Category Archives: Football
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.
Let’s be clear about one thing can be agreed on when it comes to Levi’s Stadium: it will be much easier to get in and out of there than the painfully difficult Candlestick Park.
Beyond the obvious technological improvements and swankier facilities, Levi’s Stadium has much better built-in infrastructure than the ‘Stick. There is light rail service directly in front of the stadium, with links to Caltrain in Mountain View and San Jose. There’s also a Capitol Corridor and ACE stop even closer, which will bring in fans from the East Bay and Central Valley. Highways 237 and 101, which define the Golden Triangle region of Silicon Valley, feed the area surrounding the stadium, which is where the majority of the parking spaces will be found.
VTA, Santa Clara County’s transit authority, announced a plan to bring fans to Levi’s Stadium from various parts of the Bay Area. Existing partnerships with other transit agencies will have to be leveraged, whether it means transfers to light rail from Caltrain or to express buses from Fremont (by 2017, BART-to-light rail in Milpitas). Still more options will be available from some of those other agencies running their own buses straight to the stadium, along with private bus operators providing a more upscale trip from San Francisco and the North Bay.
The transit debacle at the Super Bowl highlighted the difficulty associated with trying to forecast transit ridership for special events. The New York/New Jersey and San Francisco/Santa Clara dynamics are similar. For the Super Bowl, most of the hotel rooms and peripheral events will be in San Francisco. That makes it doubly important that the link between SF and SC are solid. New Jersey transit severely underestimated the number of fans that would take the commuter train option from Penn Station to the Meadowlands through Secaucus, which led to hours-long delays for many frustrated fans. Since the NFL and local officials were encouraging transit use instead of driving or busing, designated public parking lots near MetLife Stadium were relatively empty, including certain bus lots. Meanwhile, buses that were scheduled to pick up fans from various hotels in Manhattan were underutilized.
When I took NJ Transit to a mere Jets preseason game at MetLife Stadium in August, the trains were quite packed and total ride took 45 minutes despite going less than 9 miles, was an ordeal. The biggest problem was the required transfer at Secaucus Junction. Because the train to the Meadowlands complex is a separate rail spur, all NJ trains forced the Secaucus transfer. Then fans had to go inside the station, change levels, and move to different platform where the Meadowlands train could be boarded. Secaucus Junction works fine for daily commute levels of ridership, but it is terrible for a big event such as the Super Bowl. If there is a next time, NJ Transit has to figure out a way to allow trains to go directly from Manhattan to the Meadowlands. While Secaucus can’t handle the crush, Penn Station can (though not without discomfort).
Like the NY-NJ transfer issue at Secaucus, there is a huge potential bottleneck at the Mountain View Caltrain station, where most fans coming from SF and the Peninsula will transfer. Trains from the Peninsula will stop along the station’s southern platform, which will mean that fans will have to cross at least 3 sets of tracks (2 Caltrain, 1 VTA) in order to make the switch. While the southbound platform has a decent-sized queuing area, the northbound platform, where fans would wait for train going home, is notoriously small and narrow. Each Caltrain train set (5 cars + engine) is designed to hold up to 1,000 riders. Compare that to a 3-car light rail train, which holds about 500 riders including standees. That means that two light rail trains would have to pick up a single full Caltrain’s worth of riders.
There’s also a bottleneck just east of the station, where trains run on a single track to cross Central Expressway. VTA plans to construct a second track and pocket track for train storage, which should get rid of the bottleneck. That project is expected to be completed in two phases, the whole thing done by 2016.
Even with those changes, it’s hard to say just how many people will take Caltrain to Mountain View and then transfer to light rail. 6-8 Caltrain trains worth? That’s about 10% of the total crowd. There could also be single trains from Capitol Corridor and ACE covering another 2-3000 fans.
Since the single-tracking bottleneck will take a couple years to resolve, there’s a good chance that fans going to Levi’s Stadium will instead use one of many express buses parked at the Mountain View station to get to the game. The route would be more direct, and much of it would be on a freeway or expressway.
I suspect that buses may be an even more popular mode of transport than they were at the ‘Stick. Rides from the North Bay will be especially long, requiring serious lead time. It’s not hard to see a fairly new institution already in place being used extensively for 49er games: the private Silicon Valley tech bus. Sure, there are already private coaches that take fans to games, especially groups that can charter. In this case I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same buses that shuttle workers to Google and Apple used on Sundays to take fans directly to Santa Clara from North Beach or Marin. Tickets are already much more expensive and cater to a move affluent crowd than before, why not provide luxury transit? The controversial private busing highlights a problem that has been generally ignored by the national media who have attempted to cover the issue: the disjointed Bay Area transit system. Caltrain runs through the downtowns of numerous cities on the Peninsula, which is mostly good and convenient. But if Caltrain or BART ran down 101 to near Google or 280 to Apple, there would be less of a need for such solutions. Levi’s Stadium, which is across the river from Cisco and a mile away from Intel’s headquarters, is in a similar situation: one or more transfers, inelegant design, faster alternatives. For the Super Bowl, these buses will be in even greater demand, especially as certain operators are contracted directly by the NFL for official use (teams, personnel, media).
Fortunately, the vast majority of games will be at 1 PM on a Sunday afternoon, not during commute hours. For the first season there will be no Thursday or Monday night games, with a Cal Friday home game snuck in as an exception. The 49ers’ 2014 promises to be a year of settling in, on the field for the team and in the stands by the fans. Getting there will literally be a process of trial and error for all involved.
Sam Farmer of the LA Times reported late today that Rams owner Stan Kroenke has purchased a 60-acre parking lot situated between The Forum and Hollywood Park in Inglewood.
Farmer lays out the myriad complications that could arise if Kroenke tried to move the Rams back to Los Angeles. While 60 acres in hand is always good to have, there’s still the question of who would pick up the tab for the $1 billion or more in construction cost. The NFL has had a tepid response to two other NFL stadium initiatives by AEG (Farmers Field) and Majestic Realty (City of Industry), mainly because both developers have wanted stakes in prospective relocating franchises. In the Rams’ case, Kroenke could build it himself with the NFL’s help, though public funding in Inglewood is a nonstarter. It would take an enormous amount of corporate and upfront support to make it work, a recipe that yielded great results for the 49ers. That shouldn’t be an issue in a market the size of LA, but the market is a notoriously fickle place when it comes to pro football. Kroenke could even run into interference from the likes of USC and UCLA, who have the local football landscape to themselves with no pro team as competition.
Speculation about Kroenke’s intentions with the Inglewood land could amount to nothing, as he has substantial holdings throughout SoCal and these 60 acres could by ripe for a shopping center, housing, or other non-sports uses. More plausible is the idea that Kroenke could use the land as leverage to extract the maximum amount of concessions from the State of Missouri and the City of St. Louis, the latter party having already lost an arbitration case over planned improvements to Edward Jones Dome.
The Raiders and Chargers will look at Kroenke’s moves with some interest, as LA remains a potential relocation target for them. Both teams’ owners have prioritized staying in Oakland and San Diego, respectively, but interest from LA remains a phone call or meeting away. It might make the most sense for two relocated teams to share one stadium from a financial standpoint. Such a plan is problematic in execution, as exhibited in the sterile environment at MetLife Stadium. If Kroenke were to declare a move and get sign off from the NFL’s owners, he’d have to play at the LA Coliseum or Rose Bowl for at least a few years while the EIR process and construction were completed.
Land acquisition should put more pressure on Missouri/St. Louis to act. The benchmark there is $375 million provided by Jackson County for improvements to Arrowhead Stadium. That’s well short of the $700 million in improvements the Rams are entitled to as part of their arbitration win. Any team that wishes to relocate has a league-imposed deadline of mid-February each year to declare their intentions. Last year, all three relocation candidates chose to stay. With land in hand, the Rams are for now the best positioned to move.
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.
Colony Capital, the Santa Monica-based hedge fund, is in a rather enviable position. It is poised to save two NFL teams from leaving their hometowns: the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers. In 2013, Colony inserted itself into both teams’ respective stadium quests, directly working with the Chargers early last year on their downtown stadium proposal and then becoming part of the BayIG consortium for the Coliseum City project.
If you want to get an idea for what Colony and partner HayaH Holdings (Rashid Al Malik) intend to do in Oakland, there’s no need to look further than San Diego. Colony has been working slightly longer on the Chargers’ plans than they have the Coliseum’s. The timing has been seemingly fortuitous. As the dissolution of redevelopment has left cities scrambling for ever dwindling public funds, Colony has emerged as a potential source of funds to bridge major funding gaps for both stadium projects. Because of this, pro-stadium groups in both cities have pinned their hopes on Colony to make these stadium concepts work.
Last fall, the Chargers and Colony took an unusual approach in advocating for a downtown stadium. Together they came out against an expansion of the San Diego Convention Center. Instead they proposed a facility within their planned stadium that could also hold smaller conventions up to 250,000 square feet. In the end the body that runs the Convention Center wrote off any plan that didn’t have an expansion adjacent to the current facility, so the downtown plan died in the process.
It made sense for the Chargers and Colony to look for public money for the stadium, in the form of a convention center expansion effort. It’s a good way to subsidize part of the stadium cost. Now that the option has evaporated, they’ll go back to their original plan of developing various publicly owned parcels to help pay for a new stadium. San Diego actually has two such properties in play, the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium land and the 38 (up to 95) acres at the old Sports Arena in the Midway neighborhood. Both bring in minimal revenues to San Diego: the arena brings in less than $500k per year, and the stadium is subsidized to the tune of $17 million per year – reminiscent of the Coliseum.
It’s difficult to blame the Chargers/Colony from looking for ways to potentially reduce their contributions. Any stadium in San Diego or Oakland will cost around $1 billion to construct, and the combined Chargers/NFL contribution is expected to be in the $300-400 million range. That leaves a major funding gap of $400-500 million for both stadia, which somehow Colony and its partners will have to cover. Effectively that’s $1 billion in private money for 2 new stadia.
Not including the acreage set aside for the stadia (or parking), the combined acreage in Oakland and San Diego is 300 acres. Let’s say that the land is given to the real estate firms for the purpose of building residential complexes near the stadia, in exchange for Colony covering the entire funding gap for both. A typical medium-density residential development has 20 units per acre, whereas a high-density development can have 100 units per acre. Medium density won’t cut it, because 300 acres X 20 units/acre = 6,000 units, translating into a $166,666 subsidy per unit, prohibitively high if a developer is trying to turn a profit. High density makes more sense as that translates to only $33,333 in per-unit subsidy by the developer. There are obvious issues with making high density work in those areas, mostly having to do with building the necessary infrastructure (access ramps, garages) to support those high rises, on top of replacement stadium parking that would be required.
Coliseum City’s development plans are a little more complex, as they include a mix of residential, office, and retail. That can help defray some of the costs, but in the end it’s still $1 billion that has to be covered by someone other than the team or the NFL. And that doesn’t include a funding gap for a new A’s ballpark or a replacement arena in San Diego. I’m not employed by a big real estate hedge fund, so I’m not smart enough to figure out how it’s all going to work. Thankfully, we should have some vision into this over the next six months, at least as far as the Raiders are concerned. At the moment, East Bay media is taking a wait-and-see stance peppered with a little hope, while the San Diego Union Tribune is in full cheerleader mode. I look forward to seeing what deals are made, and to serious public participation in the process.
The usually brief January owners meetings had one major item on the agenda: the approval of expanded replay. Reports coming into the meetings indicated that the discussions could be drawn out, even approaching the start of the regular season. Thankfully, all parties quickly approved the package of changes, including MLBPA and the World Umpires Association. For now the players’ union has agreed to one year of the new replay scheme, leaving the option for future replay arrangements to be collectively bargained or extended on an annual basis.
Basically, just about everything that happens when the ball is in play or batted is subject to replay. That includes the previously reviewable home run calls. Now the package includes fair/foul calls, catches and traps, timing plays, and even force plays (except for the “neighborhood” play on attempted double plays). Pitches that hit (or come close) batters are also up for debate. Like the NHL, all replays will be sent to review officials at MLB headquarters in New York, where they’ll need “clear and convincing” evidence to overturn a call. Unlike previous years, there will no longer be a monitor for use by field umpires to render or influence any decisions.
Perhaps the biggest benefit coming out of the replay plan is that all stadia now get to show all close plays on their video boards, including plays that aren’t under review. This change has been long in coming for ballparks, as it was always frustrating to be unable to see anything controversial. Now fans will be able to truly see how bad umpires blew calls or no-calls – well, most fans at least.
In Oakland, we’re still stuck with pretty old video technology dating back from the mid-90′s. The vintage Diamond Vision CRT displays aren’t the most crisp, and the boards’ size and distance from most fans will make viewing replays a frustrating affair. The Coliseum has by far the smallest video boards in the majors, and they located significantly further from the seats than anywhere else. The chart below illustrates how sad the state of affairs is:
Throughout the lease negotiations between the JPA, A’s, and Raiders in the fall, we held out slim hopes of improvements that would’ve included scoreboards. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. We and the tenant teams will have to make do with what’s in the Coliseum. Yet there’s a little hope for something better and more reliable to be installed at the Coli.
A little over a year ago, I suggested that the Coliseum buy used video boards off any team or stadium operator that was in the process of replacing their 5 or 10-year-old displays. Turns out that the A’s had checked in with the SF Recreation and Parks department about the displays at Candlestick Park. Now, you may think that the boards at the ‘Stick are awfully outdated and decrepit like the rest of the stadium, but you’d be wrong. The existing displays were only installed in 2008 as part of a suite of technology enhancements. The old Jumbotron in the northeast end was replaced by a 48-foot-wide Daktronics display, mirrored by a much smaller display in the south end. In addition, ribbon boards were added for score and advertising purposes. So there’s the opportunity for only 6-year-old technology to be installed at the Coliseum, right?
Well, maybe not. The A’s (not the JPA or Raiders as far as I know) inquired about the displays, and were told that the displays would be used at least through the spring for events. No chance of getting anything in time for the start of the season, then. SFPR also informed the A’s that the displays would probably be put up on craigslist for the highest bidder, with the idea of recouping whatever funds they could get. Nevermind that to properly use the Daktronics technology a buyer would also have to invest in the control system (hardware and software) to operate the boards. The A’s, in particular, would have to rip out the existing control room and replace it with Daktronics equipment – hopefully the stuff currently at the ‘Stick. To do that the A’s would at some point have to involve the JPA and the Raiders and amend the new leases to reflect the A’s investment – basically a leasehold improvement.
Then there’s also the issue of whether the boards fit. The ‘Stick’s big board is 26′ x 48′, much larger than either of the 20′ x 31.5′ boards at the Coliseum. However, Daktronics’ LED display technology is modular, broken down into 16 x 16 pixel panels that are each slightly larger than a foot square. In theory, it’s possible to reconfigure the boards to fit the scoreboard frames at the Coliseum or change the frames to accommodate larger displays. To illustrate how this might work, I put together a table that shows how these displays would be mixed and matched.
The key is that all of the displays – the big and small video boards and the ribbon boards – use the same underlying module size. The top lines show the Candlestick configuration, with different sized video boards and 4 ribbon boards elsewhere. The next scenario has a set number of modules replace each of the Diamond Vision displays, conforming to the current size and aspect ratio. The last group shows the boards reconfigured to support standard definition 16:9 video, with 2 of the ribbon boards used to expand the LF/RF scoreboards and the other 2 used to replace the Coli’s current boards. There would still be an issue of replacing the old matrix displays, but that’s a relatively cheap fix. The big non-video scoreboard in the ‘Stick’s north end zone is too football-centric to repurpose for baseball, though it might be useful for the Raiders. I joked earlier today that the JPA should take the displays and stick them on top of Mount Davis since no one’s sitting there, but was told that there’s no way make that work.
Assuming that some billionaire doesn’t snap up the ‘Stick displays for nostalgia or to build his own stadium somewhere, those boards should be available come spring for the Coliseum to buy. They should be relatively cheap to acquire and a no-brainer purchase for all parties to agree to. The relatively new technology would be a big enhancement for fans with little cash outlay, and would be a pretty responsible recycling of technology. If it can’t happen – well, can’t say someone didn’t try.