Davis, Raiders execs meet with San Antonio representatives in Alameda

Mark Davis is probably having a little more fun than Raiders fans these days, because even though their team started out the season 0-8 with 0-16 coming at them fast, at least Davis has a diversion. Davis took another trip to London a few weeks ago, he meets with LA boosters trying the lure the team back down near where he lives, he’s in the Bay Area for home games, and he met today with Henry Cisneros and his team from the Alamo city. Naturally, it’s all a matter of exchanging expensive lunch checks, so Davis is having a grand time while everyone else tries to get inside his head.

Prior to today’s meeting, a unnamed Raiders source indicated that the Alamodome, the last on-spec stadium in America, was considered “NFL-ready.” Clearly that means ready as an interim venue while a new one is built, which is sad considering that the Dome is barely 20 years old. Then again, the Georgia Dome is of similar vintage and that venue is considered outdated by the Falcons, so maybe it’s not that surprising after all.

The Alamodome was borne of a strategic mistake. The Spurs’ old home, the HemisFair Arena, had already been expanded once since its ABA days (by literally raising the roof). The time had come for a brand new arena. Instead of a purpose-built basketball venue, Cisneros led the charge to build a new domed stadium, which could have attracted an NFL team at some point. In the meantime, San Antonio became home to a new CFL expansion franchise during that league’s ill-fated venture in ‘Murica. When the CFL’s stateside project went bust the Alamodome was left without a tenant. A half-house configuration housed the Spurs in a manner that made a 20,000-strong crowd look sparse. The Pistons also did this at the Silverdome until they built their own arena. Eventually Spurs owner Peter Holt prevailed upon city fathers to build AT&T Center on the east side of town, leaving the Alamodome with only one tenant, a minor league football team. A few years ago, the University of Texas-San Antonio started up a new football program, so they moved in to the Dome. The only other permanent tenants is the Alamo Bowl.

Debates about the NFL-worthiness of the San Antonio market generally go nowhere. Yes, it would be one of the smallest markets in the NFL if the Raiders moved there. True, it lacks corporate strength. San Antonio is the eighth-largest city in the nation, but as a fast-growing new city it lacks the distinction of its biggest Texas rivals, let alone other major markets. Their one pro franchise, the Spurs, are the NBA’s shining example of how to run a team on a limited budget. In the market’s favor, it does know how to put on NCAA events with aplomb, and the Alamodome is perhaps the best temporary venue in the country. Good enough to be a real NFL market? Maybe, maybe not. Good enough to be a stalking horse? Definitely.

All Davis said after the meeting was:

Henry Cisneros said their job was to present San Antonio’s assets in strongest light and they did that.

In the normal stadium extortion game, this is when the home city, Oakland, would start throwing public funds at Davis. Since Oakland is in no position to do that, Davis has to try a different tack. Davis’s actions make sense when you understand that he’s trying to play three markets off each other to get the best deal possible – one that allows him to divest as little of the team and his own resources as he can stomach.

What can Oakland provide, given the weird state Coliseum City is in? The only thing nearly as precious as money… time. When Davis talked publicly about demolishing the Coliseum ASAP, he wasn’t joking. He’d like to get the Raiders into a new stadium ASAP. The easiest and quickest way is not to build a stadium alongside the existing Coliseum, but rather to demolish the old one and build on top of the old footprint. Doing so would eliminate the need to reroute power transmission lines and other utilities. More important, no EIR would be needed. When it comes to the rest of the project whether a new venue such as a ballpark or ancillary development, those phases would need an EIR. Fred Kephart is projecting a 2019 opening for a Coliseum City stadium. Davis surely wants a stadium by 2018 or even 2017 if it can be managed. That can’t happen with Coliseum City’s current projected timeline. It’s unclear if an LA stadium can be delivered by 2019. San Antonio? Texas builds stadia faster than California, that’s certain.

What about the A’s new lease, you ask? Aren’t they locked in until 2018? Nope. There’s language that accommodates the possibility of the Raiders pushing the A’s out of the Coliseum.

7.2.2. By Licensor. Licensee acknowledges that a plan may develop for construction of a new football stadium for the Oakland Raiders. Licensor shall keep Licensee reasonably informed of any information related thereto. If Licensor presents Licensee with a Raiders Construction Plan, Licensor and Licensee shall, for a period of thirty (30) days thereafter, negotiate in good faith for an amendment to this License that will account for the financial, operational and other consequences that Licensee would suffer from the construction and operation of such planned football stadium. Such negotiations shall not be necessary if the Raiders Construction Plan includes substantial demolition of the Stadium. If such good faith negotiations are unsuccessful or unnecessary, Licensor may terminate this License upon written notice of intent to terminate to Licensee, such termination to take effect sixty (60) days after the conclusion of the second (2d) Baseball Season that commences after such notice.

44.32. “Raiders Construction Plan” means a bona fide plan for construction of a new football stadium for the Oakland Raiders on current Complex property, adjacent to the current Complex property, or otherwise located sufficiently near to the Stadium such that it will materially impact Licensee’s operations, which bona fide plan must include, as pertains to such stadium project, a fully executed development agreement with a third-party developer and the Licensor for development of a new Raiders stadium, supported by a non-refundable deposit from the developer and received by the Licensor of at least Ten Million Dollars ($10,000,000.00).

The A’s are bound to at least 2018 if they choose to leave. Oakland and the JPA are not. Davis’s currency are his 51% stake in the team and the ability to dictate terms. If he can get a year ahead of projected opening dates, he could end up +$50 million in revenue just for that one year compared to staying at the Coliseum. The city that can deliver the earliest start date will definitely influence his thinking to some degree. No one in the media is talking about time, yet it’s every bit as important as site or financing model, at least in the near term.

P.S. – Davis is also playing a game among the NFL owners. Cowboys owner is on the NFL stadium committee, while Texans owner Bob McNair is on the league’s finance committee. Both owners and their respective committees will have a lot to say about potential relocations before any deals are signed. Davis could be sending a message to the Texas owners to play ball with him, or else face a San Antonio threat. It sounds like a terrible hand to play, but Davis doesn’t have much else with football’s Lodge. If he can influence them and other owners that the Raiders should be first banana in LA (despite various misgivings) it’s a hand well-played. Davis doesn’t have much to lose, plus he could help his friend Cisneros prove San Antonio’s viability. If you’re Cisneros, you don’t opportunities like this all the time, so you might as well give it a shot.

More Election Aftermath 2014: Oakland Transition Begins

Update 1:25 PM – Mayor-elect Schaaf did an interview with KQED radio today. She was tossed a few sports-related questions from Forum host Scott Shafer. After reaffirming her no-public-funding stance, Shafer got her to clarify a few things about the Raiders-vs.-A’s conflict.

Shafer: There’s a lot of pressure on public officials – mayors – that you don’t want to “lose” the Raiders or “lose” the A’s. The 49ers are now essentially in San Jose, they’re down in Santa Clara. The Giants have a wonderful ballpark on the (SF) waterfront. If you had to lose one of those teams, which one would you rather lose? In terms of the economic health of the city, which one matters me?

Schaaf: I’ve already gone on the record on this question. My first and strongest priority is keeping both teams. I believe that we can afford to not pit against one another. But as far as economic impact, our baseball team has a greater economic impact to the city.

Shafer: And in terms of what is the most likely location for a new ballpark for the A’s, what would it be?

Schaaf: Honestly, I love the idea of a waterfront ballpark in Jack London Square, at Howard Terminal, but I’m very transparent about this. Wherever somebody else’s money is gonna build a stadium – I will support that location.

The refreshing thing about Schaaf’s statement is that it sounds like she’s going to let the money (the A’s) lead the way, instead of combatively trying to force A’s ownership to comply with a concept they don’t believe in (ahem, Howard Terminal). That’s a good first step towards building a healthy public-private partnership.

Believe it or not, there are many Raider fans who believe that a football stadium can drive greater economic impact than a ballpark, despite the numbers that suggest it’s impossible (82 baseball games vs. 10 football games, 2.5 million attendance vs. 650,000). It’s good to hear Schaaf put that debate – if there ever was one – to bed.

Only two days after Election Day, current Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf held a joint press conference to announce the office transition. Despite some rather forced-looking hand-holding, it’s a great first step towards improved decorum and organizational unity at City Hall, which would be a huge change from Quan’s uneven tenure. Schaaf talked about five goals for the transition and her first days in office.

It’s good to hear that Schaaf is willing to “fight like hell” to keep both teams in Oakland. A more collegial environment can only help, compared to the last four years of backbiting among Quan, Wolff, and former City Administrator Deanna Santana (remember the “lost letter” mini-scandal?). Schaaf indicated that she would call Wolff about ballpark possibilities, though I wouldn’t expect the conversation to be much more than a courtesy call.

Schaaf inserted herself into the A’s extension talks when she took some time while on the campaign trail to criticize the negotiations. Rebecca Kaplan, who got both credit and heat for leading the talks, fired back that Schaaf hadn’t asked for information on the talks before stepping onto a soapbox. Was that just the usual campaign trail opportunism, or Schaaf’s desire to be more involved? From KRON:

At the time Schaaf also said that there would be legislation forthcoming that would force more open negotiations (past talks have been notoriously secretive).  Her resolution was titled The Accountability and Transparency in High-Stakes Negotiations Act.

Recommendation: Adopt The Accountability And Transparency In High Stakes Negotiations Policy Resolution Amending Rule 25 Of The Council’s Rules Of Procedure, Resolution No. 82580 C.M.S. And Resolution No. 84758 C.M.S., To Require City Councilmembers Appointed To Serve On Boards, Commissions, Agencies, Joint Powers Authorities, (“Representatives”) To: (1) Notify The City Council As Soon As High-Stakes Negotiations Commence; (2) Provide Real-Time Reports On High-Stakes Negotiations And Annual Reports On General Business; And (3) Participate In Training Regarding Their Duties And Obligations Of Representation Within 30 Days Of Appointment

Basically, it requires the negotiating parties (the two CMs appointed to the JPA board) to keep the rest of the Council and the Mayor in the loop and inform on a regular basis. You’d think this would be standard operating procedure, and I’d ask you what cute small town you live in where this happens. In any event, the resolution passed – coincidentally on Wednesday. Now Schaaf will have the opportunity to play by the very rule she drew up. Whether or not it was politics, it should work to the public’s benefit when the time comes for real negotiations. It’s a lot better than the Mayor’s office whispering information to useful idiot types who then spew it out to a select audience.

The underappreciated part of Schaaf’s pledge is the need for a professional, permanent City Administrator. Keeping one in place has been less successful than having a drummer in Spinal Tap. There was Santana’s tumultuous reign, then Fred Blackwell stayed on the job for a month before taking a private sector position. Prior to Santana were two interim administrators, P. Lamont Ewell and Dan Lindheim. The current administrator is also an temporary hire, Henry Gardner. And we can’t forget that Robert Bobb was run out of town by Jerry Brown when Bobb pushed for an Uptown ballpark. The job is not for the meek. Bobb’s consulting firm is taking a gig with the JPA, negotiating Coliseum City or an alternative on their behalf. Bobb negotiated the publicly-financed Nationals Ballpark deal and recently helped deliver a report on a nearby stadium concept for the DC United soccer franchise. At $286 million, nearly half paid by the District, it would be the most expensive stadium in MLS by leaps and bounds. A City Manager/Administrator does far more than stadium deals, and finding qualified, experienced candidates is not easy, as Oakland has seen the last several years. Having one in place who supports the project, negotiates fairly for the City, and communicates regularly is just as important as having a Mayor on board. It doesn’t hurt to have a good working relationship between the City Administrator and Mayor. What’s particularly troubling is that the rapid turnover has exposed a brain drain problem at City Hall. Many cities promote from within to fill an open city manager position, with the advantage that an internal candidate already knows the local turf and pitfalls, no learning curve required. Gardner’s expected to leave with Quan, so to call the need urgent would not be an understatement.

Election Aftermath 2014

A wise person would’ve turned off the lights and gone to sleep early, waiting to let the election news wash over them until the following morning. Not this guy. As the various county registrars were plagued by reporting delays traced back to a vendor in Florida (that’s your first clue right there), election observers sat at their computers, thumbs properly inserted.

Eventually we got our results. Though not certified, we have a pretty good sense where everything’s leading:

  1. Libby Schaaf is the apparent winner of the Oakland mayoral race.
  2. Sam Liccardo narrowly defeated Dave Cortese in San Jose’s mayoral race.
  3. Alameda County’s Measure BB passed with 69% of the vote, approving a 0.5% sales tax hike for 30 years.

Last week Schaaf did an interview with Athletics Nation in which she discussed current efforts to keep the A’s and other teams in town, as well as her own ideas on doing things differently. She said many of the right things about the City working with greater transparency. She criticized certain aspects of the Coliseum City plan, such as the fanciful replacement arena for the Warriors (who are working on their own arena in SF). Fans of the A’s and/or Raiders will definitely seize upon this:

AN: Do you see keeping the A’s and Raiders as mutually exclusive? What are some of the challenges that go along with keeping both teams in the city?

Schaaf: There is enough room for both teams, and my clear priority is keeping both teams. But from an economic point of view, the A’s have a larger economic benefit for Oakland that should always be kept in mind. They play more than 80 games a year, compared to 10. But I just want to be clear, I’m a very proud Oakland native; my parents were season-ticket holders for both the A’s and the Raiders throughout my life.

If Schaaf is going to work via a straight economic comparison of the two sports, there’s little doubt that the regular season of baseball is far more impactful than a football season. Football’s big payoff was to come via a Super Bowl, though that’s perhaps more of a pipe dream than Coliseum City itself. If Schaaf moves towards abandoning visions of a Super Bowl or retractable roof stadium, it would lead to much more productive discussions between the City and the Raiders. The team and the NFL don’t particularly care about Oakland’s Super Bowl fantasies, and the added cost ($200-300 million at today’s rates) makes an already difficult project even more prohibitive.

Schaaf also led off by saying there’s enough room for both teams, a common refrain from many candidates during the campaign. The problem is not a matter of physical room, it’s whether or not the assembled parcels and other resources can properly pay for the bulk of two stadia. Later on in the interview she emphasizes that the venue(s) will be built with someone else’s money, which is fine as long as someone else can figure out a way to make it pay for itself and turn a profit to boot.

For now Coliseum City remains lame duck mayor Jean Quan’s baby, one covered with the stench of desperation and imminent failure. Schaaf won’t be sworn in until January, which will leave probably one week for her to determine in concert with a new city council how to proceed. She can choose to carry on Quan’s work as Quan conceives the project, leave certain processes going (EIR) while regrouping to think up another strategy, or abandon the project altogether to come up with a completely different plan. How Schaaf proceeds will largely dictate how the A’s and Raiders act, since both teams are waiting for each other to vacate. Complicating matters is the NFL’s activity, which includes a special meeting of its stadium and finance committees to further plan potential Los Angeles relocation(s). In February the relocation window officially opens, which could allow the Rams and/or Raiders to apply to move. If that happens, it’s expected that the NFL will have the procedure in place for relocation candidates to move forward.

If the Raiders leave Oakland only one month into Schaaf’s tenure, her legacy won’t be defined by it. She has worked just about everywhere in Oakland government except as part of the JPA or with the JPA. She has been a sitting council member, sure, but that’s much different from working deals the way Rebecca Kaplan did recently or Schaaf’s old boss Ignacio De La Fuente did previously as members of both the City Council and the JPA. If Schaaf allows both the A’s and Raiders to leave with the Warriors already one foot out the door – now that could be terribly damaging to her. Quan has been scrambling to keep all three teams without a cohesive plan. Schaaf doesn’t want to repeat that. The Raiders leaving would allow Schaaf to devote resources to the A’s, an idea the JPA is already on board with. If the Raiders decide to stay in Oakland and partner with Coliseum City everything remains status quo, though Schaaf will also have the new task of negotiating a short-term lease with Mark Davis.

If the Raiders choose to nix LA and work on a new stadium in Oakland, Schaaf will have to decide if it makes sense to devote more resources towards an A’s ballpark. She expressed support for Howard Terminal, yet the A’s lease and stance leave the site out of the picture. Perhaps Schaaf could work with Doug Boxer and Don Knauss to better present a plan to pay for the ballpark at HT while smoothing over the bad relationship between Quan and Lew Wolff – it is a new regime, right? However, that may be a bridge too far for a site that neither Wolff nor MLB supports. Building a stadium in California is hard. If Schaaf can guide her city towards the realization that they’ll be more productive by putting more wood behind fewer arrows, they stand a better chance at turning that dream of a new stadium into a reality. Schaaf will have to remember one guiding principle: If she’s going to plan for a stadium with someone else’s money, chances are that someone else will have a lot more say about how that stadium gets built than a publicly-built stadium.

P.S. – One other thing. Without knowing that much about Schaaf’s work in her district, all the talk about her work ethic and positive attitude reminds me of fictional city bureaucrat Leslie Knope. Is that a reasonable comparison? Oakland could use Leslie Knope’s kind of determination. Maybe we’ll be able to see that now that the craziness of the campaign is over.

Election Day 2014

Update 11/5 6:00 AM – 100% of precincts are in and the ranked choice tabulations have been made. The next Oakland mayor is Libby Schaaf, who effectively trounced her rivals at the polls, nearly doubling Incumbent Mayor Jean Quan’s vote total. After RCV was calculated, Schaaf finished the night with 62.79% of the vote. Runner-up was Rebecca Kaplan. Quan was eliminated in the penultimate round.

Measure BB also won with 69.56% of the vote in Alameda County.

Sam Liccardo held on to win the San Jose mayoral job over Dave Cortese, finishing 51-49.

More commentary to come.

Update 11:30 PM – Results are coming back with some needed urgency. Schaaf has extended her lead over Jean Quan from 28.45-17.10 to 28.74-16.39, with Rebecca Kaplan now in third place at 14.36%. 44% of precincts have reported so far. Measure BB is now up 69-31. San Jose’s mayoral race has tightened up with Liccardo leading Cortese 50.9-49.1, a difference of 1,500 votes with 45% of precincts reporting.

Update 10:30 PM – The polls have been closed for over two hours, but results have been coming late, the last major update coming at around 9 PM. In Santa Clara County there have been technical (website) issues. Alameda County appears to have similar problems. I’ll hang tight for another hour before calling it a night. So far Libby Schaaf is ahead in the Oakland mayoral race, though be advised that these are extremely early returns and the ranked choice tabulations are not factored in yet.

oakmayor

 

Meanwhile, Alameda County Measure BB is ahead 68-32 and Sam Liccardo leads Dave Cortese 51-49 in the San Jose mayoral race.

Update 3:30 PM – San Jose City Council voted 9-1 to approve the A’s land option extension. Stand for San Jose’s law firm, Pillsbury, disagreed with the lease option on CEQA and referendum grounds. City attorney John Boyle clarified that a referendum wasn’t needed and that the EIR was certified. CM Pierluigi Oliverio was the lone no vote, saying that if the A’s wanted the land they should just buy it.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Dina-Roberts Wakulczyk

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Dina-Roberts Wakulczyk

Despite the general disinterest in today’s general election, there are some important races that will impact stadium efforts for the A’s and Raiders in the Bay Area. Let’s take a look.

Oakland’s mayoral race is the big one, with 15 candidates including incumbent Jean Quan. A KPIX 5 poll from two weeks ago had council member Rebecca Kaplan first at 19%, fellow CM Libby Schaaf at 17%, and Quan and SF State professor Joe Tuman tied for third at 15%. The Chronicle is reporting that final ballot counts may not happen for a few days, even though they now have the ability to do election night tabulations tonight. In 2010, tabulating the results of the ranked choice vote took the rest of the week to complete. Members of Save Oakland Sports and supporters of Coliseum City have thrown their weight behind Quan, while going against Kaplan, who helped broker the A’s lease extension. Kaplan hasn’t officially stood behind any one concept, though it’s a logical progression to think that she might support a Lew Wolff-offered, A’s-oriented redevelopment plan for the Coliseum. Kaplan had received campaign contributions from Wolff, but chose to return them after questions about impropriety arose. Schaaf and Tuman have been highly critical of the City and the JPA throughout the campaign season, but haven’t offered much in the way of solutions for keeping the pro teams in town. Port commissioner Bryan Parker has remained the most vocal supporter of Howard Terminal for the A’s.

If Quan loses, it’s unclear what happens to Coliseum City. The CEQA/EIR process will continue at least through the 90-day deadline set last month. Kaplan, who had previously considered the Coliseum site the best future place for Oakland sports, remains on the JPA board and could pivot as a “savior” of the plan if she wins. If she doesn’t win she’ll remain in her at-large council seat and on the JPA board. Schaaf is vacating her District 4 seat, so like Quan, if she loses she’ll be out of elected office in Oakland.

As results come in they’ll be posted here. Look for a followup post discussing impacts later tonight or tomorrow.

San Jose also has a mayoral race, though it is more traditional than Oakland’s RCV. The primary was held in June, and as expected the top two candidates were current council member Sam Liccardo and Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese. Liccardo is being held up as the successor to Chuck Reed and is expected to carry on Reed’s pro-business policies if elected. Cortese, who was also a council member a decade ago, enjoys a great deal of support from labor and is considered the anti-Reed candidate. Both hold differing views on the baseball-to-San Jose effort. Liccardo prefers to continue Reed’s legal challenge of MLB, whereas Cortese has put forth a more conciliatory approach towards baseball. Both are proponents of bringing the A’s to San Jose.

Alameda County is set to vote on Measure BB, the 0.5%, 30-year sales tax hike for transportation projects. The tax would fund $7.785 billion in new projects, from more than $2 billion in largely deferred street maintenance to a Livermore BART extension ($400 million) to Bus Rapid Transit in Oakland ($35 million) to $284 million in improvements to I-880. Also in the package is $40 million for Coliseum City, money that would expand and better integrate the transit hub at the Coliseum BART station. This money is considered key to the success of Coliseum City, since additional privately financed development would be catalyzed by the creation of such a transit center. Two years ago a similar measure, Measure B1, barely missed the two-thirds majority needed for passage. Supporters of BB are vowing not to let such a defeat happen again by throwing greater campaign resources and garnering broader support for the measure. In 2012, Coliseum City basically had to punt while it waited for the next election, effectively delaying planning for nearly two years. With so much uncertainty surrounding Coliseum City’s prospects, another defeat could mean a very big nail in its coffin.

Finally, the City of San Jose’s City Council will vote today on the land option extension on the Diridon ballpark site for the A’s. The option, which is only for part of the fully assembled site, would run at least four years and up to seven at the A’s discretion. The cost of the option is $100,000 for the first four years, with additional years at $25,000. If the A’s exercise the option, they would pay $7 million for those 5 acres, and would have to buy the rest privately. No transaction can happen unless MLB approves a move to San Jose, which it has not done to date.

—-

Watch the top of this post for updates as they occur.

Profile in Oakland Magazine

Apparently I’m some sort of international regional man of mystery, so it was only a matter of time before I was profiled in some periodical, somewhere. Such is the case in the November edition of Oakland Magazine, where Steven Tavares (of East Bay Citizen) figured out a way to devote 750 words to me. There are also quotes from detractors, though not from me directly. Tavares asked me for an interview a few weeks ago and I declined, simply because I’d rather not draw further attention to myself. It’s about the ballpark and the process, not me. Still, if you want to read it you can find a copy at various retail locations, or if you go to the magazine’s website you can check out the digital edition. Here’s a tease:

Lede from the profile

Lede from the profile

My favorite tidbit goes like this:

“…some of Muncada’s detractors responded to photos he tweeted from his seat at the Coliseum by attempting to triangulate his location at the ballpark.”

These same detractors then suggest that I got those tickets some sort of payola (or that I’m actually Lew Wolff?), when in reality I used the At The Ballpark app to upgrade from my usual Value Deck seats to either Field Level or MVP, often for as little as $10-12.

Whether you believe I’m rational or evil incarnate, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the read. I know I did.

A’s release 2015 Spring Training Schedule

The A’s have released their spring training schedule, so you can start planning your trip to the desert for their first season back at Hohokam Stadium. That’s right, if you hadn’t heard, the A’s are moving on from Phoenix Municipal Stadium, which while cozy and scenic lacked up-to-date training facilities for the players and some of the creature comforts found at other Cactus League ballparks. I recently had a chance to check out some of the renovation work at Hohokam. Thankfully the old beige paint is pretty much gone, replaced by forest green, light gray, and gold accents. The new Daktronics scoreboard is up, seats have been replaced, work on the party deck in left field should begin soon. All renovation work is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In keeping with the later start of the regular season, spring training starts on Tuesday, March 3, with a “home-and-home” set against the Giants. The Cactus League slate ends April 1 before moving to the Bay Area for the ritual Bay Bridge Series.

springtraining-2015

If you want to catch as many games as possible at the new Hohokam, come during the first weekend and into the second week, when 5 of 6 games will be played there. The first 3 games are also a good bet, since 2 of them will be in Mesa (1 at Hohokam, 1 at Cubs Park). If you have the chance, make sure to check out some of the newer parks such as Salt River Fields and Camelback Ranch. Salt River Fields is the new gem in the Cactus League and is worth the extra drive.

If you have any questions about how to plan your Cactus League trip, feel free to reply in the comments. I’ll be happy to help.

Hohokam seating chart

Hohokam seating chart

Kephart provides some brutal honesty about Coliseum City

New Coliseum City frontman Floyd Kephart provided a wide-ranging interview to the SF Business Times (main article/additional quotes). After 2+ years of the project lacking real details and general cageyness from its spokespeople and supporters, Kephart’s honesty is a breath of fresh air. He minces no words about the difficulties Coliseum City faces, and sets the table for what needs to follow.

birdseye-view_north

Coliseum City with two new venues plus the existing arena

The article, written by Ron Leuty, lays out Kephart’s previous experience, much of it in the horse-racing business, some of which is in financial crisis management. The latter’s probably the best why to describe his current ordeal, with 90 80 days left in the ENA. Kephart admits that CC is by far the biggest project he’s ever worked on. Among the things he says needs to be done:

  • Public benefit analysis
  • Disposition and development agreement
  • At least one signed team
  • Master developer

I put together a more extensive list last week when the ENA extension was signed. The public benefit analysis, while not a requirement, is an excellent idea since it could help garner public support if conducted honestly. That could be crucial if CC ends up going to the ballot box in the future. The DDA is a potential showstopper, since it can take up to a year after a team and developer sign on to hammer it out, as it did for the 49ers and Santa Clara. The DDA isn’t anything like a apartment rental agreement or even a mortgage, it’s hundreds of pages of details about financing, ownership, rights, timelines, and legal responsibilities. Maybe if the Raiders or A’s sign on prior to the end of the 90 days another extension could be granted for the DDA, but it goes to show how far behind the 8-ball this project is.

The big takeaway is that Kephart is meeting with Wolff in early November (perhaps next week?), which will give Kephart a chance to sell Wolff on having a more competent team in place or tailoring the vision for the A’s. Kephart’s aim appears to be lower than what the City was selling for the last two years, as the goal of having one team in place, maybe two is not nearly the same as bold (or pointless) as saying Everyone can stay here, there’s plenty of land.

Wolff could easily dismiss the plans just as he had done over the summer, but with the finish line drawing near, Wolff may be more likely to listen. The reason? Process. Having an active CEQA/EIR process underway is worth millions of dollars and at least a year’s worth of effort, so if Wolff were to sign on or bring in a master developer that will work in concert with the A’s, they’d already be ahead of the game. It’s a risk for Oakland, though, since the Mark Davis could view this as a sign that the Raiders are about to be marginalized. Since Davis hasn’t signed on himself, there isn’t much room for him to complain. As Kephart notes:

“Nothing says what the Raiders want. Is it a life-sized statue of Al Davis at the entrance of the stadium and then they’ll stay? … Maybe the teams have asked the city that — I don’t know.”

Another big piece of news is the timeline.

Yet even if Kephart’s group assembles all the agreements and documentation needed to win over a master developer for Coliseum City, the soonest the A’s would play in a new ballpark would be 2018 and the Oakland Raiders would land a new stadium in 2019 ‘at the earliest,’ Kephart said.

‘We want to cooperate,’ Wolff said. ‘We want to see what happens in whatever timeframe, 90 days or longer. Then we’ll know better what we have to do.’

2019 for the Raiders is a long ways away. It’s unclear whether that would be acceptable for Davis. If someone’s promising a new stadium in LA earlier, he may be willing to take it if the terms are right, even if he’s the second team in LA. 2018 for the A’s pretty much falls in line with reset expectations coming out of the lengthy Coliseum lease negotiations. We all want it sooner, I know.

For now Kephart is saying the right things – the truth – that can help get everyone on the same page. There’s no doubt that the effort at this point is a Hail Mary. Then again, Kephart probably knows a thing or two about long shots. If his work can help get the A’s in a ballpark in Oakland, he’ll have done his job magnificently.