Kroenke releases new Inglewood stadium renderings on eve of NFL owners meetings

The jockeying for position in the race for LA continues. Oakland approved its ENA extension on Friday, paving the way for Alameda County doing the same on Tuesday. I’ll have more on that following the Tuesday meeting. The Carson stadium project has gotten enough signatures for a public vote later this year (or more likely a City Council action bypassing a vote). Rams owner Stan Kroenke has new renderings of his proposed stadium at the old Hollywood Park in Inglewood. All of this is in advance of the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix this week. All of the players want to give the impression that they have the most advanced, stable plan. All of them, except perhaps Mark Davis, who continues to prefer riding on the coattails of others’ plans (Carson, Coliseum City). Both Dean Spanos and Kroenke are making the case for having their own stadia, privately financed, with no need to house a second team – but the capacity to do so if the opportunity arises. This saga will continue to unfold over the coming months, with everything coming to a head after the Super Bowl 50 when the relocation window opens. Unlike 2014, these stadium plans are becoming more concrete with each passing week, thanks to political actions by Inglewood and Carson.

Previous renderings of the City of Champions development showed zoomed out, distant images of the stadium. Now we’re getting closeups of the exterior and interior. The design is groundbreaking and familiar, all at once. Undertaken by HKS, the architectural firm that penned the more showy NFL stadia of recent years (Cowboys Stadium, Lucas Oil Stadium, the upcoming Vikings’ stadium), the stadium is is covered by a transparent roof canopy, with open sides to allow for air to circulate from outside.

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Like (half of) the fixed, transparent roof at the Vikings’ football cathedral, Kroenke’s roof will be covered in a fabric called ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene). It’s extremely thin while having excellent light transmissive and insulation properties. Most importantly, it’s very light for a roof material, weighing around 3 ounces per square foot depending on the number of layers used. The lightness of ETFE allows the roof structural work supporting it to be lighter and less complex compared to steel roof structures, and more reliable than the previous generations of fabric roof technology that used Teflon or fiberglass-embedded fabric. ETFE was first used in high-profile sports applications such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where it was employed at the Birds Nest national stadium and the Aquatics venue. Instead of being part and parcel with the stadium, the roof will extended over a public plaza, acting like one gigantic canopy. While Southern California never needs a roof for football, the canopy will allow the stadium to be used for numerous big indoor events, such as the Final Four.

Baseball in the Vikings' stadium? Yes! Golden Gophers, baby.

Baseball in the Vikings’ stadium? Yes! Golden Gophers, during the early spring of the college baseball season.

Google’s proposed campus in Mountain View is also likely to use ETFE as a canopy over constantly evolving workspaces.

google-campus1

Google’s buildings will be surrounded by transparent roof canopies, with fresh air allowed to circulate from open areas.

Technology has come a long way since the first domed stadia were built. The Astrodome, which used skylights for the roof, was fatally flawed as not enough light came through to grow grass indoors successfully. That led to the invention of Astroturf, which had the even more appealing original name of ChemGrass (should’ve stuck with it, Monsanto). Numerous other domes became the unfortunate going trend in many cities in northern climates. Most had an air-supported roof, such as the Hubert Horatio Humphrey Metrodome, Pontiac Silverdome, BC Place, and the Hoosier (later RCA) Dome. After a number of deflations and weather-related incidents, air-supported roofs gave way to more reliable technology. Some of the newer domes in the late 80’s and 90’s used fabric roofs but weren’t air supported, using compression rings or cable supports to hold the roof up (ex.: Alamodome, Georgia Dome, Tropicana Field). Few air-supported structures remain in use, most notably the Carrier Dome at Syracuse University. Many of those will give way to replacement venues if not replacement roofs.

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The always aesthetically pleasing ceiling at the Trop

 

That gets me thinking about St. Petersburg. Yes, the location of the Trop is terrible for the other Bay Area trying to get to a Rays game, but what if the dome roof were replaced by ETFE? Would that help the aesthetic there? At least fans would be able to see the sky instead a dull roof, and maybe the use of a lighter material would allow the roof to be re-engineered so that one or two of those compression rings could go away. Too practical to be a solution, right?

Tips for going to A’s Spring Training

I’ve had the pleasure of going to seven games at Hohokam Stadium so far. I’ve sat in every location other than the suites, so I think I have a pretty good handle on it. With that experience under my belt, I have a few tips that can help you with your future trip to see Cactus League action.

  1. The lawn ticket ($9-10) can also be considered a standing room ticket. If you feel like getting out of the sun, you can stand on the walkway separating the 100 and 200 sections on the grandstand. As long as you’re along the back wall you’ll  be okay. The advantage to this is that you’re only 12 rows behind the backstop when you do this. So grab a beer and enjoy the view.
  2. Find a refuge. Hohokam is spacious enough that there are a lot of places for groups of people to informally hang out. There’s the centerfield lawn behind the berm. Or the mini concourses behind the bleacher sections down the lines, which have their own generally empty restrooms.
  3. There’s always room on the lawn. I’ve been told that the number of tickets for the lawn has been capped to give families extra room to lay out blankets. Even when games are sold out there usually a good amount of room available on the lawn. As usual, get there early for the best spots, but even if you don’t there should still be good ones.
  4. Don’t stress the exit. Due to the way the A’s clubhouse takes up a large part of the first base concourse, it creates a bit of a slog for fans exiting after games. You can bear with that, or hang out for a few minutes while the place empties out. Or you could go early, in which case I have to ask why you’re there in the first place.
  5. You can bring in some food and beverage items. During the first couple of games fans could only bring in bottled water. That changed to sealed sodas and some food from outside. Before the game, go to Basha’s, a grocery 1/2 mile east on Brown Road. Just inside the door you can get $0.99 one-pound bags of peanuts, no club card needed.
  6. Check out the knothole gang. The fences beyond the left field berm don’t have any sort of visual barrier or screen, inviting fans to watch games for free.

Enjoy your time in the desert, or keep this post bookmarked for when you visit.

There’s a rhythm to how spring training works that goes hidden. It belies the very laid back feel of the proceedings. Scratch the surface, however, and you can see how many things are going on at once.

As I write this I’m at Fitch Park, paying attention to two games simultaneously. Last week the first round of major league cuts were made, the result of which are the minor league squads that play games at the backfields at each facility. Every day except Sunday you can come to any facility and watch one or two games featuring prospects. For free. The way it works is that a second minor league game schedule is worked out independently of the major league squads. For Friday and Saturday it looked like this:

  • Friday: MLB – Dodgers @ A’s, Hohokam. AA/AAA – Angels @ A’s, Fitch.
  • Saturday: MLB – Reds @ A’s, Hohokam. AA/AAA – Giants @ A’s, Fitch. A/A+ – A’s @ Giants, Indian School.

There are no big grandstands at these facilities as these are just practice fields, so all you see are a couple of bleacher sections much like you’d see at a tournament setting. Often the players not playing – mostly prospects – sit in the bleachers with the fans. It’s as informal as it gets. And again, it’s free. Come early to watch BP or drills, hang out for the games, head over to the big club’s game if you feel like it. The only downside is that the minor league games start at the same time as the major league games (1 PM), so if you paid for a game ticket you’ll feel compelled to use it.

The minor league schedule continues for a bit after the major league teams usually leave for the regular season. Some players, especially those on rehab assignments, stay behind for extended spring training, which runs through May.

Tenth Anniversary Edition: A Decade of Running in Place

If you’ve been around from the beginning (you probably haven’t), you may have read the very first post I made to this blog on March 14, 2005. That was ten years ago. Here’s a quick, incomplete list of things that have happened since then:

  • Bud Selig stays commissioner until 2015, is replaced by Rob Manfred
  • Expos move (are bought-contracted-expanded) to Washington, DC
  • Six new ballparks open throughout MLB (in St. Louis, DC, New York twice, Minneapolis, and Miami)
  • Levi’s Stadium developed and opened
  • Warriors get new ownership, declare intent to move to SF, buy land for arena
  • AEG moves SJ Earthquakes to Houston. Team is reborn in 2008, has stadium built for 2015 season
  • A’s propose ballparks at sites in Oakland, Fremont, and San Jose – none are successful
  • Oakland is on its fourth mayor since the blog started

That same day I posted about the A’s potentially building a ballpark south of the existing Coliseum. Pending what happens with Coliseum City, we may be talking about that very same possibility in the future. Weird how things might come full circle, eh?

As we wait for good news on the stadium front, I have some good news of my own. A couple years ago I asked for donations for the site to keep it running. Many of you responded very generously. which helped keep the site and my continuing work going. This site is a labor of love, so I haven’t asked for donations much (twice to my recollection). Back in 2013, I promised those of you who donated that I’d provide a sort of digest of previous posts. I tried many times to compile and curate that digest, but over time I’ve learned that I am a much worse editor than I am a writer (which is already rather questionable). Everything read like filler, not moving the narrative forward. I put that aside for a while and swore to get back to it. It wasn’t until earlier this year, when I put together the timeline feature, that it all came together. I was able to put together all the necessary posts, with additional context inserted where necessary. So I’m proud to announce that I have that “book” ready. The download link is below. Those of you who previously donated have already gotten the link via email. Please take a look at it and provide feedback if you like. If you donated and haven’t gotten the book, send me a note/tweet and I’ll make sure to take care of you. And if you have already donated, you don’t need to do anything else, but if you want to donate again I won’t stop you.

I’ve titled the book:

A Decade of Running in Place: A Digest of Selected Blog Posts from the First Ten Years of Newballpark.org

Book download link (Scribd, PDF)

Donate Button

I’ve poured over a million words, 10,000+ hours, and my entire heart and soul into this site. The A’s getting a new ballpark has been a dream of mine since high school, when I first saw drawings of New Comiskey Park and Camden Yards. I don’t expect anyone to have the same kind of obsession with this topic that I have. I figure that I’ll be the obsessive so that you don’t have to be. Thousands of people read this site every day. About 2% of them have donated. If you value the work here and the process, please consider donating. $10 would be great.

The book weighs in at 210,000 words and 664 pages in PDF format. It’s entirely in chronological order. There are what appear to be section or chapter markers. Those are points at which I think the scene shifts. They aren’t meant to encapsulate the story.

Editing and pagination are rough, mostly having to do with the transition from web to print-ready format. I’d like to take the time to give it a whirl in InDesign, with the ultimate goal of making printed copies. A donated of $25 or more would get the ball rolling.

Since this is the 10th anniversary, I’ve started thinking of other things to commemorate this milestone. What do you folks think? T-shirts? Caps? Stickers and decals? Should I do a crowdfunding campaign? I’m all ears at this point. Some of you readers are creatives of different stripes. Send me your suggestions.

Finally, many thinks to all the readers over the years. I’ve met and become friends with many of you. We’ve broken bread, gotten beers, talked plenty of things besides an A’s ballpark. It’s been a pleasure. It will continue until the day that this blog is no longer necessary. After all this time I still hope. I think many of you do too. It’s what binds us. I don’t know how much longer it will take for the A’s to get a new home. Another 10 years? 10 months? However long it takes, I’ll be here for the ride. I hope you enjoy appreciate it as much as I do.

P.S. – Special thanks to Susan Slusser, who suggested the timeline a couple months ago while working on her own A’s history book (due this summer and highly anticipated). Without that I never would’ve gotten properly organized.

P.P.S. – This is not “the book” that I’ve been talking about writing. That book is still very much in progress.

 

Manfred: No blue ribbon panel for A’s

From Susan Slusser:

The commish is checking in with every team during the spring, so he should’ve expected this and other questions about the A’s future. While it’s encouraging that Manfred won’t hide behind a panel, that’s a long way from actually working things out. We’ll know for sure if Manfred becomes more hands-on regarding the A’s. If he is, that’s because he’s eager for a quick resolution. The same couldn’t be said for his predecessor.

Wolff wants surface parking over garages and development at Coliseum

Here we go again with that nasty word: infrastructure.

Lew Wolff told Matthew Artz today that not only was he not interested in Coliseum City, he felt there isn’t enough space at the 120-acre Coliseum for development the City desires and the surface parking the team needs. That’s a major revelation because Wolff’s vision not only precludes other development in what’s considered a potentially high-density transit hub area, it goes against the City’s goals for the Coliseum.

There’s a lot that’s being unsaid by Wolff, who demurred on questions about financing and multiple venues. Let’s focus on what he said.

The only way it could work, Wolff said, would be to build multilevel parking garages, but that would leave fans waiting in long lines to exit the garages and begin their drives home.

‘Parking is a key issue for us,’ Wolff said. ‘We want surface parking surrounding the ballpark wherever we build it unless we’re in the heart of a downtown.’
‘We said it before he even came on the scene that we are going to 100 percent control our own destiny, period,’ Wolff said. ‘We don’t need a third party involved.’

First off, let’s be clear about how much land is available: 141 publicly owned acres in the area bounded by 66th Ave, Hegenberger Rd, 880, and Damon Slough. Take away 18 for the existing Coliseum or its replacement, and 8 for the arena if it stays. There’s other stuff like the sewer interceptor and power lines, but we’ll leave that out for now. The remaining land totals 115 acres.

As Andy Dolich notes in the same article, garages are ill-suited because they’re expensive and don’t get utilized well. Parking garages cost around $20,000 per space to build. ROI can be difficult to achieve unless those garages can be filled nearly everyday. But the City is supposed to fund infrastructure like garages at Coliseum City, so why is this such a big deal? The surface parking requirement, which Raiders owner Mark Davis has also communicated at times, stands in the way of the City’s plans for Coliseum City, whether you’re talking 120, 200, or 800 acres. The Coliseum City plan has 13,000 event parking spaces in it, only 4,200 of which are surface spaces mostly in the south lots out to Hegenberger.

Blue and dark gray are garages, medium gray is surface parking

From the Coliseum City Specific Plan: Blue and dark gray are garages, medium gray is surface parking

Shouldn’t 4,200 (or maybe 5-6,000) spaces be enough for most A’s games when taken with a few thousand new garage spots?  Especially if the TPMP (Transportation & Parking Management Plan) were conceived in a way to manage traffic from these various lots and garages? Especially if it’s only a single venue such as a ballpark? Let’s say that the A’s average 30,000 in attendance at a new ballpark. According to BART, 15-20% of fans take the service. Let’s make it 20%. That means 24,000 will come in cars. At 3 per car, the A’s would need 8,000 spaces. So they’d need some 2-3,000 additional spaces, maybe half of those in garages, the rest in a remote lot on the other side of the complex where people would have to walk through the retail/commercial area to get to the game. That way you have everyone covered:

  1. Fans who want direct access to the ballpark and the quickest in-out (4,200 surface spaces adjacent to ballpark, south)
  2. Fans who want to have dinner/drinks at a restaurant nearby (3,000 garage spaces, perhaps with validation, center)
  3. Fans who want cheap parking and don’t mind walking through the business district (3,000 remote surface spaces, north)

If you look at the parking depiction above, it’s not hard to see how that would come together. Put the ballpark where the football stadium is and the remote parking where the ballpark is and you have the basic concept. The idea presupposes that the arena is no longer there either.

The problem, as ever, is that no one wants to pay for any infrastructure like parking. A 2,000-space garage is bad enough, and it’s merely a piece of the $300 million of infrastructure. Wolff has suggested that he’d take care of the Mt. Davis debt, but if he has to pay for infrastructure too it starts to become too much. The City has suggested a slew of taxes that would pay for it through huge Mello-Roos and infrastructure financing districts, but that isn’t certain. Some of those taxes would eat into A’s revenues, so again it becomes a question of cost-benefit for the A’s.

In the end, if the A’s and the City/County are going to make this work they’ll have to come to a compromise. Whether the A’s claim a large piece of the land for ballpark and parking and leave the rest for the development, or the A’s control development rights to the whole thing, they’ll have to come half way. That also means the City will have to dial down its pie-in-the-sky dreams of a bustling second downtown anchored by multiple sports venues for something a little less ambitious. There probably is a way to accommodate both Wolff’s and Oakland’s goals. It’ll take a lengthy negotiation, which I should remind you, hasn’t happened yet. In fact, we’re not even close to negotiating yet.

P.S. – Would you believe that until last year, there were no major pro sports venues in the Bay Area with adjacent or nearby garages? It’s true. The Coliseum, which houses three teams, obviously has no garages. Neither does AT&T Park, which has surface parking across Mission Creek from the ballpark. SAP Center has multiple surface lots, including an elevated lot next to the arena that some might mistake for a garage. Candlestick Park had a small peninsula of parking next to it.

That changed when Levi’s Stadium opened last year. As part of the deal, an 1800-space garage was built directly opposite the stadium on Tasman Drive in Santa Clara. That garage has been notorious for excruciatingly long waits to leave, thanks to its single point of entry/exit. Wolff knows this because his Earthquakes opened Levi’s last summer, Quakes fans as guinea pigs. As we saw with the Sharks-Kings Stadium Series game over the weekend, parking and transportation is still a puzzle that hasn’t been figured out by the 49ers, Santa Clara, and VTA.

Other ballparks in suburban locales (Dodger Stadium, Angels Stadium) also don’t have garages. PETCO Park, Chase Field are downtown ballparks with attached garages that work well in concert with other nearby parking options. Coors Field has practically all surface lots available as parking. Downtown ballparks not only have garages or plenty of nearby parking infrastructure, they have the proper street grids and built-in traffic management needed to support large events. The Coliseum City plan is not set up like a new downtown with many ways in and out. It’s essentially the same plan as before, which has led to poor level of traffic service (LOS) grades in the Coliseum City EIR. It’s natural for Wolff to want to avoid the Levi’s situation.

Manfred talks Coliseum ballpark

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made a few comments about the A’s and the Coliseum. The comments are in the 2nd item of Susan Slusser’s daily spring training update from Monday night.

In addition to confirming that the Coliseum is the best site for the A’s (as opposed to Howard Terminal, which was not mentioned), he also spoke out about the Raiders’ and the NFL’s role in the Coliseum drama.

‘I think that there is a lot of activity that could clarify the situation, and I’m not going to go beyond that, that I think could create an opportunity to move things along in Oakland. I think the A’s are willing to explore Oakland if they can find a workable arrangement and it’s always been our preference to keep clubs where they are.’

My immediate reaction was to read into his quote a little:

Slusser agreed with my assertion, as did Howard Bryant. Ray Ratto cautioned against reading too much into Manfred’s quotes, as he’s just starting his gig and lacks to power base to make any major decisions. But that’s kind of the point of the Raiders-leave-and-A’s-take-control scenario, in that MLB doesn’t have to make a decision. They effectively back into a solution for the A’s without having to do anything. They wouldn’t even have to take a vote. Follow the Twitter thread and it becomes a fun little discussion about this ballpark business, including replies from John Shea, Wendy Thurm, and the LA Times’ Bill Shaikin.

While it’s pretty good reading, no one should get any ideas that the A’s are about to get the keys from dad. There’s a long way to go until that happens, and the A’s housemates will have something to say about it before long.

A Day at the Diamond, Hohokam Stadium Preview

The parking lots filled up fast, so that by the time I arrived at Hohokam Stadium around 11 I was directed to park in the grass soccer fields south of the ballpark. With the construction debris gone and systems in working order, it was time to show off the renovated ballpark to the community.

Fans walking in front of the clubhouse mural

Fans walking in front of the clubhouse mural down the 1B line

There were no surprises for me. I’ve checked out the place throughout various stages of construction over the last two years. What I wasn’t quite ready for was how it looked with a bunch of people in it, sitting in seats, traversing concourses, hoping for home run balls. For me that’s when it became more than a bunch of features and improvements upon Phoenix Muni or even the Coliseum. That’s when it became real.

Back row behind the plate

Back row behind the plate

From the top of the stadium you’re afforded views of the McDowell Mountains to left, Four Peaks and Red Mountain to right. Down low it’s all baseball. While the A’s have sold ads in the outfield, don’t expect the same kind of ad explosion you typically see in minor league parks and other spring training parks. The big scoreboard in left will probably be used for getting those messages across.

Exterior outside 3B

Exterior outside 3B

If you had visited Hohokam at any time since its 1998 renovation, you know about the edifice’s underwhelming blandness. A 90’s  ode to beige stucco, there were only the most minimal nods to the Southwest. Under the A’s, the Gensler-designed makeover is all green and gold. The exterior walls are the forest green we as A’s fans are very familiar with, perhaps darker than you might expect at first glance. Gold painted aluminum panels line the gates and box office. Originally the gates were to have famous player numbers, like 24 for Rickey Henderson. This was scrapped sometime in the last year, probably because having gates named in a “random” manner would look confusing to non-A’s fans. Not that the gate naming system matters, it’s unlikely anyone will get lost here. One bit of technology not available in the 90’s was large format, photorealistic vinyl, which was put to good use depicting major events in A’s history on the outside of the stadium (above) and throughout the concourse.

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The inner concourse felt somewhat cluttered with numerous memorabilia sales tables on both sides. Only a few concession stands were open, so the space was made available. Most of the concourse is white, with gold accents to highlight fan amenities, from tunnels to the grandstand to restrooms and concession stands.

Ferguson Jenkins was even on hand, as he used to be when Hohokam was the Cubs’ home. Jenkins usually makes the rounds at every Cactus League park, so if you want to meet the Hall-of-Famer you’ll have your chance.

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Unlike Phoenix Muni, at Hohokam fans will now be able to walk completely around the park. As a 90’s-era Cactus League park, there’s no 360-degree concourse like the kind you’d see at the newest parks: Salt River Fields, Camelback Park, Sloan Park. Even so, you can get your full stroll on, and the upper tier is elevated enough above the walkway that you won’t have to worry about obstructing views.

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When Hohokam was redesigned, the Cubs made sure to get a large canopy placed over much of the seating area, as the old Hohokam had no shade whatsoever. That feature was carried over to Cubs/Sloan Park, and while the shade isn’t truly necessary for March in Arizona (75-80 degrees, dry heat) it’s welcome. If you want shade from the start, sit in the upper sections on the 1B side or behind home plate. The A’s also removed large bleacher sections down each line and replaced them with shaded patios, one a family and kids area, the other a beer garden. Along with the downsizing, all of the seats and bleachers. The plastic fixed seats are 19 or 20 inches wide, provided by Hussey Seating. Bleachers are contoured and have backs.

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A's training facility at Fitch Park

A’s training facility at Fitch Park

Hohokam is 0.6 miles north of Fitch Park, home of the Lew Wolff Training Facility. The facility was not named LWTF in the initial drawings presented by Gensler nearly a year ago. Whether Wolff decided to do this at the last minute or was pushed to do so because of the drawn out Coliseum lease negotiations or other factors, the Wolff name is unmistakably on the A’s building in Fitch Park and on way finding signs outside Fitch. Wolff’s name is nowhere to be found at Hohokam, and both Hohokam and Fitch have retained their original names. Wolff turns 80 this year, so I can’t blame the guy for celebrating an achievement, no matter how distasteful it may look to many Oakland fans.

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The outfield berm areas at Hohokam are arguably the largest in the Cactus League. In right, the berm is so large that it’s split into a good-sized lower part and a large upper hill, descending to a second walkway next to the warmup fields. The A’s have plans to rework these areas to include a food truck alley and a grotto in left, but for now they’re being left alone. In any case, you’ll have plenty of area to stretch, and maybe the team will add more kid-friendly attractions with all the space, as is seen at Peoria.

It's huge

It’s huge!

Last but not least, there’s the new scoreboard, which I’ve talked about previously. The A’s are experimenting with different graphics and sound packages, and from what I hear they’re not final, so you if you have suggestions chime in. One dilemma I heard about was whether to bring the “A*Team” theme and graphics over from Oakland or trying something different for Hohokam. I have a bunch of lawn tickets for games in March, and I made sure to plant myself in front of the display to see if I could stand the up-close pixelation. It looked fine to me, so I’ll make LF semi-permanent instead of RF, where I thought I’d be sitting prior to today.

The final price tag on Hohokam Stadium was $27 million, $17 million from the City of Mesa and $10 million from the A’s. The original budget was $20 million. Some of the extra $7 million went towards technological improvements, such as proper wiring for broadcast video throughout the park. While the A’s and Comcast don’t broadcast a ton of games during the spring, it’s good to know that the capability is there. Visiting teams will be able to take advantage as well.

A spring training ballpark is only used for a month every year. Games held there don’t count in the standings. It is more intimate than regular season baseball, more accessible. Every fan should take the opportunity to visit his/her team’s spring training home at least once. It’s warmer in more ways than one.