News for 12/2/11

Now that the tryptophan has worn off, we’re starting to get some news again.

  • Wolff Urban Development (Lew & Keith Wolff among others) is buying the Hotel Sainte Claire in downtown San Jose. The hotel, on the corner of Market and West San Carlos, is currently owned by Larkspur Hotels. Marin-based Larkspur dozens of other hotels throughout California, including the Larkspur Landing chain. Prior to Larkspur’s ownership, the Sainte Claire was part of the Hyatt chain. That’s all well and good now that the Wolffs will have three hotels in downtown (Fairmont, Hilton, Sainte Claire). The interesting scuttlebutt is that there may be some higher-ups at MLB that may be involved in the Sainte Claire purchase, perhaps with an eye towards revamping it so that it becomes the official hotel for MLB road teams. That would be a smart move, since right now the Hotel Valencia at Santana Row is eating their lunch in terms of attracting road teams (in this case, NHL squads). The Valencia is only slightly larger, but much newer than, the Sainte Claire, so the Wolffs will have to put a good amount of money into improvements to match or surpass the Valencia. SV/SJ Business Journal asked a consultant, Thomas Callahan of PKF Consulting, how much the Sainte Claire would cost. Callahan pegged the price at $34 million. (David Goll, Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal).
  • Staying downtown, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed may be able to avoid a divisive budget battle with public employees unions thanks to new, lower pension cost projections that cut next year’s budget deficit in half, from $80 million to $40 million. Reed will argue that the projections are a one-time reprieve and that more fundamental changes are required, but this news will certainly make his case look weaker, especially because the unions appear to be offering concessions that will bridge that $40 million and more beyond the next budget year.
  • Moving to a mayor with a different set of concerns, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s supporters held a press conference yesterday that may have actually been a proactive rally against a recall petition effort, which is expected to begin next week. So that’s the point when Mayor Quan starts getting proactive. (Matthai Kuruvila, Matier and Ross, SFGate)
  • Meanwhile, a few A’s players have been making the rounds within the community. First it was Jemile Weeks and Tyson Ross at the Alameda County Food Bank on Wednesday, followed by the annual A’s Community Fund Holiday Party on Thursday. (Jane Lee, MLB.com)
  • A ceremonial groundbreaking at New York’s Willets Point (outside Citi Field) kicks off a $50 million redevelopment plan that will surely gentrify that part of Queens. (Nicholas Hirshon, NY Daily News)
  • Historical footnote: the New York Post revealed that prior to building the original Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, the pinstripers were looking for a stadium on 42nd Street in Manhattan. Now that would’ve been different. (David K. Li, NY Post)
  • In what may be the start of a trend, the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins are pursuing development of casinos within shouting distance of their respective stadia. (Douglas Hanks, Miami Herald)
  • Ed Roski’s Majestic Realty (of the City of Industry NFL plan) and UNLV are still working on a new arena/stadium deal. (Paul Takahashi, Las Vegas Sun)
  • Magic Johnson is teaming up with Stan Kasten as part of a group bidding on the Dodgers. (Bill Shaikin and Bill Plaschke, LA Times)

More as it comes.

News for 11/09/11

Tomorrow morning I’ll be in SF to check out oral arguments for the State vs. Redevelopment case. If I can liveblog it, I will.

The regular media (SFGate, Merc, MLB.com, KGO) covered yesterday’s proceedings fairly well, though I’m surprised there wasn’t a bigger mention of the discussion about the referendum requirement. No matter, the San Jose City Council formalized the requirement by amending the motion just before passing it. Still, I don’t think this is the last of the referendum discussion.

There’s other news on the ballpark/stadium front:

  • The Royals may or may not have agreement in place to sell the naming rights to venerable Kauffman Stadium.
  • Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is undergoing $12 million in renovations, including a major revamp of the area behind centerfield. Changes will include relocation of the suboptimally located visitor’s bullpen, the addition of an indoor club and several concession stands.
  • The University of Washington’s Husky Stadium just started a massive $250 million renovation project. The track will be removed, the field dropped four feet, and more seats will be added close to the field, similar to the changes at the LA Memorial Coliseum. In addition, new locker room and training facilities will be added, as well as premium seating options. Like the $321 million Cal Memorial Stadium renovations, these will be largely dependent on donations for funding. The Huskies will play next season at CenturyLink Field (formerly Qwest Field).
  • The Populous architect overseeing the 2022 Qatar World Cup project believes that the venues will not need air conditioning. The goal is to make the venues carbon neutral, something that made the winning Qatar bid attractive. A company called Arup Associates has a demo of the technology in place at a 500-seat stadium, though you could naturally be skeptical about the ability of the tech to scale to a venue with 100 times the spectators.
  • The Sacramento Bee’s Marcos Breton wonders what the ongoing NBA lockout means for the local arena effort.
  • A report on NPR’s Morning Edition goes over the economic impact of the lockout.
  • A’s naming rights sponsor Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) beat the Street today, which may signal an upswing for the networking giant. The stock was down during the regular session but up in after hours trading.

That’s all for now.

News for 6/8/11

Several weeks ago buzz surrounded SB 286, a redevelopment reform bill working its way through the state legislature. That bill has stalled in committee and has been replaced by AB 1250, written by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salinas). AB 1250 is working its way through committee, and the reasons why may be related to what it restricts and supports. Namely, the restrictions on redevelopment of military bases and new stadium projects are not in AB 1250, which leads me to believe that the big developer lobby had a hand in ensuring that those big ticket projects remained untouched. Language for projects involving casinos, golf courses, and race tracks is the same. The bill may face further amendments and is up against the session deadline, with Governor Brown still committed to abolishing redevelopment instead of reforming it.

The cost of the 49ers stadium has risen from $937 million to $987 million, with precious few indicators of how the team would pay for it.

The College World Series will kick off June 18 at its new home, TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. The ballpark has already had numerous dry runs thanks to it being the home of Creighton baseball, though the constant crowds will prove to be a new kind of test. Dismantling of Rosenblatt Stadium has already begun.

Cal has managed to use up two of its nine baseball lives this year, first by raising enough money to keep the program going and then by mounting a furious comeback over Baylor on Monday to win the Houston Regional. Cal’s Evans Diamond is not considered an adequate facility for the NCAA to host a Super Regional, so it was decided on Tueday that the Bears’ series with Dallas Baptist will be played at the newest baseball stadium in the Bay Area, SCU’s Stephen Schott Stadium. (Yes, that Steve Schott.) Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students/seniors. The schedule is as follows:

Date                          Time (PT)     Television
Saturday, June 11   Game 1    5 p.m.        ESPNU
Sunday, June 12     Game 2    7 p.m.        ESPNU
Monday, June 13     Game 3*   1 or 4 p.m.   ESPN2 or ESPNU
*if necessary

The San Jose Earthquakes, who play their home games on campus at Buck Shaw Stadium, are on the road this weekend in The District, so there should be no parking constraints. I think I’ll go to one of the games, not sure which one yet. Not to be forgotten, Stanford is also in the Super Regionals, but they are on the road at North Carolina. The 1,500-seat Stephen Schott Stadium, which opened in 2005, was shoehorned into a small lot across from the university. Apartments sit behind the right field wall, lending an additional air of intimacy. There’s no room for a berm or additional seats down the lines. The Caltrain station is two blocks away, though unfortunately, no Capitol Corridor trains from the East Bay stop at this station.

ESPN Page 2 writer Paul Lukas (Uni Watch) wrote a cool feature on closed captioning at ballparks, which hopefully will become more commonplace at stadiums all over the country over time.

NBC won bidding for the the next four Olympic Games through 2020 at a combined cost of $4.4 billion. NBC’s bid purportedly eclipsed those by rivals ESPN and FOX by at least $1 billion.

Richard Keit will replace Harry Mavrogenes as head of San Jose Redevelopment, whose staff was reduced to seven.

OT: Apple wants to land a spaceship/office building on the former HP Cupertino campus it bought for expansion. Steve Jobs visited Cupertino’s City Council session last night (YouTube) to present his vision.

Jobs may want to get working on the tube technology needed to move employees between the new campus and the old one. Plans are to break ground as soon as next year and move in by 2015. Amazing how businesses without antitrust exemptions tend to get things done faster. There’s an interesting exchange towards the end of his discussion with the City Council about why there’s no Apple Store in the moribund Vallco Mall.

Former Oakland City Manager and Nationals Park dealmaker Robert Bobb stepped down from his post as emergency manager for the Detroit Public Schools. Turns out he wasn’t only fighting corruption and financial mismanagement within the rundown school system. He was also battling cancer for more than a year. For now, Bobb has returned to DC, where he will run his consulting firm and write a book about his experiences at DPS.

The $131 million bargain

An announced crowd of 22,197 braved near-freezing temperatures to catch the inaugural game at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, new home of the College World Series. The 24,505-seat stadium, which also serves as the home for the Creighton University Blue Jays, fared well despite the dreary skies.

TD Ameritrade Park's first game between U. of Nebraska and Creighton U. on April 19, 2011. Image courtesy of White and Blue Review

Designed to be easily (not sure exactly how) expanded to 35,000 seats, TD Ameritrade Park was built for a mere $131 million. Compare that to a $400-450 million MLB park in either San Jose (36,000 seats) or Oakland (39,000), and there’s a $300 million discrepancy. TD Ameritrade Park looks like it could be a major league park at least on the surface. What, then, is the difference between this so-called “hybrid” park and a true major league stadium? Let’s take a look.

First, let’s start with what it has in common with most modern MLB parks.

  • Large upper deck – The upper deck wraps nearly from foul pole to foul pole
  • Wraparound concourse with views – The lower concourse provides unobstructed views around the entirety of the lower deck
  • Expansive outfield seating – Very similar to what’s offered at Kauffman Stadium and US Cellular Field
  • Wide seats (21″) with lots of leg room (36″)
  • Club seats – Most of the upper deck seats are of the club variety
  • Bullpens beyond the outfield seats
  • Large concourses, at least 30 feet wide
  • Large, modern press box – Important for covering multiple teams during the College World Series
  • Highly modern grass surface and drainage system

Sounds like everything a team would want aside from the total capacity, right? Not quite. Scratch the surface and you’ll soon see where much of that extra money goes. To illustrate this, I’ll compare TDAP with last year’s ballpark gem, 39,504-seat Target Field.

Event/Field level comparison between Target Field (left) and TD Ameritrade Park (right). Cick to enlarge.

Last year’s review of Target Field did not include a tour, so I didn’t get to see the bowels of the place. However, schematics of every level were made available two years ago, so I made sure to download them for future comparisons like this one. On the left you can see the different kinds of color coding and walls built throughout the sunken event level. The red-orange area behind the plate is the Diamond Club. The adjacent gold areas are the team clubhouses. With only eight acres to accommodate the Twins, virtually every possible space was used and optimized. On the right is the buildout for TDAP. While it’s not as detailed as the other drawing, it’s a clear indicator that not nearly as much space has been built out down below. Perhaps as little as 50% of the available space underwent a buildout. As a result the clubhouses are much smaller. There is no club lounge behind the plate. The commissary is smaller. And it all makes sense. There’s no need for all of the luxury amenities at a place that’s meant to serve college baseball first and foremost. Or at least you’d like to think so.

Plenty of other differences pop up once you start looking around.

  • Fewer levels – TDAP has three levels plus the press box on top. Target has six levels and is much taller, which translates to more than double the amount of concrete and construction work.
  • The missing 8-15,000 seats – To properly add permanent seating, a third deck or significant expansion of the existing decks would be required. That means more concrete and structural steel, more $$$.
  • Scoreboard/Video board – The video board is just slightly larger than the new auxiliary board installed at Target Field over the winter, and one-third the size of the main board. The scoreboard is a refreshingly retro line score job, no frills.
  • Electronic signage – There is no ribbon board or other signage along the upper deck facing, which gives TDAP a very clean appearance.
  • Fewer amenities – No multiple clubs or restaurants, team stores, or team offices. The one club lounge is small compared to most at MLB parks.
  • Fewer suites – The 30 suites is fewer than what you’d see at a MLB facility. They’re also not quite as decked out as comparable suites.
  • Simplified circulation – No escalators and few elevators. That knocks off a few million in capital and maintenance costs right there. There isn’t even a complex network of ramps and stairs.
  • Little flex space – There’s no need to build additional space that could be used to rent out as Omaha has its arena (Qwest Center) and the adjacent convention center across the parking lot from the ballpark.

All the stuff listed above adds cost, and in a manner closer to exponential than proportional. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the price to play in the majors. It’s possible to design a ballpark so that it’s less complex, which is what 360 has been doing. Value engineering also comes into play, though at varying degrees and at different times depending on the budget situation. Could the A’s build a ballpark on the cheap? Sure. That said, once you start ratcheting down you get into dangerous territory. Wolff has already received criticism for downsizing the Earthquakes stadium vision. The last thing he’d want to do is recreate the experience of ARCO Arena, which was built on the cheap. The cheapness would become evident quickly, and it may have done the Kings in as a result. As the definition of a “major league” venue has only grown in cost and complexity over time, so has the gap between good enough and great.

For a level-by-level overview of TD Ameritrade Park, check out this interactive Flash graphic from the Omaha World-Herald.

News for 4/13/11

Cal Baseball is safe for at least the next 7-10 years, thanks to relentless fundraising efforts.

Tonight marks the last NBA game to ever be played in Sacramento, at least for the foreseeable future.

As part of the new federal budget pact reached over the weekend, Congress is looking at numerous transit projects as low-hanging fruit for cuts including California’s High Speed Rail project and BART-to-Silicon Valley. It’s not enough to kill those projects, but it could stretch out planning while the projects try again for scarce federal funding in the future. BART-to-SV faces a lawsuit from a Milpitas industrial park owner whose access may be severely affected by construction of the line next to the property. The property owner wants an injunction against any further work until the issue is addressed.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is getting creative in figuring out ways to overcome the City’s $58 million budget deficit, which is $12 million more than when she came into office. In addition to a $80/year parcel tax, Quan is looking at short-term financing of the City’s retired police and firefighters’ pension plan. The Contra Costa Times’ Daniel Borenstein has a scathing critique of the pension refinancing plan and the City’s previous (largely failed) attempts to rein in the costs. The more you read about the plan, the more it looks like the Raiders’ Coliseum deal, full of overly optimistic projections and heavy on risk to the City. The current budget shortfall doesn’t have any material impact on any Oakland ballpark efforts, but decisions made now that could adversely impact fiscal feasibility down the road could have a huge impact.

OnMilwaukee.com has the first in a series of articles remembering the efforts needed and political battles waged to build Miller Park.

A study by the University of Toronto claims that the NHL is subsidizing numerous US-based teams and that Canada could support as many as 12 franchises (double the current number) thanks to high demand north of the border. I’d like to read this study before passing judgment.

A bill to authorize a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings has been introduced. However, it will not be heard until after April 26 and will have only a month to get through the legislature. Pundits are not giving the bill much of a chance of passing.

Two, count ‘em, two ballparks are opening in Omaha over the next week. Werner Park, 9,000-capacity new suburban home of the Omaha Storm Chasers (AAA-Royals), seemed to be built in record time. TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha, which is the new home of the College World Series, will host its first game next Tuesday when Creighton University hosts Nebraska (TV: CBS Sports Network/CBS College Sports). The 24,000-seat ballpark can expand to 35,000 for the CWS, though officials are quick to point out that even with the size, the ballpark is not a major league park.

A word on the Giants-Dodgers-Bryan Stow situation. As much as it’s heartwarming to see the outpouring of support for Stow, who remains in a coma following his beating following an Opening Day game two weeks ago, it’s important to remember that wasn’t the first incident, and sadly it won’t be the last. Two months ago, 20-year-old San Carlos resident Taylor Buckley pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter three years after the 2008 “sucker punch” killing of Anthony Giraudo outside a Giants game at AT&T Park. If anything, I’m surprised these incidents don’t happen more often. I look back at all of the A’s-Yankees games at the Coliseum, the Giants-Dodgers games at both AT&T and the ‘Stick, and I remember multiple fistfights and fans tumbling down the steps. More often than not, security gets there in time to stop the truly tragic from happening. Unfortunately, all it takes is for someone to hit his head on the edge of a concrete step, or for some thug to wait until he’s out in the parking lot to be an idiot, and then it’s a tragedy. It’s brutal and senseless, yet the line between a small no-harm skirmish and a tragedy can be so small. I want to believe in the better angels of our nature. Sometimes it’s not easy.

Lastly, and on a bittersweet note, the baseball season in Japan is starting, three weeks late and a month after the earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant ordeal began.

News for 2/9/11

Not to be outdone, a rival to the dome/town at UNLV has emerged. The $1.5 Billion complex, called the Las Vegas Sports Center, would consist of three separate venues instead of one multipurpose domed stadium. Included would be a NBA/NHL-quality arena, a 50,000-seat football stadium for UNLV football, and a 9,000-seat partially covered baseball stadium for the AAA 51s. The area targeted for the project is near downtown, the same area which has been bandied about for a new arena and a new MLB domed stadium in the past. The ballpark could be expanded to MLB capacity, though with the way it would be constructed it’s hard to see how it would work. Architecturally, all three venues would have large arches from which tensile roofs would be partly suspended. Heading up the plan is a group called International Development Management, with 360 Architecture doing up the plans. The scary bit? It’s quite possible that the UNLV Now domed stadium concept could approach the cost of the three purpose-built venues simply due to the cost of the technology that would be used.

VTA has an idea for finding operating funds for Caltrain’s 2011-12 year: take it out of the electrification and stalled Dumbarton Rail Corridor projects. The Dumbarton project would rebuild the abandoned rail bridge south of the existing vehicular bridge and provide rail between Union City and Redwood City. Interestingly, this redheaded stepchild of public transit (VTA took from it for BART-to-San Jose) may receive renewed interest now that Facebook has announced plans to move its 2,000-employees-and-rising from Palo Alto to the former “Sun Quentin” campus in Menlo Park. A planned station would be situated adjacent to some land that Facebook bought for parking or a campus expansion.

Blowback from the Super Bowl seating scandal continues with one fan looking to sue the NFL and Jerry Jones. Also suing: Cowboys premium season ticket holders who got limited view seats. All this hubbub reminds me of a friend who lives in Chicago. A few years ago, he got Super Bowl tickets as his family had Bears season tickets for several generations. The weekend of the big game, a family friend died and they were forced to cancel the trip. Let’s calm down and have a little perspective, shall we?

The Rangers announced that they are raising single game ticket prices. We can call that the Beltre-not-Lee Tax.

Five Cal sports may not face the axe after all, thanks to complications arising from Title IX compliance. Short $25 million in the budget for the next 5-10 years, the University chose to target men’s and women’s gymnastics, women’s lacrosse, men’s baseball, and men’s rugby squads for elimination. The organization Save Cal Baseball, which has been renamed Save Cal Sports in a show of solidarity, has raised $16 million, which should be enough to keep all five teams running for at least the next four years. The university decides the fates of the teams on Thursday. Update 2/10 1:45 PM: The University has put off the decision for the time being and is telling people to “stay tuned.”

Update 2/10 2:49 PM – MSFC will replace the roof at a cost $18 million, holding the Vikings to their last year on the Metrodome lease. The cost of the replacement will be mostly covered by insurance. Update 2/10 12:27 AMA report to be issued to the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission will show that the H.H.H. Metrodome’s roof was damaged so extensively in December that it cannot be repaired and must be replaced at a cost of $18 million. This news will only serve to advance talk of either replacing the Dome with a new stadium somewhere in the Twin Cities area or a threat of a Vikings move to Los Angeles. And since I can’t get enough of watching the Dome’s roof collapse…

Good Reading 9/1

Good ballpark articles this week, everyone.

  • Baseballparks.com (Joe Mock) just named their Ballpark of the Year for 2010. And the winner is… BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem, NC. What/where/why? you ask? Read the review and the press release (PDF). And note that one of the firms involved was none other than 360 Architecture. BB&T Ballpark won out over Target Field and several other minor league parks. Mock tends to like the retro look, so you may feel different. In any case, both are worth a read. Update: In a previous thread, craiger [hat tip] mentioned that 2009 award winner (and 360 project) Huntington Park in Columbus, OH, has a RF colonnade reminiscent of what has been conceived for Diridon. Take a good look at this pic and ask yourself if you want the brick façade treatment on the exterior, the unadorned columns on the interior, or something in between? It should also be pointed out that the ballpark is a companion piece to another 360 project, Nationwide Arena.
  • The Braves are good, but the crowds aren’t. Where’s John Rocker when you need him?
  • SI writer and Minnesota boy Steve Rushin waxes much more poetically than me on Target Field.
  • Eminem and Jay-Z are doing a sort of home-and-home, hip hop, ballpark concert series at Comerica Park (this coming weekend) and Yankee Stadium (the following weekend). B.o.B. opens.
  • Among the revelations at the McCourt divorce proceedings: Frank McCourt planned to slash the Dodgers’ payroll in 2006 to $85 million to stem losses. Dodger Divorce has more. (Here’s an idea, Selig: let Mark Cuban and some big money people buy the Dodgers. Just a suggestion. Then we’ll have the wonderful symmetry of David Boies, who is representing Jamie McCourt, destroy Frank, forcing him to sell to Cuban and Co., who take over the Dodgers and go on to destroy Bill Neukom’s Giants. Dee-licious.)
  • Escondido continues to figure out whether or not bringing the Padres AAA franchise in would be worth it.
  • Speaking of the Pads – they want no part of a soccer match at Petco during a pennant race. I’m sure that Larry Baer won’t regret the Cal Bears playing at AT&T next year, especially if the Giants continue to bring in defensive liabilities to play the outfield.
  • Rosenblatt Stadium says goodbye tomorrow.

You’re welcome. I feel like Trey Kerby all of a sudden.

Cal football to play 2011 season at AT&T Park

Look whose field is going to be trampled by 300-lb. linemen soon?



Pic from Wikipedia Commons/Eric Chan

AT&T Park, one of those baseball-only-first facilities. As part of renovations to Cal’s Memorial Stadium, Cal’s football team will temporarily play their six home games of the 2011 season at China Basin. The schedule is as follows so far:

  • Oregon State, 9/24
  • Washington State, 10/15
  • Arizona, 10/29
  • USC, 11/12

Two other dates are to be filled, probably two early September non-conference games. The Big Game is scheduled for Stanford in 2011. Interesting quote from head coach Jeff Tedford:

“I’m very, very happy about coming to a place that’s so familiar to us after playing here,” Tedford said. “Such a classy place. I think our kids are going to get jacked up about playing here. It felt like home.”

Tedford said the only negative about the bowl game was having both teams on the same side of the field. That won’t be the case in 2011, as teams will be on opposite sidelines.

I never understood having the teams on the same sideline in the first place. Good to see that this is being addressed.

As for playing football games on a pristine baseball field during the regular season: I hope the revenue is worth it.