Category Archives: San Jose
If you haven’t heard, the City of San Jose finalized a five-year lease extension with the San Jose Giants this week. Talks were somewhat contentious for several months, as it was Giants ownership (San Francisco Giants) that spearheaded the Stand For San Jose-vs.-City of San Jose lawsuit two years ago. The relationship was so sour that the SJ Giants had to remove themselves from the lawsuit in order to repair the relationship with the City. The Giants, usually at the tops of the California League in attendance, had things pretty good with a favorable lease and a vast array of corporate sponsors to choose from.
In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that the Giants took the City for granted. In 2007 they even played the old stadium ransom game, threatening to leave if they didn’t get as much as $8 million to renovate Municipal Stadium. City let the San Jose Arena Authority manage the situation, so renovations on an annual basis were kept reasonable, a little over $1 million from that point until now.
So when the time came for the two sides to talk, you can imagine how uninterested the City was with the Giants’ sales pitch. The S4SJ lawsuit involved the Giants’ law firm, Pillsbury, and from what I heard, City was happy to let the Giants twist in the wind a little. Eventually cooler heads prevailed, resulting in the five year extension through 2018.
The lease remains dirt cheap at about $25,000 per year. In addition, the City is for the first time granting the sale of naming rights to Muni. Money from any naming rights deal will go into a capital improvements fund. The important takeaway is that the City is no longer responsible for general upkeep at Muni, nor will it be pushed into funding other improvements at Muni as the Giants had previously requested. In a related move, a deal to share parking with Sharks Ice next door was also reached.
With the coffers running low to fund ongoing facilities improvements, City has used naming rights successfully to take care of various small projects. Most recently, the venerable Civic Auditorium received a name change to the awkward sounding City National Civic, after City National Bank. And of course, there’s also SAP Center, which changed from HP Pavilion in a rather quick manner after the CEOs of HP and SAP talked it over. City National Civic’s deal is worth $240,000 a year, within the range of single-A ballpark naming rights deals. It remains to be seen if Muni will fetch more because of the Giants’ name and the size of the market or less because Muni’s elderly condition. In either case, there should be a number of local sponsors who should be expected to bid, Adobe and Orchard Supply Hardware to name two.
Or, if the parent SF Giants wanted to get really snarky about it, they could rename it Giants Stadium. Talk about planting a flag. The Sharks took over the naming rights to their practice facility from Logitech, and have been expanding that brand ever since with rinks in Fremont and uptown Oakland.
It would be silly to devote a post to every single new tidbit that comes out, so I’ll do one of those rare newswraps here.
- The East Bay Express’s Robert Gammon reported that the previous group showing interest in buying the A’s (Don Knauss, Doug Boxer, Mike Ghielmetti) is back again talking up buying the franchise. This time, they’re not alone. There could be up to three groups, including one fronted by Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber. Lacob and Guber were previously associated with the Dolich-Piccinini group in 2001. Lew Wolff continues to maintain that the team is not for sale.
- Bill Shaikin of the LA Times partly shot down the Warriors connection when he contacted Guber, who said unequivocally that he’s not interested in the A’s. Lacob and others may be interested, though Lacob is not commenting at the moment.
- BANG’s Marcus Thompson wrote a quite stirring column asking Oakland to act now to save the A’s in Oakland. Thompson also asked many of the important questions about both Howard Terminal and Coliseum City that currently have no answers.
- SFGate has a new editorial imploring MLB to make a decision, once and for all. In the column is a quote from Wolff claiming that Howard Terminal’s cost would be more than $1 billion.
Pretty heavy news day, huh? Well, not according to KCBS’s Doug Sovern.
— Doug Sovern (@SovernNation) December 18, 2013
Is there actual news to report? Why yes there is!
- The FCC is moving forward with its proposal to eliminate TV blackouts of sports broadcasts. The proposal mainly targets NFL games, so naturally the NFL opposes it.
- The 49ers struck a partnership with fellow Santa Clara resident Intel for a major sponsorship & technology deal. Intel will provide a great deal of tech infrastructure while taking control of the big northwest gate.
Finally, Bizjournal’s Nate Donato-Weinstein has been tracking the iStar development and has an update. If you’re not aware, iStar is a developer and land owner tied to the Earthquakes stadium project. While the stadium is going up west of San Jose Airport, the iStar land is in South San Jose’s Edenvale neighborhood. The plan was to take some of the proceeds of various development activities at iStar and funnel them towards the stadium. The numbers:
- 260,000 square feet of office space
- 150,000 square feet of retail
- 720 housing units
- $10 million would be funneled to the stadium
Those numbers are important because they can provide a comparison to what is being proposed at Coliseum City.
- 837,000 square feet of office space
- 265,000 square feet of retail
- 837 housing units
- 2 hotels comprising 478 units
iStar went through numerous struggles and iterations as the recession ravaged the real estate market. Now that things are on the rebound, projects like iStar are picking up again. It’s surprising that despite the fairly large scope of the project, only $10 million is being made available. That’s
one-sixth one-seventh the $60 $70 million budget for the Earthquakes stadium. Now consider that Coliseum City, whose Area A phases cover comparable development plans (other than the much greater office space) over a very long timeline. How much could the development activity realistically provide? $50 million? $100 million? While revenue sharing formulas will probably be different, there is a practical limit before eating into profitability. The Raiders stadium will cost more than 15 times as much as the Earthquakes’ new digs. Bridging the gap is the foremost issue for these stadium initiatives. Without that puzzle solved, there really isn’t much else to talk about.
I’ve been following the Twitter timelines of both Fangraphs’ Wendy Thurm and the Merc’s Howard Mintz as they covered today’s case management conference. From the looks of things, MLB didn’t exactly get what they wanted.
MLB’s strategy had been to call for a delay in the San Jose-v.-MLB case until the land option issue in the Stand for San Jose case was decided. They also wanted Whyte to grant a summary judgment against San Jose. Instead, Judge Ronald Whyte allowed for the state claims to proceed in state court, while the federal antitrust claims, which were previously denied by Whyte, can now go to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. San Jose lead attorney Joe Cotchett indicated that the appeals court filing could happen ASAP.
Assuming that San Jose’s refiling occurs shortly, it’ll be a few months before MLB makes its own filing in response. If anyone was hoping for a swift resolution, it’s not happening anytime soon. Links and more coming soon.
Judge wonders why mlb letter should be secret (us too). Keker says filled with confidential mlb financial info. We say so what….
— Howard Mintz (@hmintz) December 13, 2013
Judge Whyte indicates SJ can immediately take antitrust args to 9th Circuit, ruling coming later. Remaining state claims bumped to state ct
— Howard Mintz (@hmintz) December 13, 2013
I wasn’t there, but an courthouse observer told me that on the way out, Cotchett kept talking up the Supreme Court loudly for everyone to hear.
Mark Purdy has a new column. It’s designed to get San Jose supporters to buck up, keep a stiff upper lip, hang in there, what have you. It has a bunch of quotes from the likes of San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo and A’s managing partner Lew Wolff that trash Oakland. It’s a counterpoint to Marcus Thompson’s column from over the weekend that was meant to breathe life into the Keep-the-A’s-In-Oakland movement. Purdy laid odds, a generally weak tool to use for complicated situations like this:
Odds of the 2020 Athletics playing in a new Oakland ballpark: 25-1.
Odds of the 2020 Athletics playing in a new San Jose ballpark: 10-1.
Odds of the 2020 Athletics playing at AT&T Park: 50-1.
Odds of the 2020 Athletics playing in another part of the country: 80-1.
Odds of the 2020 Athletics still playing at decaying O.co Coliseum, with everybody still arguing about where they should move: 2-1.
Perhaps Steven Tavares from the East Bay Citizen spent too much time at Oakland’s City Council session tonight (the A’s lease extension was approved, BTW), but something in Purdy’s column flipped Tavares’s wig, leading to a litany of entertaining, rant-filled tweets. Among them:
Re: the A’s at AT&T, future feasibility of Howard Terminal, @mercpurdy is confusing his wishful thinking with reality.
— Steven Tavares (@eastbaycitizen) December 11, 2013
On the “new thinking” comment: have the A’s finally opened a dialogue with the city, county after all these years of avoiding them? #oakmtg
— Steven Tavares (@eastbaycitizen) December 11, 2013
On the ground in Oakland is a sense the city has gained a small lead with its stadium situations. Now, can they maintain and grow it?
— Steven Tavares (@eastbaycitizen) December 11, 2013
You see, here is the problem. You have one guy laying odds, and another characterizing one party as in the lead. The brutal truth is that this type of narrative is completely useless. It’s bullshit. If you scratch the surface even a little bit, any oversimplified telling like this crumbles to dust. And there’s a simple reason for this.
There is no race.
We know what a horse race looks like. The showcasing of the Expos when MLB bought the team out from Jeff Loria is proof of that. Las Vegas and Portland were used in the process, and DC was taken. We’re not seeing that here. That’s not to say that MLB and either Commissioner Selig or his replacement will end up choosing between Oakland and San Jose at some point. They well could. The problem is that MLB doesn’t like either city’s plan, so it’s not going to choose either city. You can’t have a race when the judge thinks the two competitors don’t qualify. MLB would rather intervene only when it has to, say, when the A’s lease extension talks hit a snag. Then it can breath a sigh of relief, stretch it out a couple more years, and hope that a solution materializes.
Guess what? Oakland and San Jose pols are hoping for the same thing! Oakland is hoping that Wolff gives up and MLB kills off San Jose, so that they’re the only horse left. San Jose hopes that Oakland exposes itself as incapable of getting a deal done, forcing MLB to deal with San Jose. (At least San Jose is trying to force the issue with the lawsuit, but that’s a long shot at best.) None of these rather similar hope-based strategies are predicated on getting a site and pulling together financing.
Unless San Jose and Oakland provide something MLB wants ($$$ or an equivalent), MLB doesn’t have to listen to either one. When MLB negotiated the Coliseum extension, it didn’t set a deadline for Oakland to get a deal done. Selig didn’t tell Oakland to get Howard Terminal ready ASAP – hell, he didn’t do that for Victory Court either. If any substantive talks for a new ballpark are going to take place, MLB will have to be at the table brokering everything because of the intense mutual distrust between Oakland and A’s ownership. That’s exactly what happened in Miami (hello again, Loria!), and we know how badly that turned out. Yet do you hear about something like that happening in Oakland? Nope.
Now maybe MLB’s hand will be forced if Oakland decides to go with the Raiders’ preference of demolishing the Coliseum and leaving the A’s with no obvious place to play. Then it could support Wolff and say to Oakland, you made your choice. It could explore Howard Terminal further, though I suspect it has plenty of information on which to base a decision by now. It could go to San Jose, which would mean it would have to untangle the mess made by the Giants – who I hear have spent eight figures on legal work trying to derail the A’s and San Jose so far. As far as the A’s are concerned, MLB probably views them as an unstable Third World country on another continent. It would rather not get involved.
So until MLB actually decides to give a damn, let’s dispense with this horse race narrative. It’s not helpful and it only provides false hope to fans on either side of the divide, or even those who don’t particular care for a city and just want to keep the team in the Bay Area. It’s not fair to fans, and it’s a total distraction.
The last public statement Bud Selig made on the A’s-San Jose lawsuit was at the beginning of the World Series, when he held court for the assembled national media. The session included the obligatory question on the A’s situation, which included Selig’s reflection on the lawsuit because Judge Ronald Whyte had recently thrown out many of San Jose’s claims in the case. Here’s what MLB.com’s Paul Hagen wrote then:
A judge, ruling on a lawsuit filed by San Jose against Major League Baseball, recently upheld MLB’s right to determine when and where franchises may relocate, but left open the question of whether the city of San Jose may sue for damages. Selig said, however, that this doesn’t impact the timetable for a resolution.
“I wouldn’t say so. We were very pleased with the decision, obviously. But nothing has changed,” Selig said. “We’re working on details. Look, I know everybody says it’s taking so long. But the more our group has gotten into it, the more complex it is. If people really understood all the complexities, they would understand. But it’s a situation that needs to be dealt with.”
Selig was asked if the complexity was the San Francisco Giants’ claim that they have territorial rights to San Jose.
“The complexities are all the parties,” Selig replied.
A month earlier, Selig went on John Feinstein’s radio show to complain about the A’s and Rays’ stadium problems. At the time Selig referred to the state of the Coliseum.
“It’s a pit,” Selig said. “It reminds me of old County Stadium and Shea Stadium. We need to deal with that. I’ve had a committee working on it for two or three years, and there’s no question we’re going to have to solve that problem.”
But hasn’t the committee been working on it for a long time? What’s the hold-up?
“We have, John, but I’ll tell you it’s far more complex,” Selig said. “Look, you have one team that wants to move and the other team doesn’t want them to move, and it’s a very complicated situation. Before I leave, I’m satisfied we’ll work out something.”
Now let’s pivot to the most recent revelation of a letter “formally” rejecting the A’s proposal to San Jose. MLB didn’t release the letter with the recent court filing, so we’re left to guess as to what the letter truly contained. The filing characterizes the letter as a final decision on the A’s move request. Since the news broke, several reporters have gotten unnamed sources to characterize the letter as a rejection of the proposal as written, but not a rejection of San Jose. Selig’s statements above – made three and four months after the rejected proposal letter – don’t sound like any decision, final or not, has been made.
Since we know nothing about the proposal, we can only speculate on its terms. Some of the discussion on this blog has been about the need for a greater public contribution. That may be the case, but I suspect that MLB wouldn’t focus on stadium deal terms that far afield. There’s always the matter of negotiation with between the team and the city when it comes time to write a DDA. Instead, I’m certain that the issue boils down to the overarching issue at play: territorial rights and compensation.
From the start of the San Jose talk in 2009, the Giants have never publicly stated a price. Lew Wolff has joked that he’d prefer to pay the same amount the Giants paid for Santa Clara County in 1992, which was $0. Since then, Wolff has hinted that he’d be willing to pay compensation based on actual demonstrable losses suffered by the Giants, not a big lump sum payment. Given that the Giants sell out regularly, demonstrable losses could be difficult to prove. If anything, MLB wants a serious compromise between the two sides, and isn’t satisfied with Wolff’s definition of compensation. While Wolff may be loathe to pay anything to the nemesis Giants, ponying up something is probably the only way to get down to San Jose.
At the same time, the proposal has to work within other written (and unwritten) rules MLB has set forth. Consider these additional issues at stake:
- How much additional debt does the club have to take on to make the ballpark happen?
- If the land encumbrance issues at the Diridon site can’t be resolved, what backup sites are being considered?
- Does the proposal involve the A’s staying on revenue sharing for some period of time?
- Are the A’s sticking to the small, 32,000-seat concept, or will they move to 36,000 or higher?
While all of these are legitimate concerns, I still think that it all comes down to the compensation issue. In February, Bill Shaikin reported that MLB gave the A’s temporary guidelines in order for Selig and the owners to approve the move. If there were guidelines given to the A’s, then it’s up to Wolff and John Fisher to comply with those guidelines. Otherwise they’re just spinning their wheels. Shaikin wrote then that compensation was not “among the list of matters for the A’s to resolve.” Sure, as long as the A’s are in compliance. If they proposed a different form of compensation or different terms, suddenly that issue is front and center.
If MLB convinces Judge Whyte to grant a stay in the discovery phase of the lawsuit, we probably won’t find out the substance of that letter or proposal. That would be, to put it mildly, unfortunate.
Michael McCann’s Sports Law Blog, which has been keeping track of the legal maneuverings in the MLB-vs.-San Jose case, has uncovered a bit of a bombshell (hat tip Nathaniel Grow). From the most recent filing (defendant’s section):
In fact, MLB denied the Athletics’ relocation request on June 17, 2013, one day before this lawsuit was filed. On that date, Commissioner Selig formally notified the Athletics’ ownership that he was not satisfied with the club’s relocation proposal. The sole basis of Plaintiffs’ only claims that remain after the MTD Order—the purported failure of MLB to render a decision within the initial two-year term of the Option Agreement—is therefore meritless.
MLB is arguing that the land option agreement the A’s and San Jose entered into in late 2011 is invalid, making the case moot. To back up its claim, MLB cites this heretofore (and still) unseen letter, the ongoing Stand for San Jose-vs.-City of San Jose lawsuit, and the lack of a public vote. To be clear, that last part is because Commissioner Bud Selig discouraged a vote way back in 2010 (which to this day I consider a strategic error on San Jose’s part). MLB wants to keep the letter confidential and doesn’t want to show it unless the plaintiffs agree to confidentiality.
Of course, that’s the opposite of what San Jose wants, because they’re pushing for complete discovery. From their filing:
In fact, Defendants’ sections of this CMC Statement are filled with Assertions of fact. This Court should order immediate commencement of discovery so that these “facts” (and others) surrounding the Athletics proposed move to San Jose and their reasons for entering into (and then not exercising) the Option Agreement may be explored.
MLB is fighting hard to avoid any degree of discovery.
Timing is the issue here. MLB argues that Selig sent the letter 19 months after the option agreement was signed, and that 19 months was reasonable timing for a decision, even though MLB started formally addressing the ballpark issue and San Jose two years earlier. Did San Jose file the lawsuit upon receiving the letter, or did MLB send the letter preemptively, knowing that the lawsuit was coming? I knew the lawsuit was coming the week it was filed, and I figure MLB did too. Addtionally, what other communications could be brought up that could contradict the letter?
It is of course possible, and perhaps even likely, that MLB would reconsider the move [to San Jose] in the future.
While we’re left to wildly speculate on everything, let’s consider the idea that MLB doesn’t like San Jose’s proposed contribution of land-and-infrastructure, and wants more than that to seal the deal. And understand that all the activity we’re seeing is happening because of the lawsuit. Everything should be understood within the context of the lawsuit. For better or worse, that’s where we are. I won’t be in town next Friday for the hearing, but I’m sure it’ll be juicy.