FanFest 2015

Rain has become a constant at FanFest, the Coliseum was at its muggy, leaky best. That’s probably just as well, since it motivates the players (and hopefully many fans) to head down to the desert for Spring Training. If only this rain came more frequently…

Anyway, if you’ve been to FanFest since its 2011 reboot, you know how this works. The main event is held inside the arena, which can hold thousands for the numerous Q&A sessions. The first two sessions involving player intros, Billy Beane and Bob Melvin draw a huge crowd. Unlike previous FanFests, the crowd was restricted to sitting in a third of the lower bowl. The arena’s upper level had VIP events.

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Ray Fosse and Glen Kuiper telling a broadcasting anecdote about on-camera plumber’s crack

Most everything else was held in the Coliseum, especially the East Side (Mt. Davis). FanFest may well be the only event that stretches the East Side’s facilities to its limits. Concessions were open along the regular concourses, and smaller Q&A sessions were held along the lower concourse near the foul poles. An interesting backstory is that for several weeks, today’s date was held for another event, a concert at the arena. Only late in the year did the arena become available for the big sessions. If the arena wasn’t available, the big sessions would have been held in the stadium somewhere, even though there were no TVs and the scoreboard system was not available.

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Panorama from back of section 117

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“Baseball 101″ set up for intimate Q&A sessions, this one with David Forst

The project is underway, though the teardown of the old one isn’t complete. The fascia signage along the plaza level hasn’t been removed yet. Much of the work is being done in the press box, where the control is being retrofitted and expanded. The expansion is larger enough that the A’s have to install a server room of sorts above the press box, in some free space along the value deck. For some reason, the scoreboard project was delayed two weeks by the City of Oakland, who for some reason took some extra sweet time with the permits. Apparently no one told Permits the project was coming. #welp

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State of the scoreboard project

The rain and winds threatened to wreak havoc on the whole affair, but thankfully they lightened up significantly midway through FanFest. With so many autograph lines shifted indoors to the East Side, it was much easier to move between the stadium and arena.

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East Side had many of the autograph stations and fan booths

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Plaza of Champions cleaned up thanks to better circulation between the two venues

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Autograph line

That left one major line behind home plate, the one leading to the Clubhouse Tour. For most of the duration of the event it was quite long, so I passed. Even though I’ve been in the clubhouse many times over the years, I still like walking through there because it takes me back to Moneyball.

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Line for clubhouse tour

The line died down when the marquee last Q&A session started at 3, so I rushed across to the stadium to quickly walk through the clubhouse. Why? Well, I wanted to provide a comparison between the Coliseum clubhouse and the new clubhouse at Hohokam Stadium.

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Coliseum clubhouse

Clubhouse

Hohokam clubhouse

Do you get a sense of how much bigger the Hohokam clubhouse is? It’s much wider and perhaps 50% larger.

This FanFest, I came too late for the BlogFest interview sessions, not that it matters much since I don’t write about the team much. Instead I floated between the two venues, catching up with fans along the way and making observations. A big thank you to Zak Basch for getting the credential to me after the deadline, even if I didn’t use it to its fullest.

My last tidbit is some advice a fan solicited from Coco Crisp, meant for all the new A’s this year.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

P.S. – The A’s posted on social media that FanFest attendance was 15,000 today.

Coliseum City Specific Plan Final Draft Released

The City of Oakland released the Final Draft of the Coliseum City Specific Plan last week. It’s 211 pages long, packed with information about how Coliseum City fits within Oakland’s broader planning initiatives, as well as important guidelines for future development at the Coliseum area that any project, whether it’s 120 acres or 800 acres, will have to comply with. A 216-page staff report for a February 4 Planning Commission meeting was also made available. Consider that the addendum to the Specific Plan. Note, however, that the EIR was not released. The EIR will be released around February 20. No reason was given as to why the documents are being released separately this time, as the Draft versions were made available as a two-part concurrent release in August.

I’ll recap what I consider important details.

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We keep talking about infrastructure, and it’s no less important this time around. Moving those eyesore power lines stretching around the complex will cost up to $32 million (up from $16 million). Two overhead and two underground relocation options were given. The most elegant solution, which would run the power lines underground parallel to the sewer interceptor, would require the creation of an additional 75-foot easement (each line needs 15 feet of separation from the next one, there are four). Combined with the sewer interceptor, that’s 100′ x 0.6 miles of easements. The other alternatives called for relocating the power lines above ground along either the west perimeter and either keeping them above ground or running them underground near Hegenberger. While running underground next to the sewer line would be the most visually pleasing option, the loss of 5+ acres of developable land right in the heart of the complex makes me think it’s a potentially difficult sell, especially since it would cut into land set aside for the football stadium or the existing arena footprint. The finished product could be made better by putting a pedestrian-friendly boulevard and grassy median there, a new community space sort of like the Panhandle next to Golden Gate Park. Naturally, it could serve as additional parking during events. The power lines in the south parking lots would also need to be temporarily relocated to accommodate construction of the football stadium.

pge-relocations

Infrastructure cost estimates have been revised. Area A, a.k.a Coliseum District, has a price tag over $236 million. Area B, the area immediately on the other side of the Nimitz, is estimated to cost $135 million.

Additional important line items:

  • New BART Bridge – $12.7 million
  • New and improved Transit Hub (BART platforms, Amtrak, bus) – $75 million total
  • Site/block development costs (demolition, utilities for new development) – $36 million
  • Streetcar system – $23 million
  • Bay Cut/Estuary Park (outside new arena) – $11 million

That’s $370 million, not including the revised estimates for building out Areas C, D, and E. Putting that in “120-200 acres only” terms, the cost is $236 million not including additional necessary land acquisitions.

Funding for infrastructure could come from the creation of a Community Facilities District or Infrastructure Financing District, Mello-Roos property taxes, and possible revenue from the venues themselves. Hotel and sales taxes are also being considered. Other types of districts and even general obligation bonds are in the discussion, though I would expect that such ideas won’t travel far (Chapter 7, Pages 159-166). And of course, there are various types of local, state, and federal grants that may be available – though they won’t cover anywhere near the required amount.

Speaking of Areas C, D, and E, land ownership has been a topic of interest throughout this process. A current map showing all publicly owned and privately owned parcels is on page 27. It illustrates how much of a patchwork the area is, and the challenge in finishing the project outside the core area A. A strategy to acquire the private properties has not yet been articulated. There are approximately 100 private property owners within the full project area. No indication was made that eminent domain would or should be used.

land_ownership

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Based on a set maximum of vehicle trips within Area A, the projected amount of ancillary development is envisioned as follows:

  • 4,000 residential units
  • 408,000 square feet of retail
  • 1,500,000 square feet of R&D/commercial

If residential development were cut back, the other two categories could be increased proportionately. Depending on the total number of residential units built, some percentage (15%) is expected to be set aside as affordable housing. At this point it is unclear what kind of subsidy (public or private) would be required to support the 600-860 affordable units.

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To protect against a 16-inch sea level rise (most of the area is barely above sea level), a new storm drainage and flood protection plan will have to be instituted. This could include a seawall at the Union Pacific railroad tracks. It also probably means that the fields for both outdoor venues would not be sunken as the Coliseum is. Instead they would be at grade or higher.

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Here’s a surefire win:

“Sports teams should be encouraged to provide ad hoc transit between the game venues and other transit stations, in order to avoid congestion at maximum event times.”

The teams’ parking is already being compromised. Surely they’ll lap this request for team-provided shuttles right up.

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Much of the rest of the Specific Plan is devoted to detailed zoning changes. I’m not going to get into that, we all know what the big picture is here: sports and mixed-use. The EIR is due in two weeks. Expect a much longer post for that, along with a lot of questions from community groups.

FanFest and BlogFest on Sunday 2/8

It’s that time of year again. The Super Bowl takes over the nation’s imagination, followed by baseball, waking from its annual hibernation. That means FanFest, which will be held on Sunday, February 8. Last year’s FanFest was also held on February 8, which was a Saturday. The Giants chose to hold their FanFest on February 7 this year, so this avoids a date conflict.

BlogFest will also be held again, starting at 10 AM. Like last year, bloggers will be taken to a suite on the East Side, where we will be interviewing:

  • David Forst
  • Jesse Chavez
  • Ike Davis

Oh, the questions for Forst will come aplenty. The blogger interviews are usually held after the regular media session. And of course, there will be the regular player interviews and introductions held inside Oracle Arena. Tickets are still available online. Since the event was restarted in 2011 it has sold out. The Coliseum will also be used again, which will give everyone an opportunity to check out the state of the scoreboard project – though the system is not expected to be fully built or operational by Sunday.

A fairly heavy storm is forecast for the weekend in the Bay Area, so the soggy FanFest day tradition should continue. Check the weather reports and plan accordingly.

If anyone wants to meet up inside the Coliseum (not the arena which will be cramped) to talk stadia and Coliseum City, let me know.

McKibben to become next JPA Executive Director, Raiders want ENA canceled?

BANG’s Matthew Artz reports that Scott McKibben will be the next Coliseum Authority Executive Director, filling a position that had been vacant for over six years. JPA counsel Deena McClain has been the JPA’s interim executive director since 2008, when Ann Haley left. Zennie Abraham notes that the vote was unanimous.

McKibben says his goal is to “keep the A’s and Raiders in Oakland.” Having someone with sports experience not limited to negotiating leases is important for the Coliseum’s future.

Andy Dolich endorsed the hire, and McKibben apparently had several recommendations, far above and beyond the previous candidate, the controversial former Assemblyman Guy Houston.

Having McKibben in place will allow the JPA to move forward in concert with the City of Oakland and Alameda County, the partners in the JPA which have been at cross purposes throughout the Coliseum City process for the last three years. If McKibben can lead a team including McClain and the City and County working on the deal terms, they’ll have a much better chance at success. It’s a much better situation than a year ago.

More interesting is a tidbit from Steven Tavares at East Bay Citizen, referring to AlCo Supervisor Scott Haggerty:

However, Haggerty made it clear Raiders ownership does not favor an extension of the ENA. Over a lengthy lunch recently with Raiders owner Mark Davis, Haggerty said, the team lobbied for the county to vote against the extension with New City. Progress is being made, though, added Haggerty.

Why would the Raiders want to kill the ENA? They wanted to provide a competing bid at the last minute, which may indicate that they already have a developer on board for whatever they’re planning. If the Raiders (like the A’s) now want little to do with Coliseum City and New City Development, it would make sense to cut the middleman out altogether, though that would open up a lot of questions about how to steer redevelopment of the Coliseum. The EIR and Specific Plan are moving forward, and the latter piece is valuable to Oakland for planning purposes. But the feasibility studies that have been done on Coliseum City to date would be lost. New applicants like the A’s and Raiders would commission their own supporting work. It’s almost moot at this point since the ENA is set to be extended again, yet from now on it’s worth questioning the value of New City’s place in all of this if both teams would rather go it alone.

If the teams would prefer to not work with the Coliseum City team, it’ll be up to McKibben and the JPA to figure out a way to bring the teams together. In all likelihood, both teams will provide competing visions with little-to-no room for each other. How the two visions can be merged to both sides’ satisfaction along as the City/County – well, that’s not like scaling Mt. Davis. It’s more like trying to climb Mt. Everest.

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P.S. – Remember those shady looking campaign contributions from Lew Wolff to Rebecca Kaplan during last year’s mayoral campaign? Turns out they were legal. Oh well.

P.P.S. – The Orange County Register reports that Mark Davis teamed up with an investment firm last September in order to buy the Hollywood Park site. That attempt failed. 

P.P.P.S. – Mark Purdy has a different telling of the ENA situation.

Did Haggerty interpret the talks wrong, or is someone from the Raiders covering something up?

Shrinkage

When Coliseum City was originally conceived it was supposed to look something like this when fully completed, 800 acres in all.

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800 acre concept

 

Last last year we heard from Floyd Kephart and others that the project would be scaled back to around 200 acres.

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Coliseum City at 200 acres

 

Now we hear that it’s down to 120 acres, which is basically the original Coliseum complex plus the Malibu and HomeBase lots leading out to Hegenberger.

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120 acres

 

With the Raiders and A’s signed up to offer competing bids, the team working on Coliseum City now plays the role of facilitator and competitor, all at once. A single stadium’s footprint will be 14-20 acres. Two stadia would cover 35 acres. When you add the necessary streets and easements for other infrastructure, that should leave 60-70 acres to develop. I was not terribly optimistic from the get-go about the financing coming through, so I wasn’t surprised when one financier after another bailed out on the project. Now that the project’s size has shrunk a whopping 85%, the questions about its viability are even more pointed, especially when trying to pitch it as a way to keep both the A’s and Raiders in town. Just as we saw over the last year, we’re going to let the numbers (or lack thereof) prove these concepts out. If the Raiders can make it work with whatever developer they’re trying to get onboard, bully for them. If the A’s plans prove most feasible, then they get the spoils of developing one of the last large infill developments in the Bay Area. And if Kephart’s New City group somehow gets capital and the teams on board, they will have truly worked a miracle.

However, ask yourself this: If capital wasn’t biting at 800 acres and two stadia, why would they bite at 120 acres and two stadia? 

P.S. – The infrastructure price tag on the whole 800 acre project was supposed to be $344-425 million. Now that it’s 85% smaller, did that cost also proportionately decrease? Nope. The cost of infrastructure for the 120 acres, including the new transit hub and utility relocations, is $170 million. Factor that into your thinking. Some of that figure will be offset by grants, though really only for the transit hub. It’s still a nine figure infrastructure price tag.

 

New info about Coliseum scoreboard project

People have been asking me everyday about the state of the new Coliseum scoreboard project. Until this week, all I could say was that most of the work would be happening in February and March. That’s partly because the Coliseum’s two scheduled major events: AMA Supercross last weekend, and Monster Jam on February 21.

Jane Lee’s column on Monday answered a question about the scoreboards.

Any update on if the A’s will have new scoreboards this year?
— Mike S., Alameda, Calif.

According to David Rinetti, the A’s vice president of stadium operations, the process for implementing the new HD video boards began Dec. 22, the day after the Raiders’ final home game, and is on track to be completed by the time gates open for an April 4 exhibition game against the Giants. Along with new scoreboards, new ribbon boards will also be on display by this time.

The new scoreboards will each measure approximately 36 feet tall and 145 feet wide.

Today a new Clubhouse Confidential blog post shed more light on the project. Renderings were also provided.

Rendering of new display package

 

To put things in perspective, each new board, which will take up the entire scoreboard frame in LF and RF, is almost 50 yards wide and 3 stories tall. There will be no permanent ad signs, though you can be sure that ads will be fixtures in the new video presentation. Still, there’s plenty of room on the boards themselves. Daktronics’ 13HD LED tech is being installed, just like the recent installations at Levi’s Stadium, Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, and Jacksonville’s EverBank Field. If you’ve been to Levi’s, the new Coli’s boards compare with Levi’s south end zone board, which is 48′ x 142′.

Behind north end zone

Behind north end zone at Levi’s Stadium (view of south scoreboard)

Each pixel is 13 mm in size, or roughly a half-inch for those of you stubbornly stuck on Imperial measurements. That plots the pixel count at 854 x 3400, a very long panel though not so tall it can do Full HD (1080p). That’s the literal constraint the scoreboard frames provide. Considering that most people will be at least 150 feet away from a clear view of either scoreboard, I doubt anyone could tell the difference.

Ribbon boards are also being installed along the front of the plaza level seats. Those will be 5 feet high (Update: 3’6″ high) by 415 wide. 5 feet high is a bit curious, because it’s taller than the 3-4 feet high ribbon boards often seen elsewhere. I wonder if the boards will obstruct views from the lower concourse more than the already low-hanging second deck does. They only go from the end of the deck (Sections 200, 234) to the edge of the infield (211, 223) so at least the prime viewing areas won’t be affected. For those of you wondering about how ads and other information will be presented, consider that with few permanent signs remaining, ad space on both the ribbon boards and main scoreboards will be done on a sort of time-share basis. Sponsored promotions will appear far more prominently than before, which should lead to higher advertising rates by the A’s and the JPA/Raiders, who split revenue during Raiders games.

According to the Chicago Tribune’s 2014 visual comparison, each of the two new main scoreboards would place in the middle of the pack among MLB ballparks, though having two is something no ballpark can boast (nor should it). Recently there’s been a sort of Jumbotron arms race, with many displays less than a decade old being replaced by larger, crisper versions.

SB Nation comparison from May 2014

Chicago Tribune scoreboard comparison from May 2014

Yes, for once a key feature at the Coliseum will be superior to that at China Basin. However, the Giants have the scoreboard front and center, a much better placement than at the Coli. We all know what sits beyond CF in Oakland.

So say goodbye to this old relic, and hello to new technology at the Coliseum, which is always welcome.

The old scoreboard and DiamondVision combo

The old scoreboard and DiamondVision combo

One thing to keep in mind about all this scoreboard hubbub is that the A’s and Earthquakes (same ownership group) have been working on three different scoreboard projects in the last year: at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, and now the Coliseum. If there’s anything they’ll have a lot of experience with going into a new ballpark in Oakland, this is it.

P.S. (2:45 PM) - I checked with David Rinetti. He confirmed that the ribbon boards are 3’6″ high, so there shouldn’t be any obstruction issues. He also told me that the old scoreboards parts are being recycled, so they won’t be donated or auctioned off. Much of the original equipment has already been hauled away.

The Manfred era begins – Did anything change yet?

Over the weekend, the commissioner’s torch was officially passed from Bud Selig to Rob Manfred, starting the Manfred era in earnest. Manfred’s tenure as commissioner will depend largely on how he deals with specific business and big picture issues the sport needs to address. Selig handed Manfred a highly effective business model, surpassing $9 billion in revenue in 2014 along with the lengthiest uninterrupted labor peace of the four major pro sports. Certainly, Manfred could keep the ship pointed in the same direction while keeping the motor running, and there would be few complaints from the owners who elected him. But people don’t get commissioner’s jobs just to be caretakers; they’re expected to have their own agenda to push baseball beyond its current audience. That’s the part we the public don’t know much about yet.

In Manfred’s letter to fans, he mentioned that his top priority is to bring more people into the game, by greater youth outreach to foster the next generation of players and by streamlining the game to make it more palatable to casual fans, especially younger ones. The letter is quite high-minded, masking Manfred’s reputation as a tough yet also conciliatory negotiator. Manfred’s in his mid-50’s, which places him in the baby boomer era, seeing the worst of the 60’s and 70’s as a youth: concrete multipurpose donut stadia. His predecessor helped get rid of nearly all of the cookie cutters, though Manfred played the heavy in many stadium talks. League attendance has largely plateaued with only Oakland and Tampa Bay stuck with bad parks, so if he and the other owners want to see continued growth at the turnstiles, they’ll have to do something about those two teams.

CBA talks will begin before or during the 2016 season, and unless it goes badly there should be a deal struck by the World Series. That’s 20 months away. If talks are contentious, they could take out the 2017 World Baseball Classic or worse. We shouldn’t expect to see contraction on the table, as it won’t help extort new stadia out of those two markets, plus it will only anger the player’s union, who will see 50-80 jobs (not including hundreds of minor league jobs) disappear. And no, adding a player or two to every roster is not a good substitute. There will be some calls for greater revenue sharing, along with greater pushback against it by the big market teams. Players will want earlier free agency, tweaks to arbitration, and other perks. Talk of a soft or hard salary cap has largely died. Umpires signed a new CBA over the weekend, allowing their agreement to run concurrent with Manfred’s term, one less hassle for the new commish.

That doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing. There remain numerous legal disputes to work out, internal ones like the Nats-O’s-MASN deal, and external issues like the minor league antitrust and television blackout lawsuits. As a long time insider, Manfred is keenly aware of these battles, and of the future CBA negotiations.

That leaves little room for Manfred to take on the A’s and Rays’ respective plights. Manfred and Selig have remained committed to the Bay Area while rather noncommittal to Oakland. Quoth Selig from John Shea’s sendoff profile:

“I think two teams can exist in the Bay Area. Certainly, (A’s owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff) want to stay in the Bay Area. When I say Bay Area, you understand there are several alternatives.”

Manfred from two weeks ago, asked by Bill Shaikin about the A’s:

Not much difference there. Manfred’s going to leave both Oakland and San Jose dangling, knowing he has a plan A in Oakland if public officials choose wisely, and a plan B in San Jose if not. Plan B is not considered an easy plan because of the Giants, yet if a solution can’t be found at the Coliseum, Manfred will have to come up with a solution that works for both the A’s and Giants.

This site is coming up on 10 years old. I never thought I’d be at it this long. As I’ve said on multiple occasions, I’ll keep following the story where it leads. That’s Oakland, San Jose, Fremont, Mesa (for spring training), wherever it may go. A’s fans deserve nothing less than as complete coverage as this site can provide. Thanks for hanging in there, friends.

P.S. – Manfred aroused discussion yesterday when he said that he’d like to forego defensive shifts. I don’t consider that much of an likelihood, since there really aren’t rules that dictate how to set up defenses right now, so creating new ones would be an inevitable mess that would be difficult to enforce – as if certain rules aren’t already improperly enforced. Instead, I look at Manfred’s statement as something that got baseball in the national discussion at the beginning of Super Bowl week, a difficult thing to do. It is Manfred’s job to help promote the sport, after all.

P.P.S. – More from Manfred in an AP interview:

“I don’t think of the Oakland issue as Oakland-San Francisco. Oakland needs a new stadium. There’s a new mayor in Oakland. We just prevailed in the San Jose litigation, so things are moving around a little bit out there, and I’m hopeful we can make progress on getting a new stadium in Oakland in the relatively short term.”