Why a temporary ballpark is a distinct possibility

Lew Wolff brought up the the idea of a temporary stadium to the SV/SJ Business Journal’s Greg Baumann this week. Wolff looks at the concept as potentially necessary if another extension at the Coliseum can’t work out. He had already expressed concern when MLB pushed the Coliseum Authority (JPA) into a two-year extension through 2015. The thinking in November was that no new permanent home could be built in that two-year span, and if Coliseum City’s phasing and the Raider owner Mark Davis’s preference of building on top of the current Coliseum footprint take hold, the A’s would no longer have a place to play. Combine that with Larry Baer’s comments about allowing the A’s to play at AT&T Park while an Oakland solution was being hammered out, and you can see all of the moving pieces and the complexity therein. Because of that complexity, let’s break the situation down into its basic components.

To start off, there’s the Raiders. The Raiders are the first domino here, because they are the team in some sort of negotiation with Oakland and the JPA. Even though Davis has labeled the talks as discouraging recently, reports coming out of the Coliseum City partnership should bring everyone back to the table in the next month or so. Then Davis can decide how to move forward: either partner in Coliseum City, or decide that CC doesn’t pencil out and look elsewhere. So far Davis has stuck with the idea that the Coliseum is the #1 site. That could change quickly as the numbers are released and parties have to make fiduciary commitments.

The A’s can’t do anything without the Raiders’ move. As much as Oakland waterfront ballpark proponents would love for Howard Terminal to become the apple of Wolff’s eye, the many questions and doubts that hang over the site continue to make HT a nonstarter for Wolff. Coliseum City had the A’s in a new ballpark no earlier than 2022, unacceptable terms for Wolff and MLB. However, if CC falls apart for the Raiders and Colony Capital, the Raiders could leave for Santa Clara, LA, or elsewhere. Wolff could easily call for CC to dissolve and put together a development plan of his own at the Coliseum, one that he would control. It could make room for the Raiders as well, but the football team would end up on the back burner, not the A’s. If Davis were to stay for several years at Levi’s Stadium while gathering up the resources to build anew in Oakland, such phasing could work out. Then again, the Jets spent nearly two decades “temporarily” at the Meadowlands while not working out any new stadium deal in the five boroughs of New York City.

Next, this idea isn’t new. Wolff floated the temporary venue concept in 2012, when he initially tried to get a lease extension. Wolff has reason not to go down such a path due to the expense and amount of upheaval. Should lease talks once again turn difficult, a temporary move becomes more a value proposition than a logistical problem.

If the JPA couldn’t come to an agreement on a new ballpark with Wolff – say, for instance, the JPA chose not to eat the $100 million left in Mt. Davis debt – Wolff would likely go back to MLB and again ask for a decision on San Jose. San Jose brings about one of two temporary ballpark scenarios. The first comes if the A’s are left homeless after 2015 and MLB somehow allows the move south. That’s a long shot at best, but can’t be completed discounted. In this case a temporary ballpark would have to be built somewhere in San Jose for 2-3 years minimum while Cisco Field was being built at Diridon. Besides the process of getting league approval, a temporary site would have to be found. In the Bizjournals article, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed claimed that multiple temporary sites were available. In all practicality, there are probably only two sites. Many of the previously studied permeant ballpark site candidates are either in the process of being redeveloped (Berryessa, North San Pedro) or face logistical hurdles that make it difficult to ensure that 20-30,000 people could make it in and out easily (SJ Fairgrounds, Reed & Graham cement plant).

Instead, there will probably two or three sites in play: the old San Jose Water Company site near SAP Center (site owned by Adobe), the spare parking lot south of SJ Police headquarters between Mission and Taylor Streets (a.k.a. the Cirque du Soleil lot), or the land adjacent to the under construction Earthquakes Stadium (under control by another developer). The SJWC/Adobe site would be the easiest to convert for a ballpark, is the right size, and has an existing building that could be leveraged for ballpark use. It’s also directly underneath a San Jose Airport landing approach, which could cause red flags by the FAA. The Cirque lot is smallish, though large enough for a small ballpark. There’s lots of parking nearby, and potential makeshift parking on the other side of the Guadalupe River. Light rail is only 2 blocks away. As for the Earthquakes Stadium-adjacent site, there were enough problems getting it prepped for that project that it should give pause to anyone considering even a temporary ballpark there.

That’s not to say that San Jose is the only place for a temporary ballpark. Wolff was quoted as looking at the entire Bay Area:

“I am hopeful of expanding our lease at the Oakland Coliseum for an extended term. If we cannot accomplish a lease extension, I hope to have an interim place to play in the Bay Area or in the area that reaches our television and radio fans — either in an existing venue or in the erection of a temporary venue that we have asked our soccer stadium architect (360 Architecture) to explore. Looking outside the Bay Area and our media market is an undesirable option to our ownership at this time.”

The East Bay is in play for both temporary (if needed) and permanent venues. MLB won’t hand over the South Bay to Wolff, yet MLB has also allowed Wolff to enter agreements with San Jose, so it’s clear that MLB is hedging big time. A temporary ballpark could be built on the old Malibu/HomeBase lots near the Coliseum, in Fremont, or even Dublin or Concord. Fremont’s Warm Springs location could enter the discussion again because the Warm Springs extension is scheduled to open in 2015.

It’s also possible to read into Wolff’s statement the possibility of the A’s playing at Raley Field on a temporary basis, since his description of “area that reaches our television and radio fans” covers CSN California and the A’s Radio Network.

Warm Springs could be in play because CEQA laws that govern environmental review largely don’t affect temporary facilities. Generally, seasonal installations such as carnivals or circuses that don’t create any permanent environmental impact are exempt from CEQA. The challenge, then, is to create a temporary ballpark that can also fit this model. That would be tough because of the large-scale consumption of water, food, and energy during a single game. Still, the A’s are already familiar with major recycling efforts, and if trash can be properly contained there should be little permanent impact. Just as important, Warm Springs remains within the established territory, so MLB wouldn’t have to negotiate anything with the Giants. Finally, if the experience is positive it could provide enough political goodwill to convince Fremont to again consider being a permanent home.

Strategically, the Baer vs. Wolff war of words (what happened to the gag order?) has only gotten more interesting. Baer’s statement is cajoling Oakland, not Wolff, to get its act together. Wolff’s response is to say that the A’s don’t need the Giants’ help, especially if he can get San Jose. Keep in mind that if Oakland fails, the East Bay as a territory loses value, hurting Baer’s argument and supporting Wolff’s. What’s left is for both rich guys to let the processes in Oakland and in the courts play out, and prepare for next steps. At some point, the leagues are going to ask Oakland to either step up or step out ($$$). While some local media types continue to believe that the teams can carry on indefinitely at the Coliseum, at some point the conflicts become too great to bear. For those of us who have been following this saga for so long, it’s good to know that actions are being taken to make new homes for the teams. Even if one of those homes is temporary.

39 thoughts on “Why a temporary ballpark is a distinct possibility

  1. San Jose could get the A’s as soon as they setup a temp stadium downtown!!

  2. I guess LW just told Baer to go F himself

  3. Ironically LW has experience in the temporary home situation. When negotiations with SJSU and the Earthquakes fell apart he was left to go find another home. He took Buckshaw and expanded it with temporary facilities to 10k. I realize a lot smaller than 25-27k for a temporary ballpark but bottom line is that LW knows how to hedge- even though he says he doesn’t have plan B you can bet he does….plus a plan C. He’s also forcing Oakland to make a choice – either the A’s or Raiders for CC- I believe that the Oakland stall game is fast coming to a close- should be interesting.

  4. how much would a temp park built even for the cheap cost? i’d much rather have the a’s play at raley for some time. capacity there is 14k but i think they can cram in another thousand or two. but even if they average 15k, basically sell out the place due to sactown have a mlb team for a short time that’s a 1.2 million attendance for a season which lines up to what around the a’s drew at the coliseum in the mid to late 90s. expos did the same thing playing in puerto rico in a 18k venue.

    a’s would stay in nocal and stil have the same radio/tv feed.

  5. Even though it is the least talked about in your article I believe Raley Field would be the most likely scenario. I think Wolff threw those choice words in talking strictly about sacramento. Plus there would be no temporary stadium to build. Only a temporary place to play. I believe San Jose would be least likely.. At least until the courts settle things with mlb.

  6. @GoA’s

    Yeah have to admit Quan/Blackwell/Kaplan there stall game finally could be in trouble but I have to see it to beileve it. Again im more on the Raiders side..but I wonder would having the Coliseum land all to himself would suffice with Raiders management until Davis gathers more private funding for a new stadium. ..I beileve the A’s should play at Rayley in Sacramento

  7. There is precedence in the Bay Area for the building of a temporary sports facility, before a permanent one could be built. Frank Youell Field was quickly erected to house the Raiders, before moving to the permanent Coliseum. The Raiders played there for four seasons. Frank Youell Field was located near Lake Merritt, and ironically would have been the most ideal Oakland site for being the permanent stadium to both the Raiders and the soon to be coming A’s.

  8. The thing about Raley Field…I think that this would give the gints a victory of forcing the A’s out of the Bay Area–even if its only temporary. Even though it meets the spirit of what he said I can’t see LW doing that unless it is a last resort–or unless he is given SJ and has a clear path forward as to when the A’s will return to the Bay Area.

    Agree with ML’s assessment of baer’s comments intended to send a signal to Oakland to get its act together–makes me wonder if he is feeling that he is close to losing the TR battle since Oakland hasn’t been able to deliver…and before the Oakland only crowd jumps all over me saying they have 2 viable sites…neither has been proven to be viable from an economic perspective as of yet–

  9. @GoA’s

    Man reading the comment board from Save Oakland Sports. ..finally even pro Oakland crowd is tired of the news and drawings and want results…yeah Oakland needs to make a choice between Raiders and or A’s. ..but I disagree that moving to a baseball ready Raley Field in Sac-town is a loss to the A’s. ..Lew really needs to attract a bigger fan base and advertise..what better way to get Oakland, Stockton and Sacramento area fan bases to come to Sac. I know I will be there…take a nicr road trip smoke a blunt on the way and enjoy summer baseball in Sacramento….

  10. @harry- I hear you but it’s the out of sight out of mind thing- a 5 year absence from the Bay Area would give the gints time to capture an even larger share of the Bay Area corporate dollars- the A’s are already way behind in this area and going to Raley only makes it worse. I do agree with you that LW should consider playing some games at Raley to help expand the A’s reach- even playing a dozen games there with teams that typically draw poorly in Oakland would accomplish this-

  11. “Fremont to again consider being a permanent home.” I like the sound of that R.M. 😉 (in the event SJ falls through of course) With the way this damn saga has drown out (almost 10 years of wanting SJ to happen), I almost wish sometimes Wolff would go back to Fremont in earnest, but I digress..

    If San Jose for temp. ballpark: how about the area around Spartan Stadium/Muni? Has the ability to move in/out 4-25,000 on a regular basis, and there’s land available for a temp. There’s also precedence in SJ for temporary grandstands, suites from the defunct Grand Prix in downtown SJ. There are also plots of land along N. 1st. Street with easy access to light-rail and 880.

    If East Bay: All of your Fremont suggestions R.M. IMHO, if A’s need to find a temporary ballpark solution than that should be it for the city of Oakland period. Just rinse your hands of the utter ineptitude and move on.

  12. At least something may be the works. First, Selig suggesting that the A’s would play at SF if a lease agreement with Oakland couldn’t be worked out (one would believe the Giant’s owners group would be displeased with that). Then Baer, making some comments (made out of line, and after Selig instructed the Giants not to do so) Now, the A’s are suggesting a possible tempory stadium in San Jose – interesting.

  13. @GoA’s Oakland-Only crowd on ML’s blog? I dont think you will have to worry much, whats that Ivan?

  14. Wow. A’s at the Cirque du Soleil lot. One VTA Lighr Rail stop from my house. Bring them on…

  15. Railey Field is the Long Term solution for the team!!!

  16. @Sactodavey,
    No it’s not! (that was easy)

  17. @Tony D

    Give it a rest…either Coliseum City field or Raley Field….ur choice if not…sit there and cry over a empty didiron station… (because im happy clap along now!!!

  18. @harry,

    You continue to provide much needed humor to this forum; thanks and keep it coming. BTW, is it possible for you to make a serious comment re the topic at hand? (if not, no problem brah..)

  19. Looks like the wheels are spinning for some sort of resolution on the matter. My losing Las Vegas bet will have BS Bud giving the green light to SJ at this year’s winter meetings.

  20. Since this would be a temporary situation for the A’s, I don’t see why the team would have to play ALL of their home games in one spot. Suppose for a moment that a temporary stadium with a capacity of 16-18,000 could be built somewhere along the peninsula. Why not play some home games (up to 40 or so) at Raley and the remaining games at the temporary stadium which may (or may not) be razed after a permanent stadium is built. This would be a marketing and advertising tactic which would give the San Jose area a taste of a full MLB season while giving the A’s more publicity in the Sacramento area. With regards to the latter, my perception is that even though the A’s AAA affiliate River Cats play just across the river in West Sacramento, the Sacramento area seems to be more of a Gnats town with the local media frequently making the Gnats the lead baseball item on TV news. Also, I see more Gnats souvenir items for sale in my hometown of Davis than I do the A’s. I can only presume this is true in Sacramento as well. Bringing the A’s to the Sacramento area as the “home” team, though only temporarily, would be a GREAT marketing move in the long run for the franchise in my opinion.

  21. a’s i do think are trying to find more of a fanbase in sac town. most of their games last season aired on 1140 and will again this season.

  22. it’s a complex situation- Bud Selig

  23. Giants PR rep/SJ Mercury News columnist Kawakami today says he hears the A’s San Jose move is almost without hope. Where is he hearing this from? The Giants? Didn’t Kawakami insist the 49ers would never get a stadium in Santa Clara?

  24. MLB won’t allow Wolff to play in temp digs with ATT Park right there.

    Wolff is simply posturing letting MLB know a solution needs to be found fast as the Raiders are could be closing in on a new coliseum leaving the A’s homeless for multiple years.

    If the A’s are in fact homeless they would be sitting on the Giants heads as the SF A’s for an indefinite amount of time. Hence Baer’s comments about sharing temporarily as a neighborly thing.

    A’s in SJ is one thing but playing in SF proper? That would be disaster and the it’s the last thing the Giants would want even with the extra rent and revenue.

    Imagine the A’s are 96 game winners with the Giants at 76 in the same ballpark?

    Baer sees how this movie in unfolding and is praying for a Oakland miracle the way Selig is.

    A miracle he not Selig is going to get….

  25. *a miracle he and Selig aren’t going to get…

  26. @ pjk,

    I don’t even trip anymore over the stupidity of TK’s pro – Giants commentary. He’s nothing more than a traditional Bay Area media hack wearing “SJ Merc” clothing. FWIW, TK doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about re A’s to SJ. That is all.

  27. Yes, Kawakami says the A’s are “profitable” thanks to revenue-sharing. Of course, they’re on revenue-sharing precisely because they don’t generate enough revenues on their own to sustain themselves. Still think one of the funniest TV shows I ever saw was Kawakami trying to do Sharks commentary. he knows nothing about hockey.

  28. My two (or three. or four) cents here:

    1) Giants really wouldn’t want the A’s at AT&T. They know that a huge part of their financial success is wrapped up in the Giants/AT&T identity and and they don’t want the world to see the A’s drawing well in the same park. It would hurt everything they’ve done there with branding, creating the trendy sports option in the area, etc.

    2) If the A’s leave Oakland for any time (such as in SF for a few years), they are never coming back. At that point, they could go anywhere and nobody would choose Oakland for that anywhere.

    3) Probably ditto if the A’s left the Bay Area for a few years.

    4) SJ still makes the most sense in terms of total dollars in the MLB/A’s/Giants situation. It increases the pie like no other current option would. For that reason I’m still optimistic that with more total money to go around, that an agreement can eventually happen to divide up the bigger pie in a way that will make it happen. I do think the Giants will likely be overruled by MLB, will be compensated for it fairly, and will hate it.

  29. I wonder why the pro Oakland crowd has not demand lew build a temp ballpark by the Coliseum? ?? Seems doable right. I agree if or when A’s go thru with playing at a temp ballpark. .in Sacramento, S.F or San Jose…there not coming back to Oakland. ..in fact it would mean Oakland has chosen the Raiders and Mark Davis and Colony Capital can move forward with the new stadium/housing projects at the Coliseum land

  30. Baer was likely Tim Kawakami’s source.

  31. Kawakami’s “wisdom” on the 49ers stadium, circa 2008: “If the Yorks can’t figure out what to do with their coach, how to set up a front office, who should be playing quarterback and how often their employees may drink bottled water, how can they shepherd a billion-dollar stadium from dirt to magnificence?”…Oops.

  32. This is just getting old. Just build a damn stadium in SJ and let the lawsuits fly.

  33. @mike2,
    I’ve been championing MLB/A’s to San Jose since 2005; tell me about it.
    I’ve come to the conclusion that Tim Kawakami enjoys being a straight up ass hole. Pretty easy for him since he can spew nonsense on newsprint, the web and basically hide. Karma Timmy, Karma…

  34. @Tony D: I’ll say this much for Kawakami and the Giants owners, they are a perfect match – a butthole sportswriter and a butthole owners group.

  35. Temporary stadia possibilities…

    1. Raley would work for one, maybe two seasons at best. The clubhouses are not connected to the dugouts – they are both behind the center field wall. When Raley was built, it was constructed with poured concrete and cinderblock instead of structural steel, so it is not amenable to modification. etc. etc.

    2. Candlestick’s headed for the wrecking ball this spring unless something drastic were to occur. The old right field football seats could be just cut off in place and grass replanted in that area so it could work in theory, but…

    3. South Campus at SJSU’s a nonstarter. There’s too much memory of the scam that Mr. Wolff tried to pull off when he was negotiating for the Earthquakes stadium there, and folks at SJSU aren’t going to be interested in hosting a “temporary” stadium that is owned and controlled by Mr. Wolff.

    Damn. Anybody given any thought about Sunken Diamond at Stanford? Bay Meadows? Golden Gate Fields? How about we resurrect that “floating stadium” idea they had down in San Diego?

  36. Worked as a temp for a contractor at City Hall. The Colliseum City team hadn’t yet signed the extension to their agreement with the city cause they didn’t get money from their partner to pay off their old partner.

    • @Rex Franklin – I had heard about the Forest City bit holding things up. Was not aware that the money was supposed to come from BayIG/Colony to settle it. Great urgency on display there.

  37. Has anybody read the comments board from field of schemes. ..that dude neil demacuse is a total a hole..painting lew wolff as a guy with no leverage. ..man I hope lew moves to Sac to shut down these haters…

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