Further analyzing the “other” 360 model

I pulled this graphic off the 360 press release. Take a good look at it.

  1. First, take a look at the the foul territory. It’s definitely not like the Coliseum – much more shallow – so any comparison to the Coliseum can be dismissed.
  2. Next, the lower deck is split into two regions. Normally this would appear to be done with an aisle plus tunnels or vomitories, but that’s probably not the case here. It appears that the upper portion is elevated slightly above the lower region, making the upper region a sort of mezzanine. The lower region may very well be the club seats. If this area has separate admission, it could translate into an unfriendly environment for autograph seekers.
  3. The yellow divider between the two regions? That could be the layer of minisuites that Wolff discussed in his presentation. The attractive thing about them is that they probably aren’t more than 8 rows from the field. Each minisuite would also have direct access to the club concourse.
  4. Down the lines a bit, the upper portion of the mezzanine is interrupted by what look like party suites. It accomplishes two goals: it keeps the party suites separated from the luxury suite concourse, and it occupies space that would normally be occupied by seats that are difficult to sell (take a look at sections 100-104 and 130-134 during any non-sellout at the Coliseum for proof).
  5. The luxury suites are the least surprising element, since they follow the design used at PNC Park, where they were low-profile and tucked underneath the upper deck.
  6. The upper deck contains no surprises either. Tapering the bowl down towards the outfield helps create the scarcity Wolff is trying to achieve and will also limit the number of Uecker seats in the house.
  7. The bowl is symmetrical, and neither side wraps around the foul pole as it does in the Coliseum North design.
  8. The outfield isn’t adorned with a hotel or overhanging suites, but that may be a perspective issue, because the view comes from beyond right field.
  9. The bullpens are now well-defined in the corners due to the breaks in the seating areas. Notice that there’s no Fenway-like right field corner with the Pesky Pole.

This model answers the one obvious question that came from the Wolff presentation: Where are the suites? This “two”-deck design addresses it and then some. My guess at this point is that these are the main elements within the seating bowl, which makes sense because it’s how the A’s are going to make most of their money. The outfield elements are possible based on site constraints and cost factors. They’re really the icing, to show what can be innovated in fair territory. Rest assured that most of the revenue will come from people in foul territory. Replace the plain grandstand in the presentation with this concept, and you may have most of the final design in place.

SJ City Council approves Quakes land plan

In a move tangentially related to San Jose’s downtown ballpark pursuit, the City Council allowed city staff and the Sharks’ owners, Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment, to enter negotiations on a deal that would put a soccer stadium immediately south of the Diridon South ballpark site. This was done through a closed session, which is becoming an increasingly routine part of the City’s modus operandi. It doesn’t reflect the spirit of open government that the R2D2-like City Hall rotunda represents.

The land isn’t part of the ballpark site, and it also happens to be city-owned, so there are no acquisition issues. As you can see from the graphic above, the soccer stadium site (in blue) is much smaller than the ballpark site. A 25,000-seat soccer stadium requires a smaller footprint than a ballpark due to the smaller field and less buildout. At roughly 5 acres in size, the lot is not the best shape for a 75 yd. x 115 yd. soccer field and grandstand, but the stadium could be wedged in without too much difficulty. The grove of trees that cuts diagonally across the block marks Los Gatos Creek.

The wedge-shaped lot currently holds a San Jose Fire Department training facility, which would have to be relocated. The lot was originally set aside for a future park, and it unclear if any land will be available to replace it. The immediate neighborhood lacks a large park area, though the newly developed Cahill Park near Diridon Station is nearby.

Parking is a concern, since the site is somewhat removed from the Arena and all of its parking. Should someone want to invest the money, it may be possible to have parking underneath the stadium, as was done in small scale at St. John’s University in New York and at Amsterdam Arena in the Netherlands.

So after reading all of this, you’re probably asking what all of this has to do with the A’s. Well, it really comes down to a vote. Building any kind of stadium on the site, even if it’s privately funded, will require a vote in San Jose. If this project gets fast-tracked, it could very well end up on the November 2006 ballot, where it will sit alongside a ballpark measure. The substance of a ballpark measure is not known, so it’s difficult to speculate on how it would be pitched. Putting both measures side-by-side might cause confusion and even create a situation where one measure takes votes from another, so there’s a possibility that both will be put together into a single ballot item. Since there are different players in each project, it could make for some interesting dealmaking. The county may be involved to some degree in the soccer stadium.

Another soccer stadium site under discussion was the block defined by 4th, 5th, and Santa Clara Streets. That site isn’t big enough for a soccer field, let alone a stadium.

360 architecture opens SF office

It only makes sense that Wolff’s preferred architecture firm, 360, is opening a location in San Francisco. The office will be devoted to all types of work, not just the ballpark. On a sports-related tangent, if SF Mayor Gavin Newsom ever wanted to get serious again about building an arena in the Mission Bay area or thereabouts, 360 has plenty of experience doing arenas.

If you’re interested in a job at 360 architecture, check out the website (Flash-based), go to About Us, then Careers.

One interesting little tidbit: one of the press releases in the Press Room area of the site has a depiction of a ballpark that’s not like the concept Wolff presented in August. I’ll let you hunt for it.

Gwen Knapp: Trade Zito for San Jose?

Today’s column by the Chronicle’s Gwen Knapp posits an unusual trade idea: Barry Zito to the Giants for the territorial rights to San Jose. There would be numerous issues associated with such a deal, but let’s put them aside for a second.

The current consensus is that although A’s GM Billy Beane signed free agent Esteban Loaiza because “you can never have enough pitching,” Beane made the move in part to set up the eventual departure of Zito, who will be a free agent after the 2006 season (and will command upwards of $11 million per year in salary). The presumption is that Zito would be traded for a right-handed slugger, though the player would likely be a young hitter who could be signed cheaply for several years, not a superstar like Manny Ramirez. Targets frequently mentioned include emerging Tampa Bay star (and Bay Area native) Johnny Gomes, or the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Conor Jackson (who attended Cal).

Replace the righty slugger with territorial rights? Is that even possible?

Zito, of course, is the AL’s 2002 Cy Young award winner who had a somewhat underwhelming 2004 but bounced back to have a solid 2005 season, plagued only by terrible run support. A sign of growth has been his enhanced repertoire, which now includes a slider to go with his 12-to-6 curveball (er, 11-to-5) and well-disguised changeup. Durability has never been a question for Zito as it has with former aces (Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson) or current studs (Rich Harden, Joe Blanton). Zito’s fastball has never topped 90 mph, and it can usually be tracked at 88-89 mph. That said, Zito is still considered among the top three among AL lefties, alongside the Twins’ Johan Santana and the White Sox’ Mark Buerhle.

However, Zito is an upcoming free agent. There are precedents that show Beane’s tendency to either move such a player (last year’s Mulder and Hudson trades) or keep him, only to let him go to free agency (Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Johnny Damon). What can be certain is that if a trade of Zito happens, it probably won’t go down during the season since Beane won’t get maximum value.

But is Zito worth the rights to the South Bay? Even if the Giants were to entertain the notion of such a trade? Zito’s value can be mapped out pretty well over the next several years. Territorial rights are much more difficult to quantify, as Peter Magowan has been reluctant to do. Should Zito be traded for the South Bay, the transaction would simply be a reversal of Wally Haas’ conveyance of the territory to the Giants 15 years ago. No money changed hands then, and no money would probably change hands this time on account of Zito’s relatively low salary. The Giants would still need to extend Zito for at least 5-6 years, so that’s money out of pocket, but at least it’s a bona fide ace locked up for several years in a place well-suited to Zito’s hook. With the late season emergence of Matt Cain and Noah Lowry (and to a lesser extent Brad Hennessey), the Giants should have a decent rotation in shape even with the eventual departure of Jason Schmidt.

The problem for the A’s here is that the Giants could simply wait until Zito became a free agent in 2006, in which case the A’s would get little more than a couple of first-round picks for Zito as compensation. But considering the Giants’ predicament, where the window for which Barry Bonds can continue his run for a WS and the career HR crown is coming to a close, the Giants may need to strike while the iron is hot. There’s also the issue of what would happen to the A’s in the short term. The only pitcher not considered a serious health risk is Danny Haren. And it doesn’t solve the A’s search for a righty slugger. The downsides:

  • Depending on health, the A’s rotation will be worse in 2006 than in 2004 and 2005.
  • Trading for the South Bay will be a clear indicator that the A’s intend to leave Oakland for San Jose. That could translate into backlash and lower attendance in the near term.
  • While Zito would provide the Giants a marquee attraction, it still doesn’t answer how much the South Bay means monetarily to the Giants, who could certainly lose a number of casual fans to a San Jose-based team.

Then there’s also the part MLB, the commish, and the owners play in this kind of deal. Since all deals have to be approved by the commish’s office, the gating mechanism is already in place. But it would create an unusual precedent – though one that’s unlikely to be revisited. Would the owners feel that such a trade carries a general threat to the concept of territorial rights, as if they were simply one more negotiating tool? Perhaps. At this point, I’d consider this kind of trade an extremely remote possibility, but considering the fact that Beane’s role as a part-owner blurs the line between the business side and the baseball side, I wouldn’t dismiss it entirely.

Marlins get permission to move from Florida

I’m wrapping all Marlilns-related items into a single post.

New Jersey has stepped into the fray with a plan to attract the Marlins. The plans would call for “retrofitting Giants Stadium into a ballpark,” whatever that means. The Meadowlands lies in Bergen County, so if Jersey officials are able to work an agreement between the baseball team, the Giants, and the Jets, there’d still be a nasty little territorial rights problem to figure out. It’s somewhat similar to the Giants-A’s situation in that on paper, the Marlins would be invading the Yankees and Mets market. The Giants-A’s relationship is much more nuanced, but should Jersey’s very unlikely scenario go deeper into actual negotiations facilitated by the commissioner’s office, it could make for some very interesting fireworks. Again, it’s very unlikely.

Unable (or unwilling?) to bridge the funding gap for a new ballpark adjacent to the Orange Bowl, the Florida Marlins received permission from MLB to talk to other cities. Among the likely candidates: Portland and Las Vegas.

This is, of course, straight of the stadium negotiation playbook. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria declared, “No longer can baseball in South Florida be assured.” The Marlins lease at Dolphins Stadium ends after the 2007 season, at which point they could move free and clear with MLB’s blessing.

Since that 2007 date coincides with the end of the A’s lease (the A’s have year-to-year options in 2008-10), it sets up an unusual scenario. The A’s and Marlins could both move after 2007. Should that be the situation at that point, it sets up an strange dilemma for the teams and MLB: How can they extract the greatest number of concessions from bidding cities and original cities in an inherently less competitive environment? This isn’t like the DC situation, where the principals decided to take care of the details after the team moved. MLB’s motivations were a big payoff (which they’ll get in the $450+ million franchise price) and a virtually free stadium (which they also got).

This time around, the proposal from Portland will be well-prepared (just as it was before) and Vegas will most certainly roll out the red carpet (though the funding as of now is still a mystery). MLB may not be able to execute the complicated buyout/exchange/contraction operation that facilitated the Expos move to DC, and there won’t be a big difference in the Marlins’ franchise value if they moved to either Vegas or Portland.

We in the Bay Area can only hope that the A’s search for a ballpark doesn’t devolve into the bidding war that the Marlins and Miami are entering. If the A’s do, you’d probably have the A’s dealing exclusively with Portland (vs. the Bay Area) and the Marlins dealing exclusively with Vegas (vs. South Florida). Not having another city from which a proposal could be sent means having one fewer bargaining chip. Could San Antonio or Charlotte enter the picture? I imagine that the Norfolk-Hampton Roads market is now out because of the Nats being in DC.

Oh, the sticker shock!

An eye-opening report from the Washington Post confirms the fears of many: the DC Ballpark project is significantly budget and its total, true cost continues to rise. Among the points:

  • The construction cost (labor, materials) rose from $244 million to $337 million. Since then various items have been taken out of the design to drop the cost to $300 million.
  • $55 million earmarked for infrastructure costs (roads, utilities) had to be shifted to the ballpark itself.
  • Of the infrastructure budget, $25 million was meant for an upgraded Metro station. Only $250,000 remains for what will amount to a few extra gates.
  • The higher construction cost is partly due to more expensive materials to be used for the moden, state-of-the-art design, though the exact amount is not known.
  • Total cost of the land is $98 million, $21 million more than originally budgeted.

Those of us who keep track of the stadium industry were waiting for some hard numbers on the costs for the DC ballpark. While cost overruns should never come as a shock to even the least cynical of us, this is the first time we’ve seen numbers based on estimates in the current economy, which is beset with higher concrete, steel, and transportation costs.

Lesson? Get your ducks in a row. Get the land part wrapped up first, and as much of the infrastructure as possible. That way when costs rise on the construction end, you’ll (hopefully) have budgeted correctly for the project and you won’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul. This “on-the-fly” costing only leads to trouble. That’s not to say that it will happen with Wolff’s ballpark plan, but should he not be able to execute completely on ancillary development, you can guess who’ll be asked to foot the bill.

Modern it is for DC

HOK Sport, the 900-lb. gorilla of stadium design, won the bid for the Nats’ new home. Thankfully, it won’t be the same retro/faux brick design we’ve seen in so many other ballparks. DC’s new ballpark will have a glass, steel, and stone facade. Though drawings have not yet been released to the public, a recent HOK presentation with renderings was met with aproval by key DC officials.

While HOK is not expected to be architect for the A’s future ballpark (360 architecture appears to have gotten the nod), it will still be interesting to see how HOK successful this new design is, since it’s a drastic departure from the retro theme, of which they’ve been somewhat unfairly criticized (much of what they’ve done has been at someone’s request). With the retro shackles off, I look forward to an exterior that complements and showcases the neat engineering inside.