Don’t Worry About Las VegA’s

There’s no need to panic about Oakland losing the A’s to Sin City the way they are losing the Raiders.

Not for a few years, at least.

AAA (and former temporary A’s) home Cashman Field

I’m not going to rehash the market size/potential/franchise competition arguments. I did that 10 years before desperate Raiders fans were doing the same. The simple problem for Las Vegas is that the region, or Clark County in particular, shot their wad in bringing in the Raiders. The vehicle for funding numerous improvements around Clark County, the room tax, is currently 12-13% for most properties in the area. A 0.88% hike for stadium funding would bring the tax to around 14%, probably the most local hotels would be will to swallow, since taxes above that percentage start to become less competitive against other vacation/convention locales such as San Diego, Orlando, or Los Angeles.

Clark County hotel tax shares and hikes for the last 30+ years (Las Vegas Sun)

The “cap” also becomes important when considering how revenue shortfalls could be addressed at the stadium. The Raiders aren’t being charged rent at the stadium, but they will assume operations and with that, operating costs. If that becomes difficult to handle and the team cries poor, guess what the first source to tap will be? The same one that will provide some $50 million a year to start and is being collected as you read this.

In short, Vegas doesn’t have a funding source for a stadium. And as we saw with San Jose, just offering a site to the A’s on which they’d have to self-fund a stadium is not going to cut it. From a structural standpoint, it simply doesn’t work.

The Vegas talk was triggered by comments from Rob Manfred, who spoke last week on the topic. Manfred has opened to possibility of MLB expansion, which hasn’t been considered since the last round in 1998 (Tampa Bay and Arizona). Expansion can’t happen until the St. Petersburg (ironic) and Oakland (tragic) stadium problems are resolved. And if they aren’t resolved to Manfred’s and the Lodge’s satisfaction, Las Vegas and Montreal remain as relocation threats, no matter how hollow those threats are.

Manfred’s stated support for Oakland over the last couple years is not lip service. He’s giving John Fisher and Dave Kaval space to complete their work, and the City of Oakland time to get its shit together. He didn’t see Oakland A’s Forever!

“Until Tampa and Oakland are resolved, I don’t see us expanding as a practical matter. It could be an expansion or relocation site,” Manfred said. “I understand the demographics and it could work, based on the size of the city.”

Now that the Raiders have one foot out the door, everything can and should come together for a deal that should satisfy practically all in Oakland. If it doesn’t in five or ten years, the Commissioner can and will complain about the lack of progress. He or some heretofore unknown corporate henchman will talk down Oakland’s commitment, just as Eric Grubman did for the NFL and Roger Goodell. I riffed on this when I first heard about Manfred’s comments.

If all goes well, the only role we’ll see involves Manfred wearing a hard hat and holding a shovel. If not, well, you can’t say you didn’t see the plot twist coming.

VEGA$

Some famous East Bay raised actor chimed in on the whole Raiders leaving debacle:

A comment on the last paragraph and a rumor about the A’s… later tonight.

Architecting an outfield, bleachers and all

You remember what it used to look like. I shouldn’t even post a picture of the old bleachers, but I will just in case you don’t know.

Mother’s Cookies photo card from 1985

I won’t post a picture of Mount Davis because, well, it’s still there. I am at Chase Field tonight, so I’ll post another picture from an outfield seat.

RF Wall seat at Chase Field

In an effort to expand the availability of wheelchair-accessible seats around Chase Field, the Dbacks placed a fence in front of the right field wall along with one row of wheelchair positions and companion seats along the fence. It’s a cool albeit obstructed view of the action with plenty of space to stretch out. It also provides additional seating for the infamous pool via patio tables. The seats are generally not available in advance unless you’re buying a wheelchair space. As is often the case, on game day the seats open up for the general public. The Giants have field-level viewing spots along AT&T Park’s promenade, but they aren’t ticketed and people aren’t supposed to hang around for more than a couple innings.

Going back to the Coliseum, A’s fans know of two kinds of bleachers: the original set that hugged the uniform outfield fence, and the new carved out sections of football seats that start 15 feet above the field. We know what the standard, optimal height is, and we know what a sub-optimal, compromised height and angle is. In the 60’s cookie-cutter area, the outfield bleachers was at best an afterthought, minimal revenue-generator. Prior to that parks like old Comiskey and Tiger Stadium had wraparound second decks that had were mainly as a way to pack as many seats into a small space as possible.

Safeco outfield, bleachers upper right

Nowadays outfield seats are yet another revenue machine. Bleacher benches have been mostly supplanted by seats, and the designated bleacher sections have been moved well back of the outfield fence. Bars and party sections now populate the areas by the fence. At Safeco Field the bleachers are suspended well above the bullpens and the lower concourse, which is lined with bars and more expensive seats. And of course, most parks have completed killed the concept of the general admission seat, which allows anyone to sit in whatever bleacher seats are available, first come, first served.

Romantic as we all are for the original Coliseum bleachers, they are going the way of the dodo (remember how the A’s were considering reserved bleachers in 2010?). There should be some bleachers at the new park, but will all be reserved or will some be GA? Should the A’s consider some form of lawn or festival seating in addition to bleachers? San Diego has this, but the lawn is distant from the field.

I’m not privy to the A’s plans or marketing, so I don’t know just how many bleacher seats they plan to sell. 10% of all seats is 3,500-4,000. 20% is roughly 8,000, approaching the number for the recently re-opened upper deck. Putting together the seating mix goes in conjunction with all the other stuff that could be built there, from restaurants to roller coasters to outdoor party suites to a gigantic animatronic Stomper home run feature. Views from the rest of the seating bowl will surely be paramount, so conservation of height may be a major factor. Other than that, this could go in any number of directions. Respond to the poll below, and have your say in the comments or @ reply on Twitter. Have fun with this. It’s our ballpark too.

Rain forces postponement of 4/16 game to 9/9 doubleheader

Rain the poured throughout the weekend forced the A’s to postpone Sunday’s game. Even though the rain was subsiding as planned first pitch time (1:05) approached, Later that day the team announced that the game would be made up in September, as the back end of a natural (single admission) doubleheader on Saturday, the 9th. MLB guidelines along with union preferences and financial pressures usually call for teams to schedule makeup games on off days, or if a doubleheader is absolutely necessary, a split or day-night doubleheader with separate admissions. Of course, this is the A’s we’re talking about, so they may actually benefit from one day’s admission more than two. Tickets for the postponed won’t be honored for the doubleheader because it’s not a new date. Tickets have already been sold for the original 9/9 game, so fans can trade in another date on the home schedule. That should also mean that they can trade in for 9/9, but there’s a good chance that their seats will be marginally worse. Best way to find out is to contact Ticket Services.

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As for what caused the postponement, remember that it’s been three years since the last postponement, also caused by a soggy field. Back then, the tarp was left off the field in hopes of some of the water evaporating. That’s quite different from the normal way of getting rid of water: gravity. Modern fields have some form of drainage system to move water out of the ground quickly. That works most everywhere except for the Coliseum, where the field remains 22 feet below sea level and is subject to tidal actions. On Sunday the tide was to start coming in as the game started, reaching high tide around the end of the game. On Monday night, high tide hit at 5:30 PM and was to recede as the night progressed. That allowed the A’s to start the game with some confidence, even though a shower hit in the late innings. DIY Network provided the blurbs above, which explain how the drainage systems work. The Coli’s system was done as part of the 1995 Mount Davis renovation, though the brief period between football and baseball seasons did now allow for a complete rebuild. The Giants’ system is interesting in that it uses a vacuum pump/air system to force water out. The field is 9 feet above sea level, which means it could be tidally prone on some occasions.

Coincidentally, the Coliseum parking lot is also 9-10 feet above sea level. Any new ballpark there should have its field at least at grade or higher to deal with climate change-related sea level rise. Howard Terminal and Brooklyn Basin are at elevation 11-12 feet, and being waterfront should be subject to similar standards. Laney College is terraced, going from 13 to 30 feet from south to north.

Whatever location is chosen, great care and thought will have to go into stadium placement, footprint, and orientation. In the modern era, that’s gonna have to include elevation as well, at least as long as you’re building along the bay’s flatlands.

 

The tarps are dead (upper deck)! Long live the tarps (Mount Davis)!

Tuesday off-days, rare during the baseball season, are pretty good days to make announcements. Dave Kaval made a big announcement this morning that can only win over fans. The failed scarcity experiment and objects of scorn known as the upper deck tarps are no more.

While the compression of the seating inventory helped make the venue more intimate at times, the optics of 12,000 seats of upper deck being tarped and cordoned off were embarrassing and could not be escaped. The policy was put into effect for the 2006, not long after Lew Wolff and John Fisher bought the team from Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann. That makes the tarps the one enduring visual symbol of the Wolff era, which officially ended last November.

The tarps atop Mount Davis will stay as the seats at the summit won’t be sold. When football season begins there will be a humdrum exercise in rotating between the A’s and Raiders tarps, covering seats that the Raiders wanted in 1995 but haven’t sold since 2013. The new baseball seating capacity will be 47,170 plus a thousand potential standing room admission tickets available for big crowd event games (Giants, Yankees, Red Sox, fireworks).

Tickets for the newly reopened sections (300-315, 319-334) will be $15 everywhere with half the proceeds for the upcoming 10-game homestead going to Oakland Promise, a charity and mentoring program that aims to have every Oakland high school student graduate with the necessary skills needed to finish college.

Say goodbye to the old seating chart:

Hello to the new (old) seating chart, whose URL is um, interesting:

Finally, we can’t bring back the Coliseum upper deck without that one incident (NSFW)…

During that first homestand with the upper deck reopened, the A’s will play the M’s on 4/20. It’s a night game. You know what to do. Note: the tickets do have seating assignments, so any thoughts that the upper deck is now some massive general admission section are at best unspoken and informal.

As for what the A’s should do with the tarps, I thought up some options. Vote on one. Now that I’m thinking about it, whatever happened to the tarps that covered 316-318?

On this Opening Day, let us thank the Giants

Eleven years ago I wrote a small item on this blog titled “One Coliseum, Two Teams.” It mentioned how the Raiders had recently patched up their relationship with Oakland and Alameda County after signing a renewed lease at the venue. The A’s unveiled a proposal to build north of 66th Avenue which went nowhere. A scaled down vision of building at the Malibu and HomeBase lots near Hegenberger suffered a similar fate.

All this time, politicians and civic leaders have been trying to pitch plans in which both teams could happily co-exist within the complex, if not in the same stadium. Nevermind the concerns form the teams about parking, or construction-related upheaval, or how everything would be scheduled – who would get first dibs. This was, in East Bay fantasyland, the perfect solution despite the teams’ misgivings. And yes, the teams would have the finance these stadia themselves, or with third parties who had little-to-no relationship with City, County, or the teams, and little actual experience with projects like these.

Do you see how preposterous that reads? It was completely delusional. And no one truly believed in it, which is why Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf sent a couple letters to the NFL saying We Tried as the owners approved the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas. Eventually something had to break up the inertia.

Both the NFL and MLB have been eyeing the Coliseum complex for some time. While it’s not a glamorous location, the Coliseum has just about everything else a team and league could want: lots of parking, great transportation links, excellent proximity to the fan base, and potential as a development site. The leagues carried a sort of gentleman’s agreement about it. They didn’t assail each other or the teams while quietly competing for the space through their franchises. Once the NFL gave up and allowed Davis to leave Oakland, the NFL was quick to blame the A’s for the Raiders’ departure.

How do the Giants come into this? They have control over building a stadium in most of the Bay except the East Bay and most of the North Bay. The A’s have exclusive rights to the East Bay. The A’s tried to argue that since the Giants didn’t build in the South Bay (despite being granted permission by the A’s to do so), the A’s should be granted those rights if they built in San Jose. That was tabled by MLB and lost in court when San Jose sued MLB and the Giants sued San Jose. It was the Giants’ continued intransigence that forced the A’s back to Oakland, renewing the competition for the one known viable stadium site in the East Bay (nothing else has been fully studied).

We saw this happen before in San Francisco, no less. The Giants built their jewel at China Basin with a modest amount of public support, mostly infrastructure. The ballpark’s popularity took off immediately and there’s been no looking back. Debt was retired earlier this year, 20 years after groundbreaking. The 49ers got limited public funding and lukewarm support from the City and then-mayor Gavin Newsom, greasing the skids for their move to Santa Clara.

Oakland’s version of this tale has a major twist in that the Raiders saw the writing on the wall. Schaaf wasn’t going to budge on public funding, and had already talked more favorably about preserving the A’s than the Raiders. The Raiders never signed up to partner on Coliseum City and similar plans, choosing instead to speak minimally about Oakland while fully chasing Carson and Las Vegas. With Vegas approved, the Raiders chose to leave first instead of waiting for the A’s to build first. The ending for both Oakland and SF is the same: neither has a NFL franchise playing within their respective city limits in the long run, and fans heartily blame the teams and politicians for the state of affairs.

It wasn’t that long ago that Larry Baer was happy with the A’s leaving for somewhere else further away – as long as it was Contra Costa County or Sacramento, not San Jose. Now the A’s are firmly entrenched in Oakland. The indirect consequence of the football teams moving away was unintended. The future for the Giants is more intense competition from the A’s and closer competition from the incoming Warriors. The Giants’ hegemony over the Bay Area isn’t threatened. But it isn’t quite the Giants-focused as intended. The Giants are now just like any other rich team to hate.

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P.S. – The two local Comcast Sportsnet regional sports networks have been rebranded NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California. Hooray, corporate synergy.

How quickly can Mount Davis be demolished?

Sorry, there’s no magical charm to hide this beauty

Short answer: Not this year.

I get it, A’s fans. You’re excited, I’m excited, the A’s marketing crew is excited. We’re all champing at the bit right now. Unfortunately, I’m gonna have to slow everyone’s roll. In California we don’t build things quickly. We don’t even demolish things quickly. You’re not going to see a big viral video implosion of the Coliseum, ever. Keep in mind:

  • Candlestick Park’s demolition dragged on for months to protect residents living nearby from asbestos and other pollutants.
  • Site prep for Avaya Stadium took a year longer than expected because of previously unknown underground bunkers and other items to demolish and cleanup.

The Raiders have already exercised their option on the 2017 year, so they’re in come August. Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas isn’t outfitted with the updated locker rooms and security fencing that the NFL requires. Any upgrades couldn’t come until after the 2017 season ends. It’s that classic tale about the boy who leaves the girl yet needs to crash on her couch for a few months while his new fling upgrades from a studio to a junior one-bedroom apartment. You’ve seen it – Cameron Crowe or Richard Linklater?

As long as the Raiders are staying for hopefully only year, the A’s should be able to break out the wrecking ball come February 1, 2018, right?

Nope.

The problem is at that point there will still be some $75 million in debt remaining on the Coliseum. The City and County haven’t figured out who or what is paying for it. Until that gets resolved, the JPA can’t so much as pelt it with rocks. Beyond that, the demolition will have its own cost which someone will have to pay out of pocket. The infrastructure funding plan offered to the Raiders and the Lott-Fortress group had the demolition of the entire stadium budgeted in. I imagine that the same offer’s on the table for the A’s should they choose to build at the Coliseum. If they don’t, demolition’s yet another cost to add onto the debt resolution. If the JPA quickly came to a deal with the A’s, demolition would probably be accommodated depending on the Raiders’ departure and the phasing of the teardown.

Once the debt issue is resolved, I would expect that demolition would happen in two parts. Initially, the peak of Mount Davis, otherwise known as the upper deck, would be lopped off. That would be the easiest aspect of the plan since only the seats and risers would be removed, along with the columns and beams holding them up. The Washington football team removed more than 10,000 seats from the upper deck, replacing many of them with the wall-like platforms used at Cleveland’s Progressive Field. Once the upper deck of Mount Davis is removed, the Oakland hills and Leona Quarry would be visible from parts of the original Coliseum, namely the original upper deck. Aesthetically that would be a huge improvement, if not a complete solution.

Outside Mount Davis

Once the easy part is dealt with, dealing with the rest of hulking structure becomes a project unto itself. The East Side Club is a four-story section that stretches the length of the stand, with two upper levels of suites facing the field and a vaulted ceiling above the club. It’s more like demolishing a gigantic concrete pier than your average tilt-up office building.

Everything at or below the plaza concourse would have to stay intact while the A’s played in the venue. The BART plaza is at this level, so unless someone wanted to completely rebuild that even though future plans have the old BART bridge replaced, it’s all staying intact. In addition, the only vehicular access to the field is via the steep centerfield tunnel underneath Mt. Davis. That can’t be touched.

East Side Club, suites on upper levels

I don’t mean to crap on your dynamite-charged fantasies, folks. As long as the A’s have to continue using the Coliseum there’s only so far you can go in terms of dismantling it. Eventually the whole thing will come down. Chances are it will be piece-by-piece. Maybe the A’s can have some of the demo team dance to YMCA for old times’ sake.