Selig pulls out move threat card, Oakland folds like cheap tent, JPA approves lease

Today had me driving from Toledo to Pittsburgh, so much of the time I was out of pocket or unable to catch up on news. Fortunately, I arrived at my planned midpoint as the JPA was convening for a vote. This is the place I visited:

The Ohio State Reformatory

The Ohio State Reformatory

Look familiar? It’s not a college campus or an old hospital. It’s the old Ohio State Reformatory, located in Mansfield, Ohio. It’s better known as the site for the filming of The Shawshank Redemption, the great Stephen King-Frank Darabont picture that no one saw in the theaters but everyone saw on cable. I toured the prison, which would’ve been demolished if not for the film’s production and belated popularity. Like the Coliseum, much of OSR is in a steady state of decay. And like the film’s climactic scene, our own green-and-gold clad heroes at times have forded a river of sewage to escape the facility. I recognize that forcing a team of millionaires owned by billionaires to stay in mediocre conditions is nothing like actual prison. The point is that writing this blog at times is my own personal prison, one that I seemingly can never escape (especially the comments section or fools on Twitter). However, I made a promise to see this through, so it’s being done. Every so often I allow myself to feel a little hope, the dangerous concept that Red cautions Andy to squelch. Even after 9 years and with no end in sight, I still hope. I can’t allow myself to be completely consumed by cynicism. There’s already one Miserablist in the Bay Area, no need for two.

My own vacation activities aside, there is reason for hope to come out of today. First, let’s recap.

  • Yesterday, the prevailing sentiment was that the City representation on the JPA board would form a bloc and oppose proposed lease agreement, killing the deal and allowing the City to provide a counteroffer.
  • That tactic was quickly trumped by last night’s letter from Lew Wolff to the JPA, which was reported during the JPA session. Wolff indicated that if the JPA did not approve the lease, Bud Selig would grant Wolff immediate permission to move the team out of Oakland.
  • In fear of Selig’s threatened reprisal, the JPA board met in closed session to discuss the lease. Eventually the lease was approved 6-2, Rebecca Kaplan (who helped construct the lease terms) and Aaron Goodwin (who dissented on the current lease).

Now for the deal terms. The redone lease includes concessions made by both sides. Note: the deal must be ratified by the Oakland City Council and Alameda County Board of Supervisors before August 1.

  1. The A’s will be in the Coliseum through at least the 2017 season, with opt-outs available to both the team and the JPA until the 2024 season.
  2. $5 million in back parking fees that were up for arbitration in the fall are now wiped away.
  3. The A’s will pay $1.25-1.75 million in annual rent. They will be obligated to pay this through the end of the lease, unless they are able to work a deal to build another stadium in Oakland.
  4. The A’s will pay at least $10 million for a new scoreboard/ribbon board package. They will keep all revenue from the boards during A’s games. The JPA/Raiders will get revenue for football games. If the new system costs less than $10 million, the remainder will be paid to the JPA.
  5. The JPA will put together a $1 million/year maintenance fund, for use when things break. The JPA is not obligated to spend $1 million every year if maintenance spending is not required.
  6. A’s will have good faith discussions about building a future ballpark at or near the Coliseum, depending largely on what the Raiders do.
  7. The Coliseum area is the only site under consideration for a ballpark, with Howard Terminal dropped.

However you feel about the parking matter, this is a large number of concessions from the A’s. As Interim City Administrator Henry Gardner pointed out, this won’t stop the big subsidy that the City and County have to pay to keep the Raiders and A’s at the Coliseum. Then again, the counteroffer wasn’t providing any relief for that subsidy either.

The A’s have also asked for any developer interested in the Coliseum to put up $20 million towards a redevelopment project. You can call this “earnest money.” It may sound like a lot, but it’s an important form of skin in the game for the developer, something that Colony Capital isn’t providing right now. Wolff certainly isn’t afraid of dropping that kind of coin, since he bought some Fremont land in advance and paid for the CEQA study work in advance. $10 million is a good amount to keep pretenders from engaging in talks.

This type of deal was available in November, before the last time the A’s and the JPA hit a stalemate. Selig and Rob Manfred then stepped in and negotiated the to-be-superseded short-term deal. For whatever reason, the City of Oakland hasn’t recognized that until now, Selig has treated the City with kid gloves. That explains their shock and outrage to Selig’s power play. Sorry Oakland, this is how Selig normally operates. It’s part of the standard commissioner’s playbook. At some point the hardass version of Selig was going to show up and back his owner. To expect different wouldn’t just be unrealistic, it would be downright delusional.

Things are not going to get better for Oakland. The other shoe to drop will be the reactions of Mark Davis and the NFL. Since the Raiders and A’s are effectively competing for the Coliseum, both leagues are likely to play tug-of-war with the City in order to get them to commit to either entity. That should provide Oakland with some amount of usable leverage, but that’s negated by the City’s lack of non-land resources and their concerns about the feelings of the other team/league. What you’re seeing right now is Oakland in paralysis. The NFL and MLB are only happy to shake Oakland out of it. Both leagues are gearing up their preferred and contingency plans. If Davis decides this is it and gives up on Coliseum City, the complex is all Wolff’s to negotiate. If Davis truly wants Coliseum City and sees a way to make it work, Oakland will have a tough decision to make. Which team, league and developer should they partner with? It’s a decision that no politician wants to make, especially during an election year. Yet that’s Oakland destiny. Get busy living? Andy Dufresne had to decide that he had enough of Warden Norton’s hijinks in order to plan his escape. Oakland has two Warden Nortons, and it will have to screw one of them. Otherwise Oakland could find its teams, like Norton’s money, all gone.

Summary of 2014 Coliseum lease agreement

OAKLAND ALAMEDA COUNTY COLISEUM AUTHORITY

July 3, 2014

STAFF REPORT

6a. Resolution Approving and Authorizing the Execution of a Stadium License Agreement between the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Authority and Athletics Investment Group LLC

Background. The Oakland Athletics (“A’s”) have been operating at the O.co Coliseum under the current License Agreement (the “License”) since October 31, 1995. It has been amended and extended a number of times. The last extension, in November 2013, extended the License through December 31, 2015. After the 2013 extension to the license was approved, the A’s requested that the Authority work with them to come up with a longer term License Agreement For a number of months, representatives of the A’s and the Authority have been negotiating terms of that License. In light of the desires of both parties to reach a longer term agreement and to begin to work on the possible replacement of 0.co as the home of the A’s, the negotiators are proposing to the Authority a Stadium License Agreement (the “2014 License”) which is attached to this report. The A’s have expressed willingness to sign this form of 2014 License.

Proposed Terms of the Amendment. The following is a brief summary of some of the proposed terms of the Amendment. The full form of the proposed form of the Amendment is attached for review.

Term. The term of the License would commence on the date the last approval is obtained and terminate on December 31, 2024.

License Fees. The A’s agree to pay license fees for use of the stadium of $1.75 million in 2014; $1.25 million in 2015, $1.5 million from 2016 through 2019, and $1.25 million from 2020 through 2024. The 2014 License explicitly prohibits the A’s from withholding license fees as a method for resolving disputes and provides strong protection against such withholding in the future.

Early Termination. The 2014 License provides for certain early termination rights.

  • Construction of new Raiders’ stadium. The Authority is permitted to terminate the 2014 License if certain criteria are met with respect to a plan to build a new stadium for use by the Raiders on the Coliseum site. This termination would take place 60 days after the end of the second baseball (sic) from the date the Authority give notice of an intent to terminate.. The clause permitting early termination by the Authority to accommodate a new Raiders’ stadium contemplates that the A’s would not have to leave the Coliseum Complex site, but could build their own new stadium on the site at a different location than the new Raiders’ stadium.
  • The A’s move from Coliseum site. The 2014 License also provides that, beginning in 2016, the A’s may give notice of an intent to terminate. Termination by the A’s would be effective December 31 of the second year following notice. At the earliest, any termination by the A’s could not take place until December 31, 2018. If the A’s terminate in order to relocate to any permanent stadium site outside of the City of Oakland, the A’s are required to pay in a lump sum the remaining license fees through the end of the term. This lump sum early termination payment by the A’s would not be required if the A’s were to move to a new stadium anywhere within the City of Oakland.

Improvements to Stadium. The A’s agree to spend not less than $10 million to install a new scoreboard system in the stadium by the 2015 baseball season. The Authority agrees to pay for any structural work that may be required to support the scoreboard installation. The A’s would pay to maintain and operate the scoreboard and retain all advertising generated from the scoreboard for A’s games and events. The Authority will control the revenues from advertising on the scoreboard for all other events in the Stadium, including Raider’s games. The Authority agrees to spend not more than $1.5 million to provide enhanced lighting to the parking lot and certain areas of the Stadium.

Stadium Maintenance and Repair. In connection with the Authority’s obligation to maintain and repair the Stadium, the Authority agrees to fund a Stadium Maintenance Fund by setting aside $1 million each year, increasing by 5% each year, to fund its ongoing maintenance and repair obligations. The A’s may designate $150,000 of this fund each year for a particular project. The Authority is required to maintain the stadium even if the amount required exceeds the amount available in this fund. The 2014 License provides for an expedited dispute resolution should the A’s and the Authority disagree on the necessity and cost of the maintenance and repair obligation.

Scoreboard caps. The Authority will pay $200,000 per year for the use of the scoreboard caps where the am name is currently displayed. The 2014 License contains provisions that delineate the rights of the parties should the caps be removed in connection with the installation of a new scoreboard.

Continued Stadium Discussions. The 2014 License provides that the A’s and the Authority will continue to engage in good faith discussions regarding the construction of a new permanent home for the A’s on or adjacent to the Coliseum property.

General Release of Claims. As a condition to entering into the 2014 License, the A’s and the Authority agree to release all claims against the other party, including the claims that are the subject of an arbitration proceeding.

Financial Impact to the Authority: The A’s have provided a financial analysis showing that, compared to the last 10 years of the 1995 License Agreement, the proposed 2014 License Agreement has the potential to return total cash value to the Authority of more than triple that provided by the 1995 License Agreement (and more than double the cash value on a present value basis).

Further Approvals. The Management Agreement, between the Authority, the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda, requires that each of the City and the County approve the 2014 License. In addition, Major League Baseball must approve the 2014 License before it becomes effective.

Recommendation. Staff recommends that the Board of Commissioners adopt the resolution approving and authorizing the execution of the 2014 License and requesting that the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda approve the 2014 License..

Deena P. McClain
Acting Executive Director

P.S. – This agreement, which is supported by Alameda County and the A’s, is to have a vote on July 3. If it passes, the matter would go to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and the Oakland City Council, who each would have to approve separately. Oakland has indicated that it will vote against the lease and provide a counteroffer. The A’s have indicated that they will not entertain any such counteroffer.

Rust Belt trip and a giveaway

Yesterday was the first day of my eight-day, eight-game Rust Belt trip. I’m spending the first three days in Detroit for the A’s-Tigers series. Ninth inning collapse aside, it’s been good. The weather today is expected to be hot and humid, with thunderstorms at night and cooling through the rest of the week.

Some non-baseball locations not shown

Some non-baseball locations not shown

The rest of the trip is supposed to look like this (all times Eastern):

  • Today: Comerica Park tour, 11 AM; A’s @ Tigers, 7 PM
  • Wednesday: A’s @ Tigers, 1 PM; drive to Toledo; Columbus @ Toledo, 7 PM
  • Thursday: drive to Pittsburgh; Dbacks @ Pirates, 7 PM
  • Friday: drive to Canton; Pro Football Hall of Fame
  • Saturday: drive to Cleveland; Royals @ Indians, 7 PM
  • Sunday: drive to Columbus: Pawtucket @ Columbus, 6 PM
  • Monday: drive to Cincinnati: Cubs @ Reds, 7 PM
  • Tuesday 7/8: drive back to Chicago, fly home

Since I’ll be in Ohio on Sunday, I won’t be able to use my tickets to the final game of the Blue Jays series. If you’re interested, comment below with a brief explanation of why you should get the tickets. They’re free and I’ll have to email transfer them to you, no snail mail. I’ll weed out the poor entries and randomly pick among the best, just like last time. You can also reply to me on Twitter or via email. I’ll announce the winner after tomorrow’s A’s-Tigers game.

A rift opens between Oakland and Alameda County

In the aftermath of the PR disaster that was Friday’s JPA meeting, discord between the two halves of the JPA, the City of Oakland and Alameda County, was revealed. Tensions had been simmering under the surface for some time, most evidently on display during the all-hands joint meeting last December. In Friday afternoon’s Trib article, JPA Board Chair and AlCo Supe Nate Miley expressed his discontent with the City, calling the no-show a step towards dissolving the JPA. He again brought up the possibility of the City buying the County out of the JPA, which would allow Oakland to go it alone on Coliseum City.

Neither party has the available cash to buy the other out, but Miley seems bent on making it part of the discussion. The implications would be huge. Coliseum City talks have divided the JPA into Oakland as the more pro-Raiders group and Alameda County as more skeptical and perhaps leaning towards the A’s. There are major fundamental differences between how the two sides characterize the talks. The City is optimistic about BayIG and the Raiders, whereas the County is questioning where the money will come from and is already looking at alternatives. Should this divide stay intact, it’s difficult to see how the two sides could come together to approve a large-scale redevelopment scheme like Coliseum City. Maybe the rift can be healed as more information comes in that could build confidence with the County leaders. Coliseum City’s current trajectory makes such a kumbaya moment nearly inconceivable.

I’m starting to think that if the JPA had a quorum and took a vote, the lease extension would’ve been approved 5-3 or 6-2, which would’ve forced the City Council to vote on it. There are 2 CMs on the board and 2 Oakland appointees, Yui Hay Lee and Aaron Goodwin. Goodwin has frequently taken independent positions in the past, most recently being the lone dissenter on the short-term lease vote in November. At the time, Goodwin cited the lack of a long-term agreement with the A’s as the reason for his dissent. 10 years is a much longer commitment, even with the opt-outs (which have been standard practice at the Coliseum for years). When the JPA took $3 million out of the capital improvements fund to fund the Coliseum City studies, it was Goodwin who was concerned about the impact the siphoning would have on the relationship with the A’s.

Goodwin’s name should be familiar to those with some sports business knowledge because he’s been an agent to numerous NBA players for 20 years. His current client list includes Oakland native and Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, among others.

If Goodwin didn’t like the lease or chose to vote as a bloc with the rest of the City side, the results would’ve been 4-4, a stalemate. That probably would’ve forced the JPA to go back to the drawing board, which would’ve been fine in that everyone would be forced to be honest about where the JPA stood with regards to the lease.

With a 5-3 or better vote, the next course of action would’ve been for the City Council and the County Board of Supervisors to vote on the lease. Let’s assume that the Supes approved the lease. It would’ve been up to the City. There’s no telling what could’ve happened. There are several potential outcomes:

  1. Council draws up resolution in support, votes to approve lease
  2. Council draws up resolution in support, votes to kill lease
  3. Council draws up resolution against lease, sends their own version back to JPA
  4. Council never makes resolution, lease never comes up for vote

Any of the last three outcomes makes the City look bad in MLB’s eyes, especially after Bud Selig prematurely announced that a lease agreement had been made. Selig’s power play and not-so-subtle wording put Oakland on the defensive. Whether it’s a setup to force Oakland’s hand or Selig simply siding with Wolff, it’s a difficult decision for the City to make with the Council attempting to balance the A’s and Raiders’ interests. As symbolically good a lease would look to Wolff and Selig, it could look terrible to Mark Davis and Roger Goodell. But the City had to know that this day was coming, and that to keep stalling until a solution magically appeared for them was a pipe dream. Selig has discounted Howard Terminal in concurrence with Wolff. Davis considers Coliseum City the last shot for Oakland, and continually has been disappointed by the lack of progress on the deal front. Oakland’s time to tap-dance around the issue is coming to an end.

That leaves the one lingering question about the lease extension, Why now? The A’s lease is up in 2015, not this year, so the urgency feels out of place. Maybe Selig decided to get the first domino rolling, knowing that Coliseum City had a timetable for a decision later this year. Sports law expert Nathaniel Grow considers a new extension potentially damaging for San Jose’s antitrust lawsuit against MLB. That seems like a long shot, especially considering San Jose’s shaky legal standing in the first place. If that is the motivation, it’ll prove once and for all that MLB isn’t terribly concerned about local politics. They’re looking out for baseball. Everything else ends up collateral damage.

Oakland City Council members no-shows at JPA meeting, vote not taken

Oakland, and Oakland alone, chose Option #3.

Fans and media showed up at Oracle Arena to attend and speak at the JPA Board meeting. The Board was expected to take a vote on the A’s 10-year lease extension. Unfortunately, that vote was not taken because four Board members didn’t attend, including City Council members Rebecca Kaplan (who negotiated the lease) and Larry Reid. Without the City’s official participation, there could be no quorum, and thus no vote. Several attendees who were against the lease were nonetheless angry at the absentees for their apparent procedural gaffe.

It gets worse.

So the City Council made the decision to not send its Board members on Wednesday, but they neglected to inform anyone about it? Why not just cancel the meeting? Inevitably there will be blowback. Some of that has already started.

Perhaps some of that reaction is an overblown response to having to get up early only to be stood up. Still, however tenuous the relationship was between the County and City over the Coliseum and Coliseum City, this certainly hasn’t helped. Remember that it was the County that had the questions about the feasibility of Coliseum City. Here we are, nearly eight months after the last adult conversation, and we still haven’t had another. Someday. Maybe next week? Maybe not.

I suppose that yesterday’s comparison of the JPA to Congress was apt. There’s always hope, I guess.

When the JPA is as effective as Congress

This shouldn’t be this hard.

Both Lew Wolff and JPA characterize the lease extension talks as close. Wolff or Bud Selig may have jumped the gun yesterday. Then again, maybe Wolff made so few changes with his counteroffer that he felt he could consider the deal done. Some staunchly opposed claim that elements of the lease such as the way the parking tax matter is being addressed are showstoppers. Maybe those items really are showstoppers. If they are showstoppers, it should be easy to kill the deal. Conversely, if the sides really are close as they purportedly have been for the last few weeks, it should be fairly easy to close the gap.

These two ways of characterizing the talks shouldn’t both be true. Last week I said that if the JPA, City, and County are truly concerned about the parking taxes (or the opt-outs, or other language), put the whole thing off until after the fall arbitration hearing. That’s effectively the same thing as saying NO to the lease. There are really three options for the JPA here:

  1. Vote Yes and deal with the fallout (coming from the Raiders/NFL)
  2. Vote No and deal with the fallout (coming from the A’s/MLB)
  3. Postpone the vote and hope to delay the fallout indefinitely from either side.

We have no visibility into the talks or the offers and counteroffers, yet I get the feeling that there is very little movement that should properly bridge the gap. There are numerous ways of dealing with the $5 million:

  • Leave the $5 million out of the deal
  • Raise rent to compensate for including the $5 million (from $1.75 million to $2.5 million/year)
  • Have the A’s surrender control of some revenue streams such as concessions or advertising

Now maybe the JPA has provided such options, and Wolff has called those showstoppers, I don’t know. Whatever the case, there seems to be very little creativity that would bring about a solution. Strangely, they’ve been fine with allowing the Raiders to pay very little rent while getting the Harbor Bay headquarters for free (as long as they’re engaged in Coliseum City talks).

Worse, I’ve been hearing a lot of outrage from some about how the A’s are ripping the City and County off for the $5 million. Yet I’m not hearing anything about properly addressing the ongoing $20 million subsidy (debt and operating expenses) that the City and County have to pay for. Are we so numb to that debacle that we can’t consider ways to deal with it? Sure, grandstanding on a one-time $5 million payment is easy if you’re an Oakland or Alameda County pol. Better that than to remind everyone about the even worse deal that they themselves negotiated nearly 20 years ago. If you’re going to really get outraged, get mad about that and ask the pols to make a better deal. Last time I checked, one-time $5 million payments aren’t worth much compared to $20 million annual payments.

I figure the outrage or faux rage is borne more from two separate motivations: the fear of Mark Davis, and the desire to never compromise with Lew Wolff. I imagine that there are some on the JPA who are more realpolitik and don’t want to favor one owner over the other or understand that the best way to go may be with one team instead of two, but there will always be some who can’t give in, can’t make it look like Lew Wolff won. For them, I think the answer is quite simple and can be ratified by a simple No vote. Bud Selig’s comments may have complicated things a bit, but if these stridently principled Nays are that opposed, this should be a no-brainer.

Really, a vote either way would be the best thing for all parties. It would allow both teams to know where they stand and would allow them to plan next steps. If they can’t decide on this on account of $5 million, it makes me wonder how they’re going to make a decision on a project that could cost 500 times as much. If they can’t decide and keep trying to entertain lease discussions they’ll continue to be caught up in the media battle, which they are not winning. It won’t win over the Bud Selig or Roger Goodell. Fans will continue to be frustrated and the whole affair will continue to be a distraction. I doubt that’s what anyone wants.

So please, JPA, if it’s close to a reasonable deal, make the necessary changes and vote YES. If the deal sucks, vote NO. Then we can move on and focus not on short-term fixes, but rather a long-term home. And you’ll look decisive for once, instead of looking like Congress.

Selig puts out statement about the Coliseum and Howard Terminal (Update: JPA response)

Just in from the official MLB PR Twitter feed:

“I commend the Oakland Athletics and the JPA for their efforts in reaching an extension for a lease at O.co Coliseum. The agreement on this extension is a crucial first step towards keeping Major League Baseball in Oakland.”

“I continue to believe that the Athletics need a new facility and am fully supportive of the club’s view that the best site in Oakland is the Coliseum site. Contrary to what some have suggested, the committee that has studied this issue did not determine that the Howard Terminal site was the best location for a facility in Oakland.”

That makes it official. MLB is throwing its support behind Wolff and his plan, however nascent, for re-doing the Coliseum complex. That plan is not Coliseum City and is not compatible with Coliseum City. Moreover, Selig considers the 10-year extension a “crucial first step” to keep the A’s in the Town. If that isn’t Selig trying to use his leverage, I don’t know what is.

Sure, if talks break down again MLB could intervene again and negotiate another short-term lease, or turn around and green light Howard Terminal. But they probably aren’t inclined, given Oakland’s generally wishy-washy handling of everything at the Coliseum.

Your move, Oakland.

Update 3:30 PM – The JPA just released this statement:

OAKLAND, CA – The Oakland Alameda Coliseum Authority has issued a statement following Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s public comments on the license agreement between the Oakland Athletics and the Authority:

“We very much appreciate Commissioner Selig’s support for Oakland to be the home of the A’s. We also agree, and we believe the A’s do as well, that long-term the Coliseum is the best site for them in the East Bay

We are still fine-tuning the details of the license agreement between the Authority and the A’s. It is our hope that the details will be finalized shortly and will then be voted upon the by the JPA on Friday. Once approved, the agreement will then be voted upon by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and the Oakland City Council in the weeks ahead.”

Update 4:50 PM – Oakland Mayor Jean Quan denies that the A’s and the JPA have come to a lease agreement:

sovern

Larry Reid also appears to be surprised (link includes quotes from me). They certainly didn’t see this coming. These joint powers arrangements aren’t complicated at all, as you can see.

Oakland: We’re SF-adjacent!

An op-ed by Oakland Waterfront Ballpark leaders Don Knauss and T. Gary Rogers hit the Tribune tonight, making its case for a ballpark at Howard Terminal. In the op-ed Knauss and Rogers extol the virtues of downtown ballparks, while also talking up Oakland as a beneficiary of spillover effects from the startup boom in San Francisco.

That’s in keeping with the Oakland-as-Brooklyn narrative many are trying to pitch when wooing companies and potential residents to Oakland. From the housing standpoint, it’s definitely working. High rents in SF and comparable or better cultural and lifestyle resources in Oakland make a compelling choice for some residents and companies. But let’s not make this more than it is. Right now, Oakland is a stylish, cheaper bedroom community for SF that Marin’s too stuffy to produce and Daly City is too plain to provide. Is Oakland’s best sales pitch We’re San Francisco-adjacent? If Oakland wants to be taken seriously as a major city of prominence, its pitch shouldn’t be that it’s close to SF. The pitch should be that Oakland is the new home for investment. SF brought in $5 billion of venture capital last year. San Jose brought in $3.5 billion. Oakland? $242 million. Plus Silicon Valley is the home of VC’s and the big companies like Apple, Google and Facebook – companies that regularly acquire or acqui-hire those same startups that Oakland covets. Oakland should be more than simply riding on the coattails of the very city it hates like a bitter enemy. As a coach who recently coached a team based in Oakland would say, C’mon Oakland, you’re better than that.

The other part of the Knauss-Rogers argument seems to be aimed directly at this blog:

Some have said that, as a former industrial site and one close to railroad tracks, Howard Terminal poses unsolvable challenges for development as a ballpark. The reality is that Howard Terminal carries no greater challenge to being successfully developed than other former industrial sites along the San Francisco Bay, including Mission Bay and the famous ballpark across the Bay.

Not unsolvable, guys. I describe these challenges as cost-prohibitive. Nearly any problem can be solved if you throw limitless amounts of money at it. Limitless amounts of money are not available from the City of Oakland’s coffers, and ultimately any group that may want to build at Howard Terminal will face a situation where the cost to develop is too high to make their money back, nevermind making a profit. Those costs, and the lengthy development timeline associated with them, are what Lew Wolff is talking about regarding Howard Terminal. The cost and time of dealing with CEQA, the BCDC, SLC, FRA, CAPUC, Caltrans and local agencies threaten to make Howard Terminal too costly too pull off.

If OWB wants to prove Wolff, me, and numerous other doubters wrong, they sure have a funny way of showing it. The exclusive negotiating agreement signed in the spring, which was supposed to start the pre-development process, only called for a $100,000 deposit by OWB, only half of which will go towards any studies. Frankly, that money isn’t enough to do anything substantial. Howard Terminal will require $2-3 million worth of studies to determine its true feasibility.

Oakland and many of the Howard Terminal proponents had a chance to prove out a waterfront ballpark site five years ago. It was called Victory Court. It offered many of the same economic advantages as Howard Terminal, but lacked the SF-adjacent angle because the nation was mired in a recession. Supposedly over $1 million was spent on studies for Victory Court, some of which could be used for Howard Terminal. We never saw any of those studies. As redevelopment died and the recession showed few signs of abating, Victory Court died. Unlike the big to-do when the initiative was launched, there was never a report issued about the site’s demise. We found out later that acquiring the site at up to $240 million would’ve been cost-prohibitive. Thankfully, Howard Terminal is already owned by the Port of Oakland. However there are plenty of issues that could make Howard Terminal too expensive to develop.  If OWB is so confident in the site, pony up the money to get it properly studied. If OWB really believes in the site, they should’ve paid at least a good portion of that $2-3 million ($500,000 would probably suffice for starters) to get the ball truly rolling. As it stands, the ENA and $50k look like someone did something, but when the time comes to show results, the only thing to say will be that Oakland spent the first year trying to figure out if the ballpark was worth pursuing. We’re past the point of feigning interest, folks. Commit the real money, get those studies going in earnest, and prove Wolff (and me) wrong once and for all. Over the past few weeks there have been a few op-eds from interested parties. Let’s aim for fewer op-eds and more reports. It’s not that hard, Oakland. And if you’re waiting for Wolff to write a big check for those studies, I have to wonder how committed OWB and its supporters really are to the idea.

Quick visit to Fitch Park & Hohokam Stadium

Before I headed back to the Bay Area, I quickly drove by Fitch Park and Hohokam Stadium to see how the improvements there were progressing.

The City of Mesa has a progress report page on the project. Things seem to be going to schedule, with completion expected before the end of the year.

In related news, a Maricopa County judge has declared illegal the car rental tax that provides funding for all of the area spring training facilities and larger facilities like the Cardinals’ University of Phoenix Stadium. Car rental companies had argued for years that any taxes on car rentals have to go towards road projects and maintenance, not unrelated things such as stadia. While the expected to be appealed, the potential impacts on local Arizona governments are potentially huge. The state would have to refund the tax to car rental agencies, but oddly enough, not consumers even though consumers ultimately paid the tax on their individual car rentals. The ruling won’t stop funding for the A’s project as it’s likely that it will be completed by a final ruling in either a state appeals court or the Arizona Supreme Court. Should the ruling be upheld, it would be a double whammy on Maricopa County as they’d have to rebate the already collected funds and figure out where another source would come from. Or you could be Pima County (Tucson), which paid for upgraded spring training facilities and are left holding the bag because the teams left anyway.

A’s lease extension vote postponed, aftermath

The Trib reported tonight that after a lengthy discussion by the Oakland City Council about the merits of the proposed 10-year lease extension for the A’s, the JPA vote on the lease will be postponed. Opponents, largely Raiders fans, were ready to break out talking points for Friday’s scheduled JPA meeting. No need for that, though we’ll have to wait for the inevitable lease leaks about the lease the next time it comes up.

I thought the lease would be approved based on CM Rebecca Kaplan’s work on the deal. Problem is that we’re in June, and Oakland’s just starting to have very important budget discussions. While property tax revenue is on the rise, there are still potential shortfalls that need to be addressed. One way to address them – at least this year – is to hold firm on the parking tax fight they’re having with the A’s. Or as I said on Saturday:

Lease tweets

Lease tweets

If the City doesn’t want the parking tax to be a wedge issue, then simply let the matter go to arbitration as planned for the fall. When that’s done, start up the lease discussions anew. Yet, why do I get the feeling that we’ll hear about this again before election day?

Yep, just as I expected.

There’s also another way to manage these lease discussions – do everything privately. Stop broadcasting out to the media that a deal is close, and then when the actual negotiating begins, walk away from the table. The level of pettiness and petulance on display is unseemly. If the two sides really want to get it done, stop with the interviews and soundbites and hammer it out, with input from all stakeholders. If not, MLB will be happy to dictate the terms for you as they did last November.

Speaking of pettiness, what’s this?

Did Wolff instruct the scoreboard operators to change the display from “OAK” to “A’s”? There’s no reason to do this unless Lew’s trying to send a message to Oakland pols. Or unless he felt he needed to test the apostrophe thoroughly. Of course, over the weekend Lew had some fun with his image as the A’s hated owner, so maybe this is an extension of that. If so, he trolled some very excitable A’s fans very hard.

On Twitter I had been referencing a study from Emory University about the types of fanbases each MLB franchise has. The study tried to separate various factors, such as a “bandwagon” effect (fan sensitivity to on-field performance) and social media equity (how frequent and how volatile is team’s Twitter following) and others. While the bandwagon discussion was quite the flamefest, there was a good deal more agreement about the assessment of the A’s social media characteristics. Teams were grouped into one of four silos, and while there could be some debate about a few teams, the A’s place was rather well earned.

Groupings of team by type of fanbase

Groupings of team by type of fanbase

“Depression & Some Mania”, eh? Wouldn’t have it any other way.