Futbol Football

There’s a bevy of articles about the 49ers’ dealings with Santa Clara:

… and one in the Merc about the Quakes’ dealings with San Jose.

For the Niners’ stadium project, the previously unknown cost for moving and/or reconfiguring the on-site power substation now has a price tag: $20 million. In addition, a planned parking garage would need to be moved to accommodate the stadium. Demand estimates indicate that the area will face a shortfall of parking should football games run concurrently with Great America operating days. There will probably be 3-4 such conflicts every year. Remember that they have until July to figure this out. Glad it’s not my decision.

Now on to the Quakes. Two months ago I put together a rough comparison of the A’s ballpark village and the Quakes’ project, which back then was a stadium shared with SJSU. Now the Quakes are going it alone, but the fundamentals are still there. A new memo from the City shows how the deal is structured, which really just confirms much of what we already know.

Two major differences exist between the plan as conceived for South Campus and the current one. Ancillary development next to the stadium is the big key. Almost as important is that Quakes and ancillary revenues will cover the city’s $7.5 million per year in debt service on the recently purchased, 75-acre Airport West property. That effectively makes the deal a $7.5 million lease for the stadium and surrounding land. The iStar property proceeds will most certainly be used for the stadium and perhaps some of the ancillary development, but it’s really important that revenues from new office, retail, and parking establishments foot the bill for the lease. It’s unlikely that soccer revenues could contribute more than half of the lease requirement. One possible outcome: since a large amount of parking will be required for all of the various uses, I can see Wolff building a large multi-purpose parking structure which would also be used for airport long term parking. Airport officials have shown interest in using the existing long term lot for other airport operations.

Like the A’s concept, it’s a radical departure from typical stadium financing plans since the developer is taking the lion’s share of the risk. If they can pull it off, more power to them.

A’s Outreach

As part of the A’s efforts to win the citizens of Fremont over, an event was held today involving a representative of the team and the Chamber’s Task Force (of which I am a member). It promises to be the first of many different types of events involving the A’s and the community.

A pamphlet was handed out that summarizes the benefits that the project will provide the community. If you live in Fremont or the Tri-Cities area, you’ll probably run into the pamphlet at one or more events this summer, leading off with Sunday’s:

The Great Rotary 16th Annual Chili Cook Off
@ The Saddle Rack ($5 – ages 12 and under free, 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM)
benefiting the Tri-City Rotary Clinic, Washington on Wheels, and the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation

For those that don’t know, The Saddle Rack is a country music joint very close to Pacific Commons. Should Nick Swisher stay through his new contract extension and beyond, I can definitely see the Saddle Rack being an establishment much to his liking.

Anyway, back to the pamphlet. My apologies in advance for not scanning it in, I seem to have misplaced the scanner’s power adapter. The pamphlet is an 11 x 17 tri-fold with the overhead view of the Cisco Field rendering. Overlaid on the bottom half are the words, “Will you dream with us…” and the “Athletics” logo underneath.

Inside, at the top, in similar typeface are the words “Together, we could have…” followed by the bullet points touting the project. I’ve already gone into plenty of detail on most of those points so I won’t rehash them now. There is one part that hasn’t been covered much, so I’ll quote it verbatim:

  • With Good Transportation
    • Create a transportation system that connects the urban ballpark village to the existing BART and other light rail systems, buses and plenty of parking
    • Generate fewer automobile rush hour trips than what is already approved for the existing property and roads

The first point is intentionally vague because no one – I mean no one – knows if/when BART will come down to Warm Springs. At the last city council session, a BART rep emphasized the desire for a BART link of some kind to be established, though BART did not suggest or endorse a specific type of connector (before you ask, getting BART directly there is completely out of the question). It might be buses, or BRT or a busway. It could be a people mover type of solution. Light rail is doubtful. And it’s possible transfers could be done at the Union City Intermodal Station when it’s completed, though Amtrak/ACE aren’t designed to take large numbers of people short distances. During last week’s council session, Vice Mayor Bob Wieckowski suggested a transit solution that makes it easier for all Fremont residents to get to the ballpark village – no specifics, however.

The second point is key to the political positioning of the ballpark proposal. If the developers can show that the ballpark village would have the same or fewer impacts than the original Cisco campus plan, they’ll have a good shot at getting approval. Making such a case is no slam dunk, and the subject matter is well past my layperson’s level of expertise.

A few other notes:
Task Force attendees included reps from FUSD’s Board, Ohlone College, NUMMI employees, and others from various businesses in Fremont. There’s a great sense of awareness about both the risks and rewards in City Hall and the private sector. FUSD wants to talk about an elementary school in the area – one that won’t get fully funded by the projected $10 million development fees.
The 2,900 brownstones (emphasis on brownstones) will be in a gated community. I had speculated earlier that this would be required just for traffic control purposes, and that looks to be right on.
One other odd thing about the pamphlet: the line score on the inner rendering’s scoreboard is:

  • ………1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 – R H E
  • BAYLOR…0 0 2 1 0 2 0 1 0 – 6 8 2
  • TX TECH..1 0 2 0 2 1 1 3 . -10 15 1

Not sure what Big 12, Baylor, or Texas Tech baseball has to do with this, but Tech’s Dan Law Field got a new Barco scoreboard 3 years ago. I guess it’ll have to remain a mystery.

Noll: A’s Study “More honest than most”

(See? I can create completely distorted headlines, too.)

Argus scribe Chris De Benedetti got Stanford sports economist Roger Noll’s take on the ERA economic impact report. The assessment:

The A’s economic report on the proposed ballpark village in Fremont is “far better” than the 49ers’ report presented to Santa Clara, said Roger Noll, an esteemed Bay Area sports economist.

However, Noll gives the report mixed reviews overall, knocking the study because its “analysis of fiscal impacts is about revenues only, and excludes costs.”

The costs issue hinges on two important details:

  • What additional infrastructure (schools, transit) will be required?
  • What are the mechanisms to pay for it?

When a developer puts up a new neighborhood somewhere, a deal is often made where the developer donates some amount of land for a school, and the new residents pay for the school’s construction over time through school bonds or other public means. In Fremont’s case, there’s a large gray area in that the construction of a school is not mandated in the city’s municipal code. Yet there will be such a large influx of students that not building a school could, over time, severely strain FUSD’s current school infrastructure. Last week, I covered some creative ways to make this work, even within the framework of the existing redevelopment plan. But they’ll still need the land somewhere either within or right next to the village, and that’ll take some additional planning – and give-and-take. The report projects $10.7 million coming to the district in the form of development fees. $10.7 million alone won’t build a school, but it’s a good start.

As for ongoing services such as police and fire, I’ve given my two cents. I’m of the belief that the project tax revenues will pay for itself. I don’t believe that the city will be flush with cash – at least it won’t be if the TIF district continues indefinitely. The best way to make this work is to use TIF (if it has to be used at all) only for the school and transit hub. When both of those projects are completed – and the redevelopment agency has reached its tax increment cap – the mechanism should cease to exist. As a result, money would flow back to the city’s and county’s general funds, and FUSD as well. Only when the tax increment district expires will those groups really start to see serious money roll in.

Fremont City Council Session 5/22 – Minor item

From a note sent out earlier today:



This is to advise you that an agenda item has been scheduled for the regular City Council meeting of Tuesday, May 22, 2007, on a proposed set of General Guidelines for use in negotiations on the Oakland A’s proposed Ballpark Village Project. The City Council meeting begins at 7:00 p.m.

The meeting will be held in the City Council Chambers located at 3300 Capitol Avenue, Building A, Fremont, California.

If you have any questions regarding this agenda item, please contact Economic Development Director Daren Fields at (510) 284-4020 or at

I think I’ll sit this one out and check out the webcast instead. I like process, but not that much.

Update: The Merc’s Barry Witt has the scoop on the agreement up for consideration:

As part of a list of proposed “guidelines” to steer negotiations between the city and the A’s, City Manager Fred Diaz said “there should be no future un-reimbursed general fund financial obligations or liabilities.”

Sounds like a good public gesture for both parties. Of course, when they say “general fund” they’re conveniently leaving TIF funds out of the agreement. That’s not to say that usage of TIF is a bad thing. A few days ago I outlined a couple of ways TIF could be used for positive community benefit when the time comes. However, that requires a level of restraint and discipline that too often is not applied when TIF comes into play.

Trading one casual fan for another

A couple of interesting news items before I rant a bit:

  • 106.9 Free FM (KIFR) is switching formats to classic rock, reviving the locally legendary KFRC call letters. Apparently there will be no change to A’s coverage. Existing talk programming on KIFR will move to the weaker AM sister, KYCY-1550.
  • Hennepin County is prepping the Rapid Park site for August’s groundbreaking of the Twins’ new ballpark in downtown Minneapolis. They may be able to make the Spring 2010 opening date after all.
  • Mark your calendars for January 1, 2009. That’s the date of the launch of MLB Network, which will be available on most major cable systems and DirecTV. MLB Network will reportedly be on either basic or digital tiers rather than on a sports tier, which means slightly higher monthly subscriber fees for those that get the channel. This positioning puts it on par with NFL Network (though Comcast is changing its arrangement with NFL Network). NBA TV only has such an arrangement on DirecTV, but is available only with League Pass on many cable systems. The deal is for four years with a three-year option that could bring the value of the deal up to $700 million. MLB is guaranteed $80 million per year ($2.3 million per team) with greater revenues coming with additional sales of the Extra Innings package. Ownership of the channel will be two-thirds MLB, the rest shared by the cable and satellite operators.
  • Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei on his company’s purchase of the Braves (approved by MLB today): ” ‘The taxes clearly made it attractive… but we’re interested in seeing the value of the asset grow.’ Maffei said Liberty is a strong believer in the value of sports as television programming, but noted that the Braves’ TV rights already are committed long-term. ‘We believe there may be some promotional opportunities.’ ” Well, at least he’s being honest about the tax dodge – the team and several other assets were placed in a Time Warner subsidiary and were swapped for Liberty Media’s 4% stake in Time Warner. Nothing screams passionate ownership more than “tax free asset swap,” that’s what I always say. (A chronology of the sale if you want the gory details.)

Last night I sat in the Plaza Reserved section just to get a flavor for the $2 seat again. From the looks of the crowd, the announced 16,242 were evenly split between fans in the main bowl and everyone else in the bleachers and Plaza Reserved.

The experience reminded me of how disinterested the $2 seat crowd is in the game. During the game the following happened:

  • One or two aborted wave attempts
  • Call-and-response between groups of fans singing “Happy Birthday” multiple times
  • Call-and-response between groups of fans chanting the old high school football refrain, “We’ve got spirit! Yes we do! We’ve got spirit! How about YOU!!!!” (ends with fingerpointing)
  • Teenage girls trying to distract Hiram Bocachica, who had no ML at-bats this season entering the game. The girls succeeded at least twice. I shook my head in shame. Bocachica looked overmatched in his 0-for-4 day with 1 K.
  • Random fan yelling, “Hey! Where’s (insert DL’ed player here)?”
  • Numerous fans asking, “Who’s this Cust guy?”
  • Greater misplaced excitement than normal about various A’s hitting pop-ups.

Now I’m not a hardcore elitist type of fan. I frequently bring my casual fan friends to games and I don’t care about how little or much they follow the team. That’s their prerogative. And I’m happy to explain why (insert DL’ed player here) went down to anyone who asks. But that got me to thinking about what occurs on the other side of the bay.

In SF, the Giants traded their younger, more boisterous, but unfocused casual fans for quieter, older, wealthier ones. Giants games without Bonds in the lineup tend to run similar in feel to Manhattan’s Bryant Park during midday, with its lovely Parisian chairs and avid readers. It’s gentrification in its most obvious form. Like Pac Bell, the first few years of Cisco Field will have numerous curiosity seekers and trendy types who simply want to be in the scene. Once the novelty has worn off they’ll likely move on to something else. What will remain are the dwindling number of hardcore fans and the rising number of casual fans, and maybe some of the casual fans that have been converted into staunch supporters the process.

In the end, casual fans are casual fans. Some are louder than others. Some cause more trouble than others. Some fall asleep easily. They are all transient and replaceable by nature. True, the baseball IQ at Coliseum is inversely proportional to the number of fans there. But how much should that factor into the game experience?

Casual fans are there because baseball’s a unique form of entertainment first, with “quality of baseball” being further down the list of desired attributes. So what does it really matter how many there are or what type? The younger crowd comes with more energy and inherent risk. The older corporate crowd is safer and duller. How is it possible to claim that one is better than the other without showing class/racial bias? And who’s to judge? Certainly not me.

There are many who lament this particular path that baseball has taken. They’re easy to point fingers at the commissioner or the owners for selling baseball out, and they’re right to a great extent. But isn’t it incumbent upon us, the longtime fans, the diehards, to evangelize about baseball? To bring those casual fans into the fold and mesmerize them with the game’s wonder? I posit the notion that if we don’t, we are derelict in our duty as fans. It is not just the owners or the players that are stewards of the game. As fans, we have our own rich histories with baseball, and unless we are content to be selfish with our own recollections of the sport, we also have the responsibility to shepherd the next generations of fans. If we are not to raise the next group of diehards, who will?

This rant was inspired by the dearly departed author David Halberstam, whose Summer of ’49 sits dogeared and worn in my bookcase.

Reading between the lines, Part IV – Police & Fire

Gauging the effects a project like the Ballpark Village will have on a city the size of Fremont is difficult to understand or project. On one hand, a large influx of new residents could severely strain already scarce resources. On the other hand, it’s possible that new tax revenues could make up for the need for new resources.

One thing’s for certain: Fremont is very stretched out city as it is. That doesn’t mean its geographical size or sprawl – it’s truly one of the least staffed city governments in the Bay Area. According to the city’s proposed 2007-08 budget, here’s how Fremont’s staffing per 1,000 residents stacks up against other Bay Area cities (discounting some services Fremont does not have in common with the other cities):

  • Fremont: 4.21 positions/1,000 residents
  • Palo Alto: 11.04
  • Oakland: 9.40
  • Newark: 7.01
  • San Jose: 6.27
  • Sunnyvale: 6.15
  • Pleasanton: 5.51
  • Livermore: 5.34
  • Walnut Creek: 5.16
  • Union City: 4.82

Fremont’s ratio can be partially attributed to efficiency. In some departments, staffing is extremely low. This phenomenon is best represented by Fremont Police’s ratio of sworn officers per 1,000 residents.

  • Fremont: 0.9 sworn officers/1,000 residents
  • San Jose: 1.4
  • Oakland: 1.8
  • San Francisco: 2.8
  • Pleasanton: 1.2
  • Alameda County: 1.4
  • National average: 2.5

It could be said that Fremont’s historically low crime rate has reduced the need for a large police force, but Fremont’s also notorious for its “verified response” burglar alarm policy, where officers do not automatically check out tripped alarms unless affected business/homeowners also call in to follow up. It should be said that the only jurisdications I found within the state that hit the national average are San Francisco and Los Angeles. On the flip side, the police department at college town Davis has a similar ratio to Fremont’s.

The addition of 8,787 residents via the residential portion of the Ballpark Village would necessitate at least 9 additional officers to keep up with the low officer-resident ratio. A proportional number of administrative positions would also be required, perhaps 3-5. Given the greater amount of activity because of the retail/entertainment component (not including the ballpark), additional patrols and/or personnel would be required. According to budget docs, each position costs approximately $145,000. So adding 13 additional positions would cost $1,885,000, not accounting for inflationary adjustments.

Now let’s look at the fire department. They are projected to have 161 full time positions for the 2007-08 budget year, 140 of which area assigned to Operations/Emergency duty. They’ve also been given a $1 million grant from Homeland Security, to be used to fill 8 additional firefighter positions for 2007-08. Even with that bump, Fremont will have a ratio of 0.7 firefighters per 1,000 residents, compared to a national recommended standard of 2-3 per 1,000 residents. Budget costs per position are similar to that of police, so using the 0.7/1,000 ratio, the ballpark village would need 6 firefighters and 1 administrative position. Those 7 positions would cost $1 million.

Fremont Fire has 10 stations spread out among its 77 square miles. It’s likely that the village would just use the existing station in the area, Fire Station 7, on Grimmer and Auto Mall. If the demand is great enough for a new station in the area, there would be serious capital costs associated with it.

Combined, fire and police services would cost $2.9 million. Compare that to the numbers from my Part II post. After the $1 million that the A’s would pay to offset game-related costs, the city would get an average of $2.6 million. However, that figure is reflective of “net new to Fremont” sales revenues. By the time the residential buildout is completed, the city would actually get $3.8 million per year after the $1 million offset, which should cover police and fire. City services are more than just police and fire, but since police/fire takes up 81% of General Fund expenditures, it’s a decent guess that the $900,000 remainder should be able to cover the rest.

The above is a simplified analysis of budgetary impacts. It should be used as a guide for discussions that will be better framed by other, more official impact analyses to be released by the city. The next installment will cover gameday expenses.

Tickets@Phone – Get the kinks out

Yesterday I bought a ticket for the game online. Instead of going the will call route, I chose the A’s new Tickets@Phone option, which sends a e-ticket to your mobile phone. The idea is that instead of waiting in line for will call tickets at the Coliseum, you could go straight to the gate and show the ticket on your phone. You (and your compatriots) would then be allowed in through the turnstiles.

Two days into this trial period, and I have to go with a phrase we commonly use down here in the Valley:

This product is not fully baked.

Ordering tickets is simple enough. You don’t see the option until the last ordering screen where you put in your credit card info. Tickets@Phone costs $2.50 per order, the same price as the Print Tickets at Home option.

The partially hidden paragraph under them menu says this:

If you have selected the Tickets@Phone delivery method. Please enter via the Luxury Suite and Westside Club entrance on the Plaza Level when using Mobile Phone Tickets
IMPORTANT: Remember to save the message on your mobile phone, as this will contain your ticket(s).
Please read the following Terms and Conditions
Mobile Phone Ticketing FAQ

Before you click the Buy Tickets button, you must select your carrier and phone. The technology supports many WAP-enabled phones on Cingular, Verizon, and Sprint/Nextel.

After you’ve finished the transaction, you’ll wait a minute or so in suspense. Relief will come in a WAP Push Alert, which contains a super-special address that you can only reach with your phone. Click on the link and you get this:

Underneath the Harmon Killebrew silhouette (yes I know MLB denies it) is a small, illegible square. That’s your barcode, also called a Data Matrix.

The order instructions tell you to go to the Luxury Suite/Club entrance. This is where the positive experience ends. I brought up the e-ticket on my phone and showed it at the gate. The ticket taker had to awkwardly connect a printer to her PDA and a power supply to the printer. Once that was all connected, she took my phone and attempted to scan the barcode. After 30 seconds of futility, she handed the phone back to me and asked me to recite the alphanumeric code underneath the barcode. After another 30 seconds of fumbling with the soft keyboard on the PDA, she got the congratulatory ding! from the PDA, signifying a successful scan. She printed out a paper ticket and handed it to me. After checking with others, she directed me to walk down to Gate C (it was a Plaza Level seat in 208). Confused, I followed her orders and was routinely rejected when I got down to Gate C. According to them the ticket was already scanned (the ding!), so I had to walk back up to the Luxury Suite/Club entrance. After I explained what happened, they let me through – though I was told not to go through the turnstile. I took the elevator up to the Westside Club, completely bewildered.

Obviously, the A’s and kept this trial small so that it wouldn’t impact regular ticketholders. There are problems that could prevent real acceptance:

  • The gate experience is much more complicated than Tickets@Home or Will Call.
  • Ticket takers don’t have a self-contained scanning solution that would make their lives easier. What they have is incredibly kludgy.
  • Instructions for dealing with Tickets@Phone users weren’t clear for Coliseum staff.
  • There’s no feedback mechanism for Tickets@Phone users. I expect this post to eventually circulate back to the proper parties, but not everyone has the forum I have.
  • Eventually, the technology will morph into ordering/upgrading via mobile phone. Yet there are numerous warnings that Tickets@Phone users should have a printer available and print out a backup just in case. Not everyone who orders via this method will have a printer readily available

My experience is no reflection on the courtesy of the staff. They were quite friendly, just unprepared. There were others who used Tickets@Phone on Saturday, so I couldn’t have been alone.

There are simple ways to enhance the experience so that it’s smooth for all concerned. Once they address the concerns above, they’ll be well on their way. Until then, the product is half-baked.