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.

M&R: 30 days or bust for Raiders in Oakland

It’s a short article and a rather incendiary headline from Matier & Ross, but it’s not like we haven’t seen this coming.

‘If we don’t have significant progress within the next 30 days, I’d say one party or the other will call an end to it.’ That’s how one source close to the Raiders stadium negotiations in Oakland characterizes the on-again, off-again talks.

Okay, I guess. This doesn’t mean that Coliseum City is dead. There’s a lot of context we don’t have here. Is the anonymous source only talking about the new stadium, or does the lease extension also have something to do with it? Remember that as of now, the Raiders have nowhere to play for the 2015 season. If the only issue is the stadium discussion, that’s an awful way for the Raiders to go about things. Besides not having a place to play and no approval from the NFL to make a move, there’s little concrete evidence that the framework of a deal can be reached in 300 days, let alone 30. Maybe, as Larry Reid said, the work is 90% done. So what’s keeping the rest of the 10% from being done? The Raiders? Maybe. New City? Floyd Kephart said that the ENA runs through April. The ever-balking Alameda County? Who knows?

To me it sounds like yet another bluff. Last week’s reveal that the Raiders and Chargers are working on their own plan was characterized as a bluff by many. Scratch the surface and you’ll see that the Carson site is nearly ready to go after a great deal of cleanup, according to the State. Again, there are so many moving parts here with all the different players and deliverables that it’s hard to know what progress really is. Frankly, if this is coming from the Raiders, I’d like to see what happens if they leave the table. It’s always been up to the Raiders to make the first move. Mark Davis may actually have the courage to push that first domino. And if that happens, expect everyone else – the public sector, the A’s, the NFL and MLB – to start moving in kind. Eventually.

Coliseum City EIR Final Draft now available, JPA postpones lease extension vote, Saperstein comments

The Coliseum City EIR Final Draft was made available around lunchtime today. It’s 17 MB in size and worth looking through. As I run through it I’ll post my observations on Twitter with the hashtag #ColiseumCityEIR.

(Update: As pointed out by Floyd Kephart, the vote was over the lease. The JPA isn’t a party to the ENA, only the City and County can be among public entities.)

Over at the East Bay Express, Steven Tavares reports that the Coliseum JPA postponed a vote (again) to approve the Raiders’ lease extension. Tavares got comments from various JPA Board members, including outgoing and incoming Board Presidents Nate Miley and Larry Reid. While neither said why the postponement occurred, both indicated that certain aspects of the deal don’t look favorable to the county. Miley went on to talk about some of the Coliseum City issues we have talked about on this blog many times: hundreds of millions in infrastructure costs, the Coliseum’s outstanding debt, and the value of the land. Miley even indicated that some public contribution may be required for a Raiders stadium, which should raise some eyebrows in the East Bay.

Larry Reid characterized New City as “90% there” in terms of getting a team commitment, that team being the Raiders. Yet the Raiders’ joint announcement with the Chargers about a shared stadium in Carson took everyone by surprise. Reid still believes Mark Davis wants to keep the team in Oakland, and really, what choice does he have? The only shocker at this point would be if the JPA, City, and County kicked the Raiders to the curb after spending so much time, money, and energy on Coliseum City.

About that time, money, and energy:

Meanwhile, local officials met with NFL officials in January, said Reid. Their assessment was the city and county had made no progress in efforts to build a new stadium since a similar discussion between all the parties a year and a half ago. ‘They made it clear that the city and the county wasted the last eighteen months,’ said Reid.

Again, don’t pay attention to what people are telling you about how Coliseum City is progressing. When teams commit, when real actions happen to advance the ball, then you’ll know. As a wizard once said,


Last item today comes from a commenter on the blog named “Let’s Go Oakland,” who snipped a piece of a Facebook thread and dropped it in the comments.


Guy Saperstein is a minority partner in the A’s ownership group

Assuming this is the real Guy Saperstein speaking, it sure sounds like the ownership group is still in lockstep in their position on San Jose, despite San Jose being off limits for the foreseeable future. Saperstein has long been based out of Oakland/Piedmont. Regardless, the only group the A’s can actually make a stadium deal with at this point is the Oakland/Alameda County/JPA triumvirate. As the fog enshrouding the Raiders and Mark Davis recedes, maybe they’ll actually make a decision on their future. Hopefully it doesn’t hurt the A’s in the process. If Davis can make a deal with Kephart, there will be a Raiders stadium at the Coliseum and the A’s can slide down to San Jose. If the Raiders can’t work something out, they’ll jet to LA while the A’s work out a new ballpark deal at the Coliseum complex. Those are the two most realistic scenarios that can be sussed out at this point. Anything else is wishful thinking.


Davis wants Alameda County at the table, but…

This is not unexpected, yet strange.

If memory serves, Davis still hasn’t paid the minuscule 2014 rent at the Coliseum, all while currently making improvements to the Alameda training facility. Seems like there’s a quick way to get everyone on the same page, especially if Davis’s request is just a first step towards completing a Coliseum City deal.

More from BANG’s Matthew Artz:

Looks like Davis’s go-it-alone strategy isn’t going so swimmingly, hence the pivot back to Kephart. Plus now Ron Leuty of the SF Business Times sheds additional light on the County’s resistance to Coliseum City.

‘Currently, (Alameda County) is not at the table,’ said Floyd Kephart, the lead executive of New City Development LLC told an Oakland business group Thursday, though he planned to meet Thursday afternoon with Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty.

The City’s priority is clearly to work out the future of the Coliseum area, beyond the complex. The County’s appears to be fixated on the debt issue, which, while small in the grand scheme of things ($2-3 billion in total development), is plenty large enough to trip up any plan. Few entities can afford to write off $100+ million of debt. Packaging that debt creatively is a monumental task in and of itself. If the County wants to get tough on this, it’s their right and responsibility. Because without the County, there is no deal even if an EIR gets certified. So much for everyone being on the same page.

More comments from Kephart and reaction from Haggerty via Artz:

‘Just come to the bloody table and make a reasonable and fair attempt to see if we can keep the Raiders, build a stadium and do this development,’ said Floyd Kephart, a San Diego-based businessman who is trying to finance the city’s multibillion Coliseum City project, which envisions new stadiums for both teams at the Coliseum site.

Kephart’s remarks before a meeting of the West Oakland Commerce Association, didn’t sit well with Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty who said the county was doing its due diligence. “I don’t know why people are insinuating that we are not at the table,” he said in a phone interview before a scheduled meeting with Kephart. ‘Just because you are asking questions doesn’t mean you are not at the table.’

So many moving parts. Davis wants to try his own bid, then gets back together with Kephart (how willingly is unclear). Haggerty, who is now the President of the Board of Supervisors, is taking on the role of chief inquisitor. Hey, nobody said it would be easy.

Raiders withhold Coliseum rent as leverage play vs. Oakland

Mark Davis doesn’t have a ton of cards to play against Oakland, other than the usual “I’ll take my team elsewhere” card, which has half-played by entertaining talks with LA and San Antonio. He pulled one out this week, refusing to play the $400,000 rent bill on the Coliseum for the 2014 season. We covered the lease terms in November 2013, when the last Raiders lease deal was made.

According to Matthew Artz, the Raiders are paying rent on their Alameda training facility, which makes withholding rent a rather petty move. What kinds of concessions could get from Oakland/Alameda County at this point? They’re certainly not going to sign over development rights to the Coliseum over a measly $400k. Though somehow Davis has been depicted as a “more willing partner” for Oakland than Lew Wolff, his actions say differently: meetings in LA/SA, repeatedly talking about how he’s doing his best while not creating his own plan until very recently.

It would be one thing if Davis were angling to move to LA for the 2015 season. The NFL has put the kibosh on such a move for 2015, so what reason would Davis hold out? The answer probably lies in the current lease. Besides the rent for the Coliseum and training facility, there’s also the matter of the parking revenue split between the JPA and the Raiders. At the moment that’s a 50/50 deal, with regular parking prices capped at $35 per car, per game. The opening of Levi’s Stadium has bumped the going rate to $50, so Davis may be eager to up the charge, a move that’s accounted for in the current lease. Even if that were the case, it can’t make much of a difference:

  • $15 hike * 10,000 parking spaces * 10 games = $1.5 million, split 50/50

The Raiders would net less than $750,000 after the City collects its parking tax. It’s truly a piddly amount of money for a pro football team.

If it’s something else, like a cut of concessions revenue, Davis should’ve acted before allowing Wolff to take it off the table for upcoming years. He’ll get a chance to sell ads on the new scoreboards without having to spend a dime on the project. It’s a head scratcher why Davis would do this.

Then again, maybe this is all a bluff to see how the reciprocal and related parties act. Would Oakland and Alameda County start getting ugly with Davis the same way they did with Wolff last year? Would Davis try to see what the NFL might do to back him (or not)? Davis has already said he doesn’t want to have the Raiders play in Santa Clara, and that’s the obvious local Plan B for Roger Goodell if negotiations got tense. He won’t be able to use this issue to force an LA move because that doesn’t fit into the league’s plans. If Davis is trying to score points in order to get a premier spot in LA, it’s an odd way of doing it.

I doubt that this discord will turn into anything protracted. The A’s-Oakland parking dispute turned into a $3 million issue because Wolff preferred to let it fester until the next lease negotiations, three years down the road. Davis doesn’t have time to let anything fester. The Raiders have to play somewhere in 2015, and preferably beyond. There are no indications that public officials want to to stick Davis with a locked-in multiyear lease, as they’ve been perfectly willing to go year-to-year for the time being as the larger Coliseum City deal is worked out.

Oakland, and especially the Coliseum, is a sort of economic paradox for both the Raiders and the A’s at the moment. Deals there are potentially the most frictionless, yet it can most realistically happen if one of them steps aside. Yet each team has its eye on more lucrative markets that they might consider worth the friction. If one of them “wins” Oakland, the other will get to go to the more lucrative alternative. The “winner” will have the challenge of remaking the Coliseum to benefit not only themselves, but also the City and nearby communities. Oakland as both prize and booby prize? Somehow it makes sense.

FanFest 2015

Rain has become a constant at FanFest, the Coliseum was at its muggy, leaky best. That’s probably just as well, since it motivates the players (and hopefully many fans) to head down to the desert for Spring Training. If only this rain came more frequently…

Anyway, if you’ve been to FanFest since its 2011 reboot, you know how this works. The main event is held inside the arena, which can hold thousands for the numerous Q&A sessions. The first two sessions involving player intros, Billy Beane and Bob Melvin draw a huge crowd. Unlike previous FanFests, the crowd was restricted to sitting in a third of the lower bowl. The arena’s upper level had VIP events.


Ray Fosse and Glen Kuiper telling a broadcasting anecdote about on-camera plumber’s crack

Most everything else was held in the Coliseum, especially the East Side (Mt. Davis). FanFest may well be the only event that stretches the East Side’s facilities to its limits. Concessions were open along the regular concourses, and smaller Q&A sessions were held along the lower concourse near the foul poles. An interesting backstory is that for several weeks, today’s date was held for another event, a concert at the arena. Only late in the year did the arena become available for the big sessions. If the arena wasn’t available, the big sessions would have been held in the stadium somewhere, even though there were no TVs and the scoreboard system was not available.


Panorama from back of section 117


“Baseball 101″ set up for intimate Q&A sessions, this one with David Forst

The project is underway, though the teardown of the old one isn’t complete. The fascia signage along the plaza level hasn’t been removed yet. Much of the work is being done in the press box, where the control is being retrofitted and expanded. The expansion is larger enough that the A’s have to install a server room of sorts above the press box, in some free space along the value deck. For some reason, the scoreboard project was delayed two weeks by the City of Oakland, who for some reason took some extra sweet time with the permits. Apparently no one told Permits the project was coming. #welp


State of the scoreboard project

The rain and winds threatened to wreak havoc on the whole affair, but thankfully they lightened up significantly midway through FanFest. With so many autograph lines shifted indoors to the East Side, it was much easier to move between the stadium and arena.


East Side had many of the autograph stations and fan booths


Plaza of Champions cleaned up thanks to better circulation between the two venues


Autograph line

That left one major line behind home plate, the one leading to the Clubhouse Tour. For most of the duration of the event it was quite long, so I passed. Even though I’ve been in the clubhouse many times over the years, I still like walking through there because it takes me back to Moneyball.


Line for clubhouse tour

The line died down when the marquee last Q&A session started at 3, so I rushed across to the stadium to quickly walk through the clubhouse. Why? Well, I wanted to provide a comparison between the Coliseum clubhouse and the new clubhouse at Hohokam Stadium.


Coliseum clubhouse


Hohokam clubhouse

Do you get a sense of how much bigger the Hohokam clubhouse is? It’s much wider and perhaps 50% larger.

This FanFest, I came too late for the BlogFest interview sessions, not that it matters much since I don’t write about the team much. Instead I floated between the two venues, catching up with fans along the way and making observations. A big thank you to Zak Basch for getting the credential to me after the deadline, even if I didn’t use it to its fullest.

My last tidbit is some advice a fan solicited from Coco Crisp, meant for all the new A’s this year.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

P.S. – The A’s posted on social media that FanFest attendance was 15,000 today.