A session for concessions

As was advertised last week, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed met with MLB COO Bob DuPuy to clear the air about the City’s move towards a November vote. What came out of it was an urging by DuPuy and his boss, Commissioner Bud Selig, to delay the vote until next March, which MLB promised it would partially fund. The idea is that Selig’s panel would complete its work and then allow him to render a decision which would allow San Jose to move forward (or not).

Unfortunately, no one in my household was a fly on the wall for the proceedings, so we have no idea what was said outside of the statement. What was said (and not printed) is the real story. Thing is, you could fill in the gaps there largely based on your own A’s worldview, framed by a simple question:

Is this process truly legitimate?

(I started out with some paragraphs explaining this, then scrapped them in favor of a table.)

Chances are that you fall into one of the green or yellow cells, depending on which city you are leaning towards. In organizing views in this manner, there is no obvious middle ground even though there are many that fill the “keep ’em in the Bay Area” crowd. The point of the table is that if you spend enough time analyzing the issues and assigning values to the various challenges and benefits each city carries, you’ll probably see yourself on one side of the fence or another. You may waver from time to time depending on the news cycle, which is perfectly acceptable given the lack of real insight the public has into the situation. If there’s anything we’ve learned throughout all of this, it’s that city governments have the transparency of an eggshell, whereas MLB has that of a brick wall.

(Note: Contraction is off the table for now. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be revisited by 2013, though I’m sticking with my thought that it’s too expensive to pull off for MLB – for the owners and legally for the league.)

All right, so I’ve set up everyone’s relative worldview. Whatever your thinking is, it colors the way you view today’s news. In the immediate moments after the Mayor’s press release, I checked to see what the fallout would be here and in the media. SJ Councilman Sam Liccardo was quick to spin the news as positive for the city, in that it forced MLB to act. Mark Purdy just came out with a column in agreement with the councilman. And late last week, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and City Council President Jane Brunner jointly released a letter to MLB outlining the steps that the City has taken to retain the A’s. Here are the bullet points of the letter (made available to BANG late today):

  • Met with your Committee extensively over the 16 month period Identified three waterfront sites which each meet the physical and infrastructural needs for a 21st Century ballpark as identified by your Committee Generated detailed diligence materials on each of the three sites regarding
    o environmental conditions
    o infrastructure conditions
    o transportation access
    o parking studies
  • Generated a detailed land-use plan identifying key milestones and reviewing Oakland’s entitlement processes
  • Demonstrated that the City/Redevelopment Agency has the financial capacity to uphold its end of any negotiated transaction
  • Generated over 130 letters of support for keeping the A’s in Oakland from members of the East Bay private sector including business, labor and community leaders
  • Secured over $500,000 in deposits from 35 corporate entities expressing interest in luxury suites, sponsorship opportunities and, most significantly, naming rights for a new waterfront ballpark
  • Organized a grass-roots effort through Facebook with over 40,000 members committed to keeping the A’s in Oakland (see http://www.facebook.com/letsgooakland)
  • Commissioned and published an Economic and Fiscal study which found that a new waterfront ballpark in Oakland would generate thousands of jobs, generate $2.6 billion in economic activity, increase property values around the ballpark by $4.7 billion, and generate over $240 million for Oakland’s general fund

When you add up the avalanche of press releases and responses, the picture starts to become clear. The horserace that wasn’t supposed to happen, that MLB was supposedly trying to avoid, is here. And now’s when it gets interesting. It’s a mistake to read too much into the little machinations that occur. For instance, MLB offering money for a spring 2011 election is nothing as it’ll come out of Selig’s enormous discretionary fund. It just means that the pro and anti-ballpark forces will have 6 more months to add to their campaign warchests. It’s also a mistake to think that either Oakland or San Jose are in an advantageous position relative to each other.

What’s going to happen? Well, first I expect the SJ City Council to put off the vote, as suggested by Selig/DuPuy. And yes, they’ll take up the offer because it’s free money for what could be a one-issue special election. At the same time, Oakland will get its shot to put together the JLS ballpark deal. The schedule probably won’t be kind, maybe 12-18 months. Maybe as little as 9 months. It may or may not be enough to complete and certify an EIR. More important, they’ll be asked to line up those sponsors and business interests, as referred to in the Dellums/Brunner letter. It’ll be imperative that they execute on this, though I expect that if Don Perata is elected Mayor, his willingness to get in the machine will help. (It should be pointed out that the keeping the A’s is not a plank in any of the leading mayoral candidates’ platforms.) As a concession, MLB may ask Oakland and the Coliseum JPA to add 1-2 years to the A’s lease, which is due to expire after the 2013 season. This would have several cascading effects:

  • The A’s could move into an JLS ballpark in 2015 or 2016 if necessary. Or a San Jose ballpark if it doesn’t work out.
  • The Raiders would suddenly be in a pickle, as they probably don’t want to stay in the current Coliseum config for 2 more years beyond their lease. They could either move to Santa Clara if the 49ers’ stadium is built, or they could play hardball with the JPA and push for a revamped/new Coliseum. Then Oakland and the JPA would have to choose between the two teams.
  • Discussions with Oakland/East Bay-based sponsors, which until now have been under wraps, will have to be more public. Especially the naming rights sponsor, which would probably have to replace Cisco (I’d expect them to go with the Niners stadium instead).
  • Oakland interests could no longer claim that MLB hasn’t given The Town a shot.

None of that is good news if you’re Lew Wolff or a Baseball San Jose booster. Assuming that the process does have integrity, it’s the best way to be above reproach. However, Oakland will have little time to get everything together, a process that has taken San Jose fits and starts totaling 5 years. Oakland pols will have to somehow avoid the idea that they’re ramming a stadium deal through, in a city that is already enormously sensitive to bad stadium deals and doubly sensitive to huge budget cuts. Make enough early mistakes and MLB could kill the contest early. Keep in mind that as nice as 35 corporate sponsors and $500k in deposits sounds, Oakland’s going to need a lot more than that to make the math work on a $450 million ballpark, perhaps $20 million a year in commitments. For now a good first step would be to authorize an EIR. Some of the pledged sponsor money redirected towards the EIR would be a good gesture as it wouldn’t hurt the City fiscally.

Of course, if you think that MLB is prone to cronyism or otherwise rigged this, the endgame is quite different. Rigged for what, though? After all, the whole time San Jose will still be there, sitting and waiting for Oakland to fail, with MLB given a few more months to come up with a T-rights settlement between the Giants and A’s.

30 thoughts on “A session for concessions

  1. Assuming your right about all of this R.M.; talk about making the Himalayas out of a mole hill! Considering the Giants have no legitimate claim to the South Bay (i.e. TRights were for them to relocate to SJ, no proof that MLB in San Jose will hurt their revenue streams), San Jose and our business community has bent over backwards while Oakland has done nothing (relatively speaking), all this nonsense has gone way overboard. You’d think by MLB’s hypothetical stance that territories hadn’t been changed before in the past; that they were truly sacred. But whether it was TV or geographic, they have changed with the numerous relocations/expansion that have occurred since the 1950’s. And if relocation or expansion ever occurs in the future, territories will change/be altered again. Again, no one knows exactly what MLB is thinking in this case, but in this instance, I respectfully hope you’re wrong on this one R.M.

  2. ML–great assessment—and I agree with one caveat–I would expect LW to wait it out and see what Oakland is able to do—if they can’t pull it together in whatever timeframe is established than he moves forward with SJ—but if Oakland satisfies MLB and MLB says build it in Oakland than their next step will be to find a new owner that is willing to invest $500M in the new ballpark because LW won’t do that in Oakland—hence I go back to my original prediction—the A’s will be playing in the Coli for the next several years before they are sold and become the Seattle Sonics of baseball to who knows where–

  3. @ GoA’s – if Wolff won’t build in Oakland, with a solid (MLB-approved) plan, than “we” were right all the time … Wolff never intended on staying in Oakland. I would welcome a change in ownership actually. As everyone know; Oakland has its problems, but the unveiled, contempt, expresses by Wolff and *some” SJ supporters, for Oakland, reeks of racism. That’s my opinion.

    SJ and Oakland, both, are cutting cops and other city funded jobs. Pro-SJ folks love to point to the Oakland budget woes, while sticking their heads in the sand re: SJ’s budget woes.

  4. @David–It is not a question of whether LW would build it Oakland…it is at what price—it is his choice as a buisness man as to whether or not it makes sense to invest $500M of your own money in a ballpark and what is the return on investment—if he feels the ROI is lower in Oakland than it would be in SJ for a variety of reasons…corporate etc—than it will be his choice to step away–put the team up for sale and allow Oakland/MLB to find another ownership group willing to do so—my guess—which would vindicate LW from all the pro-Oakland folks who love to bash him, is your not going to find another ownership group willing to build a privately financed ballpark in Oakland—hope that I am proven wrong because I hate to see the A’s leave—-which is what Neukom/gints are pushing for anyway–

  5. SJ supporters akin to racists? Wow! Nothing else to say to that one.
    For the record, SJ isn’t laying off cops. True; facing financial tough times like everyone else, but not nearly as bad as Oakland.
    Silicon Valley corporate/political support more than makes up for any minor financial shortcomings for SJ. By the way, can you imagine the uproar in Oakland-proper if city funds go towards ballpark construction in this economy; will make
    “Stand for SJ” and “Better SJ” look like childs play.

  6. I agree with GOA’s and Tony.

    Why would anyone privately finance a ballpark in Oakland when you can do the same in San Jose?

    Oakland won’t put public money in for a baseball stadium and neither will San Jose. So at the end of the day what private businessman would pick Oakland over San Jose to build anything on their own dime?

    Also San Jose is so far ahead in the process that it is unfair to even give Oakland a chance to do anything. What Oakland’s Mayor and City Council do not understand is this a private venture and not a public one as is normally the case outside of California except for San Diego’s Petco Park for new stadiums.

    Look if Oakland can pony up 100-200 million dollars outside of land costs as a city then Lew Wolff would love to do JLS in a heartbeat. I think any business man would think that way as well.

    But at the end of the day San Jose is such a better place from a socio-economic standpoint, why would anyone build anything privately in Oakland if they had a choice?

    If I am Chuck Reed and Lew Wolff I say wait until March. Look at what it did for the 49ers in Santa Clara by waiting for a special election?

    Plus with the economy still in a rut it behooves everyone to wait a little bit.

    Although I will say this San Jose ballpark deal is far less complex than the SF 49ers one and either way it will pass easily in the city regardless if it is in November or March.

  7. ML…I think your comments make a lot of sense.

  8. What I want to know is WHY would you not want the vote to go up in San Jose, regardless of anything else that is going on. Its simply one more hurdle that is out of the way so you do not have to do it later. Lets say that MLB is brokering a deal with Oakland, or brokering a deal with the Giants, why would a vote in San Jose have a negative impact on the situation other than to show that the A’s have full support by San Jose.

  9. Here’s a crazy thought that ran through my thick skull. Perhaps MLB wants SJ to take on EVEN MORE of a financial burden than just acquiring land and paying for infrastructure improvements. Hear me out! Selig/MLB state to San Jose that they need to make more of a public contribution to actual ballpark construction to help lighten the financial burden on Lew Wolff/A’s, especially if they have to somehow pay off the Giants for the TRights. Imagine the financial burden on the A’s if they privately finance 100% of the ballpark AND have to pay off the Giants. Some idea’s for this crazy thought: transform current Mello Roos district for SJ Convention Center expansion for ballpark public financing (CC expansion on hold indefinetely) or approving TIF area around Diridon Station/Arena for ballpark financing. Of course, both scenarios would have to go before voters, with MLB’s help in the Spring, but wouldn’t directly increase taxes for SJ residents. In the end, it starts resembling the Niners/SC scenario for stadium financing.

  10. @Sid
    FYI, 49ers ballot measure in SC was not a special election, so can’t compare it to a potential special election in March 2011 for the A’s in SJ.

  11. @TSD- That is correct but the 49ers did “delay” their vote because of the economy and it got passed. That was the point I was trying to make about how waiting couldn’t hurt.

    @Tony D- No way San Jose puts a dime into this from a public perspective. Selig is CRAZY to think either Oakland or San Jose increase taxes for a new stadium. Redevelopment funds are one thing but here in the Bay Area new taxes never fly for sports.

    I am a big sports fan but never vote for a tax increase to help out a baseball team who can get it done on their own.

    Apples to Apples from a private financing standpoint San Jose is far superior to Oakland because of the socio-demographics of the area and the triple # of corporate sponsors in the area. Companies like Cisco would invest in a Silicon Valley ballpark but not a East Bay one.

    Oakland’s only hope is a public subsidy as Tony D mentioned above to make Oakland an “Orange” to MLB. Selig and the other owners hate privately financed ballparks like what the Giants have. Unfortunately in the Bay Area that is the only logical way this kind of thing gets done.

    Or with minimal public help like what the 49ers did in Santa Clara.

  12. So apparently Oakland officials made a good enough case to MLB to buy themselves some time to really nail the actual costs of the site, secure some of the financing, etc. Fair enough. Now it’s just a matter of if they can execute on enough of their promises in a short period of time to satisfy MLB. Assuming Oakland does get it together in time, Wolff and Fisher would then have to decide if the deal coming their way is good enough to invest their money in it. If so, everyone can start working toward a new park in JLS and that will still take some time just to secure the site. If not, then it means even more delay as they put the team up for sale. Add at least another year to any timeline for a new stadium.
    .
    How much time does Oakland really have? Is there any reason to think a March special election will drive the timeline? If so, that would mean 4 more months, right? That can’t possibly be enough time to really get anything done. I have to believe there won’t be a March special election. I think MLB will give Oakland more time than that. I’m guessing a year, meaning a SJ election would be Nov 2011 (and MLB won’t have to pay anything) if Oakland can’t satisfy MLB’s goals.
    .
    Either way, we’re going to be watching games in the Coliseum for many years to come. Selig just slowed this process way down. That won’t have a positive effect on Beane’s ability to make player moves in the coming months.

  13. @Dude, there is no city wide election in San Jose in Nov 2011. anything that happens election wise between now and 2012 would have to be a special election. Hopefully March is a deadline, I’m tired of waiting.

  14. There will be no additional public money from either city. Both teams have set the terms of their contribution, and that’s held since the panel started its work 16 months ago. To suddenly change into a large contribution would be political suicide.

    The wildcards are Oakland’s ability to rally enough corporate support and the battle over T-rights. At this point it is impossible to determine which one is more difficult.

  15. I’m worried that a special election would get different results than a standard election. Special elections do not get the kind of turnout that standard ones do, and you tend to get mainly the people who feel strongly about the issues on the ballot one way or another. The people in the middle are less likely to turn out.
    .
    In this case, which side has more people who feel strongly about the issue?

  16. SJ boosters have indicated that they’d actually do better in a special election, and the demographics back them up. I don’t get the sense from them that they’re worried about the election. If the City Council sessions are any indicator, support is much greater and more fervent than opposition.

  17. As ML pointed out the real battle has been over the TR issue–otherwise SJ would have already moved forward. Ironically many of us thought that bs would be able to navigate these waters and resolve this issue in the best interest of baseball—obviously, Neukom is running the show on this one—-not sure how much longer bs has before he is put out to pasture, coupled with my sense that this is going to continue to languish in Oakland—but my guess is he will no longer be around to see the final outcome of where the A’s end up–

  18. Jesse – didn’t realize that, thanks. I’m tired of waiting too, but I’m afraid that’s what we’ll be doing for quite some time.

  19. It’s hard not to see how this isn’t a carrot. If I’m Reed, and I really want the A’s in SJ (which by all accounts, he does), then I’m going to need a really good reason to hold off. If MLB said something like “Dude, we’re on your side and we know it’s gonna work out for you. But if you lose this election, that really mucks everything up, doesn’t it? Hold off and we’ll pay for it when we get there” then there is all the reason in the world to wait.

    If they said “Have that vote and die” then it’s clear that SJ isn’t the front-runner anyway. In which case, you hold the vote, hope you win, and sue for the rights. What is there to lose? If you lose the vote, then it doesn’t matter. If you win, then you have a good case for suing.

  20. The soap opera continues.
    If MLB does pick Oakland, Lew’s not going to be happy and hopefully will sell. There has to be some east bay billionaires out there, or a SB guy who would commit to the eastbay (Larry Ellison, here’s your chance, and pull naming rights off the arena and put it on a new JLS park: Oracle Park.)
    @David–I don’t believe Wolff and the Pro SJ guys are racists, but are so hell bent that SJ is the best place for the A’s, and I feel it’s a wrong to move to alienate your fanbase to a totally different area that resembles a sprawling LA suburb. Yeah, I have my eastbay bias, but the SB just doesn’t cut it for me.

  21. @cuppingmaster – A City-generated lawsuit won’t happen because it’s not politically expedient. Boosters could do it, but it’ll drag on for years and there has to be a clearly defined endgame. It’ll be difficult to sustain support for such a suit for the entire period, which by my guess would be 5 years or more.

    @jk-usa – Larry Ellison ain’t happening. He’s about as interested in the East Bay as you are in the South Bay. Try Mark Mastrov if he’s interested. Just remember that MLB will not sign off on a privately financed ballpark in Oakland unless there were airtight assurances that the financing will materialize and sustain for the duration.

  22. @ML–are you so sure of that about LE strictly being a SB guy? He put his company’s name on the Oracle arena. He wanted the W’s real bad but didn’t hint on moving them to the SB like Schott and Wolff have been saying for years about the A’s. The W’s support is amazing–it has been for years. You don’t want to mess that up and move to the SB. The Oracle is much better than the SJ Arena for B-ball and have more suites too.. A more likely scenario is the W’s going to SF, where a huge number of fans live. A new arena next to AT &T would be a long term goal but the Oracles’ just fine for many years to come. I wouldn’t be happy about a SF move, but they did play in SF before and would bring back their SF name which is kind of cool, even though I think they should name them Oakland Warriors. Golden State has always sounded so lame to me.
    Now what about the those Raiders. SB bound too, huh?

  23. The chart seems to be missing an option, which is the notion that MLB actively wants the A’s to relocate to San Jose, and thus wants Oakland to fail in as plausibly deniable way as possible. Nine months to certify an EIR sure fits that bill.

  24. @jk-usa – Ellison didn’t want the W’s because they were an East Bay team. He wanted them because they were the one NBA franchise in the Bay Area. Compare: Team with a regional monopoly in one sport that has great revenues regardless of on-court performance, or team in a competitive, submissive position which is historically revenue poor? Sounds like a no brainer to me.

  25. Calling someone, or a group, racist in spite of legitimate questions that have nothing to do with race does nothing but confuse the issue. That sort of stuff makes it easier for real racist douchebags to carry on all quiet like, sans scrutiny.

  26. R.M.,
    Just to add: Ellison would have also tried his hardest to move the W’s to a new arena in SF. But people like jk-usa will ignore stuff like that because it would destroy their “East Bay only” arguments.

  27. Where did you get 2013 for revisiting contraction? Current CBA is up in 12/2011 and at that point I believe it would no longer be off the table though I do think the union will make it hard/impossible for it to occur. Put me in the illegitimate camp though.

  28. @Nathan – Assuming that just as in the current CBA, there is a window in which MLB can exercise its contraction option, the next CBA’s window would expire at the end of the 2013 season. Subject to change, of course.

  29. Top 10 Ways to attack SJ backers

    10. Denounce that a SJ ballpark isn’t attractive as a JLS site (don’t discuss how an EIR, land, and public money would be used or is somehow different then the past)

    9. Compare SJ as an LA suburban sprawl area devoid of any centralization (downplay revamped downtown area)

    8. Call SJ as closet Gnats fans (ignore history that voters rejected 2 Gnats ballpark measures before)

    7. Denounce the city as Minor League tier in sports (AVOID attendance figures for Sharks-17K and now defunct AFL Sabercats-13k!)

    6. Note how SJ only has one theme song sung a long, long, long time ago! (and start singing Too Short’s “Straight from the West, Oakland is the best, Baby it’s so fresh…”)

    5. Cite how they lack “culture” or sophistication (ignore any reference to “capitol of silicon valley”)

    4. Continually berate that SJ is not a “real city” until 2018 when SJ BART is up (remember to not mention about CA-HSR though!)

    3. Talk smack about SJ strip malls, especially the #1 grossing one in the USA (Valley Fair)

    2. Confuse them (and yourself) by citing SJ as full of Caucasians only (ignore US census numbers that show SJ is 31/31/31 split between white/asian/hispanic)

    and when all else fails…..drum roll…..

    1. Pull out the race card ……….. 你在干嘛干?!

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