Before JPA and numerous East Bay officials finalize the cost of building Coliseum City, they need to understand its scope. How many venues would it hold – 3, 2, or 1? Which part(s) would get built first? How much of it is subject to market forces? And what of the extra niceties that they plan to put in there, such as the transit hub component?
Any project of this size is bound to go through numerous configurations and brainstorming before arriving at the final vision. To understand that, let’s look at some of the renderings released by Oakland architecture firm JRDV. If nothing else, you’ll get an appreciation of how complex this complex is.
With each iteration, the surrounding buildings have grown taller and more numerous, as if the stakes have only gotten bigger over time. But wait – something about that ballpark looks familiar. Hmmm…
Honestly, I wouldn’t have noticed if D’Sjon Dixon hadn’t pointed it out himself. The only meaningful difference between the two is that Dixon’s concept is squeezed into a very small lot, whereas there’s plenty of space in the Coliseum’s A lot for a ballpark to stretch out. Naturally, Dixon’s feeling a bit ripped off right about now.
— D’Sjon Dixon (@dsjondixon) November 9, 2013
For now Dixon is keeping current and future designs under wraps, though it appears as though Glenn Dickey has caught on and championed it to an extent.
Chances are that Coliseum City will undergo even more transformations before the parties settle on one vision. If they can’t, or if the project doesn’t prove feasible due to cost, well, at least these were nice renderings (hello, Pacific Commons).
As the hubbub and posturing over the Coliseum lease subsides, today we got some good news: the A’s spring training schedule has been released! It’s a momentous spring, too, since it’ll be the last at venerable Phoenix Municipal Stadium before the A’s move 10 miles east to Hohokam Stadium in Mesa. Hohokam is vacant in 2014 as crews make changes to accommodate the A’s after the departure of the Cubs.
Speaking of the Cubs, they’re set to open their Wrigleyville West, also in Mesa, in 2014. That’ll be worth checking out. The A’s play only one split-squad game at the Cubs’ yet-unnamed ballpark on March 5. Even if you miss that, don’t fret because the great thing about the Cactus League is that all of the parks are within a reasonable driving distance of each other. While there’s no neat sideshow like the World Baseball Classic in 2014, there’s still plenty to watch.
If you’re interested in visiting, remember that the A’s work out at the ballfields at Papago Park, which is nearly 2 miles north on the other side of the park from Muni. One thing I’ve never done is walk from Papago (where minor league camp games are held) to Muni, so I might do that this year.
Looking to check out several Cactus League ballparks? Consider that the 10 parks are set up in two clusters of five, to the west and east of downtown Phoenix. The east cluster, which Phoenix Muni is part of, is less spread out than the west cluster. Best to divide and conquer.
I’m targeting the 4-day weekend of March 13 through 16. The A’s play a rare night game at Muni. If I get there in the morning I can take in a game nearby in the afternoon before heading to Muni. There’s also a split-squad opportunity on Sunday the 16th, starting with a game in Muni and ending with the A’s taking on the Giants in Scottsdale.
There’s no league wide schedule available yet, as the teams are given the responsibility to arrange their schedules among themselves and publish when they’re ready. At this early stage, only a handful of teams such as the A’s and Giants have published theirs. Soon I’ll get all of them and put together a grid, the same way I did for the regular season.
One last note – keep in mind that Daylight Savings Time goes into effect on March 9, about two weeks into the schedule. That means all games before March 9 are an hour ahead of the Pacific time zone. From March 9 forward, games in Arizona are at the same time as California because Arizona doesn’t observe DST. The schedule shown is in Pacific time. If you’re planning to attend a game before March 9 and are traveling the same day, remember the time change.
… it’s Major League Baseball.
The fallout started early this morning, when KTVU reached out to the A’s to get their reaction to MLB’s threat to move the A’s to AT&T Park.
That was followed by AP sports scribe Janie McCauley reporting something similar, but without the weaselly-sounding “intend to” in it. Included was a statement from the Coliseum Authority (JPA):
“We are working on a deal that we believe will be beneficial for both our tenant and the people of this community,” the statement said. “We are confident that everyone involved sees the value in continuing for as long as possible the 45-year relationship between the A’s and the City of Oakland. While we cannot comment on the specific issues now under discussion or on whether there is any basis to recent rumors that Major League Baseball has played a role in the discussions, we are optimistic that a final deal is close at hand.”
Later, BANG’s Matthew Artz dug deeper, picking up more sentiment from East Bay pols.
Sources with knowledge of the Coliseum authority’s private deliberations Friday said there was movement toward softening its stance that the A’s relinquish control over concessions and signage revenue at O.co Coliseum, which comes at the expense of the Raiders.
“The key point is that the authority wants the A’s to stay in Oakland and is not willing to risk losing them over that issue,” said one source privy to the discussions.
Then Mark Purdy got into the JPA’s thinking in holding out over the extension:
Naturally, the A’s balked at the Coliseum’s original terms for a longer lease. Miley and his fellow board members reportedly held firm, believing that the A’s had no other options but to play at O.co in 2014. And at that point, MLB voices tossed out the concept of the A’s playing temporarily at AT&T Park until a new ballpark project could be developed elsewhere.
Also, don’t forget that the JPA hasn’t exactly shown a lot of urgency on behalf of the A’s. Consider what JPA board member and Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said a month ago:
And the six- to eight-year window should give Oakland plenty of time to get serious about building a replacement ballpark and luring the A’s to stay, Kaplan said.
You have to think that Selig’s threat action was motivated by this rather cavalier attitude towards the A’s.
It certainly appears that all that remains is for the A’s and JPA to make certain compromises and finalize the terms. One of the chief issues will be the $3 million in parking fees the A’s owe the JPA. A good compromise would be for the A’s to pay that money, which the JPA would turn around and use for the belated scoreboard revamp and other capital improvements. And the A’s should get that flexibility they’re seeking.
Concessions revenue is another matter. The A’s could retain control with their own cut of each beer or hot dog (this was originally negotiated when the A’s settled a lawsuit with the JPA after Mt. Davis was built). But how would the Raiders and Mark Davis react? Unlike the A’s, who are continuously profitable, the Raiders frequently flirt with the red – a seemingly impossible feat given the NFL’s extensive revenue sharing and TV contracts. Much of that is due to cap mismanagement during the Al Davis era. Some of that is attributable to lacking stadium revenues, especially concessions. It seems unlikely that Mark Davis will bolt just because of maintaining the status quo, but he could also choose to build a case for leaving based on this. He and the NFL have been pushing the JPA on the Raiders’ own extension, Davis going so far as to prefer to demolish and build anew at the site of the current Coliseum. Such a plan would force the A’s out, a possibility that Lew Wolff has been rightly concerned about. MLB’s involvement has pushed the pendulum in the A’s direction.
It’s cruel that the NFL and MLB are (not so) stealthily playing tug-of-war with the JPA over the Coliseum. As the Giants would say regarding sharing AT&T Park or giving up territorial rights to the South Bay, It’s not personal, it’s business.
As for AT&T Park? Who knows, that threat may resurface down the road.
Last week I received a flyer from the A’s urging me to get my season ticket plans wrapped up soon, as early as mid-November. Thanks to a Sunday report from Matier & Ross about MLB’s entree into the Coliseum lease discussions, I expect the A’s Ticket Services department to get a lot of angry, misdirected phone calls starting tomorrow morning. And I feel bad for them for having to deal with it.
The fact is that until recently, MLB has stayed out of the lease negotiations at Lew Wolff’s behest. As the lease comes closer to expiring with the two sides still far apart on the terms, baseball has decided to start playing the heavy. As we’ve seen in Miami and many other cities, MLB doesn’t play nice. That doesn’t mean that they’re going to start asking for hundreds of millions for a ballpark. Instead they’re playing the leverage game, threatening to move the A’s across the bay to AT&T Park if the Coliseum Authority won’t relent.
We’re told MLB is also demanding that the Coliseum give the A’s just a two-year lease extension – not the five- to eight-year deal the authority has been pushing.
The short-term lease would give the A’s more flexibility should the team’s owners swing a deal to move to San Jose – or beyond.
Let’s be clear about one thing: this is not MLB’s preferred option. They’d rather have the A’s and Giants play in their own ballparks, because getting them to share is messy when it comes to logistics, scheduling, and revenue sharing. While sharing has happened in the past, it hasn’t happened in almost 40 years. Plus the last thing MLB would want is to have a situation where the experiment goes so well that the Bay Area populace is convinced that there’s no need for two parks, or that the A’s seriously eat into the Giants’ revenue. Just as in other stadium negotiations, MLB has never been afraid to rattle sabers when it feels it can work to the benefit of one of its franchises. From this point forward, don’t expect anything less. Chances are that the JPA will buckle, because they know that the A’s tentatively playing away from Oakland can easily transform into the A’s permanently playing away from Oakland. From MLB’s standpoint, this is a question of loyalty. Oakland and Alameda County shown repeatedly that they’re willing to spend money and make things work for the Raiders. They have also demonstrated that they’ve been willing to move the A’s (and MLB) to the back burner at the most inopportune times. If the JPA doesn’t make concessions for the A’s, that’s just more proof that they aren’t truly willing to make the A’s a priority, which would make MLB less motivated to back Oakland’s efforts to forge a long-term deal. Raiders owner Mark Davis seems to prefer that they start working on a replacement Coliseum on the site of a demolished Coliseum, which if granted would leave the A’s without a place to play. Without a lease extension tied to a well-developed stadium plan, the Raiders would prefer to go year-to-year. The A’s would like to do a five-year deal with early termination if they’re impacted by construction of a new Raiders stadium. The challenge for the JPA is to put together a deal that caters to MLB’s needs while not jeopardizing their relationship with the Raiders and the NFL.
For the time being, Giants chief Larry Baer has stayed silent, probably at Bud Selig’s request. To say they wouldn’t accommodate the A’s would torpedo baseball’s plans and leverage, the same way Wally Haas and then-AL President Bobby Brown rejected Bob Lurie’s plans to share the Coliseum while SF figured out a downtown ballpark plan. That occurred in 1985. Now that MLB is a singular governing body with less stated conflict between the two constituent leagues, the Commissioner has the ability and power to influence the Giants. However, Selig’s track record has been to stall regarding the A’s for nearly five years. Now that a “manufactured” crisis may arise, could Selig be more inclined to come up a with a solution? I’m not holding my breath.
Logistically, sharing the stadium could be difficult for the teams. Naturally there are only two clubhouses at AT&T Park, unlike the more flexible setups at many arenas and new football stadia. The visiting clubhouse would have to be converted into the A’s temporary home while the Giants’ clubhouse would be used for A’s home opponents. There are also 10 potential date conflicts (not 9 as M&R reported): May 12-14, May 26-28, June 13-15, and July 3. That last date is the end of a Giants homestand and the beginning of an A’s homestand. Offloading those conflicts to Raley Field would be difficult because the River Cats already have the first two series and July 3 already booked at home. Day/night doubleheaders would be difficult to make work because of game days can easily stretch beyond eight hours for players and personnel because of warmup/reporting times.
Then there’s also the appeal for AT&T and the various other sponsors in China Basin. AT&T would undoubtedly love double the home dates and exposure. So would Virgin America, Intel, and ironically, GAP competitor Levi Strauss. That and many more subjects (concessions shares, non-game event revenue, ticket pricing) would be up for debate. In the end, the A’s would pay a handsome rent payment and surrender a big chunk of non-ticket revenues. Both teams would deduct stadium expenses against their revenue sharing payments. One way to look at is that the A’s rent would effectively be a rebate against the Giants’ revenue sharing payment – assuming it was structured to fit within the CBA appropriately. Selig doesn’t seem inclined to force the Giants to share, but he can work with the rest of the owners to make it worth the Giants’ while.
Already I’ve seen a lot of anger from fans swearing that they’d never see an A’s home game in SF, or that they’ll cancel their season tickets posthaste. There’s another angle to consider if the A’s were given this two-year window at AT&T Park. The A’s have never called a modern ballpark home, so any serious revenue-generating potential at a new ballpark remains theoretical at best. What if the window was MLB’s opportunity to prove (or disprove) the A’s viability as the second team in the Bay Area? It’s not the same as having a new ballpark to themselves, but the better amenities and location should be attractive to many fans and companies that normally don’t attend A’s games en masse. After all, the city with the most ticket-buying A’s fans (number, not percentage) is San Francisco, not Oakland or San Jose. If the two-year window fails to positively affect the A’s bottom line, The Lodge may be more inclined to allow the team to move out of the Bay Area. While M&R hinted at a move as a product of failed stadium plans, I think this could be a bigger reason.
MLB has entered the fray, and they’re getting ready to lay down the hammer. For that we can thank A’s and Giants ownership for their stubbornness, Oakland and Alameda County politicians for their lack of urgency, and Bud Selig for not resolving this sooner when he had all the time to do so. Unless a Coliseum lease gets struck in the next month, this is only going to get uglier. A “silly” idea like sharing AT&T Park may turn into something quite sensible. The big issue looming is the endgame, which as Ray Ratto points out, is the can that gets kicked down the road for two years.
The Turner Field review brought out a nice debate among the commenters about the ballparks of the NL East. Namely, which of the parks was least disappointing? Was it Turner, which is too large and not intimate? Nationals Park, which looks like an office building from the outside? Citizens Bank Park, which feels extremely contrived? Marlins Park, which feels a little too mall-like to be an authentic ballpark? Or Citi Field, Fred Wilpon’s attempt to bring the Dodgers back to the East Coast? Alas, my answer to that critical issue will have to come another day. For now I’ll just focus on the new park in Queens.
As much as the Mets are Wilpon’s team, Citi Field can easily be called The House that Bernie Madoff Built. By the time reports about Madoff’s Ponzi scheme surfaced in late 2008, the bulk of Citi Field had been built. With only a few months to go before the stadium opened, all that remained was some finishing work and to button up the ballpark. All of the expensive parts had been installed. Initial reports had Wilpon losing enough money that he’d have to sell the Mets. It turns out that Wilpon turned to Madoff to set up investment vehicles for various Mets employees. A lawsuit brought by defrauded Madoff investors sought as much as $300 million from Mets (legacy) ownership. They settled for $162 million. The extent of Wilpon’s and Howard Katz’s complicity will forever remain alleged, not proven. Which means that if there was any justice in the world, Wilpon should’ve been forced to sell the Mets.
Yet Wilpon remains, cutting payroll $40 million a year until debts are paid off, quashing hope among Mets fans. Even phenom pitcher Matt Harvey couldn’t escape the Wilpon taint, as his season was cut short in late August thanks to a bum elbow (he got Tommy John surgery last week). No matter, the Mets have a nice ballpark, right?
The thing is, they do have a pretty nice ballpark. Sure, the silly outfield dimensions had to be pulled in to encourage more offense. The Mets Hall of Fame was horrendously belated. At least it’s there, right next to the rotunda. Citi’s spacious, has good concessions and all of the amenities needed to bring in the big revenue when the team starts to contend again. The façade looks reminiscent of Ebbets Field (Wilpon’s obsession) from the outside. It looks nothing like Ebbets (AFAIK) from the inside. The rotunda is impeccable, yet feels somewhat removed from the concourses and the seating bowl.
Look carefully at the picture above. How many glassed-in levels do you see? If you guessed five, you are correct. Behind the plate there are the very exclusive Sterling Suites. Above that is another suite level, then another suite level, then the press box, and finally the promenade club along the upper deck. Every new park provides another example of the stratification of moneyed fans. By this measure, Citi Field is among the worst offenders. That’s the kind of modern, business-driven compromise we’ve come to expect of new ballparks. There are mini rooftops behind the plate that could be perfect places for, oh I don’t know, seats? Just a thought.
Citi Field was built in the parking lot between Shea and the industrial wasteland of Willets Point, much the same way Great American Ball Park went up in the shadows of Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. Unlike Riverfront’s enclosed cookie cutter design, which required to have the outfield stands demolished to accommodate the new ballpark in a very tight fit, there was enough space for Citi Field in the lot. Another proposal to build a new form of multipurpose stadium for both the Mets and Jets came and went quickly, allowing then-mayor Rudy Giuliani to focus on separate ballparks for the Mets and Yankees while the football teams partnered up for MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands. Building on the same site allowed the team to utilize existing infrastructure, which includes stations for the #7 subway, Long Island Rail Road, and proximity to the Grand Central Parkway, Van Wyck, and Long Island Expressways.
It’s telling that Citi underwent significant changes in its first two off seasons. Bullpens were moved around, the Mets Hall of Fame was added, and the fences were brought in last year. All that generates the feeling that the ballpark was the product of ticking features in a checklist, rather than designing the park holistically. Misgivings have only been magnified by the enormous amount of negative press surrounding the team and ownership. Over time this should subside, and what will remain is that Citi Field is a substantial improvement over Shea, albeit an extremely expensive one. Both Shea Stadium and Ebbets Field lasted 45 years for the Mets and Dodgers, respectively. Hopefully the Mets can get at least 45 years out of Citi Field.
Don’t get your hopes up yet. Well, maybe a little. FCC Acting Chairperson Mignon L. Clyburn wants the agency to consider eliminating its sports blackout rules. This isn’t your typical Friday afternoon, sweep-it-under-the-rug type of press release.
ACTING FCC CHAIRWOMAN CLYBURN STATEMENT ON TAKING ACTION TO ADDRESS THE AGENCY’S SPORTS BLACKOUT RULES
“Today, I circulated a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing to eliminate the Commission’s nearly 40-year old sports blackout rules.
“Changes in the marketplace have raised questions about whether these rules are still in the public interest, particularly at a time when high ticket prices and the economy make it difficult for many sports fans to attend games. Elimination of our sports blackout rules will not prevent the sports leagues, broadcasters, and cable and satellite providers from privately negotiating agreements to black out certain sports events.
“Nevertheless, if the record in this proceeding shows that the rules are no longer justified, the Commission’s involvement in this area should end.”
The language in the release emphasizes that many sports leagues enter into their own blackout agreements that are often the cause of blackouts. However, it’s the NFL that most often comes under fire when local games incur blackouts, and it’s the FCC’s rules that govern those instances. MLB gets protection thanks to its antitrust exemption, which has resulted in the teams creating the Byzantine TV territories and rules that we all know and love. Both the NFL and MLB are facing a class action lawsuit over blackouts.
Mostly, it’s the leagues’ various exclusivity agreements with the national networks that have dictated blackouts. Asked to respond, the NFL stated that a change would “undermine the retransmission-consent regime and give cable and satellite operators excessive leverage in retransmission-consent negotiations.”
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), also discourages eliminating the rules:
“…However, we’re concerned that today’s proposal may hasten the migration of sports to pay-TV platforms, and will disadvantage the growing number of people who rely on free, over-the-air television as their primary source for sports. Allowing importation of sports programming on pay-TV platforms while denying that same programming to broadcast-only homes would erode the economic underpinning that sustains local broadcasting and our service to community.”
Moreover, Clyburn made this move on her way out the door, as her tenure as acting chair ends Monday. It’ll be up to the next chair and Congressional muscle to push this through, which will be tough given the networks’ and leagues’ gargantuan lobbying efforts. Still, it’s a step forward for fan and viewer-oriented groups looking to fight back against the unwieldy beast that is TV.
The FCC last visited the rules in 2000. Naturally, nothing came of the inquiry, which helped get the ball rolling on TV mega-deals.