News for 10/19/12 (plus Young trade thoughts)

Update 10/20 3:00 PM – The A’s front office decided to kick off the hot stove league early by trading IF Cliff Pennington and 3B prospect Yordy Cabrera to Arizona for CF Chris Young (not that Chris Young) and $500,000. This has immediately led to speculation regarding the future of current CF Coco Crisp, who is scheduled to earn $7 million in 2013 and has a $7.5 million club option for 2014 ($1 million buyout). Young is due $8.5 million in 2013 and has a $11 million club option for 2014 ($1.5 million buyout). Cabrera was flipped to Miami for reliever Heath Bell. 

Pennington was either going to remain a mediocre shortstop or become an okay second baseman surrounded by many other okay second basemen in Oakland. That makes a trade for Young a steal, even if there’s no obvious place for him at the moment. Young came off a subpar 2012 season, especially compared to his 2010 All-Star campaign. September callup Adam Eaton (not that Adam Eaton) appears to be the CF of the future for the Snakes.

The A’s still have something of a logjam at 2B going forward. Jemile Weeks, Adam Rosales, Scott Sizemore, and Eric Sogard are on the 40-man roster. Grant Green waits in the wings. Expect more trades.

….

Much to go over in this edition.

  • The NHLPA rejected the NHL’s most recent CBA proposal, which would have had the owners/players revenue split at 50/50. The union responded with three different proposals which would’ve more gradually brought the split down to 50/50. In response, the NHL has cancelled all games through the end of October. At this point it seems highly unlikely that the proposed 82-game compressed schedule could be pulled off. [NHL | Washington Times/Steven Whyno | NJ.com/Charles Curtis]
  • The Raiders received a 24-hour extension to the weekly TV blackout deadline imposed by the NFL, and were able to reach the goal of 85% of seats sold for the game Sunday vs. the Jags. Next potential blackout date: the next home game against another Florida team: Tampa Bay. (Also – kind of weird that the Raiders are playing all three Florida teams this season.) [CSN Bay Area/Paul Gutierrez]
  • The City of Reno was able to get a ballpark built in the middle of the Great Recession by getting a $55 million short-term loan. That loan will be due before the end of 2014, and the City and Reno Aces are scrambling to refinance the loan. Property taxes used to fund a TIF plan for the ballpark have dropped drastically, forcing the two parties to come up with something else. The Aces, which are owned by Indiana Pacers owner and mall magnate Herb Simon, are willing to pay $1 million in rent per year, with the rest of the $3 million annual obligation split between the City’s general fund, a ticket tax, whatever meager redevelopment money can be scraped up, and other public sources. Simon has threatened to move the team if no deal can be met. The Aces won the 2012 AAA championship and were awarded the AAA All-Star Game for 2013. [Reno Gazette Journal/Brian Duggan]
  • Lew Wolff came out against San Jose’s Measure D, which would raise the city’s minimum wage from the state’s $8/hour to $10/hour. Wolff’s argument is that the hike is unfair to hotels and restaurants in San Jose, which could potentially lose business to Santa Clara and other neighboring cities. The hike would also presumably affect seasonal employees at the two stadia Wolff wants to build, the Earthquakes Stadium and Cisco Field. Wolff played down that issue, saying that there’s less direct competition there to affect the Quakes/A’s. The City Council is split on the measure, while Mayor Chuck Reed has come out against it, along with the Chamber and Restaurants Association. My take? I hope it’s passed in San Jose, because like the plastic bag ban that was passed a couple years ago that spurred similar bans throughout the county, it could lead to a minimum wage hike countywide. As I’ve mentioned before, I have relatives who work low-pay, low-skill hotel/restaurant jobs, and they could certainly use the hike – though they don’t work in San Jose proper. [San Jose Mercury News/John Woolfolk]
  • Speaking of the Earthquakes, their groundbreaking ceremony is Sunday at 11:30 AM at 1125 Coleman Ave, San Jose. At least 5,500 have RSVP’d for the event, which should break a Guinness record. Walkups are welcome if they bring their own shovels.
  • Teams are announcing their ticket prices for the upcoming season. At least in terms of season tickets, the A’s have no change from 2012. The Cubs have announced modest drops in response to a large attendance dropoff, and the crosstown White Sox have announced even bigger cuts. [Chicago Tribune/Paul Sullivan | ChicagoNow, James Fegan]
  • The A’s announced their 2013 promotional schedule, and while it doesn’t have everything yet, there are now six fireworks nights instead of the usual five on the slate. There will now be two in August, on the 3rd and 31st.
  • The Port of Oakland placed its executive director on paid leave pending an investigation into improper spending and expensing by Port employees. This included a $4,500 tab at a Houston strip club, and numerous other suspect charges in the US and abroad by the Port’s maritime director James Kwon. Abuses could be so widespread as to be institutional. Yesterday, port workers scheduled a protest against fiscal mismanagement. The blowback from this investigation could curtail or place a trained eye on certain Port activities, such as (pre) development at Howard Terminal. Knowing the Port’s history, it’ll probably be more of the same. [SFGate/Matier & Ross | KTVU | SF Business Times/Eric Young]
  • Cal may have trouble paying off the $11.6 million annual debt service on Memorial Stadium because of lackluster premium seat sales. This smells a lot like the Mt. Davis deal. [Daily Californian/Justin Abraham]
  • The Warriors further explain their SF arena vision, with the help of Snøhetta architect Craig Dykers. The form will be “soft” and “lozenge-shaped”. The Fiscal Feasibility Report unveiled earlier this week can be viewed here. [Golden State Warriors | SocketSite]

More as it comes.

News for 8/30/12

Here we go. We’ll start off with some minor league news.

  • The Santa Cruz Warriors continue to work with the City of Santa Cruz to get their tent arena built in time for the 2012-13 D-League season. Final approval hasn’t happened yet, let alone construction, so the D-League put the Surf W’s on a loooo-o-ng road trip before the team’s first home game around Christmas. That gives the two parties 16 weeks to get the arena approved, built, and buttoned up. No pressure. The Surf W’s could play on the road for additional games until the project is completed, or if there are extensive delays or the project isn’t approved, hopefully there’s a backup plan like the San Jose Civic Auditorium. Cost for the downtown arena have already ballooned from $4 million to $5 million because of foundation issues that were identified. Ticket prices have also been released. [Santa Cruz Warriors; Santa Cruz Sentinel/J.M. Brown]
  • Head north on Highway 1 and you’ll eventually get near the Cow Palace, where the San Francisco Bulls are quietly fixing up the old arena. $2 million of updates will be paid for by the team, including a center-hung scoreboard, a first for the Cow Palace. A schedule and ticket prices have also been announced. I may have to ring up the Bulls to see if I can get a sneak peek of the place. [CSN Bay Area; SF Bulls]
  • The first debate for the at-large seat on the Oakland City Council happened last night, and the two main candidates, incumbent Rebecca Kaplan and challenger (and current D5 council member) Ignacio De La Fuente both had something to say about the tenant teams at the Coliseum complex. [East Bay Citizen; Steven Tavares]

On the issue of the city’s professional sports teams, Kaplan and De La Fuente differed, if not, in terms of their priorities for retaining the A’s, Raiders and Warriors in Oakland, with Kaplan being more optimistic. “Let’s face it, the A’s don’t know the way to San Jose,” said Kaplan, and adding the current Coliseum City proposal will bring shop owners, bars and restaurants to the city along with fans and conventioneers to the area, said Kaplan, while also creating jobs.

De La Fuente was less sanguine saying he would only turn his attention to the Coliseum once crime in Oakland is sufficiently quelled. “I learned from my mistakes,” he said, referring to the botched return of the Raiders in 1995. “They are in the business of making money,” De La Fuente said, believing the public sector should no longer have a role in financing stadiums.

  • The Earthquakes announced their general seat pricing and posted a seating chart. The big ticket item is the establishment of a 1,400-person supporters section in the closed end, which will have its own bar and storage area for the flags and banners they use during the game. Interestingly, the language is “1,400-person”, not “1,400-seat”, which leads me to believe that this area will be a standing terrace. That’s fine since fans in the supporters sections are expected to stand anyway. I’m pretty sure it’s the only to fit 1,400 people in what looks like a pretty small space between the elevated seating bowl and the pitch. [SJ Earthquakes]
  • The Quakes also announced today that they are negotiating with three Fortune 100 companies on naming rights for their 18,000-seat stadium. Fortune 100, eh? Club president said that some of these companies are tech or Silicon Valley firms. Recently, new MLS stadia have netted $2-3 million per year in naming rights, which if matched by the Quakes would go a long way towards paying off the stadium. FWIW, I don’t think any local tech company should be ruled out, including Cisco (and no, that doesn’t mean Cisco is dumping the A’s). [SJ Mercury News/Elliott Almond]
  • On Saturday I’ll be in Berkeley for the first Cal football game at the rebuilt Memorial Stadium. I’ll be sure to get there early to take lots of pictures and document the experience. Somehow I was able to buy one of the last available $19.32 tickets for the opening game. I’ll be in the south end zone, a mere 5 rows up. As an aside, I was somewhat surprised at how many tickets remained for the game. I expected a sell out long ago. One thing to consider is that we’re the only market with three FBS (D-I) college football teams. Combine that with small or not-terribly-fervent fanbases and two NFL teams, and it’s easy to see why our general reaction to college ball is a collective “Meh.” [UC Berkeley]
  • On a related note, the Pac-12 Network launched two weeks ago and is still negotiating carriage deals. Comcast is not an issue since the cable provider is a partner. The issue is working out a deal with DirecTV, which is not only the provider with the most regional sports and college networks, but also the provider of choice in most bars throughout the country thanks to NFL Sunday Ticket. DirecTV purportedly rejected a deal of $0.80 per subscriber/month, leaving many fans up and down the left coast without many opening week games. Dish Network, Verizon FiOS, and AT&T U-Verse customers are also affected. [SF Business Times/Eric Young]
  • The State Controller reversed a slew of land transfers between the cities of Milpitas, Morgan Hill, and their respective (and now defunct) redevelopment agencies. That doesn’t bode well for the Diridon ballpark land transfer, though it has to be pointed out that the Controller has already ruled once in San Jose’s favor, saying that Santa Clara County went to far in holding tax increment funds that were due to the City. [Merc /Tracy Seipel]

Finally, I have to thank a reader out there for giving me four prime tickets behind the A’s dugout for Wednesday’s day game against the Angels. I’m only going to use one, so if anyone’s interested in joining me and talking baseball and ballparks or economics, reply with a comment or send me a tweet.

More tomorrow.

Earthquakes Stadium Groundbreaking on 10/21

Prior to tonight’s Quakes-Rapids game at Buck Shaw, the Earthquakes announced that the long-awaited, oft-delayed groundbreaking will finally occur on October 21, before the home finale against the LA Galaxy.

20120825-182147.jpg

Quakes President David Kaval makes the big stadium announcement. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed (in blue) was also there in support.

Knowing how long the fanbase has suffered waiting for the Quakes’ permanent home to be built, the team is making the groundbreaking a big public event. They’re inviting every fan to come to the ceremony and participate, in hopes of breaking the Guinness record of 4,532 simultaneous “groundbreakers” at a similar ceremony in India. Sounds like fun. Will the Quakes have enough hard hats on hand?

Update 7:00 PM – The San Jose Earthquakes have put up a press release for the event, which will be at noon on October 21. Fans can RSVP for the ceremony here.

News for 6/21/12

Good stuff in this edition.

  • Save Oakland Sports is having one of its regular meetings next Monday, June 25 @ 6 PM, at the Red Lion Hotel, 150 Hegenberger, Oakland.
  • CBS Radio and Cumulus (parent of KNBR) announced a new sports radio network that will launch in January. The network is expected to feature talent currently on CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network. A key talent on the latter is Jim Rome, whose daily TV show launched in April. Rome’s radio show is syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks (a News Corp. subsidiary), so there’s some natural friction there. I have to think that Rome came to CBS-SN with the idea that he might jump to this new radio network too at some point, though at some $30 million per year, his radio persona doesn’t come cheap. Both of the KNBR stations were identified as future network affiliates for the CBS Sports Radio, which creates a bit of a juggling situation for Cumulus. Will Cumulus continue to pay decent money to be an ESPN Radio affiliate and carry some Fox Sports Radio programming on the side? If not, does that free up ESPN Radio to move to The Game? And how does an ESPN Radio relationship conform with The Game’s cozy relationship with Comcast Sportsnet? Fantasy radio operators, start your typewriters.
  • Oakland’s City Council approved a $1 billion plan to finally remake the Oakland Army Base. Unlike some of the more glamorous or controversial plans that have been proposed (movie studio, casino, big box retail, auto row), this one will stay true to the base’s largest neighbor: the Port of Oakland. The plan will include new infrastructure, warehousing by ProLogis, and a logistics center. Every so often the base has come up in discussion here as a potential stadium site, but it’s an idea that’s never had legs within City Hall.
  • Greg Jamison’s quest to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes has hit a big roadblock in the form of a lawsuit by the Goldwater Institute. Now there are questions as to whether Jamison, who is not a billionaire, can pull off the acquisition without the sweetheart deal approved by the City of Glendale that would subsidize the team’s continued operation at Jobing.com Arena. The franchise, which is owned by the NHL at the moment, is being forced to lawyer up to complete the sale. If that can’t happen…
  • The City of Seattle and Chris Hansen are getting ready to finalize their new SoDo arena plan. Hansen would pay around 60%, with the remaining 40% coming from public sources. The political minefield is being negotiated right now, as the City Council doesn’t want the plan to come to a public vote, and the Port of Seattle is objecting because it fears that the arena will adversely impact port operations. Any team (NHL, NBA) that relocates to Seattle would play temporarily at Key Arena while the new arena is being built.
  • This week’s cautionary tale about public stadium financing comes from Chester, PA, where not only has a MLS stadium not been a development catalyst, the stadium tenant Philadelphia Union missed a $500k PILOT payment in 2010.
  • The BCS will have a four-team playoff starting in 2014. Semifinal games would rotate among the four current BCS sites, with the championship game going to the highest bidder among them.
  • Jim Caple has another one of his ballpark column series, this time an elimination tournament of all 30 MLB parks. In the tournament, fans can vote online for their favorite ballpark in each matchup. We’re at the semifinal stage, with Fenway Park (seeded #2) facing off against AT&T Park (#3) and Camden Yards (#4) vs. tourney Cinderella Miller Park (#24). The Coliseum was seeded #28 and lost in the first round to Target Field (#5) by a whopping 91% to 9% with over 60,000 votes, which is about right. Don’t feel bad though. New Yankee Stadium also lost in a landslide. The Coli’s Mt. Davis was also awarded Worst View. Finally, Caple gets a shoutout to Shibe Park, which ended up #8 in his list of places he wishes were still around.

Happy reading.

Notes on 6/19/12 SJ City Council Session

I got to the session just as public comments were ending. YES!!!

Four artificial turf soccer fields would be built on land previously reserved for a BART maintenance yard.

Council has their questions, though they seem to be on the verge of approving the deal with few reservations. Observations:

  • One of the key issues is financing. The $10 million shortfall in funding would be covered by the sale of commercial paper (with either HUD approval or from city reserves) and a Parks Trust Fund loan of up to $8 million, or both.
  • The loan or other funding would be paid back by a projected $500,000 in annual revenue from renting out the fields. The Quakes would be paid at least $333,000 every year to manage the stadium.
  • It should be noted that the land that the Quakes stadium and the new soccer fields would sit on would remain City-owned in the end. The Quakes paid a $2 million option at the end of 2010 for the land, and would pay another $5 million. Under the previous agreement, the land would be deeded back to the City.
  • The picture from the previous post had shown three soccer fields. There will be four, and they would be artificial turf.
  • The Earthquakes would partner in the facility.
  • The Quakes would move their youth development soccer academy from Danville to the facility.
  • Team would also give away $78,000 in Quakes tickets annually to the community.
  • Councilman Don Rocha would prefer one of the fields be grass, citing his 8-year-old daughter’s tearing of her ACL on an artificial turf field elsewhere in the county. Staff indicates that if a single grass field were instituted they’d have to do a new revenue pro-forma and re-bid the project, temporary delaying the project. The facility’s business model is based on rapid turnover, which is impossible with grass fields. Note: the Quakes second team isn’t allowed to use the Quakes’ training field.
  • Councilman Xavier Campos would like some anti-gang nonprofits to have access to the fields, perhaps via a new scholarship program being put together by the City and the Quakes. Mayor Chuck Reed counters that the facility will be revenue driven, which could make an equal-access facility impossible. (*tension*)
  • Hunter Storm, the Quakes, and the City have had an ongoing dialogue regarding the development.
  • Each of the districts would provide $100,000 towards the construction of the facility.

Update 4:16 PM - Item approved unanimously, with an amendment regarding the availability of an extra suite for low-income or underprivileged residents also approved. Interestingly, Mayor Reed “rallied” staff to get both the stadium and public fields built by 2014, not 2013.

One other Cisco Field-related item – The City Council/Diridon Development Authority unanimously approved a resolution which allows for an extension of the Property Based Improvement District, defined as essentially Cisco Field, HP Pavilion, everything in-between, and properties north to Julian Street. In addition, properties within the district would be assessed $4,000 per year. Previously, a vote was taken among property owners. 91.4% were in favor.

Another Airport West land deal + Muni budget item approved

Well, there goes a potential backup plan.

San Jose is getting ready to restructure the land deal (also see rendering) at the Airport West (FMC) property. In February, the City approved the Earthquakes Stadium project, which is to be located on the southern end of the property. Originally, the Wolff-Fisher group planned to build offices and perhaps a hotel on the remainder of the land. Now that remainder will be developed by South Bay developer Hunter Storm, with the section closest to the train tracks set aside for new soccer fields adjacent to the Earthquakes training pitch.

Overlay showing how Airport West property will be subdivided. Earthquakes practice field is the green block on the furthest right.

That last part is especially new, because that land was initially destined to be part of a BART maintenance facility. With BART for now terminating at Berryessa while full funding for the rest of the Silicon Valley extension is to be determined, the land would sit idle if not for this change. Plans currently call for an expansion of the Hayward BART maintenance facility to accommodate the extension, and there may be an option along the extension line for another yard if called for.

The controversial part is that in executing this land deal, the total proceeds to the City will go down $10 million. While the City has an equivalent surplus, in the previous agreement Wolff wasn’t expected to complete the land purchase until 2015. In the new proposal, Hunter Storm would pay for its share of the land by the end of the month. Revenues from the Quakes Stadium and the soccer fields would begin in 2013.

As for the Earthquakes Stadium itself, the article mentions that it’s under FAA review/audit. Apparently this is because the FAA wants to check out light spillage from the stadium light design to ensure that it doesn’t create any difficulties for air traffic. Problems don’t seem likely, but this is a bureaucratic government organization we’re talking about. Already the FAA has determined that both the 49ers stadium and Cisco Field would require temporary flight restrictions due to the way they are sited within the SJC flight path. The FAA review is the only issue remaining that delays stadium construction.

I’ll be at the City Council session later today to cover this issue.

Just across the wire – City Council voted 8-3 to approve $85,000 in improvements to Municipal Stadium. Noted is the fact that the City Council can reopen discussions later over how the Giants’ subsidies are spent – especially if they’re used to fund a lawsuit against the City. Later is probably 2013, when the lease is due for renegotiation. Will there still be a lawsuit in play at that point? We’ll see over the next year or so. One thing to keep in mind – as long as the uncertainty regarding the lease and lawsuit hang over the club, it would be hard for ownership to sell the franchise to new San Jose-based interests. Outside San Jose, that’s a different story. The City Council was careful to say that there’s room for both teams within city limits, a posture that has really only come to the forefront in the last couple of years.

Quakes sell out luxury suites, start selling club seats

Even though the official groundbreaking has yet to occur, the San Jose Earthquakes announced today that they have sold out their entire allotment of luxury suites – 12 in all. In addition, the club announced that they are now selling club seats to the public. A total of 576 club seats will be made available, all at field level, just like the suites.

Club interior

There always was room for premium facilities to be built, so it makes sense that they’d wait to introduce club seats until other premium options such as suites were sold out. The key thing I noticed when looking at the renderings is the lack of walls. In last year’s big Lew Wolff interview, he mentioned how expensive it is to fully build out a space with air conditioning. The sold-out luxury suites are the only premium option that is fully built out. The club here won’t be behind walls of any kind and doesn’t appear to be air conditioned, which should reduce operating costs a good amount. The amenities don’t look any less plush than at other venues, and patrons will have in-seat service.

Four separate club areas consisting of four three-row sections apiece will be spread throughout. Two will be located near midfield, two towards the ends. Priced by the row, tickets will range from $90 to $125 per seat in season ticket packages, 20% more for single game purchases.

Patio suite exterior and interior

The Quakes are also selling patio suites, which are like the luxury suites except with no walls (or A/C). This option effectively splits the difference between the club seats and the luxury suites.

View from Patio Suite

I have a feeling that Lew and Keith Wolff are using Earthquakes Stadium as a testbed for future offerings at Cisco Field. If they can get the mix of hardcore Quakes fans, general soccer fans, and casual fans right, there are numerous lessons that are applicable to the construction and deployment of similar amenities at Cisco Field. For now, the stated capacity remains 18,000, though as we can see in this case, market conditions can change quickly.

San Jose 2/22/12 Planning Commission Meeting Liveblog

9:15 PM - Appeal denied, Planning Commission approves permit 6-0, Chair Hope Cahan not present. Vice Chair Bit-Badai urges Earthquakes to continue working with residents.

9:07 PM – In a follow-up to an issue brought up earlier, City staff indicates that FAA audit will likely not be successful, and would have little financial impact. Commissioner Kamkar wants to approve project. 

9:03 PM - Commissioners have been speaking, trying to define scope of what they are discussing. Commissioner Platten emphasizes that the soccer stadium is not a harbinger of what will happen for the ballpark. The issues are: 1) Adequacy of noise study, 2) Proper communication with other governing bodies, 3) Proper communication with community. Platten urges permit to be passed and appeal denied.

8:52 PM - Newhall resident asks for SoundPLAN study in order to be thorough. Asks for the gap between the rim of the seating bowl and the roof to be closed. Re-emphasizes that residents are not against Quakes or stadium in general.

8:48 PM - Lew Wolff implores commission to make a decision and not delay things any further. Planning commissioner Kamkar asks about a 31-foot sound wall that was in the original EIR that is not in the new stadium concept, and the use of aluminum risers. Keith Wolff says that the design of the stadium blocks the noise so the sound wall won’t be needed, and that as long as the aluminum risers are constructed without gaps they should not leak noise.

8:44 PM - Keith Wolff is taking his five minutes, Lew Wolff at his side. Keith Wolff mentions that the City came to the Quakes with the site, not the other way around. Talks about concessions made (no concerts, distributed sound, meetings with residents four times a year).

8:43 PM - Last two speakers are in favor, after Marc Morris (S/HNPA) also implores more study. Planning commissions should have questions for the applicant next, followed by the vote.

8:29 PM - Quick point – SJC Airport noise contours are set to expand for 2017 and 2027. The Newhall neighborhood would fall within the 60 dB noise contour. That’s a good deal greater than the “comfortable” 55 dB ambient noise, though not double (+10 dB = double). 

8:15 PM - A group of Newhall Neighborhood Association residents have put together a presentation about the neighborhood. They appear to be sequenced to complete the preso. Apparently soccer has impacted quality of life in their “quiet” neighborhood. Planning commissioner asks what “quiet” means, considering the location near trains and planes. Speaker says he is referring to loud bursts of noise (crowd cheer, drums). Another speaker says that ambient noise is <50 dbA, 90% of the time. Noise with stadium would go up 862% (disturbing peak events of >58 dbA) with stadium. Use of aluminum risers as opposed to concrete (at Home Depot Center) may increase noise. Newhall residents are arguing that the stadium approved via the EIR are not what the Quakes are presenting, and that time should be taken to reflect that change.

8:09 PM - Someone from MLS in New York flew out to speak. Big surprise there. Mentions that this is the first time he’s spoken for a stadium project in which he wasn’t asking for public money.

8:08 PM - Supporter quote of the night: “I’m married to a Brazilian and I would appreciate it if you could work to keep our marriage together.” 

7:54 PM - More supporters have spoken. Balandra is part of the Shasta Hanchett Park Neighborhood Association, as are Jonathan Martinez and Helen Chapman. Sounds like at least a few individuals are practicing their arguments for the next round. As Chapman speaks, several fans hold up “BUILD IT NOW” signs. S/HNPA’s argument is that the neighborhoods and the process should be respected, and that their arguments are not against soccer or the Quakes in general. I get the feeling that the fans don’t want to hear anymore about process.

7:40 PM - Terri Balandra, citing her own question of Lew Wolff at the Rotary Club luncheon, asks Wolff to “go overboard” to mitigate light and noise. Also mentions an FAA audit which may show that the City misused federal funds on Airport West in that the funds were supposed to go towards potential airport expansion and eventually did not. Those funds may have to be returned, and if that’s the case Balandra asks if the land deal could fall through. My instant response to that is that the City did evaluate using the land for expansion, but the project was too costly and not cost-effective. Because of this they’ve chosen to sell the land to Wolff. If someone wants to extract blood from that turnip, they might as well try to build a time machine to send everyone back to 2007, before the economic crash. Then they’d might get something out of it. 

7:36 PM - Chris Wondolowski‘s aunt is speaking in favor. How often do you get a player’s relative speaking in favor of a stadium? I haven’t seen it before.

7:35 PM - I’m not keeping a tally of for vs. against speakers, but so far it is only two against, everyone else for.

7:29 PM – Jonathan Martinez asks the question(s) of the night: “Noise? In that neighborhood? Are you kidding me?”

7:25 PM – Belated stream link.

7:16 PM - At least two sponsors of the team have spoken in support, as well as a youth soccer coach and a worker for a community-based nonprofit.

7:14 PM - A speaker from Tracy mentions his brother, who recently passed away. He said that having the Quakes here helped him get through the tough times.

7:11 PM – The team’s official Twitter feed is livetweeting the event.

7:02 PM – A speaker says he is opposed to the sites for both the Quakes and A’s stadia. Would prefer the A’s to move to Airport West, while Quakes go to 237/Zanker.

6:59 PM - Soccer Silicon Valley’s Don Gagliardi is speaking. Asks fans to stand up. My guess is 95% of the crowd is Quakes fans. Claims that in 10 years the Quakes will be more important to San Jose than the A’s (if the A’s move).

Earthquakes fans standing in support

6:56 PM – 1906 Ultras (supporters club) are holding up scarves in unison as Kaval speaks.

Kaval notes design of stadium (turned towards airport) and lack of concerts as a form of noise mitigation. Mentions that Quakes have not gotten a noise complaint in last two years at Buck Shaw Stadium.

6:53 PM – Lew Wolff is speaking in support and thanks. Considers soccer a “community asset”. Claims that even if the number of games were doubled, the actual impact on the area would be only 170 hours per year. Introduces David Kaval. Applause from crowd. Crowd admonished for applause.

6:48 PM – A representative for the appellant (who is not present?) is at the podium. Notes a petition that has been signed by 210 people. Asks to uphold appeal, deny the application, and reopen the EIR on the grounds that the noise analysis is flawed. 

  • No computer simulation noise analysis for conceptual stadium design or proposed stadium design
  • Diridon Analysis with SoundPLAN would should noise would be 3-5 dbA higher for baseball games and 5-7 dbA higher for concerts – than in the approved EIR noise study.

This could be important for a future ballpark fight, as we can expect the same issue to be brought up.

6:45 PM – City staff is going over new/amended noise analysis, the idea that the stadium’s design and use should mitigate noise, and the restrictions on noisemakers that should further make the stadium “a good neighbor”.

6:42 PM – Planning commission is going over rules and consent items. Item 3F, the Quakes stadium proposal, has been moved to go first.

6:24 PM – Council Chambers is filling up quickly. Lew and Keith Wolff, and David Kaval are present, doing brief interviews with local media.

Quakes fans message for the night

Read the KQED interview with Earthquakes president David Kaval that Nina Thorsen posted. About any linkage between the Quakes’ project and a future A’s ballpark, Kaval says this:

We’re really run as our own entity.  This process is really a stand-alone process.  Since our ownership is basically the same as the A’s, any learning from this, best practices, and how to work with communities, can be helpful to them.  But they’re not linked in the way that some people might assume.  The financing is completely separate, and obviously it’s a different sport, different league, different location.

Coincidentally, 95.7 The Game is doing one of their Lucky Break radio gig auditions tonight at 4th Street Pizza, which happens to be across the street from San Jose City Hall. Lucky Break will happen at the same time as the planning commission meeting, so you’ll have to choose which one to attend.

Quakes stadium faces final Planning Commission vote

On Wednesday I’ll be at the San Jose Planning Commission hearing at City Hall at 6:30. From all indications, so will numerous Earthquakes fans who have been patiently waiting for a final “yes” vote for construction to begin on the 18,000-seat, soccer-specific stadium near Mineta Airport.

Low profile stadium with roof, lights, and "controversial" gap

At the end of 2011, a resident from the nearby Newhall neighborhood appealed the granting of a building permit on the grounds that environmental issues such as noise and light pollution were not adequately addressed. That forced the project to go under another (hopefully final) review to determine if the design of the stadium, including the shape of the bowl and roof, would properly protect the residents of Newhall.

Newhall is actually split in two by Caltrain. The bulk of it lies southwest of the tracks and extends to The Alameda and Park Avenue, close to Santa Clara University. The resident who filed the appeal appears to be from the area across the tracks, where multiple high density developments have been built in the last decade or so. The smaller part of Newhall is hemmed in by the heavily used railroad tracks to the west, I-880 to the east, and the airport to the north, That area is an odd place for any kind of neighborhood. It’s right next to the landing approach to the airport. It’s zoned Heavy Industrial and for decades was right next to the FMC plant, which was closed and bought by the City before it was resold (an option at least) to Lew Wolff and partners for a stadium/commercial development. The neighborhood is so small that when looking at it from an aerial photo, it appears that it could fit inside the Lowe’s store that opened nearby a couple years ago.

Getting back to the appeal, here’s what City staff wrote was the gist (warning – 9 MB PDF):

The Appellant states “The applicant has not met the burden of proof that the design complies with the EIR, because the noise and light impacts of the proposed stadium have not been properly simulated” and requests additional analysis. The Appellant specifically identifies a “large open-air gap between the top of the stands and the roof structure” as a change to the stadium design that was not adequately analyzed and requests that the stadium design be changed to enclose this area. The Appellant also requests that the Permit prohibit artificial noisemakers, such as vuvuzelas and other horns, within the stadium and in stadium parking areas, and also prohibit distribution of such devices by the operator. An updated Noise Report (attached) has been provided in response to the issues raised in the Appeal.

And the response:

The updated Noise Report clarifies that the currently proposed stadium design would not generate noise levels greater than those studied and disclosed in the project EIR because: 1) the current proposal has an amount of open area comparable to the stadium which was used as the basis for analysis in the EIR (the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles); 2) minor proposed changes to the stadium design are either comparable or beneficial in terms of the stadium’s overall potential for noise generation; and 3) the proposed stadium would only have 2/3 of the seating capacity of the analyzed stadium, thereby reducing the potential for noise generated by people attending the soccer games. As part of this discussion, the Report clarifies that changes to the stadium design include the overall reduction in size and height, due to the decreased capacity, reorientation of the open end of the stadium away from the residential neighborhood, and the addition of a small roof structure above the stadium seating area. The updated Report concludes that as a result of these changes the current stadium design would have the potential to generate noise impacts consistent with or less than those analyzed in the project EIR.

The Appeal raises the concern that a “gap” between the stadium seating and roof structure, which did not existing in the prior design, would result in potential light impacts upon the residential neighborhood. As noted above, the stadium design analyzed in the EIR did not include a roof structure. The addition of this roof and the reduction of the overall stadium height should help to reduce potential noise and light levels emanating form the stadium. All of the proposed stadium lights would be oriented downward toward the playing field and located either underneath the roof structure, or, at the open end of the field furthest from the residential neighborhood, on a free-standing pole that would not be taller than the stadium structure. Therefore, given for the proposed stadium design the distance of separation to the residential neighborhood, the height of the stadium lights, and the shielding of those lights by the stadium structure, the stadium lights would not have an impact upon the residential neighborhood. Other structures to be built on the adjoining and intervening properties, including facilities related to the BART (and possibly the high-speed rail) projects, would further screen the stadium from the residential neighborhood.

In short, the City is arguing that noise pollution would be the same as or less than those studied at Home Depot Center, especially because the planned stadium is smaller. In doing so, noise levels would be deemed acceptable, allowing the project to move forward. The Appellant argued that the gap between the roof would cause noise to leak out of the stadium and into the surrounding neighborhood. The stadium’s horseshoe shape was designed to channel crowd and PA noise out of the open end, the northeast side closest to the airport. The roof, which is tight to the rim of the stadium, is supposed to assist with this. The lights are tucked under the roof, which should limit light leakage.

All things considered, I think the Earthquakes and 360 architecture have made great pains to conceive a stadium that would have minimal impact on area residents (though it should be mentioned that the CEQA process is about much more than impacting residents). The project should be approved. The issues identified by the appeal aren’t unique to the situation. Measures being taken to restrict noisemaking devices such as horns or vuvuzelas will help a ton. Beyond that there isn’t much more the team can do. If noise really does leak out of the gap, the team could easily wrap the gap in long vinyl panels. I’d prefer they didn’t do this as the gap helps airflow during the summer. The time has come to stop studying and start building. Let’s get the Quakes the home they’ve deserved for so long.

P.S. – If you read the staff report, including the chronology of events, you’ll notice that the process looks somewhat similar to how the Diridon ballpark EIR was approved. When a complete San Jose ballpark concept is submitted by the A’s, you can expect similar treatment, except in the A’s case the stakes are far higher and the impacts potentially greater.

Earthquakes to play at AT&T Park in March

Here’s a curious nugget: the San Jose Earthquakes have changed the date and venue of their March 18 home game against the hated Houston Dynamo to March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day) at AT&T Park. The match will be the undercard of a tuneup match between the Mexico and Senegal under-23 (Olympic) national teams. Previously the Quakes had doubleheader arrangement when Mexico and Iceland played at the Coliseum in 2008. Presumably the Quakes have the first game so that there won’t be the lingering image of Mexican fans leaving the stadium during the MLS match. That day pulled in 45,000 in attendance, over four times the capacity of Buck Shaw Stadium.

In the somewhat distant past such a game would be held at the Coliseum, but it’ll be played across the bay instead. Considering the Giants and A’s generally do nothing together other than appear at the compulsory media day before the baseball season begins, it’s a move out of nowhere. AT&T Park doesn’t have 45,000 seats and at least a thousand or more have terrible sightlines for soccer (LF corner upper deck), so it’s not as if they’ll outsell a game in Oakland. However, the tickets could be priced higher and find a very willing audience at a nicer venue. I don’t know what the revenue split is for a date like this with so many stakeholders, but I figure the Giants should be able to clear $200,000 just for hosting if they get $5 a ticket, plus probably all of the concessions revenue. With two weeks between the event and the Bay Bridge Series, that’s plenty of time to get the field in good condition.

According to the Stanford University sports calendar, there are no events that could conflict with the staging of a game at Stanford Stadium. The Stanford women’s basketball team is a powerhouse as usual, so they can be expected to host the first and second round of the women’s NCAA tournament at Maples Pavilion that weekend. The Quakes are playing a match against the L.A. Galaxy at Stanford on June 30, and I’ll be sure to attend then. Why not have the Dynamo/Mexico-Senegal event at Stanford? Maybe the NCAA tournament rules. Maybe the university and City of Palo Alto didn’t want an overly rowdy St. Paddy’s day crowd.

Does this event mean a thawing in the relationship between A’s ownership and Giants ownership? Hard to say. The ballpark business unit of the Giants could say it’s working independently from the team and in conjunction with the Quakes, who are also an autonomous unit within the Wolff/Fisher group. It’s been over 20 years since the last trade between the A’s and Giants (Darren Lewis for Ernest Riles, not counting the Adam Pettyjohn “deal”). At the very least it’s a sign that the two ownership groups can work together on something business-related. That can’t be a bad thing.

(Hat tip to Dan for pointing out the scheduling change.)