubs were full of fans disguised as empty seats. Announced attendance for the game was 33,683, at the low end of the Giants’ projections and well below the 36,000 I figured would show up. I went over some of the reasons why attendance could lag for the WBC in the last post, but I definitely didn’t expect to see no lights on in so many of the suites.
Considering that Japan was in the matchup and was expected to make it all the way to the final, I figured that there’d be more Japanese corporate presence in the park. That was evidently not the case, though Japanese fans seemed to outnumber Puerto Rico fans by a healthy margin. Monday’s game is expected to have lower attendance than Sunday, so a similar scene in the high-roller seats should play out.
Obviously, I’m oversimplifying things a little by only pointing to club seats and suites. Some well-to-do fans and perhaps some companies bought strips of regular seats. But it was clear from the start that all of facilities that the Giants and other MLB teams use to make their money weren’t in use tonight, including the aforementioned premium accommodations and the Virgin America Loft down the right field line. Some suites may have been used in Miami and Phoenix, but frankly I wasn’t paying that much attention since I hadn’t attended games in either location.
Some questions I have going forward:
- Does this matter at all to the WBC and MLB?
- Did the WBC overprice premium facilities along the lines of the advance ticket strips?
- Are they even selling suites?
- Who conceived the failed ticket pricing scheme?
- What adjustments does the WBC need to make?
I took away two other observations from the game. First, even though the crowd was loud and boisterous, it may have also been the most polite, friendly baseball crowd of that size I’ve ever been in. The two nations were in it to win it, yet there was no visible animosity. Maybe that will change if PR meets the Dominican Republic in the final. It was a refreshing departure from some of the bitter Giants-Dodgers and A’s-Yankees crowds experienced over the years. Second, staffing for the game was much smaller than for a typical Giants game, suites notwithstanding. Even as the crowd was 8,000 smaller than for a sold out Giants game, it looked like up to a third of the concession stands were closed, especially on the View Level. I imagine that this had to do with the projected crowd. Maybe it also had to do with possible budgetary constraints set by the WBC for the host Giants. Either way, it was not something I was used to, and it looked similar to the upper deck(s) at the Coliseum. One of my friends in the upper deck left to get a craft beer in the 5th inning and had to go down to main concourse to find one, missing two innings in the process.
Did you watch the game on TV or in person? What did you take away from the game?
I’ll be back Monday night for the Netherlands-Dominican Republic matchup. Bleacher tickets can be had for as little as $5.
Tickets for the championship rounds of the World Baseball Classic at AT&T Park were priced quite heavily when they went on sale in December, often forcing fans to buy three-game strips for hundreds of dollars. That price gouging, in conjunction with Team USA getting eliminated last night by Puerto Rico, has caused the WBC to heavily discount numerous blocks of tickets in the last couple of days.
Prices for the two semifinal matchups were as low as $15 yesterday for nosebleed sections in left field and the back of the bleachers. Today the WBC dropped prices on better seats and locations for both games to just $8, a loss leader price if I ever heard of one. That is sure to upset folks who bought early, but it will delight casual fans and followers of the remaining teams (Japan, Netherlands, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico) who are in town or are willing to make the trip cross-country.
While premium sections are staying expensive, many areas that “fill out the bowl” have a good number of unsold seats, including groups of seats together. There’s a threat that AT&T Park will look empty without a contingent of US fans and the possibility that the DR/PR fans won’t be there in large numbers. The Bay Area doesn’t have a huge population of Dominicans or Puerto Ricans compared to the East Coast, so there’s reason for concern. A healthy number fans of Team Japan should be there, as we’d normally expect. Netherlands skipper and Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens appealed to his fellow Dutchmen in the Bay Area to come out and support the Oranje, though they’re not expected to be there en masse.
On Friday I got a $15 bleacher ticket for Monday’s game between the Dominican Republic and the Netherlands. Today I snagged a $8 ticket for Sunday’s Japan-Puerto Rico matchup. A friend of mine who bought single game tickets in advance last month for Sunday’s game paid $72 for a View Box seat behind the plate. Yesterday those same seats were priced at $62, and now they’re $50. It’s possible that the prices could sink even further if there continues to be middling interest.
Running tournaments like the WBC can produce outcomes like this. Unlike the FIFA World Cup, which is assured of having the greatest players in the world playing for every participating country, the WBC is subservient to MLB, so fans aren’t treated to cream-of-the-crop competition due to pro clubs holding back players by rule or choice. Nevertheless, the competition has been excellent so far, with surprising pitching performances from the DR and an upstart club in the “Kingdom of the Netherlands” that threatens to be powerhouse for years to come.
If you have time and can spare a few bucks, the WBC semis are a steal on Sunday and Monday. And in the event that the final doesn’t sell that well, it may also be a good choice on Tuesday. Check it out.
As part of the growing trend towards e-ticketing, the A’s will start accepting admissions through Apple’s Passbook app on most recent iPhones. Erica Ogg of the tech site GigaOm reported that the program has expanded from 3 MLB parks in 2012 to 13 for 2013, now including the Coliseum.
Redemption involves scanning a bar code much like the one shown above. Unlike my mostly positive experience with FanPass last year that involved scanning a credit card, the e-ticket should be sufficient and shouldn’t require a printed receipt for fans to have on hand in case an usher checks.
The SF Business Times’ Eric Young wrote yesterday that as part of this new wave of technology, for the first time the A’s will allow fans to purchase seat upgrades via MLB’s At The Ballpark app. Now that may sound like a joke considering the long history of “free” seat upgrades at the Coli, but really, Lew Wolff’s been planning for this since he unveiled the Coliseum North ballpark plan in 2006. During a game, fans can check in to the app and see an inventory of available seats. The inventory shown may not match what you see inside the seating bowl because it represents unpaid, available seats to purchase. When it’s really cold or there’s an unappealing opponent (or when the A’s suck), it’s common to have thousands of paid no-shows.
I look forward to using this several times this season just to see how dynamic it is. During some of the early April and May games when there are barely 10,000 fans in the house, it should show a ton of available seats. For Giants, Yankees, Cubs, and Angels games, the pickings should be much slimmer. Integration will be key. While scanning ticket will be done with Passbook (and presumably, Samsung Wallet on their Samsung phones), upgrades will be done through At the Ballpark. That lack of one stop shopping could be confusing for users at first. At the Ballpark is available for iPhone and iPad, as well as Android via the Google Play and Amazon Appstore.
As for the time-honored tradition of sneaking down? Well, when asked by Businessweek’s Brad Stone, MLB AM’s Bob Bowman had an answer for that:
“I think you’re harkening back to a slightly different day,” he says. “No matter what system you put in place, there will be people who do things like that. But increasingly in these stadiums that have opened in the last 15 years, you need to have tickets to get in there. This really isn’t for kids trying to sneak in on their own.”
It’s all part of the continuing drive for revenue, like it or not.
Update 2:00 PM – I purchased a ticket for the second World Baseball Classic semifinal (TBD vs. Netherlands). The ticket was delivered to my Passbook. I’ll give it a shot on Monday and report back.
The Hansen-Ballmer group has developed a habit of releasing little bits of information every couple of days to stoke Sonics fans fires. A bit of arena info here, talk of season tickets there, a progress report down the road. It’s an effective way to keep those who are interested engaged, and should serve the ownership group well as they hit the home stretch in their effort to move the Kings.
On Wednesday several renderings of the SoDo arena were released. Previously, the public was treated to a planning document from 360 Architecture and some exterior renderings, but little was known about the interior of the building. Wednesday’s release borrows a few elements from baseball and football and integrates them into an arena concept, adding some new wrinkles along the way. I like what I’ve seen so far, and would love to see if these unique elements actually enhance the experience as arena backers think it will.
The lower portion of the above image doesn’t look much different from any other arena. Chris Hansen wants a hockey team to be roommates with the Sonics, so the arena has a longer multipurpose footprint to accommodate an ice rink. Above the upper deck seats are shallow rings of additional seats and standing areas, much like the mezzanine and upper decks in the end zones at Cowboys Stadium. It gives the appearance of an old theater layout with multiple balconies, and bears a passing resemblance to old McArthur Court at the University of Oregon. The idea is to better utilize the vertical space by replacing a dozen rows of nosebleed seats with overhanging mini-decks. Arena designers also claim that an additional 2,000 people can be brought in above the regular seated capacity via standing room admission for the ends. Before its replacement by the larger and plusher Phil Knight-funded Matthew Knight Arena on campus, Mac Court was well known as one of the loudiest, rowdiest, most intimate gyms in the nation. What this concept is trying to do might not succeed due to scaling, but there’s a better chance of making noise when more of the building’s volume is filled with people as opposed to just air.
This next view shows some lounge-type areas behind the lower suites, which are a scant 10 rows up from the court. They remind me a lot of the patio suites at the Earthquakes’ stadium, which fit a gap between the exclusivity of suites and the openness of a club lounge. Since 360 is working on both projects, it’s not surprising to see concepts from one move into the other. I’d expect the same sort of borrowing for the final vision for Cisco Field.
There appear to be around 40 suites of differing sizes, along with two club levels along each sideline. The downside to this approach is that if a fan wants a sideline seat in the lower level, he has no choice but to buy a club seat of some sort. The corners and ends don’t have premium clubs, though it’s being hinted that the Sonic Rings may have their own special amenities. I can see that working extremely well for hockey.
Another big claim is that the seating bowl will be steeper, which should improve sightlines for both hoops and hockey. To achieve this there’s only a single suite level between the “lower” and “upper” decks (the lower suite level doesn’t count because it doesn’t wrap completely around the arena). That allows for a greater rise for each row of seats. At the traditional upper deck, the steepness is similar to other arenas. Of course, those upper deck seats in other arenas don’t have three balconies above then. It’s a novel, albeit expensive, approach that from a cost standpoint is like building a fourth deck. Whether it’ll create the desired effect is unknown at this point. I’d love to take in a game when the place opens to see if it does.
The whole package is a refreshing take on the boring, old oval arena. There’s a little Soldier Field in the way the Sonic Rings overhang each other, a little Cowboys Stadium and Qwest Field, and some Amway Center (Orlando) to boot. We haven’t seen interior renderings of the Warriors’ SF arena, but I hope they incorporate some of these ideas. It could be great for fans while allowing the W’s to boost revenues. During the early pool play of the World Baseball Classic, some games were played at the Fukuoka Dome. That venue has a novel seating arrangement with a single seating deck and three levels of suites above the seats. While there’s little else to love about the place, I kept thinking throughout watching games that the approach is something that could work in MLB in some modernization. The Fukuoka Dome seats 38,000, making it an ideal size. With some tweaking it could work for a new MLB ballpark.