Nothing from nothing

First, a hat tip to two great legends who left the world much too soon.

If you haven’t done it already, read Nina Thorsen’s KQED interview with the Trib’s Oakland reporter Angela Woodall. Then read Ray Ratto quick opinion piece at CSN Bay Area.

Then sit back and consider what happened. If you’re struggling to come up with anything to describe it, you’re not alone. Because nothing actually happened. No forward progress, all spin, posturing, and gesticulation. Oakland fakes like it’s doing something, then shrugs its shoulders when nothing happens. MLB says nothing and does roughly the same. San Jose tries to do something and is blocked by MLB and the Giants.

I’m going to follow the Coliseum City project because it’s my duty. As long as the City of Oakland and Alameda County make plans for it to any degree, it’s worth covering. I don’t think it has legs. I’ll explain why:

  • Unless there’s a public financing component, a Coliseum ballpark will have a very difficult time paying for itself.
  • MLB wanted a downtown, waterfront site for an A’s ballpark. The Coliseum fits neither criteria.
  • The “City” part of Coliseum City will require its own large public investment. It is by design its own redevelopment district. Oakland will try to leverage existing and future TOD (transit oriented development) grants to help developers, but it’s a pittance compared to the overal cost (<5%). For instance, a 4-star, 800-room, full service hotel would cost $160 million to build, based on a $200k per room construction cost. That leaves out the other retail and commercial development costs. How much of that will the city/county have to subsidize to lure a developer?
  • The Raiders appear to be entirely site-agnostic in their search for a new stadium.
  • The chance that the NFL will award two $150 million G-4 loans to the Bay Area teams instead of spreading the love around to LA, Buffalo, and Minnesota is slim at best.
  • The Warriors are going to play Oakland and San Francisco off each other to get the best possible deal.

With so much uncertainty and so many variables, who is going to take the lead and make that heavy first investment? Private developers won’t do it unless the teams are committed first as the anchors. Teams won’t do it unless they can get something to help them pay for their new venues or give them revenue down the line. That’s the very least they should get considering the amount of construction upheaval that the project would create. The city and county can only act as facilitators. They don’t have the money to shoulder much of the development cost.

Ratto indicates that Oakland is actually playing for the Warriors and Raiders at this point, with the A’s practically out the door. That’s pretty much what I’ve been saying for years. Sadly, Oakland would be best served trying to make the best play possible for only one of its tenants. Otherwise, it might half-ass the efforts for both. Based on what we’ve seen coming out of Oakland so far, it’s quite good at half-assing. Or in the A’s case, no-assing.

33 thoughts on “Nothing from nothing

  1. Sad to hear about Don Cornelius – especially the way it happened.

  2. IMO I think Oakland’s best play would be to try to keep the Raiders and cut their losses. I think the W’s smell a better location across the bay, and I think MLB already knows that Oakland isn’t viable away from a downtown area. VC was a better location imo, even if it was impossible. I don’t know how Oakland convinces the NFL to loan the money, but they have to try.

  3. It’s funny that Wolff has long been blasted for being a real estate man, using the team to leverage big deals in Fremont and now San Jose. Not only was that never true for the Diridon site, but now Coliseum City looks just like Fremont times three. Quan wants to use sports franchises to build all that fake suburban stuff that is so offensive to the gritty and real residents of “The Town.”

  4. @Nam Turk – I can’t generalize 400,000+ people as being gritty and real residents of “The Town” whatever that means. Not that I think Coli City has a prayer, but not for reasons of hanging onto grit.

  5. Warriors. 980 Park.

  6. After reading all of this, I’m becoming increasingly hopeful that the ‘last man standing’ in Oakland will be the Warriors. as much as i want the sj thing to happen for the a’s and i want the raiders to leave the earth and never come back for what they did to the coliseum…. the prospect of a basketball palace at the coliseum site, however faraway that notion may seem, is one that seems feasible and, more importantly, awesome.

  7. I think the A’s have a better chance of making it work in Sacramento or Vegas than anywhere in the Bay Area. Just my opinion.

  8. New arena at 980 Park (if technically feasible) would be far better for both the Warriors and the City of Oakland than a new arena at the Coliseum.
    Also, realistically, a new arena at the Coli site would depend on a lot of other ancillary development which just isn’t going to happen. An arena at 980 Park could happen as a stand-alone.

  9. As an someone with deep connections to Oakland, the Warriors would be my last choice. The Raiders and A’s have a deeper Oakland connection and have been very successful/iconic. Heck, the Warriors won’t even put Oakland in their name.

  10. If the A’s are so iconic, why did the elected officials of Oakland and Alameda County not even think twice about ruining their stadium? Elected Oakland pols such as Jerry Brown (who was not even part of the Coliseum ruination for the Raiders) have been very clear in their intentions to do nothing to accommodate the A’s. Doesn’t sound so iconic to me.

  11. @pjk Why is everything an quarrel with you? The A’s are an iconic baseball franchise, Dave Stewart, Rickey Henderson, Eck, etc. are iconic Oakland/East Bay players that played for the team, that’s what I meant. Take a breath, not every comment calls for your to grab your little argument book.

  12. @ eb – “Take a breath, not every comment calls for your to grab your little argument book.” Pot calling kettle black from Mr. Sensitive himself?! :X

    Looks like the Niners (the most ICONIC sports franchise in the Bay Area) got the funding from NFL for $200 million in SC: .

  13. @eb Reggie, Catfish, Vida, Captain Sal, Rollie, Huddy, Tejada, Dick Williams, Tony LaRussa, Alvin Dark, Billy Martin, etc. etc. etc. Unfortunately none of these guys were ever able to stay because money problems got in the way in every era. No other market can make that claim. Kansas City got to keep George Brett, Milwaukee got to keep Robin Yount, Houston got to keep Bagwell and Biggio. The A’s have kept no one. Thats not iconic. I grew up 5 minutes from the Coliseum so I HATE saying it, but Oakland has a big problem. Something has to change because the A’s should be iconic.

  14. Nothing about the A’s attendance history suggests they are considered “iconic” in the East Bay….

  15. @Jesse Are you suggesting that the Oakland A’s are the only “small market” team to face issues with free agency? That seems like a gross exaggeration. Believe me, I understand the frustration with not keeping players on, but a lot of the names you mentioned were either let go under Finely (a man who was a genius, but, well, he was cheap! That fact dated back to his Kansas City days, not just Oakland) and during a transitional time during the Moneyball days (Beane could have kept Tejada over Chavez or Hudson over Zito, he chose poorly.) I’m not denying that there has to be some sort of change, whether in Oakland or SJ, but the fact is MLB as a whole needs to work towards making the league more competitive.

  16. Was Finley cheap or did revenues just not make it feasible to pay players the going rate? The A’s in 1974 won the World Series and were near the bottom of the league in attendance, for example….re: Chavez. Beane absolutely made the right decision. A solid-hitting Gold Glove 3rd baseman? Had to keep him, especially since the A’s had Bobby Crosby coming up at shortstop. Of course, if Beane had a crystal ball and knew Chavez was going to be injured from there on out, the choice might have been different. Based on the available information, Beane kept the right guy. If the A’s were selling lots of tickets and leasing lots of luxury suites, they could have kept both Chavez and Tejada. But the A’s dismal balance sheet would only let them keep one…We know Haas spent (and lost) a lot of money but that strategy only works until you either run out of money or don’t want to lose anymore. So the team got sold.

  17. @pjk “Baseball writer Rob Neyer, a native of the Kansas City area, says that this was because Finley thought he could sell a baseball team the same way he sold insurance. This dated back to the A’s tenure in Kansas City; not long after buying the team in 1960, he mailed brochures to 600,000 people in the area, and only made $20,000 in ticket sales.
    When it came to spending, whether it was players’ salaries or on the team’s day-to-day operations, Finley was tight-fisted and frugal. For example, players were issued a certain number of bats. If a player broke a bat, they wouldn’t get any replacements. Finley also rarely ordered new uniforms at the start of a season, instead recycling old ones. Trainers were told to use every bit of a roll of medical tape, with usually heavy reprimand if they didn’t. He also never offered season tickets. From 1961 onward, Finley was effectively his own general manager, though the A’s nominally had someone with that title until 1966.
    The A’s rarely had radio or television contracts during Finley’s tenure, which made them practically unknown outside of Oakland. For the first month of the 1978 season, the A’s aired their games on KALX, the 10-watt student radio station of the University of California, Berkeley. A year later, they didn’t even sign a radio contract until the night before opening day. Finley’s inadequate promotion of the A’s prompted Oakland and Alameda County officials to sue him later in 1979.[2]”

    This is just an example of Finley’s bizarre way of running a team.

  18. Doesn’t change the fact that the A’s had mostly dismal attendance back then, as now. Finley regretted moving the team to Oakland not long after he got here and tried to move the team to Denver in the mid-1970s. Would Finley had operated differently if his World Series-winning team was tops in the league in attendance (where it should have been)? Maybe….All this talk about the A’s iconic history leaves out the fact that this was usually not reflected in gate receipts….FWIW, Finley was a bit of a marketing genius: white shoes, a donkey mascot, mustaches on the players. He even wanted Vida Blue to change his name to True Blue, if I recall…

  19. @pjk A marketing genius who doesn’t secure a legitimate radio or tv contract? Why are you so bent on focusing on my use of the word iconic? You seem to be pushing hard on the idea that the A’s have meant nothing to Oakland/East Bay residents, what is your motivation for doing so?

  20. …if the A’s had a strong history of attendance in Oakland – which they should have had based on 15 playoff appearances, 4 World Series titles, 6 AL championships – then none of us would be in this mess about where the team should be playing and whether they’ll stay in the Bay Area.

  21. FWIW, during the Finley years, I was living in New Jersey, 3,000 miles away. I knew all about the team back then from the other side of the country. But the team was not well-known enough in its own backyard?

  22. @pjk Fine, if that’s your opinion. Just put up a post that says that. Why bother latching onto a comment I made that has NOTHING to do with arguing about attendance?

  23. “Fine, if that’s your opinion. Just put up a post that says that. Why bother latching onto a comment I made that has NOTHING to do with arguing about attendance?” Seems like there are a lot of intarweb noobs here who don’t understand the way open debate / opinion forums work. sure, you have an opinion and can post it freely, but to think you won’t get any comments or rebuttals, especially if it’s untrue/outrageous is only fooling yourself…wait, these are pro-oaklanders after all, huh?! :X

  24. eb: You tend to write stuff that warrants a response, such as saying A’s owners won’t look at Oakland until San Jose is rejected, even though two ownership groups looked at Oakland for years and years and got nowhere, or saying the Sharks are the Bay Area’s least-relevant team, even though sell out every night every year and folks come from all over Northern California to see them. Mid-week game the other night against the worst team in the league: sold out as usual….

  25. @Anon Believe me, I know how trolls work. Who else would make the assumption that my comment was somehow “outrageous.” Claiming that I would prefer the A’s/Raiders to stay in Oakland over the Warriors, because they have seen success and are iconic franchises is hardly inflammatory.

  26. @pjk I said that Wolff won’t look at Oakland until SJ falls through because that’s the current scenario. He has said as much. I wasn’t making a “he never tried” claim. I was, you know, addressing the current topic, that SJ was destination number one.
    As for the Sharks, I’m sorry, but the Sharks aren’t more popular than the NFL teams, the Giants, maybe they’re close to the Warriors and A’s, but once either of those teams start seriously winning it wouldn’t be nearly as close. Think about that, the Sharks have done amazingly well on the ice, yet still, get very little attention outside SJ. If those two topics somehow represent ultra “outrageous” claims, well color me outrageous.

  27. If SJ is turned down, what most likely happens is the A’s get sold back to the league, which then operates them in the Coliseum until out-of-town buyers come forward with a ballpark plan in some other part of the country. Wolff might make a cursory inquiry to Oakland, which would reiterate that all it has is the Coliseum parking lot and no money, but that would be about it….Please quantify your assessment that the Sharks get little attention outside San Jose. Are they covered in the SF Chron? The Examiner? Yep. Do all the Frisco and East Bay TV stations cover them? Yes again. Do I see people from Frisco commuting to Sharks games? Again, yes….Your turn:

  28. @pjk “Your turn:” No, thanks. I have no interest in continuing this bizarre exchange, I’ve probably invested too much time into it as it is. It’s clear you just want something to argue about.

  29. @pjk “Frisco”? Please. As Herb Caen used to say “Only the tourists call it Frisco.” The city is named for a saint, which is more than we can say about the rest of us.

  30. Frisco – two syllables, nice and easy to say. I had to correct someone on the east coast last year who told me I “live in Frisco.” No, I live in San Jose, I said…

  31. Well half of the cities in this state are named for saints. It’s not a big distinction.

  32. richmond, pjk has just taken it on himself to be deliberately insulting to The City. Personally, I don’t think Frisco should have a team, there’s one nearby in Arlington and the whole Metroplex is Rangers’ territory.

  33. This thread has about run its course.

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