Category Archives: Editorial
Earlier today, a report from an Orlando sports talk show cast doubt on the Seattle Hansen-Ballmer bid, because according to the report, the $30 million nonrefundable deposit was never paid by the February 1 deadline. The “news” created a minor kerfuffle as fans and media in Seattle and Sacramento tried to make sense of it.
A few hours later, outgoing Kings co-owner Joe Maloof chimed in with his first statement to the media in months: The $30 million deposit was, in fact, paid.
The Orlando talk show host, David Baumann, hasn’t updated his story or tweeted any kind of response to this clarification. By the end of business Wednesday, the focus was on Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s State of the City speech on Thursday, during which he is expected to reveal names from the local ownership group (a.k.a “whales”).
Wednesday’s histrionics were a classic example of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt). Someone misreports something or leaks info that could prove damaging to a competitor. The same thing happened last week with Deanna Santana’s gaffe regarding Lew Wolff’s Coliseum extension letter. Misinformation grabs headlines and spreads throughout the country and industry quickly. Timed strategically in an ongoing campaign, FUD can generate enough negative attention to sink many projects and initiatives.
That brings us to Andy Dolich, who has taken on the role of Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s “Business Insider”. As an experienced executive in the NFL, NBA, and MLB, Dolich is well-positioned to speak authoritatively on such matters. He’s seen it all – teams thriving (80′s A’s) and floundering (49ers, Vancouver-Memphis Grizzlies), franchise moves (Grizzlies again), and new venue development (also Grizzlies). He’s extremely well-connected and is still well-networked in the Bay Area, where he maintains his office in Los Altos.
At CSN, Dolich has taken on the role of Doubting Thomas regarding two of his former employers that are seeking new homes in different cities. The Warriors are planning their San Francisco waterfront arena, going so far as to ask for state legislation to help ease some of the red tape they’ll inevitably face on the road to a new venue. The A’s continue to be stuck in Lew Wolff’s quest to move the team to San Jose, dogged by the Giants territorial rights and uncertainty regarding the team’s (and city’s) ability to take all of the necessary steps to make the move. Time and time again, Dolich trots out claims that both projects, just like the 49ers stadium, will be too expensive, too fraught with legal booby traps, too difficult to pull off. He’s probably not intentionally doing this under some unsaid agenda, but what he’s doing right now is spreading FUD. It’s FUD that provides a glimmer of hope to Oakland fans and politicians hoping to keep teams at the Coliseum. Absent any real details for Coliseum City, it’s not difficult to see why some would latch onto negative notions of competing visions as hope.
For years, Dolich has been upfront in his desire to see teams stay in their cities, whether we’re talking about the Bay Area teams or the Sacramento Kings. Strangely, while he willingly presents a case for why a move can’t happen due to various obstacles, he nearly glosses over reasons why a team could stay long-term. Sure, Cisco Field could cost $600 million or more when factoring in all of the prep work. But an Oakland ballpark won’t? Howard Terminal’s costs will be huge and could spiral out of control just like Victory Court. A ballpark at Coliseum City, even if it’s by itself with no other tenants, will have to factor in the $100 million albatross of Mt. Davis debt. That’s not FUD. That’s reality. FUD comes from a vacuum of information related to any particular situation. Dolich even makes the mistaken claim that Cisco Field would require an EIR, even though one has been certified twice by San Jose to cover different capacities and use cases. That heavy lifting is over, with only an addendum required to address the actual stadium in finished form.
Going back to the money issue, that’s where we on this site frequently bang the drum against Oakland. It’s no secret that Oakland itself is an economic weak link compared to the powerhouses in San Francisco and the South Bay. When we talk about the uphill battle Oakland faces, that can be interpreted as FUD. Even so, it’s a consensus view that has been confirmed by city staff as recently as last week. Locals know it, the national media knows it, everyone knows it. It’s incumbent upon Oakland and its supporters to change that perspective – not by talking up the city, but by taking real actions to make people believe in the city. In the end, team owners need to figure out how to pay for their privately funded facilities. To cast doubt on Oakland may seem unfair, but it’s not as if it comes from a position of naïveté. Down in San Jose, we’ve talked about the challenges for some time: redevelopment, lack of city funds for infrastructure, territorial rights, land remaining to be acquired. Daunting as those may seem, they can be overcome via procedural means and nominal investment. That’s different from Oakland, where economic concerns make investors skittish about the market. It all boils down to a simple question: If you’re going to spend $500+ million on a stadium and you can’t depend on a public subsidy, wouldn’t you want to put the stadium in a place where you can ensure you can pay it off? If MLB has concerns about Wolff hitting projections on a San Jose ballpark, what must they think about the prospects of a ballpark in Oakland?
As long as we don’t see ground broken on a ballpark for the A’s, the war of words and FUD will continue. When San Jose Arena was built, the FUD surrounding the project quickly died. Same thing for AT&T Park and now the 49ers stadium in Santa Clara. The only way to kill FUD is to prove that that it’s baseless. By working. By thriving. By building.
Amidst all of the Lettergate hubbub (credit to
Mike @muppet151 for the term), now comes an article from LA Times writer Bill Shaikin called MLB gives tentative guidelines for potential move to San Jose. There’s nothing revelatory in the article, and nothing to indicate that anything would happen soon. Yet the headline, much like this headline, seems aimed to inflame or at the very least act as clickbait.
Then again, the information seems to back many of the assertions I made when I wrote about the territorial rights saga last month. Whether there’s real fire to this smoke or this is part of an ongoing misinformation campaign (also exercised by the other side), we won’t know for certain until it’s all over.
This got me thinking about how much compensation should cost. Shaikin notes that determination of any compensation award would be entirely within the purview of the commissioner’s office. Then it occurred to me that when Lew Wolff presented the San Jose concept, it was thought that the A’s might move to San Jose after the current Coliseum lease expires, or the 2014 season. With the A’s unlikely to be able to move until 2018, that’s four full seasons of forgone revenue at Cisco Field, while the Giants continue to lap it up at AT&T Park. That “opportunity cost” is offset somewhat by ongoing revenue sharing in Oakland, which would go away after the new ballpark opened.
With the Giants able to maximize their hegemony over the region and the A’s continuing to limp on at the Coliseum, any thought of the A’s being any kind of financial threat to the Giants has evaporated. And that, right there, may well be the compensation in a sort of unstated, off-the-books form. An extra $40 million to the A’s via San Jose doesn’t necessarily mean it’s $40 million less for the Giants. But it does mean that no money moves in the current situation, which is just fine with the Giants. $160 million for those four years, without Bud Selig having to make the tough decision? Sounds like how baseball would work.
What would happen in 2018? That would be up to whoever is the commissioner, probably not Bud Selig. Maybe there’s some nominal amount of compensation. My argument for a while has been that there won’t be, not because of what Wally Haas did for the Giants 20 years ago, but because MLB and the owners don’t want to set a price for a territory. Doing so would set a precedent for future moves into other territories. In the Giants-A’s case, the situation is unique enough to be difficult to duplicate, and by not setting a real price for Santa Clara County, the owners don’t create a market.
I’m not the only person who thinks compensation will be a trivial matter:
— Christina Kahrl (@ChristinaKahrl) February 21, 2013
This is one of those times I wish I had a time machine so I could tell you how it works out. For now we wait. Forever we wait.
I wasn’t able to attend this morning’s Coliseum Authority meeting. Thankfully for everyone, Steven Tavares of the East Bay Citizen was. And the story he got coming out of there was quite a doozy. The JPA approved a $1 million contract for additional studies on Coliseum City, which we figured would happen given the new pro-development makeup of the JPA board. What we didn’t see coming was just how the study would be paid for.
How the Authority will pay the $1 million in total costs for the two studies also rankled some commissioners. According to Alameda County Auditor-Controller Pat O’Connell, the Authority will “short” a $3.5 million capital improvements fund previously earmarked for a new scoreboard at O.co Coliseum. The Oakland Athletics and the Authority have been in negotiations to replace the out-of-date scoreboards, said Goodwin, and Friday’s decision may negatively impact relations with the A’s, also in search of a new ballpark.
“What’s the message we’re sending to the A’s?” Goodwin asked. According to staff, the A’s estimate the costs of the scoreboards to be $4 million. “Well, it better cost closer to $2.5 million, if we do what we’re about to do,” countered Haggerty. The alternative, said O’Connell, would be to ask the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and Oakland City Council for addition funds, a move likely unpopular on both fronts.
Maybe the shortfall will force the JPA to buy used. Whether that’s enough to get improvements or not, it’s a clear indicator that the East Bay is going forward on Coliseum City, cost uncertainty and other tenant issues be damned.
Worse, the retractable roof concept appears to have gained traction, even though it will surely inflate the project’s price tag. Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell was careful to note that all three current tenants would get new venues under the plan, though as usual, how that would all come together was not articulated. Even the Raiders are not a given in terms of paying for their part of the study, as the NFL and team are fashioning their own – for a stadium only with little ancillary development.
Doesn’t this seem like a lot of flailing right now? This is despite having the project under consideration for the better part of three years. Many in Oakland are quite convinced that this is the vision for the city’s future. What of the teams? Aren’t they supposed to be partners in this? Aren’t they paying the freight? Apparently that doesn’t matter, not as long as one great redevelopment plan remains out there for someone to stake their political career to.
So there I was Tuesday night, home sick with the flu instead of at my weekly Pub Trivia night. I figured that I’d keep an eye on the Oakland City Council session, because the debate regarding the William Bratton hiring was expected to be thick and fierce. To my surprise, the discourse was more civil and less disruptive (measured in degrees) than many #oakmtg sessions, As I write this, the meeting is still going on and there remains a large number of speaker cards, meaning the session may easily run past 1:30 AM.
There was one item of tangential interest to the crowd that reads this blog on the meeting’s agenda. That was the appointment of two City Council members to the Coliseum JPA’s 8-person Board of Commissioners. Former Councilperson Ignacio De La Fuente was the Chair until last weekend, while the other seat representing the City Council on the board is currently held by Desley Brooks. Larry Reid, who has previously served on the Board, was appointed without a hitch. That was no big deal because Reid is replacing De La Fuente. Brooks, on the other hand, had expected to remain in her capacity on the Board but was cast aside in favor of Rebecca Kaplan. After a motion was made to nominate Kaplan, a full 30 people came up to speak in support of Brooks. Many spoke about Brooks’ record supporting the black community. The Twitterverse blew up with jokes about Brooks, her colleagues in the Council, and the rather personal, catty, tense nature that the proceedings transformed into.
Brooks has been out of favor with Council President Pat Kernighan, who has the power to make appointments such as this one. A major criticism of Brooks that emanated from the debate (though not from the Council members themselves) was that Brooks’ abrasiveness makes her difficult to work with. Being an outsider to Oakland politics, I can’t substantiate that claim, or the undercurrent of corruption taint that follows Brooks. But there is some level of agreement within that Brooks’ attitude was an issue despite her legion of supporters. As an alternative, Kaplan’s more congenial nature was meant to improve working conditions inside the board. I guess.
Eventually the Council voted 7-0 to approve Reid and 6-1 to approve Kaplan, with Brooks being the dissenter on the Kaplan vote and Reid absent for both votes. The discussion leading up to those votes shed some light on the struggles in the JPA and the problems the City has having the $20 million annual subsidy for the JPA as the City’s albatross. In defending herself, Brooks noted that she brought AEG in to replace SMG. She mentioned that her focus has been to reduce the drain that the sports complex has on the City, even if that means forgoing certain opportunities that might come its way. For instance, remember how there was talk about having a WNBA team play in Oakland, especially after the Sacramento Monarchs franchise folded? Brooks argued that hosting a team would’ve cost $35,000 per game that the City didn’t have. That translates to $600,000 for a full season of games, plus whatever nominal costs would be associated with prepping the arena to host a team. (Obviously there’s more to having a WNBA team in Oakland, but we’re focusing solely on hosting the games right now.)
Who was the Oakland politician most gung-ho about bringing in a WNBA team? Kaplan. Who’s pushing Coliseum City the hardest? Kaplan. When it was Kaplan’s turn to speak on her nomination, she didn’t hesitate to bring up Coliseum City’s potential, though she qualified her words a little by saying that it wasn’t solely “about the sports (teams)”, it was as much about redeveloping an area that long needs it. As we all know by now, redevelopment as an institution has been blown up by Governor Brown, with mostly small-scale efforts like affordable housing left as available project types for cities to work on.
Just like that, two of the councilmembers who could be considered more skeptical of the sports-as-savior strategy (IDLF, Brooks) were replaced by two who are all for it (Kaplan, Reid). None of this means that anything substantial will happen with Coliseum City anytime soon. It’s still going to cost billions of dollars to pull off and will require commitments from at the very least the Raiders to have any shot of happening. However, if developers or AEG wanted a sign that things could go more smoothly on the political front for them, this is it.
The WNBA team idea, which has receded from consciousness in the Bay Area over time, sounds like a very good project for Oakland and its business community to pick up. A franchise is worth somewhere in the $10 million range, less than MLS. Player salaries are affordable. The schedule runs during the NBA’s offseason, so there are no date conflicts at Oracle Arena. Plus there’s the advantage of the Bay Area as something of a hotbed for women’s basketball, thanks to the stalwart Stanford program and a recently powerful Cal program. It’s achievable, doesn’t require ridiculous amounts of resources from the business community, and as has been demonstrated in Seattle, a franchise can survive and even thrive when its NBA brother leaves town. That’s not to say that Oakland should give up on the A’s/Raiders or even the Warriors. Far from it. It would show that Oakland and the East Bay can coalesce to get a team that the community can rally around. Even Mayor Quan has referred to that possibility. It’s kind of hard to know if Oakland is capable of big successes if it doesn’t have small ones to build upon, and its biggest success were decades ago. If you want a test case, well, there it is. Seize it.
The Coliseum Authority released its agenda for the upcoming January 25th meeting. On the agenda is a procedural item of voting a new Chair and Vice-Chair. The other item, 6b, involves the following:
6b. Resolution of the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Authority:
1. Waiving Competition and Authorizing Staff To Negotiate One or More Professional Services Contracts to Conduct
Studies for Site Planning and Development Scenarios, and to Create Estimates Of Building Budget And Profit And Loss Statements, For a Potential New Stadium and Related Development on Land Currently Owned By The Authority That Lies Within the Coliseum City Specific Plan Area, for a Total Amount Not To Exceed $500,000; and
2. Authorizing Staff To Competitively Procure and Negotiate One or More Professional Services Contracts to Conduct Studies of Revenue Potential and Market Demand From a Potential New Stadium and Related Development on Land Currently Owned By The Authority That Lies Within The Coliseum City Specific Plan Area, for a Total Amount Not To Exceed $500,000; and
3. Authorizing the Chair of the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Authority to Execute Contracts for Services With Selected Consultants Without Returning to the Authority Board; and
4. Amending the Authority’s Budget to Allocate up to $1,000,000 in Available Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Authority Funding For These Purposes
Woah there, wait a second. Is the JPA really saying that it still has studies to complete? It needs to do financial projections and a development plan? And it’s executing this now without competitive bidding? You have got to be kidding me. This stuff was supposed to be done by now. Funding for Coliseum City was authorized in February 2010, almost three years ago. This is supposed to be the easy part.
Now, maybe the upshot is that the Raiders and JPA came to an agreement on a lease extension, allowing these funds to be freed up. But if anyone from the East Bay is looking for signs of progress soon, this certainly won’t help. At this rate the 49ers will have been at their Santa Clara stadium 7-10 years before anything gets built in Oakland. Also, note that the resolution says stadium in singular form. Will there be a two-stadium alternative, as some pols believe is the best option? Or are they talking about another multipurpose stadium? I can’t wait. Actually, I guess I can. I have no choice.
I suppose these “additional” studies can be completed by the end of the year. In a week full of unbelievable BS news in the sports world, this ranks up there, at least locally. Suspiciously, the JPA’s annual financials have not yet been released. They probably won’t show much in the way of funds spent on Coliseum City so far. This is so disappointing, and yet, par for the course. No wonder the Warriors plowed their own path. They can’t trust the JPA to make anything happen in a timely manner.
Some people are going to view this post as more piling on Oakland. It’s not. It’s a demonstration of what leadership is, and what it means to follow through. You’ve been warned.
Many of the mayors throughout the country are in Washington this week to attend the US Conference of Mayors, where the big topic is gun violence and how to reduce it. The big fish at the event is Vice President Joe Biden, who President Obama tasked with developing a plan for gun control and other related initiatives.
In the face of increasing criticism over her effectiveness in handling the crime and murder rates in Oakland, Mayor Jean Quan left for the conference earlier this week. Her office says that she is “hoping to have conversations” on how to reduce the crime rate, which frankly, sounds like a bad excuse for taking a trip to DC for the inauguration. Maybe she’ll get some kind of commitment from someone in a federal capacity, but VP Biden’s team put together the plan and President Obama signed 23 executive orders without needing Quan to be in DC.
Also in DC for the conference is MC Hammer, who became an employee of the city’s Convention & Tourism Bureau last November. Hammer’s position is to promote tourism, which I have to imagine is a difficult sell when everyday there are headlines about one shooting or another. So there are two Oakland leaders in DC at the moment.
Now all of this would be little more than your typical Washington hobnobbing session if it weren’t for the actions of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who abruptly canceled his trip to DC. Why would he cancel the trip even as he was scheduled to speak?
things are moving quickly. had to cancel my trip to dc for #uscm2013 and meeting with the vp etc. our duty is always to our city first!
— Kevin Johnson (@KJ_MayorJohnson) January 18, 2013
The things that KJ is referencing are his efforts to put together (in parallel) a competing ownership bid that would keep the Kings in Sacramento and an arena package that would be acceptable to David Stern and the NBA owners. KJ is working with a deadline of March 1st. Quan’s deadline for both the Raiders and A’s is effectively the end of the year, so she technically doesn’t have to act too swiftly. But it’s telling that while East and West Oakland are going to hell, Quan is in DC just a month after going to China. In both cases, she’s trying to find solutions, money, or both outside of the city. On the stadium front, Quan has created one task force or another and authorized money for a Coliseum City study which has not yet materialized. There isn’t much to show for Victory Court or Howard Terminal (so far) for that matter. Meanwhile, KJ is rallying forces in the Sacramento region to find a solution. It’s a stark contrast, and while there’s a good chance neither will be successful in the end due to circumstances beyond their control, it’s clear that there’s one mayor who’s trying, and another who’s simply asking for help and not actually doing much.
Then again, this is Quan’s last Twitter update (she’s more active on Facebook):
— Jean Quan (@jeanquan) October 11, 2012