Category Archives: Baseball
Update 11/25 9:10 AM – Resolutions passed nearly unanimously, with one vote against.
— Steven Tavares (@eastbaycitizen) November 25, 2013
— Steven Tavares (@eastbaycitizen) November 25, 2013
— Steven Tavares (@eastbaycitizen) November 25, 2013
Original post from Saturday:
In your typical Friday disclosure before a hastily called meeting, the Coliseum Authority (JPA) released its agenda for a Monday board meeting in which it will vote on short-term lease extensions for both the Athletics and Raiders. It’s funny to see how the negotiations have progressed. The A’s offered up a 5-year deal last year which the JPA ignored because it thought it had leverage, only to be that perceived leverage taken away by MLB two weeks ago. The Raiders have talked up a long-term deal, but only if it came with a serious plan for a new stadium. The resolutions that the JPA board is looking to pass will undoubtedly amplify the uncertainty surrounding the two franchises. Highlights:
- The A’s will get a two-year extension with no additional option years, thus extending the lease through December 31, 2015.
- The A’s would pay a slightly higher rent payment than previously negotiated at $1.5 million per year.
- In addition, the A’s would pay a mere $250,000 to maintain control over concessions.
- The parking revenue dispute between the A’s and JPA would go to arbitration, which should be decided before the end of 2014. The A’s would agree to put the disputed amount (not disclosed) in escrow.
It’s good to see that the parking issue will be resolved soon. Apparently the A’s are raising parking prices for 2014, which makes the actions seem linked. The big takeaway is that the JPA caved on concessions. Under the new terms, the A’s have the right to choose a new concessionaire, whose contract may long extend past the A’s stay in the Coliseum. However, you have to think that any concessions contract has to factor in the significantly lower value of the Coliseum should the A’s and/or Raiders leave. Yes, this could mean Aramark is replaced by someone else.
- The Raiders have a one-year deal plus an option for 2015, with both years costing the Raiders $400,000. The end of the lease is described as 45 days after the end of the team’s season.
- The Raiders could pay up to $525,000 per year to use their Harbor Bay headquarters in Alameda.
- The lease terms acknowledge that the Raiders may play one regular season or preseason home game away from the Coliseum (London in 2014).
Also wrapped up in the Raiders’ extension language is something that I’d like to call the Santa Clara clause.
7.5 Additional Payments for Use of Permanent Training Facility and Training Site. If the Raiders announce a relocation or sign a lease to play football games outside of the City of Oakland or Alameda County for the 2015 season prior to March 1, 2015, then, commencing on March 1, 2015, Raiders shall have the option of continuing to use the Permanent Training Facility and Training Site for up to twenty-four (24) months, up to and including February 28, 2017 as determined in Raiders’ discretion and Raiders shall make an additional payment to Licensor each month for continued use of the Permanent Training Facility and Training Site in an amount equal to the fair market rental value of the Permanent Training Facility and Training Site on a monthly basis, as determined by a mutually agreeable licensed commercial real estate broker based on comparable rental space. Raiders and Licensor agree that the fair market rental value shall not exceed $525,000 per year. In the event the Raiders are engaged in good faith discussions concerning an extension of the Operating License or other arrangement for the Raiders to play future Football Events in the OACC Stadium as of March 1, 2015, any obligation to make payments shall not commence while such discussions are continuing and the twenty-four (24) month period and obligation to make additional payments shall begin when Raiders agrees to play football games at a location other than OACC Stadium for the 2015 seasonal provided, however, that if Raiders agrees to play football at such other location, Raiders shall pay such rental payments retroactively from March 1, 2015.
Got that? The Raiders won’t be charged to use the Alameda headquarters as long as they’re in talks about Coliseum City, even if they’re playing somewhere other than the Coliseum for 2015 and 2016. If the Raiders play elsewhere while using HQ and aren’t in talks over Coliseum City, they pay $525,000 annually. Obviously, the only place where they could play in this scenario (and while the Coliseum is demolished, presumably) is Santa Clara. UC Berkeley is forbidden by legal settlement from hosting NFL games, and Palo Alto would sue Stanford to high heaven for even considering it.
Both extensions should be easily passed, unless one or more of the commissioners complain that the terms are too favorable to the teams. The teams are effectively trading rent payments, and the JPA’s incoming revenues will not make much of a dent in ongoing debt service. At least the JPA will get the parking revenue they’ve clamoring for, which at the very least should help pay for additional Coliseum City studies or minimal prep work. As for scoreboards – you weren’t banking on that, were you?
P.S. – The resolutions would have to be passed by Oakland’s City Council and Alameda’s Board of Supervisors shortly after JPA approval.
The late 60′s was a tumultuous time in American history, as we all know. Baseball, a notoriously conservative game, was starting to make its own moves in concert with the times. Two decades after baseball became integrated, a influx of talent prompted MLB to think expansion. The A’s and Braves’ moves to Kansas City and Milwaukee, respectively, were considered half-measures because they could be accommodated by train travel. When the Dodgers and Giants moved to the West Coast, planes became a necessity. That opened the door to the rest of the frontier, with numerous growing cities selling Midwestern and East Coast owners on the virtues of moving to new ballparks and wide open spaces.
Charlie Finley was brilliantly chronicled doing his part to hasten this change in his biography, which was published in 2010 and I’ve been rereading for the last week. Finley was considered the first owner to truly play the ransom game with a municipality, as he did in the mid-late 60′s. Even as he talked long-term leases with Kansas City pols and civic leaders, he had his eye on anywhere that could’ve hosted a team. Candidates included the South (Atlanta, New Orleans), Dallas-Fort Worth, and the West Coast (Oakland, Seattle).
It was Finley who pushed Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt to agree that the new sports complex southeast of downtown KC should have separate baseball and football stadia, an against-the-grain move for the era. Finley, who long felt the A’s were being cast aside for the new football team, saw this as an equal measure. Yet Finley gave little support to the stadium plan, even though area voters passed it during the summer of 1967. By the end of the season the stage was set for a bidding war over the A’s that served nothing other than Finley’s ego.
Local interests tried to get Finley to sell, but he wasn’t interested. Finley had spent a bunch of insurance profits on bonus babies, so there was an interest in seeing his team through. That eventually occurred with the threepeat World Series wins in 1972-74. Finley also named a price that no one local could match: $25 million. He felt he had been previously mistreated by Kansas City – which he was based on previous KC Muni lease discussions – and set forth to burn all the bridges. As the offseason neared, KC interests turned their attention towards an expansion team. Finley prepared a presentation for AL President Joe Cronin and the other team owners that favored Oakland over Seattle and KC. The AL powers approved the Oakland move, in turn granting expansion franchises for KC and Seattle for 1971.
However, Missouri Senator Stuart Symington was furious over the three-year gap between the A’s leaving and the expansion team starting up. He took a meeting with Cronin and threatened to open hearings on baseball’s antitrust exemption. Taking the threat seriously, Cronin promised a 1969 expansion date, leaving a year gap. That meant that the team would have to play at Muni for a few years. It also meant that Seattle’s club would have to play at Sicks’ Stadium for an indeterminate period. Sicks’ Stadium was already deemed inadequate and whose condition was considered a major factor in Seattle losing the Pilots to Milwaukee (and Bud Selig) after only one season.
What if Finley had been magnanimous and relented? He couldn’t admit that having a future stadium all to himself in KC was better than having to share in Oakland, but that had to be part of his calculus. What intrigued Finley about Oakland was the promise of greater radio and TV revenues, which is ironic considering the A’s difficulties in that realm the past 20 years. If Finley kept the team in KC, KC would’ve gotten the World Series champs of the 70′s, and Finley probably would have sold to local interests in the late 70′s once he saw that baseball’s economics were surpassing his ability to compete.
Seattle, which had rejected previous votes on a domed stadium to attract a baseball team, was forced to approve one once they were granted the expansion franchise. Because they had no choice but to accelerate their efforts, Pilots ownership lost their shirts during the 1969 season, filed for bankruptcy, and sold to Selig when no local ownership groups stepped up. The Pilots relocated, which brought forth a lawsuit from Seattle against MLB, which led to the expansion Mariners in 1976. If the team had been given more time, it’s possible that needed improvements for Sicks’ would have been made to keep ownership and fans happy. Even though the domed stadium had faced stern opposition, it eventually was approved and opened in time for the 1976 season. That opening would’ve been earlier had the team already been in place. Milwaukee would’ve gotten an expansion team to go with Toronto in 1976 – unless the team was awarded to Denver or New Orleans.
As for Oakland, under this alternate scenario they would’ve had the team in 1971. Perhaps it would’ve been called the Oakland Oaks, or the Oakland “Baseball” Raiders (doubt it due to Al Davis’s desires). It definitely wouldn’t have been called the Oakland Athletics. The burgeoning talent that Finley stockpiled would’ve won titles in KC, and Oakland would be building from expansion castoffs. Another thing to consider is that the expansion draft in 1968 was for four teams (Montreal & San Diego were planned, Kansas City & Seattle were rushed) which created an enormous dilution of talent. A draft in 1970 would’ve been less painful for the expansion teams. Perhaps A’s ownership would’ve been more stable over time. Maybe not. The Coliseum still would’ve been relatively new and modern, and without Finley’s constant moving threats, the fan base could’ve grown more naturally – though during the 1968 season ticket sales were not exactly impressive.
After studying all of this for a while, it’s easy to understand the hierarchy of who has the power when it comes to franchise moves and stadium negotiations:
That structure has remained throughout the eons, and is unlikely to change anytime soon.
The story is familiar. An out-of-town ownership group sees a development opportunity on cheap land and a chance to build a ballpark in tandem. At the same time it moves away from its long-time home to a location with more money. No, I’m not talking about the Braves moving 12 miles to Cobb County. I’m talking about the A’s moving to Fremont.
Conceived in 2006, the Cisco Field/Ballpark Village concept had support from the Mayor and City Council of Fremont. Cisco went to A’s ownership and suggested the deal, which included the ballpark’s naming rights in partial exchange for heavily discounted land it controlled in south Fremont, near what was then the NUMMI plant. After negotiations stalled with landowner ProLogis and several retailers in the area, the A’s looked across the Nimitz to Warm Springs before giving up on Fremont completely.
Some blame the demise of Fremont on NIMBY concerns. While that had something to do with it, the biggest problem was the impact of the recession. As new home starts ground to a halt with the collapse of the real estate market, mega-developments like Pacific Commons failed to pencil out. That project and many others of similar scope sat dormant for several years, or died on the vine.
In 2013, the real estate market is recovering even if the broader economy is still somewhat stalled. In hot markets like the Bay Area and DC we’re back to real estate boom times. Investors from China and India are swooping in to make cash offers on houses sight unseen, and foreign money is coming in to support big projects such as Brooklyn Basin in Oakland.
It’s that backdrop that has allowed the Atlanta Braves to seek out their own mega-development in Cobb County, just in the suburbs outside Atlanta city limits. A more affluent area closer to corporate interests and away from mass transit? What you or I would call white flight, the Braves would call working to remain competitive.
The Braves, owned by DirecTV owner Liberty Media, recently moved a package of TV game broadcasts from local independent station Peachtree TV (WPCH) to Fox Sports South and SportSouth, the sister Fox-run RSNs in Georgia. While that will help boost revenues, it’s not nearly as lucrative as the single-RSN deals that the Mets have and the Phillies are seeking. To help their own revenue streams, Braves ownership are looking at the next avenues, a new ballpark and ancillary development.
Yesterday an article by the New York Times’ Atlanta bureau chief Kim Severson asked a question that seems relevant for the times: what defines urban and suburban areas? While Turner Field (and Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium previously) were in the middle of Atlanta, the location didn’t match what many would consider urban. Far from transit and surrounded by large parking lots, the neighborhood wasn’t vibrant the way we expect urban ballpark surroundings to be. Similarly, the Oakland Coliseum is set in a hundred acres of parking, and while its connectivity to BART is excellent, the neighborhood leaves much to be desired. The Braves are planning a dense, walkable community that should be largely self-contained, though again it’s far from MARTA. For years either new communities or established smaller cities and towns have used redevelopment funds to create the kind of urban environment that could attract new residents – or at least a subset of that urban environment.
There’s no clear definition of a properly urban neighborhood. Oakland has plenty of excellent established neighborhoods, such as Rockridge, Montclair, and Grand Lake. San Jose has Willow Glen, Rose Garden, and Naglee Park. None of those places have 12-15 open acres for a ballpark. Nor do they have a citizenry who won’t fight tooth and nail over parking and traffic concerns. Often developers will work for years to create that neighborhood feel and it doesn’t work out. Witness how Jack London Square developer Ellis Partners has practically thrown in the towel on making JLS an energetic retail district, electing to push for more housing instead. San Jose has an unquestioned success in the form of Santana Row, though it may not have been possible without Valley Fair already there across the street. With Coliseum City (and to an extent, Howard Terminal), Oakland is attempting to create that vibrance where none currently exists. The list of failures is long: Fremont, Arlington, and Coliseum North to name a few. Will Atlanta and Anaheim prove successful and create the blueprint?
And what of the white flight element? Atlanta and the Braves have jointly, proudly displayed their heritage regarding race in baseball. With the Braves poised to move to a decidedly more white, more moneyed location closer to most of the team’s ticket buyers, what will this mean for the Braves’ legacy?
While deflecting criticism over the Braves’ pending move, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed made one of the more magnanimous statements about cities I’ve read in some time:
“We’ve got to make a decision — either we’re going to be a region or we’re not. It bothers me that we have not come far enough as a community that people feel that a team moving 12 miles is a loss to the city of Atlanta.”
Of course, Reid just helped Atlanta give away the farm for the Falcons and their coming new uber-dome. Other motivations were at work to keep the Falcons downtown while allowing the Braves move to Cumberland, such as lobbying from the Georgia World Congress Center. The Braves weren’t allowed to get control over the land around Turner Field, so they looked for greener pastures. Which is how this sort of deal often gets started.
Atlanta’s population is just slightly above 430,000, which makes the city a little larger than Oakland. In California, Atlanta’s size would supplant Oakland as 8th-largest in the state, below Long Beach. Even though Atlanta is arguably the most prominent city in the South (non-Texas), it’s much smaller than other Southern cities such as Louisville and Charlotte. The Atlanta metro has over 5 million residents in area 20% larger than the Bay Area metro. Yet Atlanta remains the historical and cultural hub of the region and of the state, a claim that can only be made by LA and SF in California. Pushing for regional unity is easy when you don’t have to worry about a team changing names. That’s definitely where the comparison with the Bay Area ends.
The Merc’s John Woolfolk (recently assigned the the City beat), tweeted this about the San Jose-MLB case less than an hour ago.
San Jose, MLB lawyers agree to put off mediation on remaining claims in city suit over A's move (tht MLB allegedly messed w/bpark land opt.)
— John Woolfolk (@JohnWoolfolk1) November 12, 2013
I’m not going to go so far as to say that there’s a deal in the works, but there has to be a reason for both sides to agree to postpone mediation. Certainly San Jose’s stance has been to get depositions and open the books to make MLB squirm a little. MLB’s desire is to get rid of the lawsuit altogether. Something’s up. The owners’ meetings are happening this week.
Woolfolk responded to this post with another tweet:
@newballpark my guess, both sides see greater potential in taking remaining case to trial at this point than settling.
— John Woolfolk (@JohnWoolfolk1) November 12, 2013
If true, well, thanks for trying to get the two sides to hash it out Judge Whyte.
UPDATE 11/13 1:55 PM – The Coliseum Authority cancelled a previously scheduled Friday meeting. It’s probably related to the ongoing lease negotiations.
In the meantime, San Jose lead attorney Joe Cotchett said this at a San Jose Rotary Club function (courtesy of Merc columnist Sal Pizarro):
Attorney Joe Cotchett makes bold prediction to San Jose Rotary that SJ will have an MLB team or a contract to get one within 2 years.
— Sal Pizarro (@spizarro) November 13, 2013
More bluster? Or something else?
I ended my review of Turner Field from two weeks ago saluting the innovative way it was designed and repurposed, plus its status as a permanent baseball-only home.
Turns out that today the Braves announced plans to move to suburban Cobb County, just on the outside of the Perimeter (I-285). Historically, the suburbs north of Atlanta are where most of the fan base is located, so the Braves are strategically making the move to be closer to them. Attendance at Turner Field started with four straight seasons with over 3 million fans. Since then attendance has hovered around 2.5 million. That’s good, but the Braves’ brass think they can do better.
According to the Braves’ new stadium website, Turner field has $150 million in infrastructure improvements that would be needed, yet aren’t enough to enhance the fan experience. Those additional improvements would make the project cost rise above $200 million.
On the other hand, the new stadium would cost $672 million to construct. The 60 acres of land on which the ballpark would sit has been “secured” according to the Braves. Cobb County would invest $450 million in the stadium, while the Braves would put in $200 million at the start and be responsible for cost overruns. The Braves would be the lead developer for the ancillary “ballpark village” adjacent to the stadium.
This announced move follows a string of other regional defections. Three performing arts organizations (Atlanta Ballet, Atlanta Opera, Atlanta Lyric Theatre) have already moved to or are in the process of moving to Cobb County, not far from the Braves’ planned stadium site.
White flight? Follow the money? Yes and yes. As outrageous as this announcement and the Falcons’ plans are to replace fairly new, modern stadia, if they can sucker partner with some municipality to foot the bill for a move, they’re going to do it every time.
Should the Braves be successful in their move, it would mark the first urban-to-suburban franchise move since 1973, when the Royals left temporary home Municipal Stadium for the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex, a similar distance away from Kansas City’s downtown core as the Braves’ site is from downtown Atlanta. The team plans to start play at the new ballpark in 2017. The current lease at Turner Field ends in 2016.
As the hubbub and posturing over the Coliseum lease subsides, today we got some good news: the A’s spring training schedule has been released! It’s a momentous spring, too, since it’ll be the last at venerable Phoenix Municipal Stadium before the A’s move 10 miles east to Hohokam Stadium in Mesa. Hohokam is vacant in 2014 as crews make changes to accommodate the A’s after the departure of the Cubs.
Speaking of the Cubs, they’re set to open their Wrigleyville West, also in Mesa, in 2014. That’ll be worth checking out. The A’s play only one split-squad game at the Cubs’ yet-unnamed ballpark on March 5. Even if you miss that, don’t fret because the great thing about the Cactus League is that all of the parks are within a reasonable driving distance of each other. While there’s no neat sideshow like the World Baseball Classic in 2014, there’s still plenty to watch.
If you’re interested in visiting, remember that the A’s work out at the ballfields at Papago Park, which is nearly 2 miles north on the other side of the park from Muni. One thing I’ve never done is walk from Papago (where minor league camp games are held) to Muni, so I might do that this year.
Looking to check out several Cactus League ballparks? Consider that the 10 parks are set up in two clusters of five, to the west and east of downtown Phoenix. The east cluster, which Phoenix Muni is part of, is less spread out than the west cluster. Best to divide and conquer.
I’m targeting the 4-day weekend of March 13 through 16. The A’s play a rare night game at Muni. If I get there in the morning I can take in a game nearby in the afternoon before heading to Muni. There’s also a split-squad opportunity on Sunday the 16th, starting with a game in Muni and ending with the A’s taking on the Giants in Scottsdale.
There’s no league wide schedule available yet, as the teams are given the responsibility to arrange their schedules among themselves and publish when they’re ready. At this early stage, only a handful of teams such as the A’s and Giants have published theirs. Soon I’ll get all of them and put together a grid, the same way I did for the regular season.
One last note – keep in mind that Daylight Savings Time goes into effect on March 9, about two weeks into the schedule. That means all games before March 9 are an hour ahead of the Pacific time zone. From March 9 forward, games in Arizona are at the same time as California because Arizona doesn’t observe DST. The schedule shown is in Pacific time. If you’re planning to attend a game before March 9 and are traveling the same day, remember the time change.