Now, the TV side

A small blurb about Fox Sports Net ratings was in Monday’s Merc. If nothing else, it shows that the Giants’ hegemony over the Bay Area market continues. But a closer look reveals that the Giants’ top ten games came at the beginning and end of the 2005 season, when the Giants were either contending or had Barry Bonds back, or both. I wonder what the ratings were like when the Gigantes were horrifically bad last June?

Nevertheless, the A’s best numbers show that they pull in about half the audience of the Giants. Even the pennant race with the Angels in August and September didn’t garner a 3 rating. But a look at other two-team markets shows that this pattern is repeated elsewhere. The Yanks often triple the Mets in cable ratings. The Mets have responded by starting up their own cable network, Sportsnet New York, in hopes of boosting ratings and revenue the way the YES network has helped the Yanks. The Cubs have dominated the Chicago market, though the White Sox World Series win should make them more competitive. LA is the notable exception. Arte Moreno’s renaming move and aggressive LA marketing have paid off. Combine that with the Halos’ on-field success, and the Angels have pulled even with the Dodgers on cable (and at times even pulled ahead).

Since the A’s are locked into a cable deal with Fox Sports Net through at least 2010, the only chance the A’s have to expand their audience is through its over-the-air contract, currently with KICU. It would make sense for the A’s to leave KICU, which has limited range beyond the South Bay, for a San Francisco-based station such as KRON-4 or the soon-to-be-orphaned KBWB-20. Sooner or later all those Frasier reruns on KRON are going to get old and stale, right? Even if it meant getting slightly lower TV revenue for a couple years, it might be worth it because of the much larger potential audience.

The New A’s Radio World Order

The A’s haven’t yet officially announced which stations will carry games for the 2006 season. Based on A’s-related programming emerging recently on KYCY-1550, and information fans are picking up from tickets, it looks like KTRB-860 will also carry the A’s. Assuming this is correct, here’s how the radio landscape will look like when the season starts.

KYCY-1550 (KYOU-Radio) is the “Podcast” station out of Belmont. It has a directional signal which is aimed up the Peninsula towards San Francisco. That means the South Bay and non-Marin North Bay won’t be covered well by KYCY’s signal. KYCY previously had an application to relocate to the San Jose area, but the station’s parent, radio giant CBS Infinity, pulled the request last fall. To understand your relationship to the station’s transmitter, take a look at the two links below from

KTRB-860 is a little more complicated. For the last ten years, the Pappas-owned newstalk station was based out of the Modesto area with a 50,000-watt signal during the day and 10,000-watt signal at night. Last year Pappas announced its intention to invade the Bay Area, and so they did. When construction is complete, it will essentially be a 50,000-watt station day and night. However, it will have three different transmitter locations. During the day KTRB will transmit from the area just south of Sears Point/Infineon Raceway. At night, the transmitter will be in the hills south of Livermore. KTRB will also have a critical hours transmitter that operates only during the dawn and dusk hours at 40,000 watts. That transmitter will be located near Bethel Island.

I tried calling the KTRB offices to check on the status of transmitter construction, but all I get is a busy signal. E-mail is next. KTRB’s construction permit expires on May 27, so there should be some urgency for them to build everything quickly. As for the old Modesto station, Pappas is planning to replace its old 860-Modesto station with KPMP-840, also based out of Modesto. Here’s hoping that the A’s managed to work a deal in which KPMP also becomes a station on the network so that at least a portion of the Central Valley is covered.

To see how these changes can affect listeners, I’ve created a table showing the start times for the 2006 season.

The twilight period (4-8 PM based on the season) could be tricky as the KTRB critical hours transmitter kicks in. I’m not sure if a 4:05 PM broadcast from the Eastern Time Zone will switch transmitters midstream or not until the after the game is completed; some clarification from radio technical folks would be appreciated.

Based on the footprint represented by combining the coverage maps, here’s where I expect listeners to dial in based on the schedule:

  • East Bay 880 Corridor: KTRB-860 or KYCY-1550 for both day and night games
  • Tri-Valley, 680 Corridor, and further inland: KTRB-860 for both day and night games
  • Sonoma/Napa/Solano Counties: KTRB-860 for both day and night games
  • SF/Peninsula: KYCY-1550 for both day and night games
  • Marin: KTRB-860 for day games, KYCY-1550 or KTRB-860 for night games
  • South Bay: KTRB-860 for both day and night games

Of course, this is dependent on the new KTRB transmitters being operational before the start of the season, which AFAIK isn’t the case yet. Who’s left out? Portions of Santa Cruz County, all of Monterey and San Benito Counties, and southern Santa Clara County (south San Jose, Morgan Hill, Gilroy). Sacramento’s also in the dark at night, while it should be able to get day games on KTRB.

Stadia news from elsewhere

There are other sites that chronicle the daily happenings in the stadia world, but to put the A’s situation in perspective, here’s a short recap of what other teams and cities are doing.

  • DC – The lease deal should have been done months ago, but MLB decided to get greedy and not announce the winning ownership group until after the lease agreement was completed. Meanwhile, cost estimates continued to escalate dangerously close to the approved limit even though major features were being stripped away. Stuck at an impasse, MLB decided to go through arbitration. A mediator was brought in and got MLB and the District on the same pages on many issues. Among the issues that remain: who pays for cost overruns. A new lease is due this Friday, after which the District council will deliberate and vote on it. The District is also asking for permission to exercise its eminent domain powers and push out current landowners on the ballpark site by February 7.
  • Florida – The David Samson Nationwide Tour continues. The Marlins president has already visited San Antonio, Las Vegas, and Portland, while keeping options open in Miami-Dade county. Hialeah has jumped into the fray with site candidates, including the now closed Hialeah Race Track. Hialeah is intriguing because it compares in size and stature/recognition with our own Fremont. Both cities would pursue their respective local teams to get on the map. After meeting with Hialeah, Charlotte is next.
  • St. Louis – The new Busch Stadium is scheduled to open April 10. Though no updates have been posted to the Cards’ website in several months, the ballpark should be largely complete, with testing of things like plumbing (the “flush every toilet at the same time” test) and electrical (scoreboards) needed before the place opens up. Busch will not have trouble selling out any seats or any of its 60 luxury suites or 45 (!) party suites. The latter number has to be a record of sorts, and St. Louis native Lew Wolff and his committee almost certainly cribbed some ideas when they visited Busch last year. Based on the drawings that 360 architecture made for Wolff’s August presentation, the party suite concept is merely one resplendent course of a lavish meal, with condos or a hotel being the dessert. My major critique from looking at the renderings – those upper (fourth) deck seats are both quite high and far away from the action. To be fair, it appears that HOK followed a new design convention by splitting a large upper deck into two smaller decks to accommodate more ADA/wheelchair spaces. Still, the place looks utterly enormous.
  • NY Yankees – The pinstripers continue to clash with neighborhood activists crying foul over the temporary and permanent loss of parkland at the site where the new, $800 million Yankee Stadium is to be built. The Yanks claim that the net result will be a gain in parkland in the area, but at least one park facility will be on top of a multilevel parking garage. Unfortunately for the community activists, they appear to be fighting an uphill battle, since the Yanks have all necessary political power behind the stadium effort, and even noted baseball economist Andrew Zimbalist has come out in favor of the new stadium.
  • NY Mets – That other New York team’s plans have been overshadowed by the hullabaloo surrounding the Yankees. The Mets’ new digs will cost around $444 million, and since there’s a large parking lot surrounding Shea Stadium instead of existing parkland or residential/commercial buildings, the ballpark will cost far less to construct since it will be located right next to Shea.
  • Kansas City – The Royals, Chiefs, and Jackson County (MO) have announced a plan for renovations to Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium. Still refreshingly modern even after three decades, both stadia will get a single gigantic rolling roof which could cover either facility in the event of inclement weather. The roof structure resembles an oversized bus stop shelter or airplane hangar (thank goodness we live in California). Wider concourses and updated clubs/restaurants will be part of the package. Funding comes from two separate taxes that face an April referendum. Should the plan go forward after voter approval, Kansas City will be awarded a Super Bowl to occur sometime between 2012 and 2021.
  • San Diego – Little tweaks to Petco Park are due this season. Chief among them is the right-centerfield fence (a.k.a. “Death Valley”), which will be brought in 11 feet (to 400′)and hopefully prevent Ryan Klesko from having early season nervous breakdowns.
  • Philadelphia – Homer-happy Citizens Bank Park is having its leftfield fences moved back a few feet with the wall extended to 10’6″ high in hopes of cutting down on home runs.
  • Chicago CubsExpansion of the venerable bleacher section (1,702 seats) should be completed before the season starts. The most important feature is the fact that bleacher fans will be allowed to venture into the rest of the stadium, though fans in the grandstand won’t be able to enter the bleacher sections.
  • Boston – The .406 Club at Fenway will finally have its hideous Plexiglas windows removed for the 2006 season, so that all of the wealthy people who can afford Red Sox tickets will have the pleasure of an open air game in Fenway. Roughly 1,100 seats will be added in all.
  • Tampa Bay – The D-Rays are spending $10 million on mostly cosmetic changes, such as cleaning and repainting of walls and seats. They’re trying to do the seemingly impossible task of capturing an outdoor game feel in a dome.

Some changes are major, others incremental. Expect this cycle to continue as stadium operators continue to work to differentiate their game experience from other sports and entertainment.

Vegas deadline is real

As mentioned in my post on the Vegas situation, Sin City Mayor Oscar Goodman has set a 12-month window in which 18 acres of Union Park development will be available for a sports facility. Goodman clearly wants a MLB team to relocate to Vegas, but this deadline makes it awfully inconvenient for MLB and other sports who want to use Vegas as a pawn in negotiations with other cities. Would a team suddenly announce a relocation in only a year? It doesn’t sound likely given the often glacial pace of venue negotiations.

Chronicle interview with Lew Wolff

Sunday’s Chronicle has the most in-depth interview with Lew Wolff seen since Wolff officially became managing partner last April. I’m not going to recap it or attempt to read between the lines this time. Read it and if you feel the need to comment, the link is below.

Oakland at a crossroads

Wednesday’s Trib had an article on rezoning in Oakland. While the A’s and Wolff’s August plan weren’t mentioned, it’s possible that an A’s ballpark and village concept could be developed with the help of the city’s recent changes.

The proposed guidelines offer a new zone classification — CIX-2 — that allows some form of residential development along Mandela Parkway in West Oakland, the central estuary and large parcels straddling San Leandro Street near the Coliseum complex and San Leandro border.
All of those areas are currently zoned for industrial and commercial uses, but the city is under severe market pressures to convert large swaths of industrially zoned lands to housing.

Wolff’s August plan would have pushed this change to occur much faster in East Oakland than current plans would dictate. Wolff’s new proposal would involve a smaller amount of land, but it would also call for the City/County to acquire the land first. That would force the City/County to issue bonds to purchase the land, which at this point has to be considered a non-starter because of the past Raiders’ shenanigans.
If Wolff is actually serious about building in Oakland, it may be possible with these zoning changes acting as a catalyst. That’s probably the only entitlement he’d be able to get, however. Infrastructure – not likely. Below-market price land – nope. We’re only two months away from Opening Day, and it looks like everyone’s back to square one.

As usual, Mayor Brown doesn’t help

At a business forum in San Francisco yesterday, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown continued his hardline against public funding and stadia, while his counterpart across the bay, SF Mayor Gavin Newsom, talked up a stadium and development deal with the 49ers, who have looking for a replacement home for the better part of the last decade.

Brown went so far as to suggest that the 49ers and Raiders share the Coliseum instead of the City investing in the 49ers’ stadium plans with homebuilding giant Lennar Corp. An excerpt from the Chronicle article about the forum:

“We’ve already got a stadium and we have a nice BART system, so why don’t the people of San Francisco just come on over and the 49ers play at the Coliseum? … Maybe we could call it the 49ers-Raiders Wonderland.”

Brown’s suggestion wasn’t really serious, but he wanted to make a point: The business of building ballparks and sports arenas, he said, is more wrapped up in ego and emotion than good business sense. Given that football teams play at home less than a dozen times a year each, sharing a site would be economically prudent, he said.

“I think the conversation about sports stadiums is one of the most strange and imaginary kind of thinking,” Brown said at the South of Market forum sponsored by San Francisco Business Times. “Serious business people all of a sudden revert to some childish fantasizing.”

Of course, this bluster is easy to show when the mayor is a lame duck with no constituency to answer to regarding this issue in 11 months. Brown, however, has been very consistent with his stance, so he at least deserves credit for not bending to the political winds. If the A’s leave Oakland, principles won’t matter much, and Brown will be long gone from his uptown loft.