Category Archives: Coliseum
Lew Wolff brought up the the idea of a temporary stadium to the SV/SJ Business Journal’s Greg Baumann this week. Wolff looks at the concept as potentially necessary if another extension at the Coliseum can’t work out. He had already expressed concern when MLB pushed the Coliseum Authority (JPA) into a two-year extension through 2015. The thinking in November was that no new permanent home could be built in that two-year span, and if Coliseum City’s phasing and the Raider owner Mark Davis’s preference of building on top of the current Coliseum footprint take hold, the A’s would no longer have a place to play. Combine that with Larry Baer’s comments about allowing the A’s to play at AT&T Park while an Oakland solution was being hammered out, and you can see all of the moving pieces and the complexity therein. Because of that complexity, let’s break the situation down into its basic components.
To start off, there’s the Raiders. The Raiders are the first domino here, because they are the team in some sort of negotiation with Oakland and the JPA. Even though Davis has labeled the talks as discouraging recently, reports coming out of the Coliseum City partnership should bring everyone back to the table in the next month or so. Then Davis can decide how to move forward: either partner in Coliseum City, or decide that CC doesn’t pencil out and look elsewhere. So far Davis has stuck with the idea that the Coliseum is the #1 site. That could change quickly as the numbers are released and parties have to make fiduciary commitments.
The A’s can’t do anything without the Raiders’ move. As much as Oakland waterfront ballpark proponents would love for Howard Terminal to become the apple of Wolff’s eye, the many questions and doubts that hang over the site continue to make HT a nonstarter for Wolff. Coliseum City had the A’s in a new ballpark no earlier than 2022, unacceptable terms for Wolff and MLB. However, if CC falls apart for the Raiders and Colony Capital, the Raiders could leave for Santa Clara, LA, or elsewhere. Wolff could easily call for CC to dissolve and put together a development plan of his own at the Coliseum, one that he would control. It could make room for the Raiders as well, but the football team would end up on the back burner, not the A’s. If Davis were to stay for several years at Levi’s Stadium while gathering up the resources to build anew in Oakland, such phasing could work out. Then again, the Jets spent nearly two decades “temporarily” at the Meadowlands while not working out any new stadium deal in the five boroughs of New York City.
Next, this idea isn’t new. Wolff floated the temporary venue concept in 2012, when he initially tried to get a lease extension. Wolff has reason not to go down such a path due to the expense and amount of upheaval. Should lease talks once again turn difficult, a temporary move becomes more a value proposition than a logistical problem.
If the JPA couldn’t come to an agreement on a new ballpark with Wolff – say, for instance, the JPA chose not to eat the $100 million left in Mt. Davis debt – Wolff would likely go back to MLB and again ask for a decision on San Jose. San Jose brings about one of two temporary ballpark scenarios. The first comes if the A’s are left homeless after 2015 and MLB somehow allows the move south. That’s a long shot at best, but can’t be completed discounted. In this case a temporary ballpark would have to be built somewhere in San Jose for 2-3 years minimum while Cisco Field was being built at Diridon. Besides the process of getting league approval, a temporary site would have to be found. In the Bizjournals article, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed claimed that multiple temporary sites were available. In all practicality, there are probably only two sites. Many of the previously studied permeant ballpark site candidates are either in the process of being redeveloped (Berryessa, North San Pedro) or face logistical hurdles that make it difficult to ensure that 20-30,000 people could make it in and out easily (SJ Fairgrounds, Reed & Graham cement plant).
Instead, there will probably two or three sites in play: the old San Jose Water Company site near SAP Center (site owned by Adobe), the spare parking lot south of SJ Police headquarters between Mission and Taylor Streets (a.k.a. the Cirque du Soleil lot), or the land adjacent to the under construction Earthquakes Stadium (under control by another developer). The SJWC/Adobe site would be the easiest to convert for a ballpark, is the right size, and has an existing building that could be leveraged for ballpark use. It’s also directly underneath a San Jose Airport landing approach, which could cause red flags by the FAA. The Cirque lot is smallish, though large enough for a small ballpark. There’s lots of parking nearby, and potential makeshift parking on the other side of the Guadalupe River. Light rail is only 2 blocks away. As for the Earthquakes Stadium-adjacent site, there were enough problems getting it prepped for that project that it should give pause to anyone considering even a temporary ballpark there.
That’s not to say that San Jose is the only place for a temporary ballpark. Wolff was quoted as looking at the entire Bay Area:
“I am hopeful of expanding our lease at the Oakland Coliseum for an extended term. If we cannot accomplish a lease extension, I hope to have an interim place to play in the Bay Area or in the area that reaches our television and radio fans — either in an existing venue or in the erection of a temporary venue that we have asked our soccer stadium architect (360 Architecture) to explore. Looking outside the Bay Area and our media market is an undesirable option to our ownership at this time.”
The East Bay is in play for both temporary (if needed) and permanent venues. MLB won’t hand over the South Bay to Wolff, yet MLB has also allowed Wolff to enter agreements with San Jose, so it’s clear that MLB is hedging big time. A temporary ballpark could be built on the old Malibu/HomeBase lots near the Coliseum, in Fremont, or even Dublin or Concord. Fremont’s Warm Springs location could enter the discussion again because the Warm Springs extension is scheduled to open in 2015.
It’s also possible to read into Wolff’s statement the possibility of the A’s playing at Raley Field on a temporary basis, since his description of “area that reaches our television and radio fans” covers CSN California and the A’s Radio Network.
Warm Springs could be in play because CEQA laws that govern environmental review largely don’t affect temporary facilities. Generally, seasonal installations such as carnivals or circuses that don’t create any permanent environmental impact are exempt from CEQA. The challenge, then, is to create a temporary ballpark that can also fit this model. That would be tough because of the large-scale consumption of water, food, and energy during a single game. Still, the A’s are already familiar with major recycling efforts, and if trash can be properly contained there should be little permanent impact. Just as important, Warm Springs remains within the established territory, so MLB wouldn’t have to negotiate anything with the Giants. Finally, if the experience is positive it could provide enough political goodwill to convince Fremont to again consider being a permanent home.
Strategically, the Baer vs. Wolff war of words (what happened to the gag order?) has only gotten more interesting. Baer’s statement is cajoling Oakland, not Wolff, to get its act together. Wolff’s response is to say that the A’s don’t need the Giants’ help, especially if he can get San Jose. Keep in mind that if Oakland fails, the East Bay as a territory loses value, hurting Baer’s argument and supporting Wolff’s. What’s left is for both rich guys to let the processes in Oakland and in the courts play out, and prepare for next steps. At some point, the leagues are going to ask Oakland to either step up or step out ($$$). While some local media types continue to believe that the teams can carry on indefinitely at the Coliseum, at some point the conflicts become too great to bear. For those of us who have been following this saga for so long, it’s good to know that actions are being taken to make new homes for the teams. Even if one of those homes is temporary.
After unsuccessfully trying to get similar positions in both Phoenix and Dallas, Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana resigned on Monday. Santana served three years at the job. Previously she served several years as Deputy City Manager in San Jose. It’s not clear where Santana will go next, though it is known who will replace her: Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell.
You may remember that Santana goofed a year ago when she said that Lew Wolff asked for a lease extension only through the media, not via a letter to the City. The letter was found in a pile of furlough mail, which forced some rather embarrassing backpedaling on her part. Nevertheless, Santana never seemed interested in the various stadium plans that hatched during her tenure, preferring instead to focus on budgetary impacts. From the outside, Santana was definitely the biggest budget hawk Oakland has seen in a while. She ran into friction with protestors over her handling of Occupy Oakland and her decision to close off the balcony at City Council meetings, while also encountering tension with some Council members over their inability to follow rules.
Blackwell, on the other hand, is more of a redevelopment guy than a budget guy. He was tasked with overseeing the development of some of the big ticket City projects, such as the Oakland Army Base, Brooklyn Basin (O29), and Coliseum City. Blackwell has been instrumental in getting the various interests (developers, financial backers, the Raiders, the JPA) on the same page regarding Coliseum City, though that has been with a struggle. Blackwell has been more directly associated with Coliseum City than Howard Terminal, but he considers both sites viable, a position supported by Mayor Jean Quan.
What Blackwell apparently lacks is serious fiscal experience. Prior to his ACM stint in Oakland, he was the redevelopment head of the small agency in San Francisco (compared to Oakland CEDA and San Jose’s RDA it’s tiny), and director of SF’s Community Development office. Blackwell’s fiscal expertise, such as it is, isn’t an imperative at the moment because Santana paved the way by crafting budgets during her tenure. It’ll be more interesting to see if Blackwell keeps his job after the election.
That may depend on his ability to complete Coliseum City. With most cities’ redevelopment powers curbed, Blackwell was left to focus on these high profile projects, which have their own current and potential funding sources. Spring’s big deliverable is a market research report, and the Raiders (and perhaps the A’s and Warriors) are supposed to be signed onto the plan by the summer. If the report looks bad or Mark Davis is hesitant, it’s largely on Blackwell, not that he can control much of it. Most of the circumstances that will dictate Coliseum City’s feasibility are largely beyond his reach. He can continue to sell the concept to investors and teams, but in the end, they’re the ones who’ll be doing the heavy lifting financially, not Blackwell. Then again, Blackwell’s new job will give him to latitude to craft a deal, similar to the plan Robert Bobb had to bring the A’s uptown in 2001. Blackwell could succeed where Bobb failed in getting the Mayor to sign on, a good possibility since Quan already endorses Coliseum City. Will the numbers add up? That’s the real challenge for Blackwell, one that, unlike his predecessor, is not his strong suit.
Giants President/CEO Larry Baer slipped a rather shocking note into the festivities surrounding the spring training opener, when he said that he’d be willing to allow the A’s to play temporarily at AT&T Park.
Of course, there are conditions. From Merc scribe Alex Pavlovic’s article:
“They’ve got to come up with a long-term plan. Once that’s arrived at, then maybe you’ll take a step back and say, ‘Is there something we can do to be helpful?’ As a neighborly thing.
“Obviously, they’ve got to come up with what their plan is and we’ll go from there.”
The A’s have a long-term plan, but that’s in San Jose, the city that Baer is loathe to give up. That means that Baer is perfectly willing to be neighborly, as long as the A’s stay in Oakland.
If you want to read between the lines, you can consider this a memo to Oakland ballpark backers to get off their asses and get something done. He’s willing to be neighborly, up to a point. He’s willing to appear magnanimous in his willingness to share the jewel at China Basin, up to a point. As long as there’s some motion towards a ballpark in Oakland, it helps Baer’s cause.
Strategically, it’s easy to see why Baer is going this route. Now that the Giants have practically paid off their ballpark, they need another rationale for preserving the split territorial rights regime currently in place. They can talk about protecting their fan base in the South Bay, but frankly, the issue is Oakland. Simply put, can a ballpark be built in Oakland? If it can – and it pencils out for the A’s financially – then the current T-rights scheme can remain in place, whether Lew Wolff and John Fisher are the owners or someone else takes their place. If Oakland can’t be done, which Wolff has been arguing, the East Bay itself is done, and MLB will be forced to consider an alternative method of drawing up territories. Immediately that means the South Bay is the only other place in the Bay Area, with Wolff preferring that as opposed to leaving altogether, which Baer has hinted in the past he’d be okay with.
Baer’s little nudge should provide motivation for Oakland boosters, though Baer can’t make it easier to build in Oakland. Nor is it likely that the Giants will help Oakland out monetarily. News coming out of Raiders camp can’t be encouraging, as Raiders owner Mark Davis indicates that nothing is happening with Coliseum City, at least as he sees it. Davis characterized Coliseum City as perhaps Oakland’s last chance to keep the Raiders. By NFL rules, Davis has to make a good faith effort to keep the team in its current market, and Davis has certainly done that so far. If Coliseum City breaks down, the Raiders could leave for LA as early as a year from now, and Roger Goodell can’t say much about it. Sure, the NFL holds the purse strings, but by that point they’ll know full well the challenges of building a stadium in Oakland as much as LA. Like the A’s situation, if it doesn’t pencil out in Oakland, there may not be an East Bay alternative. Already he’s backing away from the Concord Naval Weapons Station and Dublin’s Camp Parks, which makes me wonder if he’s only feigning interest in those sites in order to appear thorough.
Davis also referred to the impact of the Oakland mayoral race, indicating that developers wouldn’t get off the fence until after the election. That runs counter to the idea that the various mayoral candidates could make Coliseum City progress by stumping for it along the way. The project has its own schedule and milestones, with the next big one, the Market Data Analysis, due in March. By spring we’re supposed to find out how feasible Coliseum City is, and by summer teams are supposed to be signed on to be partners – at least according to Mayor Jean Quan. Movement will come from making the numbers work, not magic. Davis is not the only person to wonder what exactly is happening with Coliseum City. We’re going through these phases with CC, where some small amount of progress happens, followed by a huge informational vacuum, then a sobering dose of reality, and then another small step forward. Eventually that cycle will be replaced by real discussions, actual reports, and true political and financial support (or a lack of it).
Going back to the Giants and Baer, I suppose that since he’s offering his place as a 1-2 year airbnb stint for the A’s, we can start talking about what that would look like. That’s for another day. For now, it makes the most sense to focus on Oakland. In the near term, that’s where the only future for the Raiders and A’s lies.
The A’s sold 20,000 tickets to FanFest this year, double the number of last year’s total. Not wanting to put too much strain on the concourses, the team announced a cutoff at 20k and considered it a sellout. Yes, the event was to be held in both the stadium and arena, but as the even larger lines this year showed, the facilities strain when trying to accommodate people on the concourses instead of the seats.
While the player introductions continue to be held inside Oracle Arena, most of the rest of the festivities took place inside the Coliseum, particularly the Eastside Club. Lines for autographs and photos with the World Series trophies stretched through the length of the club and along the concourse outside the club. If you were there solo, chances were that you wouldn’t be able to get both a picture with the trophies and an autograph unless you waited in line the entire time. Yet the use of the club was important since it’s the only space in the entire stadium that has enough space to handle such lines. The old, rain-soaked part of the Coliseum has terribly narrow concourses, and there were leaks in the Westside Club and elsewhere in the bowels. While I was just walking around, I happened upon the batting cage and heard constant dripping on the Astroturf inside the netting. There was even a garbage can set up next to the netting to catch additional rainwater. The whole experience felt a bit like rain delay theater, which is something California baseball fans are generally not familiar with.
As a media member, I’m not allowed to get autographs, so I didn’t bother trying. A handful of bloggers, including me, hung out for the first couple hours before we were whisked to one of the centerfield plaza suites. The suite had a green A’s backdrop in front of the fixed seats and was ready to serve as our interview room. Our interview subjects were David Forst, Bob Melvin, Jim Johnson, and Sonny Gray, in that order. I asked questions of everyone, but I really wanted to have Forst field a question germane to the the $ side of running the A’s. So here’s our exchange.
NBP: How much did the influx of national TV money have an impact on Coco’s extension, the payroll for this year, and perhaps the next several years?
Forst: There’s no doubt that payroll this year will be higher than, well, probably ever. We’re significantly above where we were last year. That’s what allowed us to get Jim (Johnson), knowing that there’d be $10 million price tag on him. To sign Kaz (Scott Kazmir), even a move like signing Eric O’Flaherty, where you’re only adding a little for this year but we’ve already bumped up against our number. Lew Wolff and Mike Crowley were open to what we were trying to do with Eric for half a season and backload the money. So there’s no doubt that whether it’s TV money, the success of the team – all these things have gone into ownership being very willing to let us do some things this season that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.
NBP: You guys were so clear in the past about not having long-term commitments – whether that’s happenstance or a philosophical belief.
Forst: It’s a little bit of both. We’ve benefited from a lot of flexibility over the past few years. There’s re-signing Coco, but other than Yoenis and Kaz there’s nobody signed past 2015. Look, we don’t necessarily want to recreate the team every year – because fans like the players that are here and we like the certainty of players that we know – that we’ve given ourself the ability to do it is a huge factor in our success. With Coco we know the guy, we know the player, we know that this is the right dollar amount to commit to him over the next few years.
Melvin continues to be a solid, honest interview, and Jim Johnson lived up to his reputation for dry humor. Sonny Gray still seems like a kid, as he was spinning in his chair while waiting to be interviewed. Youth is served, and the team certainly has gotten younger since October.
Lew Wolff visited the JPA on Wednesday. Staying consistent in his stance from last month, Wolff was seeking a lease extension, up to 10 years in length. Matt Artz’s Tribune article references the lease but not Coliseum City.
If Wolff is willing to hear out CC plans, chances are that he won’t make any kind of commitment unless a lease is in place first. Last month, the A’s put out a press release in response to a Matier & Ross column claiming Wolff’s interest in CC.
We are only prepared to meet with our landlord, the JPA, or elected and designated officials of Alameda County and the City of Oakland, to discuss any aspect of our venue or lease.
Remember that before lease extension talks broke down between Wolff and the JPA last summer, Wolff was seeking a 5-7 year extension with an out clause should the Raiders’ new stadium plans interfere with the A’s being able to play at the Coliseum. Two years at the Coliseum is only somewhat helpful, since there’s no way a ballpark will be ready at the end of the lease. Wolff will continue to ask for a lease extension as long as this uncertainty post-2015 remains.
Shortly after the press release I wrote a lengthy post about Wolff’s motivations, should they extend beyond merely getting an extension. Area A of Coliseum City (east of 880) is divided into three phases, starting with the new Raiders stadium, then the ancillary development designed to support the stadium, and finally the remaining surrounding development and a ballpark in the A Lot.
As part of Phase III, the A’s ballpark couldn’t come earlier than the end of the decade unless there was a major reshuffling of priorities. That’s where a 10-year extension could come into play. If Wolff wants to partner up on Coliseum City and the schedule can’t be significantly altered, the A’s would have to play at the Coliseum for the full length of that extension until the new ballpark was in place. MLB may have wielded the AT&T Park threat against Oakland successfully when it inserted itself into last fall’s lease talks, but sharing AT&T Park for any length more than a season or two will create enormous logistical problems for MLB, the Giants, and San Francisco.
Impacts from construction have to be minimized, which is a big reason for the phased approach. Not only does Coliseum City include new venues, it has tons of new infrastructure, including a new BART pedestrian overpass, new bridges over 880, and the “spine” that links all of it together. To understand those impacts, let’s compare the Coliseum complex now and what’s envisioned.
The above image has the new stadium slightly overlapping the current Coliseum footprint. Previous images had the stadium turned slightly and oriented further away from the spine, which could allow the current Coliseum to remain in place – or at partly demolished as was the case with Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium. To accommodate the football stadium where Mark Davis wants it (and where it’s shown in the image), the Coliseum would have to be demolished. That’s unavoidable, even though the new stadium’s footprint isn’t exactly on top of the old Coliseum. That’s also not a huge problem for the Raiders, since they could room with the 49ers for a couple years in the interim. It’s a huge problem for the A’s, who would be displaced. That’s why Wolff wants to get the lease in place. The A’s face eviction in this plan, even though there’s little chance for a new ballpark at CC or at Howard Terminal after the A’s are evicted. The lease would at least force BayIG and the Raiders to work around the A’s and the Warriors, who would be tenants for some time to come.
Another piece of infrastructure could be a huge factor: the power transmission lines running through the south parking lots. A big reason for building where the current Coliseum exists is that the power lines can be avoided. The cost of moving overhead transmission lines could be several million dollars, and easily double that cost if the lines were rerouted underground. In the end it may be best to move the lines underground, as it would free up land for other uses. Whether the lines remain overhead and are relocated down the road or moved underground, it’s a big infrastructure cost that has to be accounted for. Earlier renderings had the stadium displacing the power lines, so if there’s a consensus to avoid the lines, you’ll know it was a big factor. Besides the cost, PG&E and the Public Utilities Commission would have to be involved in the process, which could create delays.
Going back to the A’s and Wolff, as long as Wolff keeps some sort of dialogue going, he can have skin in the game. That disappears this summer, when BayIG is expected to have its anchor tenants signed on to the project, the Raiders being the first (I expect the deadline to slip). If Wolff can get an extension first, he’ll continue to have a say in how Coliseum City is developed. If not, and BayIG and the JPA can’t figure out a way to keep both the Raiders and A’s happy, Wolff can turn to MLB and force them to come up with a solution. That solution can’t be Howard Terminal in the short-term, since we don’t know what can be built at the Port site right now or in the future. Then there’s the possibility I wrote about in December:
If the Raiders stadium proves too costly, the A’s could easily slot right in with a much less expensive stadium option that has a much smaller funding gap, say $200-300 million. Plus with only one stadium there instead of two, there would be additional land to develop or reassign as needed. Wolff’s in a good position to wait and see how the market analyses work out for them and the Raiders.
Wolff can play this multiple ways, but the #1 issue is ensuring the A’s a home for the next several years. The rest is all process that should work itself out over the next 6-9 months. Lew may claim constantly that there’s no Plan B. I’ve never believed that. He’s not going to explain his contingency plans until he absolutely has to. That’s business.
Last year’s FanFest expanded to include the Plaza of Champions in between the Coliseum and the Arena. This allowed for extra space to accommodate autograph lines and other potentially concourse-clogging queues. The arena itself was still a little cramped, but at least the crowd was broken up a bit.
This time, the A’s announced that the Coliseum will also be in use for this year’s edition on February 8. The team introductions piece, which has players on a stage on the arena floor, will kick off the proceedings at 10 AM (Doors will open at 9). The Coliseum will open at 10:15. Like last year, fans will be able to access the A’s clubhouse for tours. Tickets will be $10, $5 for season ticket holders, free for children 6 and under.
BlogFest will also be held, which will allow us digital media types to interview Bob Melvin, David Forst, and an assortment of players (TBD). I intend to be there to ask a question or two and take some pictures.
Earlier this month I found out that longtime concessionaire Aramark had been replaced by Ovations. I’m curious to see if we’ll get to see or sample some of Ovations’ offerings at FanFest.
Having the general player interview piece in the arena continues to make the most sense, since there isn’t a nice, large video screen at the Coliseum for fans to watch. (It’d be nice if they did.)
I’m looking forward to FanFest/BlogFest this year, as it will provide a brief tease before spring training. I’m really looking forward to Arizona – more on that later.