Public Meeting Schedule for Ballpark at Howard Terminal

The A’s will be one of the subjects of a slew of public meetings in the coming weeks. Apologies for being late to post this (for those who might attend tonight’s BCDC session). There will be another. Follow this link for more information. Port of Oakland meetings are held in Jack London Square. BCDC meetings are held at 530 Water Street in San Francisco.

  • March 11 – BCDC Design Review
  • March 14 – Port of Oakland Board Commissioners
  • March 28 – Port of Oakland Board Commissioners
  • April 11 – Port of Oakland Board Commissioners
  • April 18 – BCDC Design Review
  • April 25 – Port of Oakland Board Commissioners

If you can’t make it to any meetings, at least read Bill Shaikin’ LA Times piece on the A’s plans.

There is a façade after all

The A’s put out some updated renderings of their vision at Howard Terminal. You can see some of the images at the A’s Oakland Ballpark site. I’m going to do a bit of a deep dive, so stick around for that.

First up, a glimpse of that retractable batter’s eye (click on each picture for a larger version).

I imagine the final color will be forest green or black, and covered with flat paint or non-reflective vinyl. There’s also a chance it could be used as signage, so it may be best to stick with a more neutral color. In the end, it is the batter’s eye, so the vision of batters will come first.

The other thing I immediately noticed from this image: light standards! These will supplement the main lights which will be tucked under the rim of the roof deck. The LED lights will be angled down towards the field, and I suppose the outfield light standards will as well, though it is those light standards that will arouse complaints from the Bar Pilots. The most similar lighting design from a true outdoor stadium (no retractable roof) I can think of is at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ.

A few notes on the above picture: You can see the lights beneath the roof deck rim. They are arranged in squares, which might look something like this. The intriguing aspect of the above pic is the presence of red pyramids. I have to assume that they’re tents, but what if they were something else? Monuments? Obelisks? Whatever the case, I can tell you what’s gone: hobbit holes. Perhaps the A’s brass got sick of all the LOTR references (*raises hand*) and while I can’t blame them if they did, surely they know by now that we talked about hobbit holes mostly out of love and only partly in jest, the same way we would talk about second breakfast. The hobbit holes have been replaced by larger openings. And I can’t forget the big statue of Rickey beyond the scoreboard.

Perhaps the big takeaway is that the ballpark itself has transformed from a “jewel box” squarish shape to a circular one reminiscent of the Coliseum. The seating bowl maintains its minimal foul territory and angles at the foul poles. The roof deck looks like a big green “O”, which should look great via an overhead blimp or helicopter shot. The roof deck should also easier to navigate if it becomes a public space such as a park. In the image below, you can also see the descent from the corners to centerfield, which has a series of little platforms facing the field at different elevations. There’s also a big statue of an elephant on the first base side.

My initial take on the architecture was some surprise at the seeming lack of exterior treatment. The new version has a façade made of concrete, steel, or wood that gives the whole exterior a vertical blind effect. Glass curtainwall is played out, so this is a refreshing change.

You can also see the circulation inside through the facade. I personally loved how that was visible in the old Oakland Coliseum Arena. Here fans could go directly to the roof deck via the sloped sections or take escalators or stairs on the main concourses.

As for the bullpens – there’s space for them, though not necessarily the space you prefer. I consider it in flux.

A’s announce new traditional and streaming radio partnerships

Fans expressed worry as the A’s didn’t announce who would be broadcast their games over the radio at FanFest. The team was working on something, we were told, and today they unwrapped some new partners.

For traditional, over-the-air radio, the team will partner with KTRB-860 AM for the 2019 season. A decade ago the A’s attempted to buy KTRB to transform the station into a homegrown A’s flagship, but the A’s couldn’t come to terms on a price, estimated to be around $5 million plus necessary transmitter upgrades, so naturally the station became yet another hot talk gabfest.

Hawaii? Aloha. Tahoe, Susanville? Ahonui.

The big news is that the A’s will have streaming for free through a new deal with TuneIn Radio. TuneIn will handle all of streaming within the A’s market, though I’m not sure what defines the A’s market for the purposes of streaming (IP check, perhaps?). The MLB At Bat app continues to offer its Premium version with audio included for $19.99 per season or $2.99 per month, spring training included. Audio is automatically included in the A’s Access season ticket plan and subscriptions to MLB.TV. MLB.TV is sold for $118.99 for all teams’ video telecasts or $91.99 for a single team, blackouts pending, natch.

I’ve had the TuneIn app on my phone for years, even though my use for it has decreased over time. It’s good to see that I’ll be able to use it again. TuneIn has a Premium 30-day free trial for new users (again, A’s games are free). Whether I’ll be able to use it for the Cactus League while the A’s call Mesa home for a month – TBD. Whatever the case, more options are good. TuneIn will also offer an A’s channel that will operate 24/7, which will be nice if you want to check out a late-night/early morning reply of an earlier game, something the Giants enjoyed on KNBR for years. Admittedly, the advent of on-demand replay makes a scheduled rebroadcast largely unnecessary, but it’s still nice to have.

Streaming games tends to lag compared to live action, so it isn’t going to supplant the old pocket transistor radio you would frequently take to the Coliseum. As wireless speeds and the processors in your phones get more powerful that lag will continue to decrease. On the other hand, perennial pre/postgame host Chris Townsend will remain part of the proceedings, as his bookend shows will be expanded. The pregame show is called “A’s Total Access,” which is a branding exercise if I ever heard one.

I’m not sure if the A’s deal with KTRB will go longer than 2019. I suspect that the A’s are using this year as a platform to launch the streaming offering. The A’s launched their team website some 22 years ago.

Ever the innovators, the A’s could oversee the twilight of the radio era. Then again, other clubs will have something to say about that.

Raiders going across the Bay for 2019

This year, the A’s don’t have to worry about the Raiders chewing up the Coliseum grass. For a year the Silver & Black will be chewing up the Giants’ grass instead before moving to Vegas. And thankfully, the Coliseum won’t have to spend $250k every time they have to convert the stadium from football to baseball.

My question is: How quickly can the A’s repurpose the Raiders’ locker rooms?

Remember that the SF Demons of the XFL played at China Basin for one XFL season. Last year the Rugby Sevens World Cup was held there during the baseball season. You know what would be neat? Rather than a bus on game day, charter a ferry to take the Raiders from their Harbor Bay practice facility to Oracle Park.

Update 2/6Not so fast my friend.

Six of One, Half Dozen of Hohokam

I’m starting a new job Monday. It’s a full time gig, which will force me to attend Cactus League games on the weekends and listen to weekday games via streaming.

That’s a marked difference from last spring training, when I went to one game, an A’s-Brewers tilt at Maryvale, as part of a rehab outing.

Things are looking up these days, so I splurged for a Spring Training Pass, the Cactus League equivalent of A’s Access. I’ll have admission to the lawn and standing room areas around Hohokam, though I may upgrade my location here and there. I’ll go to 6 games at Hohokam, planning for at least 2 more (Angels, Giants). I’ll also drop by Salt River Fields to see how the new artificial turf fields look. The Dbacks are installing artificial turf at Chase Field, which I believe is part of the new reality coming for outdoor as well as indoor stadia.

Partial schedule. Bold indicates games I’ll be attending

In the meantime I’ll continue to enjoy the lush green blanket in Mesa. Maybe I’ll see you there. Thanks to the Japan series, there’s less than three weeks until the first game!

 

Running the numbers on the gondola

I wasn’t sure how long I’d last at FanFest, so I made sure to pack a lot of activity in the morning just in case I petered out in the afternoon. That turned out to be good planning.

    • Arrived at the Amtrak Jack London Square station at 9:20
    • Walked to Howard Terminal while passing through Jack London Square via Water Street. 0.7-mile walk took longer than expected because of the amassed crowds and booths. Arrived at the east gate by the old oil storage tank at 9:38.
    • Went back towards the action at JLS, sat on a bench outside 10 Clay Street for a breather. Listened to coach and player intros, 9:55.
    • Looked around, found the Regatta 1 space where the A’s were holding the ballpark Q&A sessions. Grabbed a good seat at 10:15.
    • First Q&A session started at 10:30, lasted a half-hour.
    • Headed towards food truck corral to meet Jeff, who couldn’t get in the first session. We decided to get non-food truck grub, so we decided to walk the gondola route down Washington at 11:30. (Sadly, Jeff’s brother Kevin couldn’t make it as his munchkins were having a little too much fun with some balloons, so they had to leave early.)
    • The walk up Washington to the convention center took 17 minutes (also 0.7 miles) with light pedestrian and vehicular traffic. After we arrived at the convention center, we went into the Marriott. Jeff retraced his journey with Casey Pratt to the Warriors’ practice facility. We didn’t have access to the fifth floor entrance, so we left to get lunch at 12:15.

Gondola Route down Washington, ballpark placed at Howard Terminal

  • After lunch I was starting to crash and Jeff had to visit his sick grandma, so we hiked over to the 12th Street BART station. He was going to Pleasanton, me to Oakland Airport at 1:15.

As is often the case, the escalator at the BART entrance was out of service. I took the stairs and groused about it a little. During our journey I showed Jeff the video the A’s and BIG posted of the gondola simulation. It looked cool, though it missed the transfer from BART to the gondola station (900-foot walk). The station itself is planned to sit above the intersection of 10th Street and Washington Street.

To make the station work, a two-block stretch of 10th Street would be converted into a pedestrian mall. Washington would remain open to vehicles, though the streetscape could be changed to accommodate more trees and perhaps wider sidewalks and less parking. I think it would be a good idea to put in a reversible bus lane for use during games. Jeff thought Washington should be closed to vehicles like 10th. I agreed, pointing out the political difficulty in doing so.

After we boarded a southbound BART train, I downloaded the gondola economic impact report. While the numbers from the report looked impressive, a closer look showed one particular set of numbers was missing: The cost to riders.

To be fair, this is how such reports are often written. The reason often given is that the agencies or private parties involved are working on different ways to charge for the service, and a final determination hasn’t been made. However, I took some of the aforementioned numbers and tried to figure it out.

  • $123 million to build gondola over 0.7 miles, including a station at each end (Washington & Water, Washington & 10th).
  • $4.6 million annual operating cost
  • 1 million riders each taking round trips

If you write a $123 million loan for the gondola, you end up with an $8 million annual debt payment spread over 30 years at 5%. Add the operating costs (labor, maintenance) and it comes to $12.6 million per year just to break even. That’s important, because the A’s aren’t going to depend on local or regional mass transit funding to make this happen. It means that every one of those million riders, not all of whom will be A’s fans, have to provide the equivalent of $12.60 in revenue for every round trip.

Powell-Mason cable car line (via Google Earth)

Should the A’s get this thing built, they’ll come up with innovative ways to help pay for the gondola. They could pass the cost on to subscribers of their All Access plans. Or levy a transportation fee with every ticket. Still, $12.60 to cover the literal last mile to the ballpark is a bitter pill to swallow. No wonder their pitch includes tourists! The gondola path includes a descent over I-880 down to the waterfront, reminiscent of the Powell/Mason and Powell/Hyde cable car lines. Speaking of which, have you looked at how much it costs to ride a cable car these days? $7 each way! Makes a $12.60 round trip look like a bargain! Sort of.

This is how the Oakland Airport Connector worked out. I rode the elevated cable-car line from the Coliseum BART station to Oakland International Airport. It cost me one-way $6.65 (less 50 cents if using Clipper). The tram ran smoothly and had only few other people in it.

Saturday afternoon on the Oakland Airport Connector

I enjoyed the OAC the two times I’ve taken it, but I can’t get past the idea that it’s an incredible waste of money. There is some history behind this money pit via Matier & Ross:

When it was proposed, the cost of the 3.2-mile elevated tram line was put at about $134 million. By the time work began in 2010, the cost had risen to about $500 million — requiring BART to issue $110 million in bonds to pay for it.

Despite the growing costs, the project was propelled forward because it was seen as a boon for the airport and a job creator in the midst of the post-2008 economic crash.

Now, however, it’s a headache for BART — and another red line in the system’s looming $477 million budget deficit over the next decade.

If BART is smart, they won’t touch the gondola with a ten-foot pole. Make that 900 feet for good measure. At least aerial trams don’t run into cost overrun problems.

Now consider that the cost of the gondola for a family of five, not including their regular BART fares or parking or anything else, could be $63. I’m about to get the Spring Training Pass. 12 games for $50 plus a $5 handling fee. Good to know bargains like that still exist.

For those who are going to #Athletics FanFest on 1/26

Last month I mentioned that I would be going to FanFest next Saturday. I’m pretty excited to go, perhaps not for the reasons you might think.

I’ve talked a lot about my misgivings over the lack of accessibility at Howard Terminal. I’m glad that the A’s and the City of Oakland are creatively looking at ways to bridge the gap between the nearest existing BART stations (12th Street/City Center, West Oakland, Lake Merritt) and Jack London Square/Howard Terminal.

I think it’s best if I spent a good deal of my time determining just how easy (or difficult) it will be to get back and forth between the waterfront and the transit hubs. It’s going to pull me away from many of the normal fan and family-related activities at FanFest, but I’ll stick around for the starting festivities. The schedule:

9:30 a.m. – FanFest opens to the public
9:45 a.m. – Player Welcome Walk from Scotts Seafood down Water Street to the Ferry Lawn
10:00 a.m. – Welcome Address and Player Introductions
10:30 a.m. – Q&A Sessions begin on Ferry Lawn Main Stage
10:30 a.m. – Food Trucks open
2:00 p.m. – FanFest closes

You see, when I planned this trip last month I was on a pretty advanced track in my stroke recovery, lengthening my walks and regularly going to the gym. I also extended my available unsupervised time at home, and I thought I was in the clear in terms of my health.

On January 3rd, I woke up with vertigo and dizziness, so I couldn’t go to my normal program that day, let alone keep any food, water, or medications down. While the vertigo went away after 24 hours, I felt lightheaded throughout the entire weekend. I eventually checked myself into the local emergency room on Sunday (January 6) and got an MRI on my head. The MRI came up negative, which meant that even though nothing was found, it’s possible I had a transient ischemic attack, commonly referred to as a mini-stroke. (Previously neurologists found numerous brain infarcts.) Net result: I was told to add a daily baby aspirin (blood thinner) to my regular meds and was sent on my way.

The next week was a whirlwind for me personally, as I was recovering from whatever I was dealing with AND I was set to start interviewing for full time employment. The whole point of the recovery program is to get me back to work. I sent a bunch of resumes out, interviewed with three companies, and received multiple offers. I chose one of those offers last Friday. My first day on the job is on February 4. I’m excited about starting work again, ever the eager beaver. Thanks to all of you who supported me over the last year and beyond. Next weekend I’ll have a chance to talk with friends and family in the Bay Area, a fun weekend before I start work in earnest.

Back to FanFest.

My plan is to take a Capitol Corridor train from San Jose, arriving at the Amtrak Jack London Square station before FanFest starts at 9:30 AM. I investigated the possibility of taking Caltrain to SF and then hopping on a ferry across the bay, but the schedules don’t run early enough on the weekend. I’ve spent much of today compiling all of the various ways to get to JLS on public transit. I figured I should share that info.

Other notes:

Questions? Suggestions? Meetup ideas? Drop them in the comments.


Trip planning resources:

Google Transit
AC Transit
BART
Capitol Corridor
San Francisco Bay Ferry