The Texas Rangers announced that insurance company Globe Life will be their home ballpark’s naming rights sponsor today. The deal, at 10 years for an undisclosed amount, runs concurrently with the remaining lease years. Globe Life, a subsidiary of Torchmark based out of Oklahoma City, is not among the largest insurance companies in America, but the deal will give the company a fairly high profile.
The originally monikered “The Ballpark in Arlington” was so named when the stadium opened in 1994. A decade later, sub-prime mortgage lender Ameriquest bought naming rights. Those rights were relinquished as Ameriquest collapsed at the outset of the financial crisis. Since 2007, the park has been known as “Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.” As the second company to secure naming rights, Globe Life probably didn’t have to pay anywhere near the amount a brand new, untainted stadium would fetch.
Looking down the road, the rights deal is an early sign that the Rangers see the end of the road at TBiA. With the naming rights deal ending with the lease, the Rangers will have the freedom to start their own discussions about a successor to their current digs, which the Braves are doing with similarly-aged Turner Field. Ameriquest’s deal was to run 10 years beyond the current lease. Rangers ownership knows what they want, and with discussions about improvements (such as a rolling roof) as done as Nolan Ryan’s tenure as an executive, don’t be surprised if talks about a new ballpark somewhere in the metro start in a few years.
UPDATE 7:00 PM – The name may be generic, but at least it’s not the Smoothie King Center.
Sam Farmer of the LA Times reported late today that Rams owner Stan Kroenke has purchased a 60-acre parking lot situated between The Forum and Hollywood Park in Inglewood.
Farmer lays out the myriad complications that could arise if Kroenke tried to move the Rams back to Los Angeles. While 60 acres in hand is always good to have, there’s still the question of who would pick up the tab for the $1 billion or more in construction cost. The NFL has had a tepid response to two other NFL stadium initiatives by AEG (Farmers Field) and Majestic Realty (City of Industry), mainly because both developers have wanted stakes in prospective relocating franchises. In the Rams’ case, Kroenke could build it himself with the NFL’s help, though public funding in Inglewood is a nonstarter. It would take an enormous amount of corporate and upfront support to make it work, a recipe that yielded great results for the 49ers. That shouldn’t be an issue in a market the size of LA, but the market is a notoriously fickle place when it comes to pro football. Kroenke could even run into interference from the likes of USC and UCLA, who have the local football landscape to themselves with no pro team as competition.
Speculation about Kroenke’s intentions with the Inglewood land could amount to nothing, as he has substantial holdings throughout SoCal and these 60 acres could by ripe for a shopping center, housing, or other non-sports uses. More plausible is the idea that Kroenke could use the land as leverage to extract the maximum amount of concessions from the State of Missouri and the City of St. Louis, the latter party having already lost an arbitration case over planned improvements to Edward Jones Dome.
The Raiders and Chargers will look at Kroenke’s moves with some interest, as LA remains a potential relocation target for them. Both teams’ owners have prioritized staying in Oakland and San Diego, respectively, but interest from LA remains a phone call or meeting away. It might make the most sense for two relocated teams to share one stadium from a financial standpoint. Such a plan is problematic in execution, as exhibited in the sterile environment at MetLife Stadium. If Kroenke were to declare a move and get sign off from the NFL’s owners, he’d have to play at the LA Coliseum or Rose Bowl for at least a few years while the EIR process and construction were completed.
Land acquisition should put more pressure on Missouri/St. Louis to act. The benchmark there is $375 million provided by Jackson County for improvements to Arrowhead Stadium. That’s well short of the $700 million in improvements the Rams are entitled to as part of their arbitration win. Any team that wishes to relocate has a league-imposed deadline of mid-February each year to declare their intentions. Last year, all three relocation candidates chose to stay. With land in hand, the Rams are for now the best positioned to move.
Lew Wolff visited the JPA on Wednesday. Staying consistent in his stance from last month, Wolff was seeking a lease extension, up to 10 years in length. Matt Artz’s Tribune article references the lease but not Coliseum City.
If Wolff is willing to hear out CC plans, chances are that he won’t make any kind of commitment unless a lease is in place first. Last month, the A’s put out a press release in response to a Matier & Ross column claiming Wolff’s interest in CC.
We are only prepared to meet with our landlord, the JPA, or elected and designated officials of Alameda County and the City of Oakland, to discuss any aspect of our venue or lease.
Remember that before lease extension talks broke down between Wolff and the JPA last summer, Wolff was seeking a 5-7 year extension with an out clause should the Raiders’ new stadium plans interfere with the A’s being able to play at the Coliseum. Two years at the Coliseum is only somewhat helpful, since there’s no way a ballpark will be ready at the end of the lease. Wolff will continue to ask for a lease extension as long as this uncertainty post-2015 remains.
Shortly after the press release I wrote a lengthy post about Wolff’s motivations, should they extend beyond merely getting an extension. Area A of Coliseum City (east of 880) is divided into three phases, starting with the new Raiders stadium, then the ancillary development designed to support the stadium, and finally the remaining surrounding development and a ballpark in the A Lot.
As part of Phase III, the A’s ballpark couldn’t come earlier than the end of the decade unless there was a major reshuffling of priorities. That’s where a 10-year extension could come into play. If Wolff wants to partner up on Coliseum City and the schedule can’t be significantly altered, the A’s would have to play at the Coliseum for the full length of that extension until the new ballpark was in place. MLB may have wielded the AT&T Park threat against Oakland successfully when it inserted itself into last fall’s lease talks, but sharing AT&T Park for any length more than a season or two will create enormous logistical problems for MLB, the Giants, and San Francisco.
Impacts from construction have to be minimized, which is a big reason for the phased approach. Not only does Coliseum City include new venues, it has tons of new infrastructure, including a new BART pedestrian overpass, new bridges over 880, and the “spine” that links all of it together. To understand those impacts, let’s compare the Coliseum complex now and what’s envisioned.
The above image has the new stadium slightly overlapping the current Coliseum footprint. Previous images had the stadium turned slightly and oriented further away from the spine, which could allow the current Coliseum to remain in place – or at partly demolished as was the case with Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium. To accommodate the football stadium where Mark Davis wants it (and where it’s shown in the image), the Coliseum would have to be demolished. That’s unavoidable, even though the new stadium’s footprint isn’t exactly on top of the old Coliseum. That’s also not a huge problem for the Raiders, since they could room with the 49ers for a couple years in the interim. It’s a huge problem for the A’s, who would be displaced. That’s why Wolff wants to get the lease in place. The A’s face eviction in this plan, even though there’s little chance for a new ballpark at CC or at Howard Terminal after the A’s are evicted. The lease would at least force BayIG and the Raiders to work around the A’s and the Warriors, who would be tenants for some time to come.
Another piece of infrastructure could be a huge factor: the power transmission lines running through the south parking lots. A big reason for building where the current Coliseum exists is that the power lines can be avoided. The cost of moving overhead transmission lines could be several million dollars, and easily double that cost if the lines were rerouted underground. In the end it may be best to move the lines underground, as it would free up land for other uses. Whether the lines remain overhead and are relocated down the road or moved underground, it’s a big infrastructure cost that has to be accounted for. Earlier renderings had the stadium displacing the power lines, so if there’s a consensus to avoid the lines, you’ll know it was a big factor. Besides the cost, PG&E and the Public Utilities Commission would have to be involved in the process, which could create delays.
Going back to the A’s and Wolff, as long as Wolff keeps some sort of dialogue going, he can have skin in the game. That disappears this summer, when BayIG is expected to have its anchor tenants signed on to the project, the Raiders being the first (I expect the deadline to slip). If Wolff can get an extension first, he’ll continue to have a say in how Coliseum City is developed. If not, and BayIG and the JPA can’t figure out a way to keep both the Raiders and A’s happy, Wolff can turn to MLB and force them to come up with a solution. That solution can’t be Howard Terminal in the short-term, since we don’t know what can be built at the Port site right now or in the future. Then there’s the possibility I wrote about in December:
If the Raiders stadium proves too costly, the A’s could easily slot right in with a much less expensive stadium option that has a much smaller funding gap, say $200-300 million. Plus with only one stadium there instead of two, there would be additional land to develop or reassign as needed. Wolff’s in a good position to wait and see how the market analyses work out for them and the Raiders.
Wolff can play this multiple ways, but the #1 issue is ensuring the A’s a home for the next several years. The rest is all process that should work itself out over the next 6-9 months. Lew may claim constantly that there’s no Plan B. I’ve never believed that. He’s not going to explain his contingency plans until he absolutely has to. That’s business.
The lovely city of Portland, Oregon, expressed renewed interest in a MLB franchise this week. It’s been a decade since Portland lost out to Washington, DC, in the race to land the relocating Expos. In the offing, Portland traded its AAA baseball team for an MLS franchise, to rousing success. At the same time, multiple sites that were considered for a permanent baseball home ended up being developed for other uses. While a short season A team started up in the nearby suburb of Hillsboro, until now there has been little momentum towards attracting an MLB franchise.
Tracy Ringolsby has details on a renewed effort. New mayor Charlie Hales supports a site next to the two arenas at the Rose Quarter. Instead of an open air stadium, the plans now call for a retractable roof park with a smaller, 35,000-seat capacity. A funding mechanism that could pay for much of construction remains in place, though rising costs and the including of that retractable roof probably would cause PDX advocates to majorly revise the plan.
Most importantly, Portland interests have inquired with A’s ownership to see if they’d be willing to either move the team to PDX or sell to PDX-aligned interests. As expected, they were told no on both counts. Sacramento, Portland, and maybe in the past Las Vegas have inquired. Lew Wolff and John Fisher remain focused on the Bay Area, refusing to play the stadium ransom game. Someone had to temerity to brag about swindling the public earlier this week:
#Marlins prez Samson in his “Survivor” bio page: personal claim to fame is getting $350M in public dollars for ballpark in a recession
— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) January 23, 2014
The Portland effort bears striking similarities to Montreal’s recently launched efforts. Both underestimate the cost of the stadium and the cost to acquire a franchise. Montreal’s study pegs the total cost at just over $1 billion, which would’ve been a better bet three or four years ago, during the recession and before the new national TV contracts. It’s hard to see any team being available for less than $600 million, maybe even $700 million because the revenue streams are so attractive. That would put the total cost at a combined $1.2 billion, maybe $1.3 billion when including infrastructure and land. Both cities also appear to be dependent on a rich investor group or corporation to fund the private side. That’s a lot to ask for, essentially a subsidy to be borne by a company. Guggenheim Partners made the overbid work because they had two things in their pocket: a to-be-negotiated local TV deal and 100 acres of land with huge development potential at Dodger Stadium. Neither Montreal nor Portland have such potential. Both teams stand a good chance of being future revenue sharing recipients, even with new ballparks in place.
With both the Rays and A’s entrenched in their current stadium malaise, it’ll be up to the next to the next commissioner to determine if Portland or Montreal gain entry to MLB. The new TV contracts are in their infancy, so the owners are only starting to see the benefits. At this point, it’s unlikely they’ll want to split up the pie 32 ways instead of 30.
The surprise was that the lesser state claims about economic damage via MLB’s alleged interference were also refiled – in Santa Cruz County Superior Court. That’s right, Santa Cruz County.
— Wendy Thurm (@hangingsliders) January 24, 2014
— Wendy Thurm (@hangingsliders) January 24, 2014
City attorney Philip Gregory brought up MLB’s mysterious denial of the A’s petition to move to San Jose. Although the state claims are not considered as substantial as the federal antitrust case, it’s clear that San Jose aims to dig up some dirt on MLB’s machinations, which could help their case. The denial letter, which MLB has refused to release citing confidentiality, is probably the big prize. Santa Cruz County may also have a lighter docket compared to other nearby counties, which could be a factor in San Jose choosing to look south. Nothing’s expected to happen in either Santa Cruz or the Ninth Circuit until spring at earliest. Until then, the sides will prepare their next filings.
Last year’s FanFest expanded to include the Plaza of Champions in between the Coliseum and the Arena. This allowed for extra space to accommodate autograph lines and other potentially concourse-clogging queues. The arena itself was still a little cramped, but at least the crowd was broken up a bit.
This time, the A’s announced that the Coliseum will also be in use for this year’s edition on February 8. The team introductions piece, which has players on a stage on the arena floor, will kick off the proceedings at 10 AM (Doors will open at 9). The Coliseum will open at 10:15. Like last year, fans will be able to access the A’s clubhouse for tours. Tickets will be $10, $5 for season ticket holders, free for children 6 and under.
BlogFest will also be held, which will allow us digital media types to interview Bob Melvin, David Forst, and an assortment of players (TBD). I intend to be there to ask a question or two and take some pictures.
Earlier this month I found out that longtime concessionaire Aramark had been replaced by Ovations. I’m curious to see if we’ll get to see or sample some of Ovations’ offerings at FanFest.
Having the general player interview piece in the arena continues to make the most sense, since there isn’t a nice, large video screen at the Coliseum for fans to watch. (It’d be nice if they did.)
I’m looking forward to FanFest/BlogFest this year, as it will provide a brief tease before spring training. I’m really looking forward to Arizona – more on that later.