27,000

While the A’s enjoy a well-deserved off-day after a most grueling road trip, let me bring your attention to a special event happening on the way back from Tampa Bay.

MLB is hosting a game in Omaha.

Yes, Omaha.

TD Ameritrade Park, well known as the home of the College World Series championship rounds, will host a Tigers-Royals game tonight on ESPN.

The game is considered a sort of warm-up for the CWS, whose championship starts this weekend at TDAP. There’s even talk about potentially scheduling the MLB draft concurrently with the CWS to give the draft a better profile both for baseball fans and draftees. While the path from the draft to the majors isn’t as clearcut as in basketball or football, baseball has been working to make the draft a higher profile event. What better way to do that than to dovetail with the premier annual amateur baseball competition? To be honest, I don’t know why they haven’t done it yet.

As for tonight’s matchup, I bring it to your attention because of the venue, naturally. I wrote about TDAP when it opened in 2011, thinking that I would see a game there eventually, maybe the CWS. The weeknight scheduling of the Tigers-Royals game made flying in problematic, so it’ll have to be some other time. Tonight the weather is good for a not-quite-summer ballgame.

TDAP was built primarily to host the CWS, and has done so capably after replacing venerated Rosenblatt Stadium. (Read my writeup from 8 years ago if you want the details on its development.) The park holds 24,505 seats, which curiously is close to the 27,000 advertised by BIG for the Howard Terminal ballpark. No, that doesn’t mean MLB is on its way to Omaha for more than this brief stop anytime soon, but it should start a proper conversation about how much stadium the A’s need now and into the future.

Inside TD Ameritrade Park Omaha Photo by Collinulness

Above is a picture of a building that holds 24,000-plus. The A’s are planning a structure that is similarly-sized, with the addition of a magnificent roof deck that could hold 10,000 more. When I compared the two visions, I came to the conclusion that Howard Terminal is essentially TDAP with fancier accommodations and a fancier roof above. The A’s have been careful not to say how much the park will cost, only that it’s privately financed. Where the financing will come from is still a bit of a mystery, but like with Fremont, it’s likely to come from real estate sales and leases.

And that aspect of it – the upzoning and turnover of a bunch of real estate – makes it just as important to know how much the construction bill will be. Because in the end, folks, A’s fans will be paying for the tickets, suites, and concession items. The real estate aspect is an indirect subsidy. Granted, that’s not as bad as having a bond issue backed by tax revenues. But it’s still a subsidy, and it’s worth asking if everyone from the City and Port to the A’s and A’s fans are getting a good deal on this. Whatever the A’s are planning, it can’t possibly be a better deal than $131 million spent on TDAP. Even if you double that budget to add MLB facilities and that roof deck and account for inflation, the total cost is probably less than $400 million. That’s a lot less than the numbers I’m hearing now. Especially once you add in the gondola.

The A’s had an economic impact report released recently. Yesterday they were scolded by Oakland City Council member Rebecca Kaplan for repeatedly holding rallies outside of key votes in Oakland and Sacramento. The Council approved the motions on the two bills, with a clear message that they aren’t going to be rushed into rubber stamping Howard Terminal.

The saga continues.

P.S. – During my hospital stay in Phoenix, I encountered a number of alums from Creighton University, which has the fortune of playing their home schedule at TDAP. Creighton’s building a branch of their medical school right next to that hospital. For the Creighton baseball team back in Omaha, it’s not a bad place to call home.

3 thoughts on “27,000

  1. In your last post I expressed surprise about the 27,000 capacity. Your response was, “In 2019 I don’t think anyone builds a park with 40k seats. 35k, sure. Mostly it’s about building a third deck.”

    Wikipedia has a list of MLB parks which is easy to sort by opening date: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_current_Major_League_Baseball_stadiums

    The last ballpark built had a capacity of 41,000. Admittedly, in a suburban setting, with heavy public subsidies, in a market with one baseball team.

    Every other stadium built in the last 20 years has had a capacity of at least 36,000, with the median of the 16 parks that opened since 1999 being 41,620 (10 of the parks were between 40,000 and 43,000).

    Proposing 27,000 is a huge outlier and indicates vastly different assumptions about the business model.

    I see a couple of possibilities for what this means:
    1) If they really do this, they plan to turn it into an experience for the elites, much as the Warriors are doing.
    2) They don’t actually plan to build what they’re showing us.

    • GM – if the Bay Area elite won’t go to games (or at least purchase season tickets, regardless of whether or not they attend), this stadium idea is financially insolvent.

      If they get anything built, it will absolutely be dramatically smaller capacity – probably smallest capacity in MLB, imo – and it will cater to the elite. The middle class will have access to the park via the walk around / roof areas, but actually owning season tickets will be a form of social status, similar to Warriors games. First you need to create scarcity to create some demand, and then hopefully over time they get good enough that the team can sell out every game at 27k capacity and control the re-sale market too.

      There’s just not 40,000 good seats in a ballpark anymore when the alternative is watching a game on a 4K television at home without fighting traffic.

      Lower capacity makes games more desirable for the rich in a variety of ways:

      Less traffic getting there and leaving, shorter lines and less crowded at concessions, less ‘unruly’ behavior like standing up and cheering and blocking the view of other rich and calm people, more exclusivity and status that we can be here and others cannot.

    • I do believe there where 10,000 standing room, or walking around none setting tickets, or whatever its called.

      Anyway, if that was true the total would be more like 37,000. I think 10,000 is a bit high, I think there should be 30-32,000 seats and say 5-7,000 of the general administration without a seat type of tickets.

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