Category Archives: News
— ABC7 News (@abc7newsBayArea) June 18, 2013
More from ABC 7:
So, the city has hired Peninsula attorney Joe Cotchett to file a lawsuit. “This is all about economics. And, you have a city like San Jose, the tenth largest city in the United States, cannot get a baseball club. I can name you other cities that are pulling for San Jose for the same reason. They want the right and the chance to bring a baseball team to their city, their county, whatever it might be,” he said.
A 2009 study found that a new ballpark for the A’s could pump $130 million a year into the San Jose economy. And, San Jose’s mayor has hinted in the past that he’s considered legal action, but the city has always deferred to the principal owner of the A’s — Lew Wolff.
The City has been talking to Cotchett for a while about prepping the lawsuit. I had also heard that Cotchett may be taking this case pro bono, but I can’t confirm that at the moment. Correction: Cotchett is taking the case on a contingency basis. Cotchett has a ton of experience with antitrust suits and sports, representing the Raiders and the NFL at different times.
The Merc’s John Woolfork also has an article with a primer.
And then there’s this.
— John Lund (@JohnLundRadio) June 18, 2013
The podcast of the Cotchett interview is available here.
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s office put out the lawsuit press release:
For Immediate Release:
June 18, 2013
Michelle McGurk, Office of Mayor Reed
(408) 535-4840 or (408) 655-7332 (cell)
City Council Unanimously Authorizes Lawsuit to Allow A’s to Move to San Jose
San Jose, Calif. – The City of San Jose has filed legal action in federal court to eliminate the territorial restrictions that Major League Baseball has used to keep the A’s from moving to San Jose. The complaint was authorized by the City Council during closed session this morning.
“For more than four years, the City of San Jose has made an exhaustive effort to work with Major League Baseball to resolve any concerns about our city’s capacity to host a major league ballclub,” Mayor Chuck Reed said. “During that time, it has become abundantly clear that Major League Baseball prefers to use territorial restrictions as an excuse to restrict commerce and prevent the Athletics from relocating to San Jose. This restriction is costing San Jose residents millions of dollars in new annual tax revenues that could go towards funding more police officers, firefighters, libraries, gang prevention efforts, road repairs and other critical city services.”
The Oakland Athletics ownership group has expressed a desire to construct a new privately-financed and privately-operated ballpark in Downtown San Jose. While the City of San Jose has worked with the Athletics to facilitate the construction of a new ballpark, their efforts have been stalled by the San Francisco Giants’ claim of “territorial rights” to Santa Clara County. In 2009, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig appointed a special blue ribbon committee to analyze the Athletics’ options for a new ballpark. But after four years, there still has been no decision on whether the Athletics can relocate to San Jose.
According to an independent economic analysis report conducted by Conventions Sports & Leisure International, a new major league ballpark in Downtown San Jose would generate significant benefits, including:
$5 million per year in new tax revenues to the City and other local governments;
$130 million per year in total net new economic output; and
Nearly 1000 new full and part-time jobs.
San Jose has entered into an option agreement with the Athletics Investment Group, LLC, the California limited partnership that owns and operates the Oakland A’s, to purchase property for a ballpark in Downtown San Jose. According to the suit, Major League Baseball is interfering with this contract by refusing to allow the Oakland A’s Club to locate to the City of San Jose. San Jose seeks to restore competition among and between the clubs and their partners by ending MLB’s collusive agreements. The lawsuit outlines several practices that have resulted in an unreasonable restraint on competition, in violation of federal and California law, and constitute unlawful, unfair, and/or fraudulent business practices under California law, including violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law, Tortious Interference with Contractual Advantage, and Tortious Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage, and for violation of the federal Sherman Act, and violation of California’s Cartwright Act.
The City of San Jose is being represented in this case by attorney Joseph W. Cotchett and the firm of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP. The firm is working on contingency.
Legal Action filed June 18, 2013: http://www.sanjoseca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/18492.
Economic Impact Analysis: http://www.sjredevelopment.org/ballpark/EI_Report_09022009.pdf
Ballpark archive, including renderings: http://www.sjredevelopment.org/ballpark.htm.
And now, MLB’s response:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 18, 2013
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL STATEMENT
Major League Baseball Executive Vice President for Economics & League Affairs Rob Manfred issued the following statement in response to the lawsuit filed by the City of San Jose today:
“In considering the issues related to the Oakland Athletics, Major League Baseball has acted in the best interests of our fans, our communities and the league. The lawsuit is an unfounded attack on the fundamental structures of a professional sports league. It is regrettable that the city has resorted to litigation that has no basis in law or in fact.”
Further reading, if you’re interested:
- SF Chronicle editorial – San Jose cries foul over A’s
- SJ Councilman Sam Liccardo (San Jose Inside) – Why San Jose Sued Major League Baseball
- Jeff Passan (Yahoo!) – San Jose lawsuit at least provides some hope in putrid A’s situation
- Craig Calcaterra (NBC Hardball Talk) – The San Jose lawsuit against Major League Baseball should be thrown out of court
- Gwen Knapp (Sports On Earth) – Rotten In The State Of California
- Mark Purdy (Mercury News) – San Jose takes big swing at Major League Baseball
- Ray Ratto (CSN Bay Area) – Is closure coming to the San Jose saga?
- Wendy Thurm (Fangraphs) – San Jose Sues MLB To Get A’s, Charges Teams Conspire To Maintain Monopoly Power In Markets
- Nathan Donato-Weinstein (SV Business Journal) – Why the deck is stacked agaisnt San Jose in MLB lawsuit
- Jill Tucker & John Shea (Chron) – San Jose sues MLB over A’s move
- Karen Gullo (Businessweek) – Major League Baseball sued by San Jose over A’s relocation
- Background: Pumping up the antitrust threat (Newballpark.org)
- Background: Sick’s Stadium and relocation of Pilots from Seattle to Milwaukee (Wikipedia)
Commentary later tonight.
You can feel the fortitude and resolve pulsing with each mushy keystroke that was pressed to create MLB’s mealy-mouthed, non-committal statement on #SewerGate:
“As we have stated many times, the Oakland A’s need a new ballpark. Sunday’s unfortunate incident is a stark illustration that they need a long-term solution. This industry has a long record of navigating challenging circumstances and finding solutions. The situation in Oakland is particularly complicated, evident through the years of work it has required, yet we remain hopeful that a resolution can be reached so that the A’s can secure the 21st Century venue that the franchise and its fans deserve.”
That, folks, is leadership at its finest. We can look forward to something happening… sometime in the 21st Century.
There’s fifty feet of crap. And then there’s us. – Billy Beane, Moneyball
Figurative turned literal on Sunday, as the A’s and Mariners (and umpires) were forced to vacate their respective clubhouses after the game because of a sewage backup. The backup caused sewage to seep out of the shower drains as players were trying to clean up. Both teams were forced to use the Raiders’ locker room showers, which are located a level up in the old Exhibit Hall.
As part of the 1995 Mt. Davis renovations, the Exhibit Hall was transformed into new football locker rooms, while the A’s clubhouse and visiting facilities remained mostly untouched. As a result, the plumbing in the clubhouses continues to deteriorate and requires constant repairs, which the A’s usually end up paying for during the season. Per the team’s lease, they can deduct the cost of the repairs against their annual rent payment. During the NFL offseason, the Raiders locker room often gets used as an extra staging area for VIPs. As a part of the stadium that was constructed less than 20 years ago, it’s in much better shape than the old baseball clubhouses.
In 2011, I asked Lew Wolff about the state of affairs at the Coliseum. Here’s an excerpt of our discussion:
Wolff: We’re constantly making repairs that are not our obligation.
ML: Really? Like what?
Wolff: Leaks and things. The scoreboard. There are two of them because of football. I think they’re finally going to replace them, but if they don’t there are no more parts. If a light goes out we borrow it from another one. It’s aggravating. But they basically say they don’t have any money. They still have bonds to pay off. The place is old and this is not the time for cities to write a check for sports.
Two years later the leaks have gotten worse and the scoreboard still needs replacement, with funds to make that happen siphoned away to study Coliseum City. It’s easy to make scoreboards a low priority at a decrepit place like the Coliseum since they don’t affect players or revenues. Functional clubhouses, however, are a different matter entirely. It’s one thing if the clubhouse flooding and contamination was confined solely to the A’s clubhouse. This time it affected both teams and the umpires. Now there’s the prospect of complaints being filed by the A’s, Mariners, and the players’ and umpires’ unions. (Susan Slusser noted that the Angels complained about a similar incident in 2001, citing a possible E. Coli threat.) Ultimately the responsibility falls on the Coliseum Authority, the body acting as the landlord for the three Coliseum tenant teams. A Herculean effort by an industrial cleanup company like ServPro should get the place up and running. The structural deficiencies will continue to linger.
I know next to nothing about engineering sewer systems, but I do know that having facilities below sea level (such as the clubhouses) can make it difficult to get a proper gravity-based flow going. The funny thing is that one of EBMUD’s huge sewer interceptors runs right through the Coliseum complex, so it should be easy to get wastewater and sewage out of the complex assuming that the sewer lines and pumps are working properly. Evidently at least one part of the stadium’s sewage infrastructure wasn’t working at all. Think about that. There is a river of shit running right through the Coliseum and somehow it couldn’t be utilized on Sunday.
Some are pointing to the possibility that the sewer system was taxed by large crowds. The A’s drew 171,756 total fans during this recent six-game homestand. Let’s put that in perspective. That’s 28,626 per game, or roughly half the originally designed 1966 capacity of the Coliseum. Even the Sunday sellout was only 57% of the 2012 football capacity. The system as a whole should not have been stressed in the slightest.
As the investigation into the cause of the incident continues, it will occur against the backdrop of ongoing lease negotiations. Previously it was assumed that the Authority would have a good deal of leverage because the A’s have nowhere else to play in the Bay Area post-2013. Now the tables have turned, as it can be argued by many parties that the Coliseum is unfit to host MLB games until the clubhouse sewage problem and other deficiencies are addressed. MLB could even step in to make preconditions on the JPA prior to further lease talks. That would put the JPA in quite the pickle. How can the JPA recover more money from the A’s towards Coliseum debt service if it has to fund additional, costly improvements at the Coliseum? If the JPA wants to lock the A’s into a deal longer than 5 years, how much money is the JPA willing to put up to make it worth the A’s and MLB’s while? And how does that coincide with any requests the Raiders are making for their lease extension?
Prior to this incident, Lew Wolff offered to continue on at the Coliseum for five years with the current use terms, rent TBD. He could and should demand infrastructure improvements, but he and Michael Crowley could be enticed to stand pat and maintain the status quo since it would be less complicated. It would be hard for the A’s to make any leasehold improvements without prior approval of the JPA, and since they’re not bound by the lease beyond December there’s no immediate incentive to do so. All they’ll probably do at the moment is make necessary repairs, clean and disinfect the place, lay down some new carpet in the affected areas, and hope for the best. While that should be enough to get through the rest of the season, imagine another sewage incident occurring during the postseason. What kind of PR disaster would that be for Oakland? And I can’t image naming rights sponsor O.co is thrilled to be associated with this debacle. It’s bad enough that from afar the stadium resembles a toilet.
Three weeks ago Jon Heyman incurred the wrath of A’s fans over his snide tweet comparing AT&T Park to the Coliseum. He mostly stayed away from any remarks this time around, except for a retweet of Slusser getting a David Rinetti (A’s VP of stadium operations) quote:
Vice president of stadium operations David Rinetti said the Coliseum has problems with sewage on a regular basis but this is worst ever.
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) June 17, 2013
Smart move by Heyman to stay away from this mess, though I wouldn’t blame him if he gloated in private. Trololol.
The A’s, of course, have tried to bolt town for the last five years. The San Francisco Giants won’t share their territory and permit the Athletics to move to San Jose. Major League Baseball, which hoped the A’s and Giants would somehow reach an agreement on their own, finally got a resolution from their blue ribbon committee. The committee submitted a set of guidelines to Wolff in February, and if he agreed to meet the requirements, a move could soon be underway.
Wolff won’t talk about the guidelines. Neither will the Giants. Or even Major League Baseball.
Well, since the NSA isn’t sharing any of Wolff’s telephone conversations with Commissioner Bud Selig, it’s fair to say that if Wolff agreed to the parameters, he’d have a shovel in his hand today digging into the San Jose soil.
Wolff denied the February report in last week’s radio interview. Clearly something isn’t meshing here. The two short-term decisions at the moment are the lease and the S4SJ lawsuit. It would make sense to wait to announce something until both of those issues are resolved.
Update 2:30 PM – Amazingly, Lew Wolff is pulling his punches, at least according to a new Carl Steward article.
“What it says basically is that it’s a deteriorating facility,” he said. “I think everybody is aware of that, even the people who run it. We’re sort of all in this together, so it isn’t something I would use … we just have to solve it right now.”
Wolff downplayed that this might be the kind of incident that would give him extra ammunition to force the hand of Major League Baseball to act on the A’s situation, which has been stalled for several years under a panel appointed by Selig to assess the team’s options.
“Even if they said tomorrow, `OK, you can have a new stadium,’ we can’t do it in one day,” Wolff said. “We’re still going to have a plumbing issue.’”
Of course, Wolff isn’t going to stop the M’s, other teams, MLBPA, or WUA (umpires) from filing their own complaints. Those may have more bite. On the other hand, Billy Beane’s comments were a little more pointed.
“Today this is national news, but it happens here all the time,” Beane said. “Our employees are impacted by this. I was the first to see the manager’s office (Sunday), but we see it all the time, and this is not unusual. I don’t blame them (the Mariners) for reacting, but we have to live with it on a semi-regular basis.
“If we say anything, we’re told we’re being opportunist,” Beane added. “I wish these were working conditions we didn’t have to work with. When it affects somebody other than us, it becomes a story. I’m used to it. I deal with it.”
Doesn’t get more Oakland than that.
Well, not you, Gentle Reader. Lew Wolff and Larry Baer, to be specific. Both respective team head honchos were interviewed on The Game as part of the Newsmakers week of sitdowns with owners. Baer talked mostly about the Giants’ franchise, but was also asked (by Bucher & Towny) about their apparent cockblocking of venue efforts by both the A’s (San Jose) and the Warriors (Piers 30/32). Baer indicated vague support for both teams’ efforts, but would not comment further on what that meant.
Then on Tuesday, Lew Wolff had an absolute disaster of an interview, one where he hesitated, fumbled, and dodged. By the end, everyone including the interviewers were clearly frustrated, Wolff even half-jokingly saying that he wanted the A’s PR department to get him out of the interview.
Wolff’s prior-held opinions on Oakland and San Jose were repeated, but it took only 30 seconds for Wolff to give the first of an endless stream of “No Comment” responses to many of the solid, pointed questions that were aimed his way. “No Comment” has come about because of the gag order imposed by Bud Selig over Wolff and Baer, who had been previously sniping and using the media to their own ends at regular intervals.
Beyond the ongoing rejection of Oakland having any viable sites, Wolff also repeated the mantra that he has been guided to put baseball first, team second. That means no antagonistic PR battles or lawsuits, no waging the territorial rights war. What it also means is that the A’s will continue to be in limbo, at Selig’s and The Lodge’s behest, until Selig or his successor deems the A’s dilemma important enough to resolve in a meaningful way. Lew has always painted himself as a go-along-to-get-along guy, even if the scope of that philosophy is limited to baseball and alienates A’s fans everywhere, along with friends in the South Bay.
Lew is clearly grateful to Bud for bringing him into the Lodge, that much is clear. Thing is, now that he’s in, it’s hard to get him out. Besides the ownership group or individual partners going into bankruptcy (no sign of that happening), there’s little anyone can do in The Lodge or outside it to force anyone out. Lew knows this and has tried to work the process (calling for a vote, etc.) to no avail. It wouldn’t hurt to fight for the franchise instead of always taking one for The Lodge, as is happening now. If the idea is to curry favor with the other owners for something down the road, there’s no indication of such a deal.
I think we’re seeing a repeat of what happened with the 49ers and the Yorks, where Dr. York spent a few years fumbling around as the head before handing the job over to the more media-savvy Jed York. Lew’s son Keith Wolff has had his hands full taking care of the Earthquakes stadium, and may be wary of absorbing the arrows anew with the A’s after having completed an arduous, albeit smaller, task for the soccer franchise. Nevertheless, if Keith is up to it, he’s the guy to smooth things over. Even then, nothing can actually be smoothed over until Selig provides better answers and more information. As the team gets further into the season and off-season without an inked extension for whatever length, this is only going to get weirder and uglier. And as long as the gag order is in place, there will be no point in having additional interviews like Tuesday’s.
After Tuesday’s Game 2 of the Bay Bridge Series, CBS Sports national baseball writer Jon Heyman jostled the hornets nest that is the Oakland faithful with this tweet:
A shame the a’s and giants have to play these games at the coliseum while ATandT sits empty. #shame
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) May 29, 2013
That brought a furious wave of replies, including some by current A’s players such as reliever Sean Doolittle.
“@jonheymancbs: shame [they] have to play at the coliseum” I can see why you don’t like it. We have a strict No High Horse policy at O.Co…
— Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 29, 2013
@whatwoulddoodo i thought your team has been begging to get out for years. am i wrong?
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) May 29, 2013
@jonheymancbs All I know is (when full) the O.co is one of the best atmospheres in MLB. Outdated? Yes. But fans make up for it & we love
— Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 29, 2013
Of course, numerous fans came to the defense of the Coliseum, citing certain sightlines that are better than at AT&T Park (only a few) and the more raucous crowd. I tried to sum up the general sentiment with this tweet:
— newballpark (@newballpark) May 29, 2013
Now let’s set the table for the discussion to follow. This is Newballpark.org, after all.
- The Coliseum is, in fact, outdated and a replacement is needed for the long-term viability and competitiveness of the franchise.
- The long-time, hardcore fanbase has stayed loyal thanks to not being priced out of attending games, despite ownership’s general indifference towards them.
- Attracting casual fans to games is difficult unless the team is playing extremely well (sometimes) or the opponent is a good draw (Yankees, Giants, Red Sox).
- The experience of attending a game is not luxurious in the slightest, but it can be very energetic and entertaining.
- Fans debating about the future of the Athletics mostly squabble over the site of the next A’s home, whether it’s in Oakland, San Jose, or elsewhere in the Bay Area.
Heyman’s uninformed opinion is sadly reflective of much of the East Coast (Northeast) media, which still holds onto the notion that in the Bay Area, San Francisco is “The City” and everything else is a satellite orbiting around it.
Nevermind that Oakland has undergone significant upheaval over the last several decades, or that San Jose has grown to become larger than SF. San Jose remains sleepy and banal, Oakland dangerous and difficult. It takes more than a generation or two to shake a reputation, especially when there are forces at work to maintain certain aspects of that rep (crime, politics, growth policies).
A look back at Frank Deford’s 1968 Sports Illustrated article shows that things haven’t changed that much in terms of perception from the outside. It was during that era that the other Bay Area cities started to puff out their own chests and brandish their own civic pride. That pride led to Bob Nahas getting the Coliseum complex built. It also fomented a backlash against SF, according to late Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli:
“Now, everybody’s thinking is reversed. People feel they must swallow local pride to come to San Francisco. Or they’re indignant. You know, ‘Why the hell should I have to go to San Francisco?’ People come from halfway around the world, breathless, to get to San Francisco, and the people around here are annoyed if they have to go 15 minutes.”
After 45 years, much of the country and the world doesn’t know about this, and more importantly, they don’t care. New York and Chicago have had more than a century to build rivalries among boroughs or along north-south divides, and there’s plenty of documented historical support to back them. Allowing the Warriors and Seals to carry the generic “California” or “Golden State” monikers only steeled Oakland’s collective resolve. Defenders of cities can scream to the high heavens about their town being disrespected. Most casual observers have little empathy when other issues take greater import. Outsiders don’t know that these days, the only true satellites of SF are the Peninsula and Marin County.
Yet the lion’s share of tourist attractions and cultural resources remain in SF. Since the 60′s Silicon Valley become America’s (and the world’s) tech capital, and Napa Valley became the American focal point of the wine industry. Tract homes replaced farms and fields. Ever-growing freeway systems and disorganized public transit systems were built to meet citizens’ needs.
During the decade from 1972 to 1981, Oakland teams won six championships: 3 by the A’s, 2 by the Raiders, and 1 by the Warriors. None really changed much for Oakland as a city, though it did solidify the teams’ fanbases to various degrees. Even when Al Davis took the Raiders to LA, Oakland officials plotted for years to lure him back – and they eventually did.
Oakland has garnered exactly one title since Al left and none since he returned. If the point of having teams winning championships is to build civic pride, the luck hasn’t been on Oakland’s side. Is there anything that can be done to correct long-held misconceptions? Probably not – at least not immediately. Civic leaders can try to build a ballpark or arena downtown, and most have used forms of redevelopment to remake rundown parts of their cities, often with mixed results. Sure, there’s a nice ballpark in Cleveland, but it’s still in Cleveland. The new ballpark in Miami has done little to change the prevailing notion that it isn’t a baseball town. Phoenix has both a ballpark and arena, but outside of events at those venues people would rather go to Scottsdale.
Al Davis, in the 60′s light years ahead of his peers and others in terms of strategizing football, proved sagelike when it came to thinking about cities in the Deford article.
“Haven’t we passed the point of who is Oakland and what is Oakland?” he asks. “Too many people are still living on local color. They can’t see past the Golden Gate. They keep telling me: ‘Hey, we showed those 49ers.’ I have to say, ‘Look, can we show Green Bay? They’re the epitome of football. Green Bay, not San Francisco.’ “
Then again, what happens when the champion IS San Francisco?
P.S. As for the Coliseum, I figure I’ve written about it ceaselessly for 8 years. The issue is really up to MLB at this point. Does the Lodge want to force “progress” via a new ballpark that will inevitably price out many of the fans who currently are a big part of the A’s image? Is the status quo fine for now until whatever form progress takes is fully formed? And who will foot the bill for the Coliseum’s replacement? The bitter truth is that MLB doesn’t care much for the $12 fan, preferring to kick them to the upper deck corners where The Lodge thinks they belong. If someone protests, The Lodge can simply point out that the A’s pull in $30+ million a year in welfare and that Oakland fans should be grateful they still have a team within city limits. Progress, however it comes, will satisfy some and alienate just as many. Unreserved bleachers will become $20 reserved seats. Tailgating opportunities will be reduced. Section 317 will be much higher. At the same time there will be myriad improvements. A beautiful field throughout the whole season. Less foul territory (the most spun thing among A’s fans ever). Facilities that will make marquee players want to stay or sign as free agents. Functional scoreboards. Better food on the concourses. I have seen these things, I have experienced them, and they are good. In the end, it’s as much a choice for fans as it is for MLB. If we’re priced out of the seats that we currently have, how do we react? Do we swallow the higher prices? Go to fewer games? Pick worse sections? There is a price for all cities to be major league. In one way or another, everyone pays for it.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made the big announcements today: Super Bowl L (2016) has been awarded to San Francisco/Santa Clara. Houston was awarded Super Bowl LI (2017). Miami is officially left out in the cold until they get publicly-financed stadium improvements.
Anyone who has been following the process with even a passing interest should know that this was as anti-climactic a decision as it gets. Once a funding package for Dolphins Stadium died without coming to a vote in the Florida House. South Florida bidders and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross have no choice but to go back to the drawing board as they have to deal with future competition from Dallas/North Texas, Indianapolis, Minnesota, and in all likelihood, Atlanta (see below).
While Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium will physically host the game, Media Day, and other activities, San Francisco will host most of the peripheral events. Chief among these is The NFL Experience, the temporary theme park, which will be held at Moscone Center. The SF bid committee has not made public all of the details of the bid, but we’ll see everything emerge in the coming months. Daniel Lurie, SF philanthropist and part of the extended Haas family, put together a coalition of business interests and civic leaders to raise $30 million of pledges to host the game, the two weeks of events leading up to the game, and contributions to community groups. The list of companies in the fray is who’s who of Bay Area heavyweights, including Google, Apple, HP, Intel, GAP (yes, that GAP), Virgin America, SAP, Brocade, and others.
NFL Network anchor Rich Eisen couldn’t help but gush over the 49ers’ doing the seemingly impossible:
The fact that somebody turned a shovel for a stadium in (California) is mindboggling.
Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but Jed York and the 49ers still deserve major kudos for getting this done. They combined a steady political drive with some fortuitous on-field success to execute exceedingly well. They’re also getting the benefit of a major first-mover advantage at Levi’s Stadium. When the big game is held there, chances are the MLB’s Lodge will take a look and think, We might’ve been first movers here. (Sorry, the Sharks are still bit players compared to NFL & MLB).
York and Lurie have pitched Super Bowl L as the first truly high-tech experience, with no paper tickets and extremely connected fans in the seats. Whether SF/SC becomes a regular rotation player among Super Bowl host cities will depend largely on how well the technology works, and, of course, the weather during the game.
Not to be lost in the news is that Atlanta was approved for $200 million in G-4 funds for their crazy new stadium to replace the still-young Georgia Dome. If you’re keeping track, that’s now three stadia that have gobbled up a full-sized G-4 share: Levi’s Stadium, the Minnesota Vikings’ next home, and now the Falcons’ downtown digs. With the Packers getting $58 million for a Lambeau Field expansion, nearly all of the G-4 program money has been spoken for, with maybe one full slot or a few smaller slots remaining. The Raiders have indicated that they may not participate in the program, probably because they have to match the NFL’s cash dollar for dollar and get additional privately-sourced commitments to secure approval. The Chargers and Rams are also interested, and in the latter’s case, St. Louis is obligated to give them a ton of money if they want to keep the team in town. The Chargers and Raiders have an uproad battle to get public funds.
The Merc’s Internal Affairs folks probably got a chuckle last week when Dan Orum, the San Jose Giants’ CEO since 2012, sent the paper an email criticizing them for their coverage of the Stand for San Jose lawsuit. After Orem’s missive, IA decided to look into the case to confirm Orum’s suggestion that the team was not a plaintiff in the suit. Turns out that the Giants were an original plaintiff in the lawsuit, which has everyone scratching their heads about what Orum’s intent was.
Orum became CEO of the Giants only six weeks after the lawsuit was filed, so unless someone forgot to give him a memo or two, he should be well acquainted with the basics of the case. He was brought in to beef up sponsorships, and he may be running into resistance by local South Bay companies who are rightly confused about the little Giants’ role in the case. If Orum could somehow distance the team from the lawsuit, companies could be less reticent to commit. Of course, the paper had to go and muck that up. The SJ Giants are already in a tough spot trying to get breaks on a lease extension at Municipal Stadium, similar to the A’s current situation in Oakland.
Thankfully the lawsuit will be underway shortly, so there’s hope that much of the confusion (and frankly, obfuscation) will be cleared up through the normal legal process. As the teams and public entities continue talks into the offseason, we’ll see which parties want to be partners and which ones prefer to be adversaries.
As the MLB owner meetings were held this week in New York, the owners may have spent a lunch or two observing the proceedings in Dallas, where the NBA’s Board of Governors was deciding the fate of the Sacramento Kings and Seattle. If they paid attention, they probably noticed that there was a commissioner in David Stern who encouraged independent thought, debate, and consensus via democratic vote instead of decree (the vote was 22-8, not a bogus “unanimous” decision). By having a transparent, well laid out process for arriving at a decision with the Kings/Sonics, the matter was decided in four months. Compare that to what’s happening to the A’s, who have been in limbo for four years.
As usual, the A’s were not on the agenda at the meetings, with no reports issued or recommendations made. With the A’s continuing to get their annual revenue sharing check and keeping their expenses in check, the A’s are effectively a model franchise for MLB from an operational standpoint. Status quo it is, fans be damned.
I heaped praise on Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson on March 1st for his handling of the Kings’ situation. With no support from the Maloofs, KJ put together a big money ownership group, assembled an arena deal with public funding, and rallied the vast majority of other NBA owners to his side. The feat was positively Herculean, and will serve KJ well in his future political or business endeavors, whatever way he wants to go. More importantly, KJ created a blueprint (one based on the efforts to keep the Giants in SF) for any city to keep a team in danger of moving.
Which brings us to Oakland. At present, the City and Alameda County are at loggerheads with the A’s over the future lease, even as baseball is encouraging the City to loosen up on some negotiating points. As the months progress, chances are that the A’s and baseball will be more desperate to get a deal made since there is no other ballpark solution immediately available. It’s a calculated risk that could pay off big for the revenue-short public agencies. On the flip side, MLB won’t take kindly to the A’s being gouged by the Coliseum JPA.
Long term, Oakland is doing some of the things KJ did – for the Raiders, that is. They’re trying to build business support within the community, with the two sides holding events to determine the economic potential in the East Bay. They have a program level EIR started for Coliseum City and have worked with the Raiders and the NFL on stadium concepts. For the A’s, Oakland has trotted out three stadium sites and little else. Community groups such as Save Oakland Sports and the new Oakland Fan Pledge (which has gotten 1,179 pledges worth $2.87 million so far) have tried to fill the gap for fans. If we’re judging by the level of effort, the City wants to keep the Raiders in town a lot more than they want to retain the A’s.
City officials and others will point to the A’s ownership group’s lack of cooperation as a motivating factor. Given the hell that Sacramento fans and pols had to go through, that’s not a good excuse. Oakland should be presenting its best vision for the A’s – whatever it is – and it should be doing all of the necessary background work so that if a decision comes down in favor of Oakland or Wolff/Fisher actually decide to sell the team, the ballpark effort can use some procedural and political momentum to secure a deal and get the park built. (San Jose got an EIR certified without any promises, why not Oakland?) Without a sincere and honest effort, what are the owners supposed to think? What are fans supposed to think? At least one owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, has both MLB and NBA franchises, and there’s no doubt the others at The Lodge were picking his brain to see how the boys in Dallas arrived at their decision. They can point to a commissioner who properly guided the discussion, a mayor who cared enough to fight, and a fanbase that was small but vocal. There’s still a ways to go before Sacramento has a shiny new arena, but they’ve already crawled through the proverbial river of shit. Congrats Cowtown. Don’t go spending all $258 million in one place! (er…)
While we’re watching the A’s fight for the division title this summer, we’ll also watch the Giants and A’s duke it out in court. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Joseph Huber has released a hearing schedule for the Stand for San Jose-vs.-City of San Jose trial:
- June 6 – Petitioners Opening Brief
- July 8 – Respondents & Real Party Opposition
- July 29 – Petitioners Reply
- October 4 – Hearing on the Merits
Unless the sides decide to settle out of court, chances are that the case will drag on through the end of the year.
Less than two weeks ago, Amy Trask came on The Game’s morning show to talk about the Raiders’ ticket donation program. While there she talked up the Coliseum as the best location for a future stadium and defended Raider Nation to the hilt – as she has done frequently. So it came with some surprise that Trask resigned her CEO post over the weekend. She went out honoring the team and its fans. She could easily write a book on her 25-year tenure as a rare female executive in pro sports. Chances are that she’ll write a paean about her experiences with the Raiders instead.
Under the surface it seemed Trask’s days were numbered. With Reggie McKenzie handling the football side and Dennis Allen as his coach, Trask was marginalized to the role of figuring out the Raiders’ future stadium situation. Even then, the team got little momentum on that front as its lease was renegotiated and running towards its end. According to Tim Kawakami, at first Trask pushed for a stadium-sharing model with the 49ers, a move that would’ve been highly practical. As the 49ers pushed forward in Santa Clara, any murmurs about sharing died, replaced by a renewed push for something new in the East Bay. Mark Davis made calls to folks in the Tri-Valley about Camp Parks while Trask emphasized that the Coliseum was the best spot. Davis is working in conjunction with the NFL on the Raiders’ spot within Coliseum City, a less showy vision than what Oakland pols are promoting.
Now that Trask is gone, it’ll be up to Davis and a hired gun to sell the prospects of a new stadium at the Coliseum. Rumors abounded during the offseason that a new team president would be hired. There was even talk that Davis would give the reins to Jon Gruden, which went nowhere. It would seem that Andy Dolich would be a natural fit since he performed that kind of role for the 49ers and he’s perhaps Oakland’s biggest booster outside of the city limits. Yet Dolich took a job with recruiting firm Odgers Berndtson instead. Perhaps Davis wants to go with someone younger or someone not previously associated with the 49ers. Whatever the reasoning, it’s a puzzling non-move.
Successful stadium/arena campaigns are usually the product of a solid public-private partnership. The Giants had Larry Baer, Peter Magowan, and Willie Brown pushing for a ballpark. The 49ers had Jed York go door-to-door and two mayors, Patricia Mahan and Jamie Matthews. The Earthquakes had Lew and Keith Wolff, David Kaval, and Chuck Reed keeping San Jose’s bureaucracy from getting in the way. Miraculously, Kevin Johnson had no help from a team owner, but KJ had a history and reputation as a great NBA player to help himself within the NBA. Let’s assume for the moment that Jean Quan, Larry Reid, and Rebecca Kaplan can capably lead the public side. Mark Davis isn’t going to do the heavy public campaign himself, will he? It’ll be up to the new President/CEO/COO or whatever the proper title is to pound the pavement, rally the sponsors, gather the votes. Without that effort there’s little chance Coliseum City will get the necessary support behind it to be successful.