BART groundbreaking in San Jose

It’s happening.

Bolstered by the release of $250 million in funding, the BART-to-Silicon Valley project got its official groundbreaking earlier Thursday afternoon. Representatives of BART, VTA, plus East and South Bay politicians were on hand for the ceremony. Also there was reader @MarkyJ824 to take pictures. He sent many of them to me and I’ll repost them below.

December’s article looking at the BART project explains how fans would get to Cisco Field/Diridon Station from the East Bay. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s worth a look.

More shovels to come

Poster of Berryessa Station rendering.

A BART car model on site. Hopefully it has the new anti-pathogen seats and floor.

The subway portion of the Warm Springs Extension is still under construction, and the line is expected to open for service in late 2015. The $2.3 billion BART-to-Silicon Valley project will get a total of $900 million from the federal government. Construction to Berryessa is expected to be completed by 2016, but could be done earlier. Testing should take another two years, putting passenger service at 2018, possibly earlier.

New HOV lanes, BART-to-SJ good news for A’s fans

If you’re one of the 80% of A’s fans who drives to games, you just might get a quicker trip to the Coliseum in the future, thanks to a flurry of new road projects that Caltrans is starting this year.

According to Mr. Roadshow, the Bay Area is getting $5 billion to be spread among 19 projects. While none are in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin Counties, the bulk of the work (12 projects) will be in Alameda and Santa Clara Counties. Key among them are the extensions of carpool lanes along the Nimitz:

  • I-880 from Hegenberger Road in Oakland to Davis Street in San Leandro ($108 million)
  • I-880 from CA-237 in Milpitas to US-101 in San Jose ($31.5 million)

The South Bay project is less expensive than the East Bay project because most of the groundwork was already done for the former as part of a previous 880 widening project a decade ago. Combine these two with ongoing improvements to the Nimitz and improved interchanges at CA-92 and CA-262/Mission Blvd., and it should eventually be much smoother sailing in each direction for carpoolers, who are the usual profile for those who drive to games in Oakland.

If the A’s move south, the carpool lanes, along with at least 4 lanes in each direction the entire way between Oakland and San Jose, will help funnel gameday traffic. However, it’s not a complete, direct solution. Once a driver coming south along 880 hits the 101 interchange, the freeway will revert to not having carpool lanes, which could create congestion there and along surface streets as they try to make it the last two miles. A good way to go might be the Gish/10th Street exit on 880 South just before 101, as it’s a quick detour to downtown and SJSU.

The big ticket item is $2.3 billion for the 10-mile BART extension from Warm Springs (its own separate project) to Berryessa in North San Jose. Again, it’s not a direct trip to Cisco Field, but it’s a lot closer than Fremont and the only way to get to downtown San Jose is to first build to Berryessa.

Not related to Caltrans funding is one more big mass transit project, Caltrain electrification. The long-awaited conversion from diesel to electric trains will create an opportunity for more frequent service, which will drive down the operating cost per trip and help keep Caltrain solvent. To achieve this, Caltrain cut a deal with the state’s troubled high speed rail authority to devote $700 million towards the electrification project. To support the more frequent service and greater number of riders, the San Jose, Millbrae, and San Francisco stations will be expanded. The $1.5 billion project is expected to be completed by 2020. HSR is teetering right now politically, so it’s not clear if that project will ever be built. This money shift appears to be an acknowledgement by the authority that it may need to start in the most heavily impact areas first, before it commits to the full intra-state backbone. The move could backfire in the long run, as it may convince stakeholders and citizens that high speed rail would be best if it terminated in San Jose, not San Francisco.

News for 1/17/12

Today I did an TV interview on Get Real with Brian Stuckey, a show produced out of CreaTV San Jose. CreaTV is a non-profit to whom Comcast has farmed out all of their public access programming for much of the South Bay. The segment will air January 30 on Comcast channel 15 with a web stream simulcast, so my ugly mug won’t show up until then. I doubt anything will have fundamentally changed by then, but you never know.

On to the news.

  • Matier and Ross report that nothing official happened on the A’s-to-San Jose front. That’s true at least when it comes to making a decision or coming to a compromise plan. We set those expectations going into the owners meetings. Yet background work did occur, including the presentation to the executive committee and Selig’s statement that the A’s are now on the front burner. Write that off all you want, it’s movement that wasn’t happening six, nine, twelve months ago. Remember that as incalcitrant the Giants are, there’s always the threat of binding arbitration to force the Giants’ hand. Commissioner Selig won’t give San Jose a greenlight for a vote (for either MLB owners or the city referendum) unless the Giants drop their lawsuit, making the legal action the last real weapon in the Giants’ arsenal to block the A’s efforts.
  • While the Giants are doing everything possible to stop A’s ownership, they’re actively encouraging new arena deals. We all know about their overtures towards the Warriors. Yesterday, Larry Baer gave a pep talk to Sacramento civic leaders pushing for a new downtown Kings arena. Baer said that after four defeats at the ballot box, the effort to get a ballpark going was “worth the fight.” I imagine that Lew Wolff feels the exact same way, Larry.

“It can be done, don’t give up,” Baer said. “You must persevere, you must exercise patience, you must have strong leadership in the private and public sector.”

When a man’s right, he’s right.

  • While the Oakland-only crowd was eager to jump on a graf in the M&R report, they buried the lead: Thanks to the death of redevelopment, the City of Oakland will have to cut 200 jobs and hand out 1,500 pink slips. The Mayor and City Council may also have to take huge cuts in pay on top of cuts already taken last year. How does this affect San Jose? Not that much, since as of the end of 2011 there were only about 10-12 people left in SJRA, with budget cuts and changes already enacted. Not that San Jose actually anticipated the change. SJRA’s fiscal issues forced it shut down early.
  • Less than three months from the opening of the Marlins Ballpark in Miami, and there’s no solution for funding transit options that can bring fans from downtown or the nearest Metrorail (BART-like) station.
  • The Cubs are replacing their right field bleacher section with a Green Monster Seats-style party deck, fronted by one of those new-fangled LED scoreboards.
  • Santa Clara’s City Attorney declared a petition effort by 49er stadium opponents illegal. That doesn’t mean the opponents can’t sue. We’ll see if they have the resources to sue for the right. We’ve seen this happen before.

On a lighter note – since Jeffrey and I will both be at FanFest, would any readers like to do a meetup? Not exactly sure of where we could do it, we can talk through the details.

The long slog to the South Bay

Last week’s news that VTA may get BART to the South Bay as early as 2016 was certainly welcome, though many important steps remain. In the spring, federal New Starts funding has to materialize for the extension to move forward. Fortunately, the fact that work is already underway on the separate-but-linked Warm Springs extension should help the Silicon Valley extension’s case. As we’ve discussed previously, the South Bay extension has been split into two parts to help its chances of getting funding for the entire project. As a result, the first part extension to Berryessa (the flea market) is scheduled to be completed by 2016-2018. The second part, which runs through downtown San Jose and up to the airport, has no completion date at this time. FYI, Phase 1 is about the same length as the Dublin/Pleasanton extension from Bay Fair.

The 10-mile Berryessa extension (Silicon Valley Phase 1) is in addition to the 5.4-mile Warm Springs extension

Terminating BART in Berryessa leaves no clear solution for ferrying fans from BART to the Diridon Station area, where the ballpark would be. Any highway-based bus routing is circuitous. Running on city streets would be a shorter trip. Either way it’s at least an extra 20 minutes after leaving BART even if it’s a direct bus with no additional stops. A natural BART-to-light rail transfer in Milpitas would take 40 minutes, though it would shave off a few minutes of BART time. Keep that in mind when looking at the following table of travel times, comparing BART, Caltrain, and Capitol Corridor.

Caltrain and Capitol Corridor trains arrive at ballpark. BART is more frequent but would require a 20-40 minute transfer (at least in the near term). Caltrain and Capitol Corridor times are published. BART times are estimates except for Coliseum.

What would take a shuttle 20-40 minutes to bridge the gap between Berryessa and Diridon would probably take only 5-6 minutes if BART went all the way to Diridon. Alas, that’s not in the cards until several years after Phase 1 starts operation. One interesting observation is that Capitol Corridor is somewhat competitive timewise with BART when heading all the way down to San Jose. Unfortunately, fares are much more expensive than BART.

There’s never been a doubt that just about any Oakland site is more convenient for much of the Bay Area and the existing East Bay fan base than San Jose. Even with BART coming to San Jose, it would seem that trips averaging an hour or more plus a transfer would be prohibitively lengthy for many fans. The flipside to that argument is that both the Giants and A’s in their current locations aren’t all that accessible from the South Bay, so if MLB were to place the two teams so that they could grab the largest potential audience for the MLB product, having the Giants in SF and the A’s in SJ would make the most sense.

Even if A’s management were to earn back much of the goodwill lost over the last decade, long trips from the East Bay will surely cause a reduction of fans from that region, making it all the more important that the A’s replace those lost or less frequently attending fans with South Bay fans. Certainly there are Sharks fans who make the trek from the East Bay now, but going to 2-3 games per week per homestand is a lot less rigorous than 6 games per week. The A’s have recently had among the lowest season ticket rolls in MLB (7-8,000), so replacing them may not be such a huge task. It goes to show that even if the A’s get the green light for San Jose, there’s plenty of work left to do.

News for 12/14/11

A boatload of news has been piling up.

  • Matier and Ross “reveal” that the real party behind the Stand for San Jose lawsuit is, in fact, the San Francisco Giants. Glad to know that Larry Baer and company are so concerned with traffic in downtown San Jose. (SFGate)
  • The San Jose Earthquakes have gotten their development permit, so they are one step closer to breaking ground. (SBNation/Quake, Rattle and Roll)
  • VTA approved $772 million for the BART-to-Silicon Valley project. This funding is contingent on federal matching funds, for which a decision is due in February. Incentives in the bidding could allow the first phase, which ends at the Berryessa/Flea Market site in North San Jose, to be opened as much as 18 months ahead of schedule in 2016. Berryessa is three miles from Diridon and there is no light rail transfer from there, so unless there is a special bus or existing routes are realigned, the best bet may be to transfer to light rail at the Great Mall. A post dedicated to this subject is due in the future. (Gary Richards, Merc)
  • Santa Clara’s City Council approved $850 million in loans for its Stadium Authority to take out for the 49ers stadium. The money won’t actually be raised unless the NFL chips in with its $150 million share.
  • The Merc’s Tim Kawakami tweets that the 49ers “might land a naming-rights deal with a green technology company…” Okay.
  • Now that Tesla is gearing up for production at the old NUMMI plant and Union Pacific decided not to use land there for a big train/intermodal yard, Fremont is looking deep into ways to redevelop the land, the same way Oakland is looking at the Coliseum area. The 850 acres in question could be developed in a mixed use manner with up to 3,000 homes. Unlike Oakland, Fremont’s tendency to think small may keep things rather humble in nature, though that could change if some sort of anchor element were part of the planning. Like, oh, a stadium. (Matt Artz, Argus. Note: Good luck to Matt on his switch to the never boring Oakland city beat.)
  • MLB may be getting ready to seize control of the Mets because the team is losing money like crazy. Let’s see, maybe a little after the Dodgers are sold in April/May? (John Harper, NY Daily News)
  • Ever wonder where money from concerts and non-game events goes? This article tries to figure it out. (Tom Lyden, FOX 9 Twin Cities)
  • Marlins ballpark news: There may be a scandal about shotty welds and falsified inspections on the retractable roof (Andres Viglucci, Miami Herald); See pictures inside and outside the stadium (Joe Capozzi, Palm Beach Post; Juan Gonzalez, Stadium Page); the Marlins are getting rid of their sideshow dance troupes of skinny girls and fat guys (Juan C. Rodriguez, Sun Sentinel)
  • Robert Bobb is back in DC after two years as the Detroit Public Schools financial czar. What’s he doing? Consulting, of course.
  • Qualcomm is changing the name of Qualcomm Stadium to “Snapdragon Stadium” for 11 days to give a marketing boost for its mobile chipset. (Terry Lefton, Sports Business Journal)
  • The NFL announced extensions of its TV deals through 2022. Changes include an expanded Thursday night package on NFL Network and NBC getting rights to the Thanksgiving night game. Combined value of all TV deals is $4.3 billion a year, enough to take care of every team’s annual payroll without ever selling a ticket. (NFL Communications, Variety)

That’s it for now.

News for 10/30/11

A few newsbytes as the week begins:

  • Matier and Ross report that the 49ers are gunning for a 2014 opening of the Santa Clara stadium, even though the finances – especially the stadium builder licenses – aren’t ironed out yet.
  • One of the reasons the CEQA/EIR process exists in California is that municipalities and citizens can identify issues that need to be addressed and take care of them early. In Miami, the Marlins ballpark is being built with no significant new transit infrastructure in an area that desperately needs it. The Orange Bowl/Little Havana neighborhood is at least 2,000 spaces short of what should be supplied for a full house, and on-site parking totals well less than 5,000 spaces. The nearest Metrorail station is almost a mile away, and shuttles to take fans from that station and other parts of Miami are currently unfunded.
  • Speaking of transit, the California High Speed Rail project will face renewed scrutiny with the release of an updated (and final) business plan on Tuesday. The Merc’s Mike Rosenberg paints a pessimistic view, as federal funding has dried up and has made continuation of the project an extremely difficult decision. So far, $650 million has been spent on planning and engineering studies.
  • Side note: If HSR goes down in flames, the combined cost of that project and the shuttered Solyndra plant in Fremont would be $1.1 Billion. That would pay for the 49ers stadium and change, or an A’s ballpark in Oakland/San Jose and a Sacramento Kings arena. Before you scoff, know that the total annual revenue for just the NFL and MLB combined ($16 Billion) surpasses that of the movie industry – box office and DVD sales – on an annual basis ($15 Billion).
  • Not only are the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees forced to spend the year barnstorming while their ballpark is renovated, they won’t be able to keep the Yankees team name in the future. The Yankees brand is to be exclusive to the club in the Bronx. The same will go for all of the other Yankees minor league affiliates. Way to keep it in the family, Steinbrenners.
  • Commissioner Bud Selig may have to determine the proper compensation for the Red Sox allowing Theo Epstein to escape to the Cubs, since the two teams can’t come up with mutually agreeable terms on their own.
  • Wondering if Selig will actually retire after his contract ends in 2012? The establishment of an office at his old alma mater in Madison might be the ticket. Selig apparently wants to write his memoirs and participate in the history department at Wisconsin, including the hiring of a professor to teach the history of sports.
  • In addition to Selig’s endowed chair, three members of The Lodge (baseball team owners) also set up a scholarship in the names of Selig and his wife, Suzanne, as part of the university’s Great People Scholarship program. The owners? Three who are incredibly indebted and linked to Selig: fraternity brother Lew Wolff, current Brewers owner Mark Attanasio (who bought the team from a trust headed by Selig’s daughter), and Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner (who was a major beneficiary of the three way Boston-Florida-Montreal ownership swap deal). What do you get for a man who has everything? A scholarship in his name, of course! Now that’s a going away present.
  • One thing to keep in mind regarding Occupy Oakland: the horrific injury suffered by Iraq War veteran and Wisconsin native Scott Olsen will almost assuredly result in a lawsuit against Oakland/OPD, one which is not likely to come out well for the City. Whenever that judgement is rendered, it’ll be more money that Oakland simply doesn’t have for projects such as an Oakland ballpark.
  • On the bright side, the Oakland Tribune and other local papers will keep their names after all.
  • Tony LaRussa goes out on top.

Good stuff to come later in the week.

News for 8/20/11

Though this August may be unseasonably cool, there’s no doubt that it’s the dog days – for a team mired in third place and those of us looking for ballpark news. Nevertheless, there is plenty to discuss that happened this week.

First up is a very good assessment of where various football stadium efforts stand, courtesy of the Merc and Trib (BANG). Naturally, Santa Clara has emerged in the race due to its diligence in getting a deal done, despite the highly questionable finances of the plan. Oakland lags well behind, and potential funding sources has been identified in the process: $105 million in county transit funding, a Chinese investment group. Transit funding for the Raiders? Yikes.

You may have noticed some upheaval around Hegenberger Road this week when going to/from an A’s game. That’s because the infamous Oakland Airport Connector project started construction this week! The $484 million people mover will shuttle riders between the Coliseum/Airport BART station and Oakland International Airport, all for a more-than-reasonable $6 each way. That’s more expensive than it costs to ride from Coliseum/Airport to Millbrae. (To be fair, the enormous cost of the SFO BART extension has caused Millbrae-to-SFO to cost $4 each way thanks to a surcharge.) And it appears that the only reasons the project kept going all this time are that $95 million has already been spent and up to $250 million has already been committed, making it nearly as much of a boondoggle even if it were cancelled. Initially, the only two stations on the OAC will be the terminals at the airport and BART station. A third station could be built at Doolittle and Hegenberger if the funding surfaces. Double yikes.

Former Rangers owner Tom Hicks is being sued over allegations that he took tens of millions from the team to acquire parking lots around Rangers Ballpark. The lawsuit foreshadows future legal wrangling between MLB and Frank McCourt, who reorganized the Dodgers into so many holding companies and dummy corporations that it’s impossible to say how Dodger Stadium and its land could be extricated from McCourt at this point.

A preliminary report on Kings arena funding indicates that much of the burden will be addressed by user fees on everything from tickets to hot dogs. These fees could generate anywhere from $5 million to $20 million per year. While not fan-friendly, it is more general taxpayer-friendly than sales or parcel taxes. A more fleshed out proposal is due September 8.

Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the Sharks, announced 19 layoffs from the business side of the company. Included in the layoffs was longtime director of communications Ken Arnold. Executive VP of business ops Malcolm Bordelon characterized this as “pruning for future growth”. He can’t just be talking about the parking garage the team will construct north of the arena as growth. There’s something else to this. That something may be related to former CEO Greg Jamison, who left a year ago and was never formally replaced, perhaps going after the Phoenix Coyotes as early as next week. Should Jamison pursue the Coyotes, he will have to sell his share of the Sharks. It’s not difficult to see Jamison bringing with him trusted lieutenants such as Arnold and sales/marketing head Kent Russell. It would also provide an opening for the A’s, if they were to be extended the opportunity. Lew Wolff (or a surrogate) could potentially get a stake in SVSE and reciprocate by providing a stake in the A’s/Quakes, making the two ownership groups virtually joined at the hip – and more importantly, fully aligned. That would be important in planning for the next 20-30 years around Diridon, as the two parties would be expected to have a major influence on how the area is planned and developed even if those plans are well down the road.

In tangentially related news, HP announced on Thursday that it will cease development of webOS devices such as the recently launched TouchPad tablet line and Pre smartphones. It may also spin off its Personal Systems Group, which includes webOS (Palm) and its industry market share leading computers operation. Should HP spin off PSG or divest it, there would be an interesting sports-related ripple effect down the line: what would happen to HP Pavilion at San Jose? The naming rights deal at the former San Jose Arena expires in 2016, and not coincidentally, the name reflects a line of personal computers HP makes. In between those two names, the name for a year or so was Compaq Center at San Jose. That deal was done by the final Compaq CEO, Michael Capellas, prior to the HP-Compaq merger (done by Carly Fiorina). It’s possible that HP will keep the name, given that enterprise competitor Oracle has the name on Oakland Arena. Then again, Oracle has a similar choice to make that same year because its naming rights deal ran only a decade. Chances are that both companies will drop the naming rights deals for different reasons: HP because it will no longer have the consumer focus to justify the deal, and Oracle because Larry Ellison lost out on owning the Warriors. Often naming rights deals are reflections of companies’ CEOs, and this is no different.

Capping off corporate talk is billionaire Carl Icahn threatening to perform a coup at Clorox (again). Icahn, who is worth $12.5 billion and has his tentacles seemingly everywhere, is the largest shareholder of CLX stock with a 9.4% stake in the company. Earlier in the summer, Icahn attempted a $10.2 billion buyout of Clorox, all in the name of achieving greater shareholder value (his M.O. for everything). Rebuffed in that attempt, Icahn is now trying to replace the company’s entire board of directors with himself and 11 of his own hand-picked people. Something on this front may happen in November, when the annual shareholders meeting will be held. Icahn doesn’t always win, but it is thought in some corners that his power influenced the sale of Motorola to Google for $12.5 billion (coincidence), which was reported on Monday. Why is this important? If Icahn gets his way, it’s likely that Clorox will eventually be sold to the highest bidder, perhaps one of its competitors such as Proctor and Gamble. P&G would be interesting in that they were forced to divest Clorox due to antitrust concerns around the time the A’s moved to Oakland. And if Clorox is bought and/or sold, CEO Donald Knauss, the former Coca-Cola exec who has shown interest in East Bay/Oakland sports to the extent that there are rumors of a possible naming rights deal, is also not long for Clorox either. If Knauss goes, so does that deal. Naming rights deals often reflect companies’ CEOs, remember?