Tampa Tribune checks in on relocation prospects

As part of recent coverage of the Rays’ desires to leave the Trop, the Tampa Tribune took a look at four cities who had been and could be future relocation candidates. While the four (San Antonio, Portland, Charlotte, Las Vegas) still have boosters or other groups waiting in the wings, to say that they’re ready to pluck the Rays (or A’s) from their current respective homes is a bit of a stretch.

Hat tip to Field of Schemes.

Not revisionist history

Many like to give credit to Peter Magowan for keeping the Giants in SF. With the death of mega-developer Walter Shorenstein, let’s remember whose true legacy this was:

For some San Franciscans, Mr. Shorenstein’s most notable civic contribution was helping to stop the Giants baseball team’s planned move to Florida in 1993. He was sought out by then-Mayor Frank Jordan, and the two men joined other business people committed to saving the team. Many have said that before Mr. Shorenstein came into the fold, it looked like a lost cause. At the time, Larry Baer, then a CBS executive who had grown up in the city, was working with Safeway CEO Peter Magowan to drum up investors. Baer is now the Giants’ president.

“Walter played a pivotal role because he was at the center of a lot of planning and strategy, and we held most of our meetings at his office at 555 California St.,” Baer said in an interview Thursday. “Having a person of his stature made a statement about the importance of keeping the team in San Francisco and sent a message to everyone – including Major League Baseball – that we were serious.”

Mr. Shorenstein put up $6.6 million of his own money to help buy the franchise, but subsequently sold his share after disagreeing with the direction the club was taking under managing general partner Magowan. It also is widely believed that Mr. Shorenstein felt he had not received sufficient public recognition for the role he played in keeping the Giants in town.

Let’s also remember that Shorenstein wasn’t exactly a nice guy either:

While Mr. Shorenstein generally has been praised in the public arena, he also has felt the lash of adverse publicity. He came under heavy criticism for his role in a nine-year battle that ended with the 1979 destruction of the International Hotel on Kearny Street, which had housed many elderly Filipino residents.

As a Filipino, I’d love to piss on Shorenstein’s grave, but there’s a bit of karma in knowing that the garage that Shorenstein wanted on the I Hotel site never got built, and that he was forced to sit on the land for years.

Rays expand search to entire Tampa Bay region

The writing was on the wall when in March the ABC Coalition recommended looking outside St. Petersburg (PDF) for the Rays’ future home, so it’s not surprising that Rays owner Stuart Sternberg agreed with the opinion in a Monday press conference. Sternberg took it a step further by ruling out downtown St. Pete, and likely St. Pete altogether.

The city is not considered an option due to its low population and lack of convenience. Imagine having the A’s in a city the size of Fremont, only that it’s surrounded on three sides by water. Or a 1/3-size San Francisco. That’s St. Petersburg. Instead, several groups are jockeying for position with possible land deals in the city of Tampa. One wants to build out the Florida State Fairgrounds (doesn’t that sound familiar?). Another wants the Rays downtown. Reports from the local media are as follows:

The SPTimes report adds a bit of intrigue:

Sternberg arrived at City Hall in a silver sport utility vehicle. He entered through a side door, avoiding contact with media. Reporters were kept in the lobby.

About an hour later, he left through a back door with Rays president Matt Silverman.

Foster held his own news conference after Sternberg’s announcement. Foster described their meeting as “very cordial,” and then said he was surprised by Sternberg’s announcement.

“Quite frankly, the content of the press conference was different than my meeting,” he said.

The other sites outside St. Petersburg weren’t covered in his meeting, but they “resonated in the press conference.”

This could get messy.

The Times also has a graphic containing dual timelines, showing how events could unfold in terms of getting something built. In either case, a new ballpark doesn’t open for at least a decade from now.

If I’m a Rays fan and I want outdoor regular season baseball, I’m not holding my breath that it’ll happen in Tampa Bay anytime soon. If you’re looking for a parallel with the A’s, it’s this: both the A’s and Rays need to pay off someone to move where they want. In the A’s case, it’s the Giants. In the Rays’ case, it’s St. Pete. Different legal machinations, but both potentially ugly payouts (or not).

Liveblog from 6/15 SJ City Council Session

Lots of stuff on the agenda. The pertinent item tonight is 11.6: Administrative Hearing on an Appeal of the Planning Commission of the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (FSEIR) for the Baseball Stadium in the Diridon/Arena Area.

Recommendation: Adopt a resolution to certify:
(A) The City Council has read and considered the Final Supplemental EIR; and
(B) The Final SEIR has been completed in accordance with the CEQA; and The Final SEIR reflects the independent judgment and analysis of the City of San Jose; and The Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement shall transmit copies of the Final SEIR to the Applicant and to any other decision-making body of the City of San Jose for the project.

7:18 PM – After a few ceremonial items, Council is mercifully doing item 11.6 first.

7:24 PM – Public speaker time. Two appellants: Stand for San Jose and Marc Morris (who tool issue with the traffic analysis from the original ballpark EIR).

Attorney Michael Buskirk (Stand for San Jose) is explaining his client’s objections to the SEIR. Essentially, he’s saying that the parking analysis is flawed considering the lack of info for the 6-7 PM weeknight hour.

Marc Morris refers to the Sharks objections, which have been withdrawn. Citizens from Shasta-Hanchett are holding up blue signs in unison.

Thanks to gojohn10 for holding up the sign.

Susan Hammer and Michael Mulcahy are speaking in favor of the project.

Interestingly, at least two speakers want more traffic downtown because it’s an indicator that downtown is thriving.

Other neighborhood advocates are asking for a more comprehensive TPMP in conjunction with the ballpark. Some are concerned about emergency response due to drop in level of service to certain key intersections.

8:08 PM – Public comments over. Staff-council Q&A starts. Already covered ground regrding parking, BART and HSR development.

8:19 PM – Mayor Reed notes that since the A’s aren’t the applicant yet, there’s no one to negotiate a TPMP with. If/when the applicant is able to apply, there will be additional environmental review, which could take the form of an amendment or another supplemental EIR. Reed mentions the negotiating principles that have been set since last year.

Councilman Sam Liccardo puts forth a motion to deny the two appeals and certify the EIR, which was seconded. Vote coming after other council members’ comments.

8:38 PM – Unanimous approval. That’s a wrap. Time for a beer.

Odds and ends for June 13

Stadium news from all over.

  • For some reason there are lots of empty seats, even sections, at World Cup matches. It may be a distribution problem. Or no-shows.
  • Dave Newhouse reminisces about the Coliseum’s birth. Frank Deford’s piece from 40 years ago is more comprehensive.
  • SJ Mayor Chuck Reed is encouraged by the Santa Clara measure victory while Roger Noll considers trading the East Bay for the South Bay a wash (I agree).
  • The Merc’s editorial page continues its outlook of cautious optimism.
  • Worried about TV blackouts – in New York, no less – the Jets have cut some PSL prices.
  • Speaking of the Meadowlands, online adultery site AshleyMadison.com is offering $25 million for five years of naming rights for the new stadium. The company has been engaging in various kinds of publicity seeking activities recently, and this is obviously one of them.
  • With all of the big sports events happening over a the last month (World Cup, NBA/NHL finals), it may have been easy to overlook the Miguel Cotto-Yuri Foreman fight held at Yankee Stadium two Saturdays ago. The ring alignment was unusual as it was tucked into the rightfield corner, preserving the infield. The fight itself was also one of the better matches of the year so far, with a wholly unusual ending.
  • In case you’re wondering, the Coliseum is the worst ballpark in the bigs for home runs at exactly 1 HR per game. MLB ballparks usually average 2 HR/game. It doesn’t help that the A’s are 13th in the AL in the category.
  • 6/15: Ann Killion has an Inside Baseball article for SI.com. It attacks A’s ownership and praises the 49ers even though they are at different stages and have different business models. It also doesn’t provide a hint of a solution, though you could go with the “If only they hadn’t alienated/victimized Oakland angle.” Astute analysis? I think not.
  • 6/15: Dave Newhouse hails his old boss at the Trib, George Ross, who helped foster the sports scene in Oakland. Interestingly, they have different stances on the A’s moving south:

    Because Ross worked aggressively to get the A’s, is he upset by the idea of their moving?

    “Professionally, no,” he said. “Because when they built the Coliseum (in 1966), they didn’t built it for either occupant. Al Davis prevailed on them to convert it for his needs, and baseball is less at home there than it should be.

    “If the team moves and stays in the Bay Area — in Contra Costa County, Fremont or San Jose — it will still be part of the Oakland-area sports (scene).”

    This is one time I must disagree with the brainy boss who hired me in 1964. The A’s must remain in Oakland, which should make sure that they get first priority on a new place to play over the Raiders, who were rewarded with a renovated Coliseum, at the A’s expense, upon returning to Oakland in 1995.

    The Raiders left town; the A’s didn’t — not yet. Make sure they don’t, Oakland.

    The difference between the two men appears to be a matter of influence. George Ross could exercise it in a fledgling market with a still influential paper, Newhouse is basically left to plead for action while to some unknown hero while writing for the same paper, which 40 years later is a watered down version of its former self.

On a side note, it is a treat to be able to watch WC matches while I’m eating breakfast every morning. Then I can watch American sports in the evening. Totally rad.

Survey from SJ Booster group shows strong ballpark support

The Merc’s Tracy Seipel reported Saturday about results from a new survey commissioned by SJ booster group Pro Baseball for San Jose. The survey did not use a simple yes/no question, instead it gauged support for the ballpark on a 1-10 scale based on the way the project was presented.

  • 77 percent rated the statement, “The A’s will pay the entire cost to build the stadium” an 8 or higher.
  • 72 percent rated the statement, “The plan will not require any tax increase, bond issue, or any money from the city’s general fund” an 8 or higher.
  • 70 percent rated the statement, “The ballpark will be highly connected to transit, with current stations for Caltrain and light rail and future stations for BART and high speed rail all located next to the stadium” an 8 or higher.

The survey had just over 400 respondents and we don’t know much more about the methodology, so it would be foolish to conclude that a November ballot measure would be a slam dunk. Still, it’s another indicator that, outside of a couple of groups opposed to the certified EIR for completely different reasons, the ballpark project does not face heavy opposition and hasn’t for some time.

Tuesday, the City Council will determine the language for the measure. It’ll also tie up the Sharks’ arena operating amendment and new development plan. Assuming that both of those get approved, the next four months will be largely a focused (and potentially expensive) campaign effort. Back in March I did some quick math to determine the likely number of Yes votes the City would need to win in November: 110,793. Boosters will undoubtedly be looking to figure out the best way to secure that number of votes, plus a healthy cushion just in case.

Overreaction Central

Having a big laugh over certain reactions to a piece about the 49ers and A’s and their owners in the NY Times. The A’s part comes at the end, in which famed protester/fan Jorge Leon has his long awaited meeting with Lew Wolff – this time in a suite.

For many fans, the teams’ search for new homes has become intensely personal.

On May 9, Lew Wolff , the 74-year-old A’s owner who also owns the San Jose Earthquakes, invited Jorge Leon, a fan, and his friends to watch an A’s game in a luxury box at the Coliseum. Mr. Wolff wanted to explain to them why he was trying to move the team to San Jose. Mr. Leon had been ejected from a game three weeks earlier for holding up a sign that read “Lew Wolff lied, he never tried,” a dig at the owner’s public statements that he had exhausted all efforts to get a stadium deal in Oakland.

That night, the owner told Mr. Leon, a San Leandro lab technician who had “Oakland A’s” tattooed on the inside of his left forearm, that he had wanted to build a stadium in Oakland, but that the city could not come up with the land.

Mr. Leon and his friends talked with the A’s owner from the third inning on, at first hardly noticing that Dallas Braden was on his way to pitching a perfect game. Mr. Wolff left in the seventh inning, pulling on an Earthquakes jacket as he walked out of the suite.

Mr. Leon said he came away from the evening unconvinced by Mr. Wolff.

“I want the A’s to stay in Oakland,” he said. “They bring so much pride to the city.”

Baseball Oakland went on AN and decided to jump on Wolff’s departure from the suite as a sign the he’s not a real baseball fan. Field of Schemes’ Neil de Mause considered it a sign that Wolff is one of the worst owners in baseball. When called out on the idea that Wolff left the suite, not the game, de Mause tried to backpedal and cited a third/fourth-hand report that Wolff left to go to a Quakes game – a game that was actually played the night before.

Now, I’ve been in the owner’s suite twice. I’ve also talked to Wolff about how he likes to attend ballgames. The fact is that he doesn’t like being in the suite unless he has to be there. He only goes there to entertain guests. He shows up in the 2nd or 3rd inning and leaves in the 7th, bidding the guests adieu and allowing the guests (who are generally there to party, game being secondary) to finish eating the free food and drink. I distinctly remember yelling out the suite window at Sean Gallagher, cursing his inability to throw strikes. At the other end, Wolff looked at me and smiled, surprised. I guess he doesn’t see too many bleacher creatures up in the hermetically sealed confines.

Anyway, Wolff would much rather sit behind the A’s dugout, though at times he might be in the Diamond Level or linger behind those seats. He may also head down to the clubhouse if he chooses. The idea that people took a fairly innocuous set of events (leaving in the 7th, putting on the Quakes jacket, everyone not paying attention to the budding no-no) is simply rich. Is that what this has come to? Such is the blogosphere, I guess.

On a tangentially related note, I should mention that among the World Cup hoopla that the Quakes are playing an exhibition against Chivas USA at Raley Field tomorrow. Should I run with that as being a trial balloon to move the Quakes to Sactown? Naw, that would be irresponsible. Oops, I already wrote it.