Tips for going to A’s Spring Training

I’ve had the pleasure of going to seven games at Hohokam Stadium so far. I’ve sat in every location other than the suites, so I think I have a pretty good handle on it. With that experience under my belt, I have a few tips that can help you with your future trip to see Cactus League action.

  1. The lawn ticket ($9-10) can also be considered a standing room ticket. If you feel like getting out of the sun, you can stand on the walkway separating the 100 and 200 sections on the grandstand. As long as you’re along the back wall you’ll  be okay. The advantage to this is that you’re only 12 rows behind the backstop when you do this. So grab a beer and enjoy the view.
  2. Find a refuge. Hohokam is spacious enough that there are a lot of places for groups of people to informally hang out. There’s the centerfield lawn behind the berm. Or the mini concourses behind the bleacher sections down the lines, which have their own generally empty restrooms.
  3. There’s always room on the lawn. I’ve been told that the number of tickets for the lawn has been capped to give families extra room to lay out blankets. Even when games are sold out there usually a good amount of room available on the lawn. As usual, get there early for the best spots, but even if you don’t there should still be good ones.
  4. Don’t stress the exit. Due to the way the A’s clubhouse takes up a large part of the first base concourse, it creates a bit of a slog for fans exiting after games. You can bear with that, or hang out for a few minutes while the place empties out. Or you could go early, in which case I have to ask why you’re there in the first place.
  5. You can bring in some food and beverage items. During the first couple of games fans could only bring in bottled water. That changed to sealed sodas and some food from outside. Before the game, go to Basha’s, a grocery 1/2 mile east on Brown Road. Just inside the door you can get $0.99 one-pound bags of peanuts, no club card needed.
  6. Check out the knothole gang. The fences beyond the left field berm don’t have any sort of visual barrier or screen, inviting fans to watch games for free.

Enjoy your time in the desert, or keep this post bookmarked for when you visit.

There’s a rhythm to how spring training works that goes hidden. It belies the very laid back feel of the proceedings. Scratch the surface, however, and you can see how many things are going on at once.

As I write this I’m at Fitch Park, paying attention to two games simultaneously. Last week the first round of major league cuts were made, the result of which are the minor league squads that play games at the backfields at each facility. Every day except Sunday you can come to any facility and watch one or two games featuring prospects. For free. The way it works is that a second minor league game schedule is worked out independently of the major league squads. For Friday and Saturday it looked like this:

  • Friday: MLB – Dodgers @ A’s, Hohokam. AA/AAA – Angels @ A’s, Fitch.
  • Saturday: MLB – Reds @ A’s, Hohokam. AA/AAA – Giants @ A’s, Fitch. A/A+ – A’s @ Giants, Indian School.

There are no big grandstands at these facilities as these are just practice fields, so all you see are a couple of bleacher sections much like you’d see at a tournament setting. Often the players not playing – mostly prospects – sit in the bleachers with the fans. It’s as informal as it gets. And again, it’s free. Come early to watch BP or drills, hang out for the games, head over to the big club’s game if you feel like it. The only downside is that the minor league games start at the same time as the major league games (1 PM), so if you paid for a game ticket you’ll feel compelled to use it.

The minor league schedule continues for a bit after the major league teams usually leave for the regular season. Some players, especially those on rehab assignments, stay behind for extended spring training, which runs through May.

City and County set new targets for Coliseum City ENA

Update 3/19 1:20 PM – Oakland’s City Council has scheduled a special meeting for Friday, March 20 at 11:30 AM to vote on a resolution supporting the ENA. You can find the agenda at the meeting link. In addition to the deadlines set forth in yesterday’s news, there’s also an option to extend the agreement for up to six months if some of the deliverables aren’t met or other holdups. There’s also this:

competing

Nothing about the “alternative proposals” shows up in the resolution, however. Once the City and County both approve the ENA including this facet, the A’s (and Raiders for that matter) could start sending in their own concepts. I expect one at some point from the A’s, but as noted previously, they are under no deadlines to deliver anything as New City and the Raiders are.

Original post:

Yes, we wrote two months ago about how the City of Oakland and Alameda County were coming together to work on Coliseum City. The signs were that both parties were finally on the same page.

Well, we’re hearing the same thing again, though this time it might actually be for real. After some back and forth between the County and Floyd Kephart of New City, the County’s Board of Supervisors are looking to vote on the ENA at the end of this week. Or early next week. Or something. The SF Business Times’ Ron Leuty has the details.

Besides the ever plodding deal machinations, Leuty also picked up the new terms of the ENA. June 21 marks a midterm deadline for New City to provide certain deliverables. The “final” deadline is August 21, with even more deliverables. All told it’s 23 separate items, all important, few minor.

June 21st’s set is all about creating the framework of the deal. It should answer basic questions like How many teams will be involved? and How long will it take to develop?

  • An initial financing plan for a new stadium for the Raiders, including ancillary development and land and infrastructure to support a potential new stadium for the Oakland Athletics. It will include projected sources and types of funding as well as the estimated equity stake from New City, its partners and affiliates.
  • Terms and conditions required to win a commitment from the Raiders, A’s or the Golden State Warriors to Coliseum City. This will include an update on the status of negotiations between New City and each team.
  • Initial site plans for new Raiders and/or A’s stadiums.
  • Financial and market feasibility analyses for various elements of the development other than sports facilities.
  • A development schedule for the sports facilities and ancillary development, including the timing of entitlements for all phases of the project.
  • An estimate of infrastructure cost and a funding plan for the infrastructure, including a list of potential regional, state and federal grant sources.
  • Plans for tax financing districts for infrastructure.
  • A preliminary plan for subdividing parcels, if needed.
  • Proposals for addressing the existing Coliseum debt.
  • Proposed timetables for disposing of land for various parts of the project.
  • An outline contracting plan.
  • An outline community benefits plan for the project.

August 21 is about buttoning up the deal and figuring out all of the little details defined in June.

  • A detailed description of the plan for project development.
  • Refined terms and conditions required to win a commitment from the Raiders and/or A’s and a project schedule for obtaining a commitment.
  • A refined financing plan for Raiders and/or A’s stadiums, including identification of all sources of financing.
  • A refined description of the financing structure for ancillary development and the proposed developers for each element of those pieces of the development.
  • A clearer schedule for development of the stadiums and the ancillary development, including the timing of entitlements.
  • A better estimate of infrastructure cost and a funding plan for the infrastructure.
  • A refined proposal for establishing tax financing districts for financing infrastructure.
  • A clearer plan for subdividing parcels.
  • A refined proposal addressing existing Coliseum debt.
  • Proposed terms for the lease disposition and development agreement and financing for various elements of the project.
  • A refined contracting plan and community benefits plan.

By late April we should expect that the EIR will be certified and the Specific Plan approved, which are their own framework in that it defines zoning. With that zoning component there are no entitlements on which developers can build at the Coliseum.

To date many of the deadlines put forth by the City have been about timing in concert with some important date for the Raiders and the NFL. Previously the ENA was supposed to be completed before the 2014 season over, then before the franchise relocation window opened, then 90 days from that (April). Now the ENA deadline is being pushed to just before the 2015 NFL regular season starts. That itself is arbitrary, and allows for yet another 3-5 months of slack before the Raiders have to make a decision on LA or another possible move. With that in mind, I fully expect Coliseum City to slip yet again past August. The list of deliverables above is daunting. The DDA alone can take months to put together. While everyone’s operating from the notion that once a team signs on everything else will fall into place, there’s little reason to believe that negotiations will be that tidy. This project has a growing number of stakeholders, including housing and jobs activists who will make their stamp on a community benefits agreement. The financing for a project of this size is incredibly complex. And the City and County have to be on their toes to ensure that they don’t get taken by the private stakeholders in the project: New City, developers, and the team(s). Without clear terms done in thoughtful, deliberate manner, you get Mt. Davis.

I haven’t mentioned the A’s or Lew Wolff yet. Wolff has made his position clear in that he has no interest in Coliseum City. The difference for him is that he and the A’s have no deadlines, arbitrary or otherwise. What happened to the idea of allowing competing bids? That appears to have disappeared into the ether. For now.

Tenth Anniversary Edition: A Decade of Running in Place

If you’ve been around from the beginning (you probably haven’t), you may have read the very first post I made to this blog on March 14, 2005. That was ten years ago. Here’s a quick, incomplete list of things that have happened since then:

  • Bud Selig stays commissioner until 2015, is replaced by Rob Manfred
  • Expos move (are bought-contracted-expanded) to Washington, DC
  • Six new ballparks open throughout MLB (in St. Louis, DC, New York twice, Minneapolis, and Miami)
  • Levi’s Stadium developed and opened
  • Warriors get new ownership, declare intent to move to SF, buy land for arena
  • AEG moves SJ Earthquakes to Houston. Team is reborn in 2008, has stadium built for 2015 season
  • A’s propose ballparks at sites in Oakland, Fremont, and San Jose – none are successful
  • Oakland is on its fourth mayor since the blog started

That same day I posted about the A’s potentially building a ballpark south of the existing Coliseum. Pending what happens with Coliseum City, we may be talking about that very same possibility in the future. Weird how things might come full circle, eh?

As we wait for good news on the stadium front, I have some good news of my own. A couple years ago I asked for donations for the site to keep it running. Many of you responded very generously. which helped keep the site and my continuing work going. This site is a labor of love, so I haven’t asked for donations much (twice to my recollection). Back in 2013, I promised those of you who donated that I’d provide a sort of digest of previous posts. I tried many times to compile and curate that digest, but over time I’ve learned that I am a much worse editor than I am a writer (which is already rather questionable). Everything read like filler, not moving the narrative forward. I put that aside for a while and swore to get back to it. It wasn’t until earlier this year, when I put together the timeline feature, that it all came together. I was able to put together all the necessary posts, with additional context inserted where necessary. So I’m proud to announce that I have that “book” ready. The download link is below. Those of you who previously donated have already gotten the link via email. Please take a look at it and provide feedback if you like. If you donated and haven’t gotten the book, send me a note/tweet and I’ll make sure to take care of you. And if you have already donated, you don’t need to do anything else, but if you want to donate again I won’t stop you.

I’ve titled the book:

A Decade of Running in Place: A Digest of Selected Blog Posts from the First Ten Years of Newballpark.org

Book download link (Scribd, PDF)

Donate Button

I’ve poured over a million words, 10,000+ hours, and my entire heart and soul into this site. The A’s getting a new ballpark has been a dream of mine since high school, when I first saw drawings of New Comiskey Park and Camden Yards. I don’t expect anyone to have the same kind of obsession with this topic that I have. I figure that I’ll be the obsessive so that you don’t have to be. Thousands of people read this site every day. About 2% of them have donated. If you value the work here and the process, please consider donating. $10 would be great.

The book weighs in at 210,000 words and 664 pages in PDF format. It’s entirely in chronological order. There are what appear to be section or chapter markers. Those are points at which I think the scene shifts. They aren’t meant to encapsulate the story.

Editing and pagination are rough, mostly having to do with the transition from web to print-ready format. I’d like to take the time to give it a whirl in InDesign, with the ultimate goal of making printed copies. A donated of $25 or more would get the ball rolling.

Since this is the 10th anniversary, I’ve started thinking of other things to commemorate this milestone. What do you folks think? T-shirts? Caps? Stickers and decals? Should I do a crowdfunding campaign? I’m all ears at this point. Some of you readers are creatives of different stripes. Send me your suggestions.

Finally, many thinks to all the readers over the years. I’ve met and become friends with many of you. We’ve broken bread, gotten beers, talked plenty of things besides an A’s ballpark. It’s been a pleasure. It will continue until the day that this blog is no longer necessary. After all this time I still hope. I think many of you do too. It’s what binds us. I don’t know how much longer it will take for the A’s to get a new home. Another 10 years? 10 months? However long it takes, I’ll be here for the ride. I hope you enjoy appreciate it as much as I do.

P.S. – Special thanks to Susan Slusser, who suggested the timeline a couple months ago while working on her own A’s history book (due this summer and highly anticipated). Without that I never would’ve gotten properly organized.

P.P.S. – This is not “the book” that I’ve been talking about writing. That book is still very much in progress.

 

Manfred: No blue ribbon panel for A’s

From Susan Slusser:

The commish is checking in with every team during the spring, so he should’ve expected this and other questions about the A’s future. While it’s encouraging that Manfred won’t hide behind a panel, that’s a long way from actually working things out. We’ll know for sure if Manfred becomes more hands-on regarding the A’s. If he is, that’s because he’s eager for a quick resolution. The same couldn’t be said for his predecessor.

Ten Years Prior, Ten Years Hence

This blog was launched at Blogger on March 14, 2005. I wrote seven (!) posts that day.

I must’ve been really excited. If you want to get a taste for what was happening then and how bad my writing was (still is), run through those posts. I’m at a more comfortable, columnist-like three or four posts a week nowadays. Will I have another post like this ten years from now? I sure hope not.

I’ll have new stuff on Monday.

Miley says the R-word

You’d think someone actually reads this blog.

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

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

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

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

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

Early stages of construction at the Coliseum in 1965

Early stages of construction at the Coliseum in 1965

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

Two-deck bowl built adjacent to existing east stand

Two-deck bowl built adjacent to existing east stand

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

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

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

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

LA’s downtown stadium dream dies while STL’s gets a boost

When I went to the Stadia Expo in the summer of 2012, I walked by the large Gensler booth. In it was this:

gensler-farmersfield

Now it belongs in the dustbin of great, failed stadium concepts. When AEG unveiled the concept in 2011 it seemed it was getting all its ducks in a row. It had a naming rights sponsor in Farmers Insurance, a cooperative government in terms of process if not money, an EIR completed, and legislation to help bypass CEQA litigation. AEG appeared to be in the pole position for a future NFL stadium in LA.

They were missing the most important component of a new stadium: a team to call that stadium home. Not for lack of trying. They had reached out to every possible relocation candidate. The problem was their terms. AEG wanted, at least at the outset, a large ownership stake and control of the franchise as well. Owners as well as the NFL balked at such demands, and let AEG hang out to dry while they formulated their own relocation plans independently. Frustrated by the lack of action on the LA front, AEG head Phil Anschutz allowed his company to pursue buyers in hopes of a multi-billion dollar cashout. He also let Farmers Field champion Tim Leiweke go, giving the project no real internal support in addition to its lack of external (NFL) support. The final blows came in a quick combo as Stan Kroenke partnered with Inglewood interests on their own domed NFL stadium, followed by the Chargers and Raiders partnering on an outdoor stadium plan in Carson. Today AEG announced that it was giving up on Farmers Field and moving on with its Plan B, an expansion of the LA Convention Center (which it operates) that includes no stadium component.

AEG went from stalking horse to legitimate contender to non-entity in the span of four years. That’s the stadium game for you.

The State of Missouri’s Department of Economic Development released a study claiming that a new stadium for the Rams would return upwards of $9.6 million per year to the state’s coffers. The study isn’t available on the MoDED website yet, so I haven’t been able to scrutinize it. I tend to be skeptical of such claims, but I’ll wait to comment until I see the study. The public contribution for the riverfront venue is $405 million of a total development cost of more than $1 billion.

The beat goes on.