50th Anniversary Game, A’s New JLS Offices

Tomorrow (January 10), the A’s will start selling free tickets for the regular season game on April 17 vs. the Chicago White Sox. That date is better known as the A’s 50th Anniversary game in Oakland. Tickets will become available at this page starting at 8 AM. Frankly, I can’t think of a better way to spend tax day than to go to a free ballgame.

The A’s showed off their new corporate offices to the media at Jack London Square today.

It has a lot of A’s history in it. It’ll be a much better place for doing business, interfacing with the public during non game days, and maybe even for players during the offseason if they decide to stay in town. It’s something they A’s brass were working on for at least a year, long before their announcement last fall.

It’s somewhat reminiscent of the Earthquakes’ set up at Avaya Stadium, where a separate administration building connected to the stadium also houses the locker room. It also reminds me somewhat of similar facilities at spring training ballparks.

While I suspect some sponsor events will be held at the building on 55 Harrison during Fan Fest, I hope that fans get a chance to look at some part of the building.

Speaking of FanFest, there’s another opportunity to check out Howard Terminal. I’ll probably be available for a “tour” and a drink at Plank if anyone’s interested. Pray that the weather is as excellent as 2017’s edition.




Looking backward to 2018

Square one.

That’s what we’re talking about. We don’t know what the A’s next steps are on the ballpark front. We may get a glimpse of it on Saturday, January 27, when the team will again host FanFest at Jack London Square. At FanFest 2017, Dave Kaval was coy about site choice, insisting that the A’s were still in the midst of studying site options. The Peralta site hadn’t been rumored yet, let alone publicized. Momentum built little by little throughout the spring, followed by the crash after the announcement.

The team has been licking its wounds since Peralta stopped talks with the A’s. Kaval has said nothing about next steps. Like last FanFest, visitors next month will be tantalized by visuals of Howard Terminal in the background. The Coliseum lingers in the background, though what can you say about a neighborhood that lost a Pak ‘n Save and a Walmart in the last ten years? Fans will be asking the A’s brass about both options, so I think this is an opportunity for the A’s to backers of both sites to start making their own efforts.

Howard Terminal, Coliseum JPA?

Let’s start bidding on the A’s. You want them? Really, really want them? Then show your hand. Present what you’re willing to offer. By that I don’t mean contributing cash for stadium construction. We already know that since the beginning the A’s have pledged to make the stadium part a privately financed affair. That leaves infrastructure, in terms of parking, improved roads, and enhanced transit options. Howard Terminal still has no estimate for what anything will cost to make it viable. The Coliseum still hasn’t figured out its ownership and debt situations, choosing to put those on the back burner. Any bids have to include those plans, respectively. Both plans effectively have to start with the City, because Oakland has to initiate the purchase of the half of the Coliseum land from Alameda County (the county would loan money to the city), or Oakland has the start the process of rezoning Howard Terminal to non-industrial port (or city) land.

Most of the details of any negotiations would be held in closed door sessions, as most municipalities do with real estate. But we can at least get some kind of framework to get started on either side. And that would give fans something to work with that’s more than a skin-deep debate over a pretty, impractical site vs. a cheap, dumpy one. A competitive approach is likely to yield better results than another one of Oakland’s aimlesss task forces.

The one wildcard to look at in 2018 is The Lodge. Commissioner Rob Manfred has stayed patient so far, preferring not to criticize Oakland while the A’s completed their search. Now that Phase One has ended with a thud, I’ll be curious to see if Manfred’s patience starts to simmer.

Blindsided Sacramento searches for billionaire savior for MLS bid

It all was going so well. The Sacramento Republic FC soccer club began life in 2012. They won a USL championship two years later. Raucous fans impressively filled the temporary stadium set on the Cal Expo grounds. Fan support combined with the grassroots community feel to present the club as a frontrunner for a future MLS expansion franchise. Everything was going as planned. This month was the champagne was meant to flow. They even had a private financing plan for the stadium, then broke ground over the summer.

Standing section at the future Sacramento Republic FC stadium

Then Wednesday, MLS announced that a late, money-heavy bid from Nashville won an expansion franchise, the 24th out of a planned 28 total teams in the coming years.

The next day, backers of the Republic FC bid announced that they’re looking for both a majority investor and multiple minority investors. HP Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman backed out. The York family (49ers) is involved, though they appear to be at best limited partners.

When asked why the bidding group was short on funds, CEO Kevin Nagle admitted that they were all pledged to cover the stadium financing. That’s fine, but the expansion fee rose in the last few years to $150 million. Meanwhile, the stadium cost has risen from $170 million to $250 million.

My back-of-the-napkin guess is that the club needs an infusion of $100+ million to be approved. The additional partner(s) would probably also need to have their checkbook(s) handy in case the franchise needed to cover cash calls for construction, initial payroll, and operating expenses. Keep in mind that we’re talking about $400 million to get started. By comparison, the LA Galaxy’s valuation this year was $315 million.

Just as with the Kings, Republic FC is reaching out to the millionaires and billionaires in the Bay Area. The difference between those efforts are fundamental: former NBA commissioner David Stern brought the tech money to the table, while stalling the Maloof brothers from selling the team to Seattle interests. In this case, MLS can provide some time, but Don Garber is no David Stern, and it would be inappropriate to have MLS involved any further while competing bids in Cincinnati and Detroit await their own appraisals.

While I considered the Sacramento MLS bid to be practically a done deal, I’ll have to watch it more closely now. By the way the team and city reacted to recent news, I’m nearly as floored as I was by the A’s-Peralta news. That’s not very hopeful, in case you were wondering.

Official: Peralta/Laney Ballpark is Dead

Wash: “It’s incredibly hard.”
Beane: “Hey, anything worth doing is.”

About six months ago I wrote the tweet below, not knowing yet which ballpark site the A’s were choosing:

Reality is here, and it is a bitch.

Feeling pressure from faculty and students alike, the board for the Peralta Colleges abruptly ended ongoing discussions with the A’s about building a ballpark at the current district headquarters next to Laney College. There was to be a Board vote next week to decide whether or not the district would enter formal negotiations with the A’s. Not anymore. With tepid support from Oakland City Hall, the A’s were facing an uphill battle for approval even at this lowest level. They didn’t even get to the first switchback on the trail.

The decision was followed by a series of reactions from relevant parties, including the A’s using 280 characters instead of a screenshot:

This doesn’t require much analysis, and with the whole process being cut short after three months it doesn’t merit recriminations. The A’s underestimated the potential opponents, and the City was hands-off with no support. That’s often a quick recipe for failure, even as I hoped the parties to get through at least to next week. So much for that.

So what happens next?

Well, we’re in the holidays, so for now, nothing. Early in 2018 we should hear more, especially as the A’s will have to regroup leading up to FanFest, whenever that is. And unlike 2017 FanFest, when many fans interpreted the site as the A’s leaning towards Howard Terminal, maybe next year’s choice will reveal more about the A’s plans with Peralta fading away. The A’s led by Dave Kaval have shown that they’re willing to accelerate their process if they see an opportunity. Despite the missed opportunity at Peralta, I’ll be encouraged if the team shows the same urgency in 2018.

As for sites, they don’t suddenly change in value or potential now that Peralta has dropped off. Let’s look at them, December 2017 edition.

Howard Terminal

People are asking about this, naturally. I remain skeptical of the site because of the cost of infrastructure (transportation and parking), the cleanup costs that the site would incur, and the need for enhanced rail safety for cars and pedestrians. Oakland and HT proponents could salve the A’s wounds by offering a package of improvements that address the A’s concerns. Not so sure about any way to mitigate winds and temperatures at HT, which for the A’s were a few degrees cooler than at Peralta. (I informally saw this from looking at wunderground.com maps while watching late season games.)

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

There are several approaches that can be taken at the Coli. The most popular has the A’s playing there until a new ballpark is built nearby within the Complex. That’s clearly the least disruptive path. It doesn’t resolve who pays for the stadium’s or arena’s outstanding debt. Development of the remaining 100+ acres is already entitled thanks to the failed Coliseum City plan, but those entitlement can start to have developers attached to them with a revised plan and cleared land.

Kauffman Stadium

BANG’s Dieter Kurtenbach, who lives close to the Peralta site, suggests that the A’s renovate the Coliseum. While that could be the cheapest option, it would also appear to be the cheapest option, which MLB doesn’t want. Then again, Kauffman Stadium was brilliantly renovated, though it was originally built as a ballpark, not as a multi-purpose cookie cutter with a gazillion unfortunate compromises.

I can see the A’s reign in their approach at the Coliseum, given the comparably limited economic potential there. Instead I suspect they’ll focus on the old Malibu/HomeBase lots along Hegenberger, which are somewhat separate from the original Coliseum complex in terms of access and ownership. The A’s may proclaim that there’s no “Plan B” – a classic Lew Wolff tactic – but they’ve always had the Coliseum plans in the desk drawer ready to quickly revise and present at a moment’s notice. Why? They’ve talked with the JPA about the Malibu/HomeBase site on-and-off since 2003, before the City even bought the land.

Malibu (triangle) and HomeBase (rectangle) lots at south end of Coliseum

Lest you forget, there were other sites under consideration!

Somehow part of the Oakland Army Base near the Bay Bridge was rumored. If Howard Terminal was too windy, OAB has to be disqualified just for the wind alone. There were no other serious contenders.

And whatever happened to San Jose? In normal Silicon Valley fashion, Google is about to swallow much of Downtown SJ whole, as it is planning with San Jose a sprawling, 240-acre campus by the Shark Tank that could bring in 20,000 additional employees to Downtown everyday. Google and its real estate partner have already bought a bunch of the land previous set aside for the ballpark, including the old AT&T facility on Montgomery. Amazing what happens when you just wave a bunch of cash in an landowner’s face.

Even Scott Ostler put a new (old) site in the hat, Victory Court! He even wondered how it didn’t work, I “chronicled” it for you Scott. Or in one two words: Redevelopment Died.

It’s been a long journey, and it’s far from over.

I am a poll… And so can you!

A’s projected development timeline for the ballpark

Since the A’s announced that the Peralta site is the preferred location of the new ballpark, there has been precious little actual news about the park. Other than talks with community groups and potential stakeholders, the only release of note is the announcement of a team of architecture firms to work on the ballpark concept. As expected, the lead for the ballpark structure will be HOK, which also worked on Avaya Stadium, the Earthquakes’ stadium in San Jose. They also worked on the “twin” venues in Columbus, Huntington Park and Nationwide Arena. The principal for the A’s ballpark, Brad Schrock, who previously worked on Coors Field and Safeco Field while part of HOK’s previous sports practice. Schrock later started 360 Architecture with George Heinlein, while the HOK sports practice eventually split off to become a separate company named Populous.

The other architecture partners may be familiar as well. That includes Norwegian firm Snøhetta, which Chronicle architecture writer John King pointed out was behind the

“ill-fated arena that the Golden State Warriors proposed for the city’s Piers 30-32, where the firm emphasized the public space aspects of the private building.”

Seems as if there is a parallel in that like Piers 30-32, there are harsh critics on the other side of the bay who are against the ballpark at Peralta full stop, though for clearly different reasons. In SF’s case the Piers were considered part of the Bay, not land, so they faced an uphill battle towards approval versus a well-heeled political gentry. The Peralta land borders Lake Merritt Channel, which will require its own special approvals, though not to the extent of anything built on the shores of the Bay proper. Snøhetta is also notable for having just finished the SFMOMA expansion, which was funded and overseen by one John Fisher, a.k.a. the A’s owner.

The rest of the team will work as follows:

“The public aspect of planning efforts will kick into full gear in early 2018. Sasaki and Studio T Square will be at the front of such efforts. The ballpark design itself will be handled by HOK in partnership with Snøhetta, which also will take part in the urban design work.”

Sasaki is expected to work on how the ballpark works within the context of Lake Merritt and the Oakland Estuary. Studio T Square, an Oakland firm, is slated to handle the relationship of the ballpark with the delicate Chinatown, Eastlake, and San Antonio neighborhoods.

On the heels of this news are a pair of polls. The Oakland Chamber released a poll in which of 500 likely voter respondents, the ballpark was supported 2-1. A week later, another poll by Oakland Rising indicated that 80% respondents prefer that the new ballpark be constructed at the site of the old Coliseum instead. How do appraise these polling efforts?

We don’t.

The polls are for the news cycle and public relations, nothing else. There’s nothing to vote on, only vague promises and threats. Most of the dealmaking will be done by the A’s and Peralta CCD, and only after Peralta decides it’s worthwhile will the project be planned and debated in earnest. And even then, there’s no promise of an actual vote, referendum, or any other plebiscite. After all, Oakland voters never voted on Brooklyn Basin (Oak-to-9th), the most transformative project to hit the city in years. If anything gets voted on at all, it will be for funding some package of to-be-determined infrastructure improvements.

Let’s see the vision take form before approving or dismissing it out of hand. A project this iconic deserves a proper, full evaluation. Oakland residents deserve it. A’s fans deserve it.

(Apologies to Stephen Colbert for ripping off the title of his 2012 children’s book.)

Peralta Board Meeting and Discussion

Tonight’s Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees meeting went as I would expect for a typical Bay Area stadium forum. It was frontloaded with a dozens of pro-stadium speakers including building trades and union supporters. That was followed by residents of Chinatown and Eastlake, most of whom were opponents of the park. That was followed by faculty and students of Laney College, largely against the park as well. Most of the grievances that were aired in previous reports are repeated tonight, with no new information revealed.

View south of Peralta HQ lot

The Board made it clearer that no decisions were going to be made tonight. Sharon Cornu, who is acting as a consultant for Peralta as the district explores the project, gave a presentation on the history of the site. An overview of the unique environmental aspects and the socioeconomic status of the neighborhood wrapped up the presentation, leading into the aforementioned speakers. Those speakers, by the way, didn’t include any representatives from the A’s. That’s not unusual since there is no formal project submitted to the district to support.

A lot of FUD was spread tonight, including plenty of talk about about the unholy alliance of “labor and financial capital.” Many students and local residents fully believe that this is the first step to the A’s taking over all of Laney, shuttering it in the process. Perhaps that’s the usual slippery slope argument, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about it. Peralta is not exactly rolling in dough, and the district is looking towards the future, when it has to deal with increased upkeep and maintenance costs. Laney has trouble paying its instructors, so the district has to start looking at other ways to deal with these problems. Yet there’s still a charter at Laney where the mission remains education, so however well or poorly that is going, it’s still going to be the most important thing for the district, not cashing out for a quick payday.

The A’s have to thread the needle on this project. They are aiming at developing the Laney College parking lot across the channel from the Peralta HQ site. To what extent? Cornu’s specialty is affordable housing. The A’s want to build their own village around the ballpark, and that lot may or may not be the extent of that. The A’s may end up kicking some parking revenue to Laney. They could build something 4-6 stories tall there, or 8-12 stories including a hotel. They have to build as much as they can to pay for the ballpark and satisfy whatever is called for in a future community benefits agreement. Yet the growing wish list of items needed to complete the agreement may well render the whole project unprofitable. The A’s are making a lot of claims about what they can do for Oakland. Those claims may end up forcing the A’s bite off more they can chew. I like how the sister-team Earthquakes started which a much less ambitious project and added features as they went.

View west across Lake Merritt Channel

Chinatown developer Carl Chan also spoke. I’m curious about his delineation of “good” traffic from “bad” traffic. “Good” traffic brings visitors to restaurants and shops housed in his properties. “Bad” traffic doesn’t do that. I have to think there will be a good amount of both if a ballpark opens nearby.

Many of the residents of Chinatown and Eastlake have been there for multiple generations. The two neighborhoods have been hit less by Oakland’s encroaching gentrification than others, and the g-word is their chief concern, making up a large part of their opposition. I tend to think, though, that gentrification can only be somewhat mitigated, not avoided completely. A 2017 report on the state of housing stock showed that only 6% of housing under construction is considered affordable. That’s despite goals of 20-28% in past years. Affordable housing has taken a hit since redevelopment ended and local pools of property taxes for such housing dried up. That affordable housing is going to be built in these places, and then all the way east down International Boulevard and San Leandro Street (some is already near the Coliseum and Fruitvale stations). What creativity could be worked into the deal to pay for the affordable housing “subsidy?”

The recent news that a plume of pollution has been sitting and spreading underneath the Peralta land could provide an impetus to act. The cost to cleanup the land is unknown and requires study. If the cost runs into the millions Peralta won’t be able to do nothing, including turning off monitoring of groundwater underneath. If high cleanup costs forces the district into a deal, the A’s as developer indicated that they’d cover it. If this scenario sounds familiar, it was one of the main worries about the Howard Terminal site. The pollution is bad enough that, according to BANG’s David DeBolt, there are actually two plumes. The second is coincidentally enough underneath Laney College’s baseball field. Would the A’s be willing to pay for that as well?

It can be scary to listen to the comments, go through the laundry list, and figure out the project costs. I’ll try to get into that more next year as the project solidifies. Until then, understand that mitigation means compromise. It’s gonna take some work, and some negotiation.

MLB 2018 Travel Grid

For those who were waiting for next year’s travel grid, it’s ready. Thanks for your patience. I’m not planning any trips next year, so I don’t have many comments on the schedule itself. If you have questions or would like some guidance, comment below or ask me on Twitter.


As usual, tips (advice and $) are always welcome. The PDFs contain both alphabetical and regional layouts. Use the first sheet in each file for the appropriate layout.