Miley says the R-word

You’d think someone actually reads this blog.

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley wrote an op-ed in the Trib on Monday, imploring the City and County to consider multiple avenues towards getting the Coliseum complex in the best position to retain the Raiders and A’s. One of the avenues Miley pushes is retrofit. Or renovation.

Yes, renovation. Now let’s be clear on the idea’s prospects. For baseball it’s a nonstarter because of the foul territory, sightlines, and numerous other reasons, so you can stop dreaming about a Bash Brothers-era Coliseum as a possibility. Instead, Miley wants to renovate the stadium for the Raiders, which would leave land available for the A’s to build a new ballpark. The rationale, Miley notes, is that the funding gap that looms over the project would be significantly reduced if a less costly renovation project were undertaken instead of a whole new stadium whose price tag approaches $900 million – for only 56,000 seats. Renovation would cost around $500 million, a figure I’ve touted here and there. The Raiders and the NFL apparently have no interest in renovation, but in some cases they have signed off on improvements projects like Soldier Field, Lambeau Field, Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, and most recently Sun Life Stadium in Miami – all cases in which the market was hostile towards subsidizing a new stadium.

I have advocated for this solution for years, mostly because the Coliseum works best going forward as a football venue. Mt. Davis may be ugly as sin, but its bones are good and it would require only a relative handful of improvements to get it up to 2016 status. For instance:

  1. Remove the upper nine rows of the lower deck, east side. Open the concourse, add in bars with views of the field and drink rails.
  2. In some locations, install “living room-style” loges along the concourse.
  3. Remove a couple rows to provide better views from the wheelchair areas.
  4. Redo the club seating sections to create two small tiers. Club would be glassed in and provide views.
  5. Remove the entire upper deck, transform it into a party deck.
  6. Modernize the first two levels of suites with new technology.
  7. Transform the upper (third) suite level into another club and party suites.
  8. Freshen up all concourses and other public areas.

You’d end up with around 10,000 seats on the east side including 60 suites and 3,000 club seats. That leaves another 45,000 seats, 20-40 suites, and around 2,000 additional club seats (inclusive of total capacity) to account for. Getting to a $500 million project is doable, as long as you aren’t trying to pile on the square footage. Keep most of the structure fairly basic and concentrate on keeping the amenities in a single, focused area.

Early stages of construction at the Coliseum in 1965

Early stages of construction at the Coliseum in 1965

See how there are man made hills in the picture above? There’s no square footage in those hills, no electrical, plumbing, or HVAC. That’s how stadia were kept relatively cheap. New stadia are all about building out as much of the venue as possible, so much that modern football stadia have twice as much square footage as their predecessors. Mark Davis has said on multiple occasions that he doesn’t need a stadium as fancy as Levi’s or AT&T Stadium, so he should be obliged.

Two-deck bowl built adjacent to existing east stand

Two-deck bowl built adjacent to existing east stand

As the east side gets a makeover, the original bowl is torn down. The old berm is reshaped for the new lower seating bowl at the end zones. The west sideline has space underneath the lower bowl for locker rooms, maintenance, and storage. That leads to the new seating.

  • Lower 3/4 deck: 21,500 seats
  • Upper 3/4 deck: 20,500 seats
  • Field or mezzanine club: 1,500 seats
  • 40 suites: 500 seats
  • Standing room: 1,000 spaces

The key to this layout is that there’s only one concourse in the new bowl. That’s a bit of a nod to Levi’s, where the lower concourse is vast. The second deck is not really cantilevered over the first deck. Behind the second deck is a two-level suite and press addition. Total capacity is 55,000 seats and could have 4,000 more seats by adding 6 rows to the upper deck.

Stanford Stadium and the Citrus Bowl used similar approaches, and while those builds weren’t as complicated as this, the same principles apply. Done aggressively, this shouldn’t take more than 18-24 months to complete. Obviously there would be questions about where the Raiders would play temporarily and the A’s displacement, but those are for another post. Want a renovation? Here’s an example, if Mark Davis is actually interested in a solution.

Raiders could stay at Alameda HQ through Feb 2019 even if they leave Oakland next year

Update 10:00 AM from Steven Tavares:

Original post:

When the Raiders balked at paying past due rent at the Coliseum last month, we figured it had something to do with the lease extension, but we couldn’t figure out the rationale. Now, looking at the new lease terms – set to be voted on by the Coliseum JPA Friday morning – there’s little that stands out. There are clarifications on how to handle signage and advertisements inside the stadium, along with updated parking revenue definitions. The $400,000 in back rent will be paid. Then I saw this:

7.5 Additional Payments for Use of Permanent Training Facility and Training Site. If the Raiders announce a relocation or sign a lease to play football games outside of the City of Oakland or Alameda County (a) for the 2015 season prior to March 1, 2015, then, commencing on March 1, 2015, or (b) for the 2016 season prior to March 1, 2016, then, commencing on March 1 of the year following such announcement Raiders shall have the option of continuing to use the Permanent Training Facility and Training Site for up to thirty-six (36) months, up to and including February 28, 2019 as determined in Raiders’ discretion. For the first two years, Raiders shall make an additional payment to Licensor each month for continued use of the Permanent Training Facility and Training Site in an amount equal to the fair market rental value of the Permanent Training Facility and Training Site on a monthly basis, as determined by a mutually agreeable licensed commercial real estate broker based on comparable rental space. Raiders and Licensor agree that the fair market rental value shall not exceed $525,000 per year for the first two years. For the third year, Raiders shall pay Licensor an amount of One Million Fifty Thousand Dollars ($1,050,000), payable monthly in equal installments. In the event the Raiders are engaged in good faith discussions concerning an extension of the Operating License or other arrangement for the Raiders to play future Football Events in the OACC Stadium as of March 1, 2016, any obligation to make payments shall not commence while such discussions are continuing and the thirty-six (36) month period and obligation to make additional payments shall begin when Raiders agrees to play football games at a location other than OACC Stadium for the 2016 season; provided, however, that if Raiders agrees to play football at such other location, Raiders shall pay such rental payments retroactively from March 1, 2016.

Compare that to the same clause from the 2014 lease, which allowed for 24 months of training facility use and ended on February 28, 2017. Now they’ll get an extra year, giving them until early 2019 to stay. That could prove useful if the Raiders head to LA for the 2016 season, but the Carson and/or Inglewood stadium plans fall apart in the interim.

It’s a great situation for the Raiders, allowing them to stay fairly cheaply in Alameda while entertaining stadium concepts in Oakland, LA, etc. Allowing the team to be in Alameda past the 2018 effectively gives Mark Davis a three-year grace period, even if the Raiders leave Oakland starting with the 2016 season. If they stay at the Coliseum and engage in further stadium talks, rent on the facility is abated.

Can, kicked.

The grace period allows Davis to not have to look for or build a training facility in LA right away. He could continue to keep the team training in LA, fly them down for “home” games at a temporary stadium on the weekend, and fly them back up Sunday night. The stadium plan in Carson has to be modified to include a second team training facility, though chances are it wouldn’t be ready until at least spring 2018, based on what we know about the political landscape involved and construction lead times.

Let’s be clear about this: a training facility is not make-or-break item when billions of dollars of stadium speculation are the order of the day. It’s still a critical part of team operations. That’s where players will be 5 of 7 days every week during the season, and where they’ll report going back to OTAs. Now it makes more sense that the Raiders are funding improvements to the weight room and other parts of the facility, since they know they’ll be there for a few more years.

As usual, it’s Davis looking out for his team first. Maybe he’s not so different from his dad after all.

Oakland Planning Commission postpones Coliseum City vote to 3/11

Update 3/11 – After another round of comments, the Planning Commission unanimously approved the Specific Plan and Zoning changes. There will be additional public meetings (see schedule below), including City Council sessions on 3/31 and 4/21. The last meeting is when the EIR can be certified.

Original post:

The night started with a report on affordable housing, and pretty much ended with a discussion about affordable housing. Item #3 in tonight’s Oakland Planning Commission meeting was Coliseum City, but the debate among the commenters wasn’t much about environmental impacts or zoning as was expected. Instead it was something of a face-off between Raiders fans who believe that Coliseum City will bring much needed jobs and an economic boost to the area, and East Oakland residents and advocates who fear the displacement effects CC could bring.

Public comments were taken for a good two hours. Many commenters had signs or stickers that said “Public Land Public Good.” They focused on trying to get living wage jobs as part of the deal, truly affordable housing for locals, and rent protections against broad speculation. One speaker noted that 70% of residents in the Coliseum’s ZIP code are renters, so there’s likely to be a solid base of potentially affected citizens.

If that wasn’t enough, the Commission announced that the information packet for the agenda item wasn’t complete, so they would be forced to move the item to a special meeting on March 11. Oral comments were still taken during the meeting, and written comments will be accepted through the 11th, but the vote will be taken next Wednesday.

That won’t be the only vote, as the process must continue. Several other public meetings are planned, culminating in two City Council actions three weeks apart. A first reading of zoning changes and adoption of the Specific Plan are slated to occur at the end of March. A final vote to certify could occur as early as April 21. Here’s the list of remaining meetings:

  • Planning – 3/11
  • ALUC – 3/18

City Council

  • CED – 3/24
  • 3/31 – First Reading of zoning, adoption of Specific Plan
  • 4/21 – Second Reading of zoning

That last date is 60 days after the EIR was distributed, which makes the approval process technically kosher. Since tonight’s meeting was rather light on EIR discussion, I’ll cover that separately tomorrow. I fully expect the EIR to be certified and approved, if only because it’s so vague on what the actual project is.

Until then, I’ll leave this Keith Olbermann interview of Jerry Springer (h/t @StadiumShadow). Skip to 4:21 for the relevant stadium discussion.

Tomorrow I’ll get into many of the EIR details that weren’t covered in the meeting.

P.S. – In case you’re wondering, the green arrow on the chart below shows where Coliseum City is in the CEQA process. Keep in mind that this has nothing to do with funding the project or getting teams to sign on.

ceqa_process_chart-arrow

P.P.S. – The real highlight of the night was this:

Coliseum City: The campus that wants to be a downtown

Quick – can you guess how many downtown ballparks are in Major League Baseball? Downtown ballparks?

Would you guess there are 18?

Well, you’d be wrong. There are 15 downtown ballparks, half of baseball. They are:

  1. AT&T Park, San Francisco
  2. Busch Stadium, St. Louis
  3. Chase Field, Phoenix
  4. Comerica Park, Detroit
  5. Coors Field, Denver
  6. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati
  7. Minute Maid Park, Houston
  8. Nationals Park, Washington
  9. Camden Yards, Baltimore
  10. Petco Park, San Diego
  11. PNC Park, Pittsburgh
  12. Progressive Field, Cleveland
  13. Rogers Centre, Toronto
  14. Safeco Field, Seattle
  15. Target Field, Minneapolis

All of these parks have one thing in common besides being located in a city’s central business district: they opened in the last ~25 years. Some are considered part of the portfolio of new classics, such as AT&T, Petco, PNC, Camden Yards, and Safeco. The rest, while perfectly good venues, are outclassed in one way or another. Many were anchors of large-scale redevelopment projects. Some were wildly successful (AT&T) while others couldn’t quite deliver on their promise (Comerica, Busch). Some are on the fringes of downtown. Others were placed on land that had a hard time being developed into more common uses (residential, office).

Missing from the above list are the most iconic older ballparks and their replacements. Fenway Park is in the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood, 1.5 miles west of Boston’s compact downtown or central business district. Wrigley Field is 4 miles from Chicago’s Loop. Yankee Stadium is 8 miles from the southern tip of Manhattan, progenitor of the term downtown. Instead, these parks are in established neighborhoods.

5.2 miles from the Coliseum to downtown Oakland

5.2 miles from the Coliseum to downtown Oakland

Having legacy parks built away from the urban core was largely an economically driven decision, since it was often easier for team owners to assemble land away from downtowns. A century ago up through the end of WWII, parking was not a major issue, so the complications of having huge parking lots or garages didn’t come up. It was the pre-NIMBY area, with no environmental impact reports or CEQA. To say it was a simpler time would be an understatement. The ballparks thrived, gave the neighborhoods character, and became the landmarks we know today. Some of them at least. More likely, peers like Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field or Crosley Field in Cincinnati were phased out because they were too small, lacked parking for postwar suburban fans, or other reasons. In those situations, owners often turned to big, modern multipurpose stadia, usually in downtowns. As those modern replacements turned into ugly relics, they were themselves replaced by “retro” ballparks that harkened back to that simpler era. But they were situated in downtowns, not neighborhoods, so they didn’t quite have that magical character Wrigley and Fenway have. To date there hasn’t been a neighborhood park concept developed anywhere in MLB during the modern era.

..

An early rendering of Coliseum City

An early rendering of Coliseum City

Which brings me to Coliseum City. Throughout this entire Coliseum City process, backers have been selling the idea of this new, exciting, urban landscape, marked by glittering venues and tall high-rises. It looks like a second downtown for Oakland, doesn’t it? That’s a sentiment I had been hearing a lot since renderings by JRDV were released. Today this was confirmed by Andy Dolich, who wrote in an excellent piece at CSN Bay Area that the A’s have a good bargaining position for a future Oakland ballpark. The thing that bothered me was this:

Oakland is a gritty yet highly competitive city with suburbs, exurbs, and even far away counties with fans, businesses and broadcast entities that will support a coherent stay-at-home strategy for the Raiders and A’s. The desolation of China Basin turned into the Miracle of Mission Bay with AT&T Park as its nucleus. That same dream can turn into reality in and around the Oakland Coliseum site.

Let’s be clear about something. Coliseum City is not China Basin. Any attempt to draw similarities between the two is fanciful. China Basin is less than a mile from downtown and only 1/4 mile from South Park, long the ground zero for startups in SF. Combine that proximity with the touristy allure of the Embarcadero and you create that “miracle.” Oakland has a lot of land available at the Coliseum, but it doesn’t have any of those factors. The Coliseum complex is more than 5 miles from downtown Oakland. That’s nearly the length of Alameda, or longer than the Bay Bridge.

Coliseum City was conceived as a grab bag of everything a city politician might want to see developed on his/her watch: high quality office space, high-rise hotels, a fancy transit hub, housing, and yeah, those sparkling new sports venues that will keep the teams from escaping to other markets. Other than the presence of the existing BART station, there’s little to truly propel development. The complex is not a downtown, it’s an industrial area, so convincing developers and financiers to take a chance on the project has proven exceedingly difficult.

Take a look at the road plan below. The complex is somewhat screwed, because it’s hemmed in by a creek, railroad tracks, and the Nimitz Freeway on three sides. The lack of streets feeding into it creates a handful of major chokepoints. Tying them all together is a new loop road that traverses the complex. Downtowns don’t have loop roads. They have main streets. A loop road is something you’d find at a campus development. The infrastructure in place in and around the Coliseum is more suited to a theme park than a downtown.

Road plan for Coliseum City

Road plan for Coliseum City

A true downtown has a spine, a major arterial road through which transit and cars run. That’s not part of the Coliseum City, nor can it be. The major streets are a freeway plus San Leandro Street and Hegenberger Road, all of which form the perimeter of the core (downtown) area. BART also doesn’t run through, and it only provides one stop that can only access the “downtown” via a new pedestrian bridge. Downtown Oakland is served by two BART stations, both of which can be accessed from various streets and directions. Downtown SF has four stations.

plan

An elevated concourse serves as the spine of the plan and provides open space

See what I’m getting at here? The lack of multiple ingress/egress points makes this a complete nightmare in terms of access. Imagine a dual-event scenario at the Coliseum in which both the stadium and arena are in use (you could also use a 36,000-strong sellout baseball crowd as a benchmark). Both have events that start at 7 PM on a weeknight. Now imagine two-way traffic added to the mix: a few thousand office workers leaving while another few thousand residents arrive. That’s bustling, right? There’s another term for it: gridlock. Established downtowns have a street grid that by its very design can help mitigate that gridlock. Coliseum City doesn’t, and it shows in the EIR’s traffic study. Only small mitigation measures are identified, and some intersections have no mitigation at all. As a result, the main intersections or gateways all end up with Level of Service (LOS) F grades, the worst you can get. Traffic is a dual-edged sword. When in a neighborhood it’s a sign of vitality. It’s also a major annoyance. Expanding BART at the transit hub would help encourage patrons to use transit, but that’s not going to be for everyone.

The spine is an elevated grand concourse that connects the BART station/transit hub to the football stadium and extends to the rest of the development via stairways. It could even run across 880 to near the Estuary. While it will deliver people from the hub to the rest of the complex, it will also serve as a huge wall separating the complex in two. I’m sure the idea is to evoke the wildly successful High Line in New York, a former elevated train line that was converted into a greenbelt on the West Side. The concourse is going to be much wider and serve more uses than the High Line, which at most points is rather narrow. The High Line snakes through Chelsea, a little piece of heaven in a part of Manhattan that lacks parks. The thing about the High Line is that people generally don’t use it as a main way to move between places. It’s a diversion. CC’s concourse is meant to be a main drag, so much that it has a streetcar embedded within. I’m going to guess that if the development doesn’t expand much beyond the Coliseum complex, that streetcar is a nonstarter.

Concourse at Coliseum City

Concourse at Coliseum City

The High Line in Manhattan

The High Line in Manhattan at dusk

There’s a philosophical question to ask about Coliseum City. If so many people are talking about it in terms of a second downtown, what does that mean for the current downtown? Oakland’s downtown/uptown areas have survived the recession, riots and protests, and have gotten funkier and cooler in the process. It becomes a matter of how Oakland balances out the needs of a downtown that grew up on its own versus a planned campus development designed to resemble a downtown.

When you look at old parcel maps of the complex, you can see dotted lines where streets were supposed to be laid out. Originally the area was supposed to become a subdivision, carrying over the street numbering convention found on the other side of the tracks. I can’t help but think that the project would be more feasible and ultimately successful if its proponents tried to make it a real neighborhood instead of a planned campus. That would be the truly retro move: a neighborhood that works in scale with a ballpark, that doesn’t have pie-in-the-sky planning goals, that echoes the growth of other neighborhoods in Oakland. Yes, there would be parking as that’s a necessary evil piece of infrastructure. The plan would be complementary to downtown instead of competing directly against downtown. Chances are it would be more egalitarian than Coliseum City. If Oakland really wants to stand out, to make something special, it should stop looking jealously across the Bay for something to copy like a waterfront ballpark. A neighborhood ballpark, done the right way, would be that unique plan. Oakland could do that if it wasn’t so starry-eyed. Honestly Oakland, what would you rather have: a second competing downtown, or Wrigleyville/Fenway?

P.S. – When we saw the plans, Jeffrey (Editor at large) and I talked over some of the possibilities. One thing that we agreed on was that Oakland might have the best chance of developing the whole thing if Coliseum City attracted one or two major employers to take much of the office/R&D space. Say that a growing tech company in San Francisco wanted to escape the ultra-high rents there, but wanted space to expand on their own terms instead of leasing multiple floors in different buildings. Coliseum City presents one of the few opportunities to build a campus close to SF. It’s a potentially great deal for Oakland: high-profile company relocates to Coliseum City, leases a large amount of space, has its own BART station. In a way that feeds into the idea that Coliseum City is really a campus, because instead of 12 or 20 different companies taking up different amounts of space, you have one. The company has its own big commuter shuttle buses and a fleet of private Ubers coming in and out, just like Silicon Valley.

No dome? Smaller stadium? That’s a start.

BANG’s Matthew Artz continues the Raiders stadium debate with the new old revelation that the Raiders want a smaller stadium, one that would seat around 55,000.

Yes, it’s a familiar story. We’ve heard it before. Fewer seats, fewer suites, slightly less swanky club areas, all of it should contribute to a lower cost solution for the Raiders and the NFL. And finally, the City of Oakland appears to be coming around, instead of clinging to pie-in-the-sky aspects in the Coliseum City plan. At the very least, the idea of a retractable dome is fading away.

The dome made it into several city planning documents, but Mayor Libby Schaaf said last week that it was no longer under consideration, noting that it didn’t make sense to build an enclosed stadium in a city with such a good climate.

That alone should save some $200 million. Dropping 10,000 seats should also save around $200 million. A rough projection today would be $800 million. Or $978 million. Either way it’s way too expensive. If the goal is a less fancy, simpler structure, there’s little reason for the budget to approach $1 billion, even with the higher construction costs in the hot Bay Area market. I showcased two renovation projects in Florida: the recently completed $200 million Citrus Bowl project and the underway $400 Sun Life Stadium plan.

Another good example from the college ranks is the new McLane Stadium at Baylor University. A 45,000-seat venue, McLane Stadium is a pretty, three-decked, partly roofed horseshoe on the banks of the Brazos River in Waco, TX. The stadium was completed for only $266 million.

McLane Stadium facing Brazos River (image from Wikipedia)

McLane Stadium facing Brazos River (image from Wikipedia)

It’s not the cost effective record of $100 million set at Stanford for a new stadium, but it’s impressive in its own right. There are some obvious visual differences between pro and college football venues, such as the expansive use of bleacher seating in college stadia. These stadia also have smaller scoreboards, club lounges, and locker rooms than their NFL peers. McLane Stadium has a total of 860,000 square feet, less than half the space of a new NFL stadium like Levi’s, whose square footage totaled 1.8 million.

Pro football stadia have achieved such girth over the last 30-40 years through the proliferation of suites and clubs, plus greater buildouts at the field level, a place once reserved for locker rooms and plain old storage. The previous generation of stadia may have had 4-5 levels. A modern stadium may have 9 levels thanks to stacks of suites and clubs. Since all these stadia are getting taller, there needs to be more structural concrete and steel, which contributes further to exploding the cost. The end result is a more complicated structure that takes much longer to build than before.

Living in Silicon Valley, since the recession ended I’ve seen so many cranes and buildings under construction it’s dizzying. Unlike the original Valley land rush, developers and companies aren’t building simple one-story tilt-up offices. These are 6-10 story campus affairs as standard, or crazy concepts like Apple’s spaceship campus or the newly reimagined, glass-canopied Googleplex. Apple and Google are perhaps two unique examples of companies building visions that would make the NFL palaces look modest by comparison. Mall giant Westfield is undertaking a $600 million expansion of Valley Fair. Local cheap hotels and motels are frequently at capacity during the weekdays, filled up by general contractors coming from the Central Valley and Southern California. While it’s a great situation for the Bay Area economically, it also means greater competition for labor than ever before.

If Oakland and the Raiders are truly going to come up with a cheaper solution, they’ll need to follow some of the lessons realized in the college process. That means building simpler, and just as important, building faster. Instead of taking 3 years to complete a stadium, it would behoove both parties to figure out ways to cut down the construction time to 2 years or else in order to save on labor, especially union labor here in California. Employing a design-build process to streamline construction and permitting would also help immensely.

Doing all of this would require a level of coordination and competence heretofore not seen in the East Bay. While the county continues to consider the ENA, the ground beneath Coliseum City shifts. Chances are good that whatever gets built there will look nothing like the renderings provided by JRDV and sponsored by the City. That’s standard practice in urban planning, so no one should be surprised. With the clock ticking on LA, it’s probably a good idea to get moving on something everyone can agree on.

Wolff wants surface parking over garages and development at Coliseum

Here we go again with that nasty word: infrastructure.

Lew Wolff told Matthew Artz today that not only was he not interested in Coliseum City, he felt there isn’t enough space at the 120-acre Coliseum for development the City desires and the surface parking the team needs. That’s a major revelation because Wolff’s vision not only precludes other development in what’s considered a potentially high-density transit hub area, it goes against the City’s goals for the Coliseum.

There’s a lot that’s being unsaid by Wolff, who demurred on questions about financing and multiple venues. Let’s focus on what he said.

The only way it could work, Wolff said, would be to build multilevel parking garages, but that would leave fans waiting in long lines to exit the garages and begin their drives home.

‘Parking is a key issue for us,’ Wolff said. ‘We want surface parking surrounding the ballpark wherever we build it unless we’re in the heart of a downtown.’
‘We said it before he even came on the scene that we are going to 100 percent control our own destiny, period,’ Wolff said. ‘We don’t need a third party involved.’

First off, let’s be clear about how much land is available: 141 publicly owned acres in the area bounded by 66th Ave, Hegenberger Rd, 880, and Damon Slough. Take away 18 for the existing Coliseum or its replacement, and 8 for the arena if it stays. There’s other stuff like the sewer interceptor and power lines, but we’ll leave that out for now. The remaining land totals 115 acres.

As Andy Dolich notes in the same article, garages are ill-suited because they’re expensive and don’t get utilized well. Parking garages cost around $20,000 per space to build. ROI can be difficult to achieve unless those garages can be filled nearly everyday. But the City is supposed to fund infrastructure like garages at Coliseum City, so why is this such a big deal? The surface parking requirement, which Raiders owner Mark Davis has also communicated at times, stands in the way of the City’s plans for Coliseum City, whether you’re talking 120, 200, or 800 acres. The Coliseum City plan has 13,000 event parking spaces in it, only 4,200 of which are surface spaces mostly in the south lots out to Hegenberger.

Blue and dark gray are garages, medium gray is surface parking

From the Coliseum City Specific Plan: Blue and dark gray are garages, medium gray is surface parking

Shouldn’t 4,200 (or maybe 5-6,000) spaces be enough for most A’s games when taken with a few thousand new garage spots?  Especially if the TPMP (Transportation & Parking Management Plan) were conceived in a way to manage traffic from these various lots and garages? Especially if it’s only a single venue such as a ballpark? Let’s say that the A’s average 30,000 in attendance at a new ballpark. According to BART, 15-20% of fans take the service. Let’s make it 20%. That means 24,000 will come in cars. At 3 per car, the A’s would need 8,000 spaces. So they’d need some 2-3,000 additional spaces, maybe half of those in garages, the rest in a remote lot on the other side of the complex where people would have to walk through the retail/commercial area to get to the game. That way you have everyone covered:

  1. Fans who want direct access to the ballpark and the quickest in-out (4,200 surface spaces adjacent to ballpark, south)
  2. Fans who want to have dinner/drinks at a restaurant nearby (3,000 garage spaces, perhaps with validation, center)
  3. Fans who want cheap parking and don’t mind walking through the business district (3,000 remote surface spaces, north)

If you look at the parking depiction above, it’s not hard to see how that would come together. Put the ballpark where the football stadium is and the remote parking where the ballpark is and you have the basic concept. The idea presupposes that the arena is no longer there either.

The problem, as ever, is that no one wants to pay for any infrastructure like parking. A 2,000-space garage is bad enough, and it’s merely a piece of the $300 million of infrastructure. Wolff has suggested that he’d take care of the Mt. Davis debt, but if he has to pay for infrastructure too it starts to become too much. The City has suggested a slew of taxes that would pay for it through huge Mello-Roos and infrastructure financing districts, but that isn’t certain. Some of those taxes would eat into A’s revenues, so again it becomes a question of cost-benefit for the A’s.

In the end, if the A’s and the City/County are going to make this work they’ll have to come to a compromise. Whether the A’s claim a large piece of the land for ballpark and parking and leave the rest for the development, or the A’s control development rights to the whole thing, they’ll have to come half way. That also means the City will have to dial down its pie-in-the-sky dreams of a bustling second downtown anchored by multiple sports venues for something a little less ambitious. There probably is a way to accommodate both Wolff’s and Oakland’s goals. It’ll take a lengthy negotiation, which I should remind you, hasn’t happened yet. In fact, we’re not even close to negotiating yet.

P.S. – Would you believe that until last year, there were no major pro sports venues in the Bay Area with adjacent or nearby garages? It’s true. The Coliseum, which houses three teams, obviously has no garages. Neither does AT&T Park, which has surface parking across Mission Creek from the ballpark. SAP Center has multiple surface lots, including an elevated lot next to the arena that some might mistake for a garage. Candlestick Park had a small peninsula of parking next to it.

That changed when Levi’s Stadium opened last year. As part of the deal, an 1800-space garage was built directly opposite the stadium on Tasman Drive in Santa Clara. That garage has been notorious for excruciatingly long waits to leave, thanks to its single point of entry/exit. Wolff knows this because his Earthquakes opened Levi’s last summer, Quakes fans as guinea pigs. As we saw with the Sharks-Kings Stadium Series game over the weekend, parking and transportation is still a puzzle that hasn’t been figured out by the 49ers, Santa Clara, and VTA.

Other ballparks in suburban locales (Dodger Stadium, Angels Stadium) also don’t have garages. PETCO Park, Chase Field are downtown ballparks with attached garages that work well in concert with other nearby parking options. Coors Field has practically all surface lots available as parking. Downtown ballparks not only have garages or plenty of nearby parking infrastructure, they have the proper street grids and built-in traffic management needed to support large events. The Coliseum City plan is not set up like a new downtown with many ways in and out. It’s essentially the same plan as before, which has led to poor level of traffic service (LOS) grades in the Coliseum City EIR. It’s natural for Wolff to want to avoid the Levi’s situation.

Dolphins show off $400 million renovation project

Not long after the Orange Bowl was played on New Year’s Eve, the Dolphins embarked on an ambitious, $400 million plan to rip apart about one-third of Sun Life Stadium. Dolphins President Tom Garfinkel has been regularly posting photos of the progress.

The plan is being carried out in two phases. The first takes off the upper corner sections permanently, leaving the structural raker beams behind. The lower sideline sections are also being removed, to be replaced with new sections that will eventually bring the first row 24 feet closer to the field than before. All of the seats will be replaced with bigger, all-turquoise versions. The lower deck renovation will allow the Dolphins to offer new luxury seating types between the usual club seat and suite choices. Some will be mini suites at midfield, others will be behind the end zone. Concourses are also being redone.

First phase renovations to be ready in time for 2015 NFL season

First phase renovations to be ready in time for 2015 NFL season

Second phase improvements include new scoreboards in the upper corners where the seating sections used to be, and the big reason for the project: a huge open air canopy that will cover virtually the entire seating bowl and outdoor concourses. Given the often rainy and hot weather in the first half of the NFL season, this was considered a necessary addition. The canopy is also a must for the NFL if future Super Bowls are to be held there (the last was held in 2010).

sunlife-2016-outside

Final renovations including seating canopy

Final capacity is projected slightly above 65,000, a cut of 10,000 seats. Despite the reduced seat count, the venue is better positioned to bid for the Super Bowl and the College Football Championship game, which is up for bid separately from the normal bowl rotation (the stadium already hosts the Orange Bowl).

Most importantly, this project is being financed privately, mostly through luxury seat/suite sales, not through bonds, PSLs, or other unsavory means. Stephen Ross campaigned for public funding for the better part of 2 years, threatening that the Super Bowl wouldn’t come back without yet another South Florida giveaway. He eventually gave up his quest, seeing that it would be better to get started on the project and get the Super Bowl. Finally, Miami-Dade County held firm and wasn’t ripped off the way they were by the Marlins and Heat.

In May I covered the much more modest, $200 million renovation at Orlando’s Citrus Bowl. While that project lacked much of the luxury amenities being added to Sun Life, the actual teardown and rebuild was more extensive, gutting and replacing the entire lower bowl. I wondered why the Raiders weren’t pursuing this path at the Coliseum. I can say the same now that the Dolphins are going down a similar, albeit more NFL-appropriate path. A Raiders renovation would be a sort of hybrid of the two, not as swanky as Miami nor as basic as Orlando. Over time I ballparked the cost at $500-600 million, basically the same amount as the funding gap the team and Oakland/Alameda County face at Coliseum City.

So why is no one talking about a Coliseum renovation? Maybe the image of the Coliseum is beyond repair even with a renovation. Maybe the fact that the field is 20 feet below sea level makes it a bad choice for forward-thinking CEQA guidelines about sea-level rise or storm-related flooding. Neither of those is a good excuse. If everyone involved in wanting to keep the Raiders (team, government, fans, investors) isn’t merely about playing games, there’s no reason why this kind of option wouldn’t be investigated thoroughly. It’s cost-effective, proven, and preserves the very site that so many Raiders fans hold dear.

P.S. – While we’re at it, why didn’t the 49ers incorporate some of these amenities into Levi’s Stadium? We’ve already seen these put into arenas and some stadia over the past few years.

P.P.S. – The Dolphins are applying for $50 million in sales tax revenues. A decision to provide that funding along with funding for other sports venues has been delayed by the Florida legislature. Even if that’s approved, Ross is funding $350 million of the project, a better ratio than most American stadia. At least Ross dropped the charade and got started on the project.