Battle of the dueling ENAs

So here we are, almost Memorial Day, and the A’s have entered separate Exclusive Negotiating Agreements with two potential ballpark sites in Oakland: the Coliseum and Howard Terminal.

That was followed by A’s president Dave Kaval’s response on Twitter to an inquiry about Howard Terminal:

First, it’s good to hear that the A’s will have (with the Port’s help) a weather station installed at Howard Terminal.

But where will it be located? And is one enough?

To gain some insight, let’s check with our friends at Weather Underground. Unlike last year, when it appeared that a station was installed on a buoy in the Oakland Estuary, this time it appears that it’s situated on the southwest corner of the Howard Terminal pier. That’s not the likely location of home plate or the grandstand, but it should provide a sense of the prevailing winds in the neighborhood.

Here’s what that station is registering as of 6:20 PM tonight:

Now let’s look at the Coliseum area at 6:23 PM:

Now I’ve heard a lot about how Howard Terminal won’t be Candlestick, Part Deux. Let me point out that Howard Terminal is not Jack London Square, and while HT isn’t exactly Land’s End, it isn’t the most wind-protected area ever and it’s probably not going to be in the future. Even if a ballpark is built there, local and environmental groups will fight hard to keep the A’s from building a 100-foot-tall, 800-foot-long edifice on the waterfront. The A’s will probably unveil a design that orients the park more towards downtown and away from the water, to provide allow the ballpark grandstand to block the wind. Or, as the Giants found out:

The wind and temperature conditions aren’t necessarily going to be the gating factor that determines the viability of Howard Terminal. Economic factors and political process will.

Speaking of process, now that the ENAs for the Coliseum and Howard Terminal have been approved, the A’s now have given themselves a scant six months to figure out all of the details.

Say that Kaval makes an announcement in early December. Because of the normal City Hall schedule, a project won’t be brought up for City Council review, let alone planning commission review, until early next year. Then the CEQA process will begin. If you’re keeping track of how other recent projects have been affected, consider that the Warriors ownership group bought the site of the future Chase Center from Salesforce in April 2014. It’s scheduled to open in time for the 2019-20 NBA season, which starts in October 2019.

Then remember that the Coliseum, thanks to the aborted Coliseum City project, already is entitled for one or more stadiums and a slew of ancillary development. The Warriors ended up going with a backup plan. What will the A’s do?

Las Vegas AAA’s?

No, that’s not a typo.

BANG’s Jon Becker is reporting tonight that Las Vegas is opening up – but it’s not quite the threat you think.

Vegas, which briefly hosted the A’s at Cashman Field in the mid 90’s, will soon lose its AAA team, the 51’s, to Syracuse, where the Mets will better localize its minor league operations. The Mets purchased the Chiefs in 2017 and will officially change the affiliation starting next year.

Meanwhile, there is a new ballpark being built in the Vegas market. However, it’s not on the Strip or near downtown Vegas. It will be in suburban Summerlin, which feels much newer (and nicer) than the rest of Vegas. So nice, in fact, that the NHL’s Golden Knights built their practice facility, City National Arena, in Summerlin.

In the never-ending game of affiliate musical chairs, where does that leave a team in Vegas? Or Cashman Field, for that matter?

For starters, Cashman Field is being abandoned by baseball. A USL soccer team, Las Vegas Lights FC, started playing there earlier this year. Once a minor league team moves into the under-construction Summerlin ballpark, the soccer franchise should have Cashman all to themselves (unless they want to move to tonier Summerlin as well). There’s also talk that the XFL may choose Vegas as a city in its next iteration; chances are they’d choose the larger Sam Boyd Stadium instead.

After being ditched by Sacramento for the Giants, the A’s went to Nashville, which is far away but at least has a new ballpark. The A’s player development contract with Nashville ends this year, as do several others:

  • Fresno
  • Reno
  • Round Rock
  • Colorado Springs
  • Rochester
  • Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
  • Norfolk

Fresno may be a favorite because of its Central Valley location, but it has suffered for years for having a subpar airport, contributing to high travel costs for teams and players. Reno’s better in that regard, as is Vegas. The rest are likely to re-up with their existing MLB affiliates, with Colorado Springs always in flux because of its elevation.

Reno could happen because the MLS Earthquakes have a partnership with USL side Reno 1868 FC. It would be easier for ownership to make junkets to Reno to check out both the USL and PCL clubs.

We should find out towards the end of the season which way the AAA’s move.

P.S. – I took some pics of Cashman when I was in Vegas last year. Here’s one.

Port of Oakland set to vote on Howard Terminal ENA

Does this read like deja vu?

That’s because it is.

The Port of Oakland is getting ready to approve a one-year window for negotiating with the A’s on Howard Terminal. To help pave the way, they will also approve a feasibility study for the site. I know you’re asking, wasn’t a study done a few years ago? And I’m here to tell you, no, it was never done. Not one released in public, at least. The A’s shared their findings with the City and Port. Neither the Port nor City furnished their own study or EIR. Neither did Oakland Waterfront Ballpark, the group that championed Howard Terminal oh so long ago. Here’s the agenda item:

1. CLOSED SESSION (1:00 p.m.)
1.1
Closed Session discussions and materials may not be disclosed to a person not entitled to receive it, unless the Board authorizes disclosure of that confidential information.
CONFERENCE WITH REAL PROPERTY NEGOTIATOR – (Pursuant to California Government Code Section 54956.8)
Property: One Market Street, Oakland, CA (Howard Terminal) Negotiating Parties: Oakland Athletics and Port of Oakland
Agency Negotiator: Pamela Kershaw, Director of Commercial Real Estate Under Negotiation: Price and Terms of Tenancy
Property: Oakland International Container Terminal (Berths 55-56 and Berths 57-59) and Matson Terminal (Berths 60-63 – Port of Oakland
Negotiating Parties: SSA Terminals (Oakland), LLC; SSA Terminals, LLC, and Port of Oakland
Agency Negotiator: John Driscoll, Director of Maritime Under Negotiation: Price and Terms of Tenancy
File ID: [141-18]

Not much has changed in the intervening years. Obstacles remain for any project at HT. There’s the lack of BART serving the area. It’s still polluted. It’s still on the wrong side of the tracks, as mentioned by former city administrator Dan Lindheim:

“The reason was it was on the wrong side of the tracks,” Lindheim, now an assistant professor at the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Policy, said recently. “Major League Baseball feared in the event of a catastrophe. their illustrious fans and players would be stuck. They didn’t want 40,000 people stuck over there.”

And don’t forget the A’s finding that Howard Terminal is appreciably colder than other sites in Oakland. Or the constant pounding noise coming from Schnitzer Steel at night.

Maybe the A’s-led effort will resolve the myriad issues plaguing the site. You have to give the parties credit for giving this a good old college try. However, I’m afraid that thanks to MLB backing the A’s into a corner, the team will have no choice but to kick the can down the road. We’re all familiar with that routine by now.

—-

P.S. – You noticed how third parties came out of the woodwork to hopefully bid on the Coliseum, but none have done the same with Howard Terminal? I wonder why.

The A’s fortunes won’t turn on a dime

This sums up my thoughts on the Portland Oregonian’s John Canzano’s clarion call to recruit the A’s to Portland (or convince MLB to expand there):

The Portland Diamond Project group, which made two separate offers on land in the Portland area, is not considered a potential ownership group, according to Forbes’ Maury Brown.

Portland’s biggest problem is that it actively pushed aside AAA baseball to entertain MLS soccer years ago. No matter how much the market may have improved statistically, it’s still guilty of putting baseball on the back burner. Its only baseball team is the short season Hillsboro Hops, a team that pulls slightly more than 3,000 regularly in a stadium built to hold 4,500. PDX now has to go the Phoenix route, hoping that a spec-built stadium will be sufficient for an expansion team or a relocated team. In either case the club will have to wait at least three years for the stadium to be developed.

Brown also argues that any stadium in Portland should have a retractable roof like Seattle’s Safeco Field. After seeing from afar how inclement weather has affected early season games in the Northeast and the Eastern Seaboard, I have to agree. Teams can’t afford to lose revenue dates if they can help it.

Sure, it’s easy to crap on the A’s attendance so far in 2018. Those columnists don’t seem to understand the concept of loss leaders. That’s what last night’s 10-2 win over the ChiSox was. It attracted >20% fans who have never been to the Coliseum in its 50 years as a ballpark. Some of those fans may be the next generation of A’s fans, or those whose interest was recently piqued. The process to build a fanbase is a long, slow one, not triggered by one event or game date. The A’s have to earn the fan base’s trust, which will not happen overnight.

Tram-a-lam-a

For those who haven’t yet dismissed out-of-hand the idea of an aerial tram linking Downtown Oakland (12tb Street BART) to Jack London Square/Howard Terminal, I’ve put together the following chart comparing the proposed transit option with other existing trams and other non-bus, non-subway modes.

Chew on that over the weekend.

And if you want further related info, check out a study done for the City of Hercules for its own circulator, which could have included its own aerial tram. It’s worth a read.

With that, have a good weekend everyone.

Kaval pitches gondola to link Howard Terminal, Downtown Oakland

That’s right. Matier and Ross are reporting that, absent a BART link to Jack London Square and Howard Terminal, A’s President Dave Kaval is proposing a cable car or gondola to link the waterfront to Downtown Oakland.

Oakland and BART have experience working with this type of transportation before, having built the $500 million Oakland Airport Connector from the Coliseum to the airport. It was built by Doppelmayr, an Austrian firm with plenty of experience building similar systems for ski lifts and other urban environments.

The need for an alternative may be guided by this revelation:

then BART General Manager Grace Crunican recently slammed the door on the idea of building a new BART station near Howard Terminal, claiming it was technically infeasible — not to mention that the price tag would be in the stratosphere.

Many transit advocates were hoping for a Howard Terminal BART station to be useful for a second transbay BART crossing. It still remains to be seen if that will ever get beyond the planning stages. The 2004 JLS Feasibility study covered BART and streetcar links to JLS, but it didn’t investigate an aerial tram.

A possible JLS gondola would have to soar from 50-60 feet above I-880 as the freeway travels above downtown. That would make for a very scenic, but brief trip to and from the ballpark. The Airport Connector ride costs $6 each way atop your regular BART fare, so I would imagine that a ride for the shorter JLS line might cost $3-4 per person each way.

The question is, who pays for it? Riders could if they were locked into the fare gate system as they are at Coliseum BART. The experience would be different for JLS-downtown, as you’ll invite patrons who might want to park downtown and then take the gondola. An A’s ticket surcharge would help during games, but what about others who go to JLS/HT for other reasons? And who would foot the construction cost? This Cable Car is Over My Head, indeed.

Personal Update #2

Okay.

If you’ve been following my Twitter feed, you may know that I was discharged from the hospital a week ago. Since then I’ve been holed up in my twin brother Caesar’s house only a few blocks away – the better for making appointments.

While I still suffer some short and long-range effects from my stroke in late January, I’m working on becoming fully mobile and able-bodied. I can stand unassisted and can get in and out of bed, which is real blessing compared to three weeks ago when I wore a binder on my chest and bed straps on my arms (I had trouble processing the whole ordeal). Now my brothers are kicking my ass therapeutically, from advancing my walking to feeding me practically no carbs throughout the day. I joke that I’m walking like a newborn baby. I think that’s just because of lack of practice.

Mentally I feel like I’m working my way up a mountain. My sharpness is coming back quickly, though I’m still finding I have holes in short-term memory and vocabulary. I’ve made a lot of progress with speech therapy and so-called executive functions, but there’s still a ways to go. Unfortunately, my employer-provided health insurance has ended, so I’m having to do outpatient therapies via Arizona’s version of ACA, called MercyCare AHCCCS, or “Access.” Personally, I can say that I’ve been rather fortunate. So far the old health insurance has paid approximately 98% of my claims (percentages subject to change), leaving the YouCaring account (still open!) Caesar set up to pay for out-of=pocket costs. Thank you to all who have contributed, from old friends to baseball media backers to long-time readers I have only met through emails or the comments section.

The best thing that has happened so far is that after suffering a series of seizures with my stroke, I haven’t had a seizure since (or another stroke for that matter). That allowed the doctors to focus on two key problems: hypertension and adult-onset (type 2) diabetes. The blood pressure is under pretty good control thanks to the drugs and especially because of diet so far, and my blood sugar is so good one of the doctors started to wonder if I actually had diabetes (I do, don’t kid yourself). The point is that it’s becoming manageable with a single oral drug and no insulin injections so far. To me that means there’s hope. I was also taken off the seizure medication, which I was informed had weird interactions with the blood pressure meds.

That’s all the gory details I have so far. Have a good weekend everyone, and be good to your friends, family, even those you don’t consider friends or family. This game runs nine innings, and sometimes those innings take more than 2:30 to complete.

If you get a chance, watch the HBO documentary “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling.” Truly inspirational.