20+ years later, the process remains the same

I was going through some reading material as any good stadium geek does occasionally, when I came upon one of my favorite chapters in Sports, Jobs & Taxes, the Roger Noll and Andrew Zimbalist book that set the tone for future stadium discussions along with Neil deMause’s Field of Schemes. I then remembered that I wrote a post about this years ago. And then I noticed something else while I was rereading the chapter: a flowchart.

Well then, how does one go about making it work as the Giants did in China Basin? Thankfully, some very smart economists – John M. QuigleyEugene Smolensky, and Stephen J. Agostini – have gone to the trouble of diagramming the process.  The flowchart below comes from a paper titled Stickball in San Francisco. It’s better known as the San Francisco Giants’ case study in the book Sports, Jobs, and Taxes by noted sports economists Roger Noll and Andrew Zimbalist. Ready? Here’s the secret recipe:

stickball

Step-by-step instructions on how to follow the Giants’ plan. (click for larger version)

Back in 2012, I made parallels between the process China Basin went through and Victory Court, one of the last great ballpark concepts that went nowhere. I was amazed at how, 20+ years after the Giants navigated the political process and broke ground, how similar the process looks for Howard Terminal. While AB 734 sits on the governor’s desk waiting for his signature, the only procedural change it makes for the A’s is limiting the length of CEQA-related lawsuits to 270 days. So I’m presenting the flowchart again, to show you the path Howard Terminal must take to breaking ground. There are some differences, mainly the lack of Caltrans involvement in the land deal and the fact that Oakland doesn’t have a Board of Supervisors like the City and County of San Francisco (Oakland has a City Council instead), but most everything else is quite similar.

The A’s and their architects apparently have a trip planned to visit several urban ballparks towards the end of the regular season. I wonder if the junket will also include a visit to the next BCDC Commission meeting.

On this Opening Day, let us thank the Giants

Eleven years ago I wrote a small item on this blog titled “One Coliseum, Two Teams.” It mentioned how the Raiders had recently patched up their relationship with Oakland and Alameda County after signing a renewed lease at the venue. The A’s unveiled a proposal to build north of 66th Avenue which went nowhere. A scaled down vision of building at the Malibu and HomeBase lots near Hegenberger suffered a similar fate.

All this time, politicians and civic leaders have been trying to pitch plans in which both teams could happily co-exist within the complex, if not in the same stadium. Nevermind the concerns form the teams about parking, or construction-related upheaval, or how everything would be scheduled – who would get first dibs. This was, in East Bay fantasyland, the perfect solution despite the teams’ misgivings. And yes, the teams would have the finance these stadia themselves, or with third parties who had little-to-no relationship with City, County, or the teams, and little actual experience with projects like these.

Do you see how preposterous that reads? It was completely delusional. And no one truly believed in it, which is why Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf sent a couple letters to the NFL saying We Tried as the owners approved the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas. Eventually something had to break up the inertia.

Both the NFL and MLB have been eyeing the Coliseum complex for some time. While it’s not a glamorous location, the Coliseum has just about everything else a team and league could want: lots of parking, great transportation links, excellent proximity to the fan base, and potential as a development site. The leagues carried a sort of gentleman’s agreement about it. They didn’t assail each other or the teams while quietly competing for the space through their franchises. Once the NFL gave up and allowed Davis to leave Oakland, the NFL was quick to blame the A’s for the Raiders’ departure.

How do the Giants come into this? They have control over building a stadium in most of the Bay except the East Bay and most of the North Bay. The A’s have exclusive rights to the East Bay. The A’s tried to argue that since the Giants didn’t build in the South Bay (despite being granted permission by the A’s to do so), the A’s should be granted those rights if they built in San Jose. That was tabled by MLB and lost in court when San Jose sued MLB and the Giants sued San Jose. It was the Giants’ continued intransigence that forced the A’s back to Oakland, renewing the competition for the one known viable stadium site in the East Bay (nothing else has been fully studied).

We saw this happen before in San Francisco, no less. The Giants built their jewel at China Basin with a modest amount of public support, mostly infrastructure. The ballpark’s popularity took off immediately and there’s been no looking back. Debt was retired earlier this year, 20 years after groundbreaking. The 49ers got limited public funding and lukewarm support from the City and then-mayor Gavin Newsom, greasing the skids for their move to Santa Clara.

Oakland’s version of this tale has a major twist in that the Raiders saw the writing on the wall. Schaaf wasn’t going to budge on public funding, and had already talked more favorably about preserving the A’s than the Raiders. The Raiders never signed up to partner on Coliseum City and similar plans, choosing instead to speak minimally about Oakland while fully chasing Carson and Las Vegas. With Vegas approved, the Raiders chose to leave first instead of waiting for the A’s to build first. The ending for both Oakland and SF is the same: neither has a NFL franchise playing within their respective city limits in the long run, and fans heartily blame the teams and politicians for the state of affairs.

It wasn’t that long ago that Larry Baer was happy with the A’s leaving for somewhere else further away – as long as it was Contra Costa County or Sacramento, not San Jose. Now the A’s are firmly entrenched in Oakland. The indirect consequence of the football teams moving away was unintended. The future for the Giants is more intense competition from the A’s and closer competition from the incoming Warriors. The Giants’ hegemony over the Bay Area isn’t threatened. But it isn’t quite the Giants-focused as intended. The Giants are now just like any other rich team to hate.

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P.S. – The two local Comcast Sportsnet regional sports networks have been rebranded NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California. Hooray, corporate synergy.

Baseball makes net expansion official

MLB continues to try to strike the balance between views and safety. Baseball announced recommendations for netting behind the plate, essentially extending the backstop to the inside edges of each dugout. Implementation of the new standard will be up to each club, since ballparks aren’t exactly uniform in terms of dimensions, even behind the plate. The press release:

MLB issues fan safety recommendations

Fan safety initiative leads to new netting recommendations for next year

Press Release December 9th, 2015

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball has issued recommendations to all 30 Major League Clubs aimed at enhancing the safety of fans attending Major League Baseball games, while also preserving the interactive elements that are integral to the baseball fan experience.

The recommendations — which resulted from a review that began earlier this summer — include the following:

• Clubs are encouraged to implement or maintain netting (or another effective protective screen or barrier of their choosing) that shields from line-drive foul balls all field-level seats that are located between the near ends of both dugouts (i.e., the ends of the dugouts located closest to home plate, inclusive of any adjacent camera wells) and within 70 feet of home plate. The Commissioner’s Office has retained a consultant specializing in stadium architecture and protective netting to assist interested Clubs in implementing this recommendation.

• Although Clubs already provide warnings to fans about the dangers posed by batted balls and bats entering the stands and the need to pay attention to the action on the field during each at-bat, the Commissioner’s Office recommends that Clubs continue to explore ways to educate their fans on these issues and is providing Clubs with resources to assist them in this area.

• The Commissioner’s Office will be working with the Clubs and online ticketing sellers to identify ways to provide customers with additional information at the point of sale about which seats are (and are not) behind netting.

Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. said: “Major League Baseball prides itself on providing fans in our ballparks with unparalleled proximity and access to our players and the game taking place on the field. At the same time, it is important that fans have the option to sit behind protective netting or in other areas of the ballpark where foul balls and bats are less likely to enter. This recommendation attempts to balance the need for an adequate number of seating options with our desire to preserve the interactive pre-game and in-game fan experience that often centers around the dugouts, where fans can catch foul balls, see their favorite players up close and, if they are lucky, catch a tossed ball or other souvenir.

“I am confident that this recommendation will result not only in additional netting at Major League ballparks but also draw additional attention to the need for fans who make the choice not to sit behind netting to be prepared for the possibility of foul balls and bats entering the stands.”

The consultant not named in the release is expected to be Populous. The A’s and Giants are committed to making the change, though it may take some weeks before we hear specific plans. The Phillies are looking at a thinner material to use for the netting. I’m interested to see what it looks like.

Part of the view from Section 119 is "obstructed" by the backstop net

Part of the view from Section 119 is “obstructed” by the backstop net

Extension to the inside ends of the dugouts is unlikely to tamp down interest in complete netting from foul pole to foul pole, or at least in line with the edge of the infield down both lines.

Giants encroach upon Coliseum property with celebratory billboards

I heard about sightings of Giants ads at the Coliseum last week. I thought it was crazy, then I heard about the context. I asked for Twitter followers to take some photos if they saw such ads, and they didn’t disappoint. Behold:

Thanks to @OaktownMojo capturing those.

If you’re wondering who created those ads, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

The Giants wouldn’t dare create an ad only celebrating their own title and put it into ad inventory for the Coliseum grounds, but put in the a salute to the Warriors and they have a clever way to get a dig in at the neighbor A’s as well. And there’s little the A’s can do about it.

Ads on the Coliseum property not within or attached to the venues are controlled by Outfront Media (check out that caption), the big billboard company that used to be called CBS Outdoor/Viacom. Everything from those tall kiosks to rotating signage above the parking lot entries to the electronic billboards facing the Nimitz are fed data by Outfront. The JPA contracted the signage to CBS Outdoor more than a decade ago, bringing in nearly $1 million a year.

Reactions to the ad ranged from incredulous to foaming-at-the-mouth hostile, as you can imagine. It’s one thing to have a billboard on the Bay Bridge touting rings over splash hits, which the A’s did a while back. Putting the Giants at the Coliseum, regardless of the intent, is a bridge too far. If the Giants want to make it about the Warriors, make it about the Warriors, and reserve your other ad for somewhere other than 7000 Coliseum Way. Like this:

All’s fair in love and baseball, however. I mean, there are territorial rights, but those only cover where a stadium’s built, not where ads go, or team stores, or where local radio or TV affiliates are located, or anything else related to location for that matter. It’s like the current Giants to capitalize on whatever they can to increase their hegemony, and attempt to get involved in seemingly every other sports operation in the Bay Area.

It’s unclear how these ads are vetted. They may require some clearance by the teams, probably not. Maybe the JPA sees all of them, maybe only some. Whatever the amount of review, this is a mistake by whoever cleared these, especially if they’re gonna have the ads within sight of a bunch of Giants-hating A’s fans tailgating during a homestand.

After all, this is Oakland, the city that was worried so much about SF stealing the Warriors’ victory parade, despairing over Steph Curry appearing at a Giants game to the point that Klay Thompson had to show up at an A’s game two days after. Most outsiders will never understand the Bay’s unique form of provincialism. As a person born in SF, brought up in the South Bay, with the A’s the only Bay Area team I follow, frankly I’m amused by it. Then again, there’s nothing the Giants can do about this:

Seems like a good Photoshop opportunity, no?

Corey Busch talks Blue Ribbon Committee on CSN

Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area provided a bit of a surprise on Yahoo! Sports Talk Live, when they had Corey Busch, former Giants executive and member of the three-person Blue Ribbon Committee (Irwin Raij & Bob Starkey were the other two). Busch explained some of the panel’s activities and charges. Jim Kozimor did his best to pry what little information he could out of Busch, who didn’t answer a number of key questions because of the state of the San Jose-vs.-MLB lawsuit.

Corey Busch interview Part 1

Corey Busch interview Part 2

Busch clarified the territorial rights deal that occurred in 1991, giving the Giants control of the Santa Clara County, which prior to that point had been an open territory. He also called San Jose’s lawsuit a mistake on their part. While you may glean additional information from the segment, you’ll probably come out of it even more frustrated than before, whether you’re an Oakland or San Jose partisan or are location-agnostic. My preference for the show: Ray Ratto in a talking head box in a corner, providing running commentary as Busch answered questions. Good work on the interview Koz, and maybe we’ll get to uncover the bodies when the lawsuit business is over. Busch promised!

Stand For San Jose lawsuit returns

In August I posted a note about the Stand for San Jose-vs-City of San Jose lawsuit. The lawsuit, which was actually the product of two consolidated cases, had been disposed in late July. No explanation was given as to why, though the timing was curious.

On Friday Stand for San Jose filed yet another suit against the City. Fangraphs’ Nathaniel Grow has more:

Curious indeed. SFSJ drops the suit after the A’s sign their 10-year lease at the Coliseum, then objects to the option agreement and files suit thereafter. I’m certain there’s no coincidence. Brent Mann followed up with a couple tweets:

We knew about the blood ties with Pillsbury, but a SF PR firm too? Couldn’t source locally, eh? That’s so Giants.

It should be abundantly clear by the ties to the Giants, along with SFSJ’s actions always happening on the heels of what the A’s do, that S4SJ has about as much legitimate interest in San Jose as the Giants do. With SFSJ’s use of Giants fans to prop up the lawsuit and the Giants’ sage advice to Jean Quan in trying to push for a waterfront ballpark in Oakland, this legal battle has become a complete farce. And if the A’s sign a deal to develop a ballpark at the Coliseum, any bets on how quickly this lawsuit will also evaporate?

All hail the SF Giants, great guardians of the welfare of San Jose.

AAA Affiliate shuffle: Love the one you’re (not) with

A flurry of PDC agreements came throughout the day. It seemed that the A’s kicked things off before 10 AM with their 4-year PDC with the Nashville Sounds. However, the Giants and Sacramento River Cats scheduled their own press conference, also at 10, to talk about their 2-year PDC. Then all the other affiliates and PDCs got in line, finishing with a hastily agreed upon agreement between the Brewers and Colorado Springs.

Brewers GM Doug Melvin even sounded like a spurned lover:

“Very disappointing. We gave them 10 years there. A number of times we had a chance to move and we were patient with (the Sounds). I’m just disappointed they wouldn’t have given us two [more] years for what we put up with there.”

There happens to be Greer Stadium, the aging, 36-year old ballpark south of downtown Nashville which is being replaced by shiny First Tennessee Park. The agreement’s only for 2 years, which may allow the Brewers to try another city, since Colorado Springs is only slightly above the seventh circle of hell when it comes to desirable affiliate cities because of park factors. That doesn’t explain why the Rockies were so eager to bolt for Albuquerque, a city that is more than a mile above sea level. The game of musical chairs, which was truly kicked off by the Dodgers when co-owner Peter Guber bought a 50% interest in the Oklahoma City Red Hawks last week. OKC will be the new AAA affiliate of the Dodgers, which left the Astros to hook up with the Fresno Grizzlies.

All of this was done in the last 24-48 hours

All of this was done in the last 24-48 hours

Sooooo…. Nashville? It’s nearly 2000 miles from Oakland with nary a direct flight link them together since neither city has a major hub airport. Nevertheless, the River Cats-turned-Sounds will be playing in a fabulous, Populous-architected ballpark next year. First Tennessee Park will be at Sulphur Dell, the site of an old ballpark (also named Sulphur Dell) that dates back to 1870. Like Sacramento pre-River Cats, Nashville had a lengthy gap in 60’s with no pro baseball in town after Sulphur Dell closed in the 60’s. Herschel Greer Stadium opened in 1978. The Brewers came calling in 2005 and have been there ever since. The Brewers, Sounds management, and civic leaders have been trying to get a new ballpark in Nashville since 2007 (sounds familiar), finally putting together a deal that raised $65 million in public bonds while tying Sounds ownership to some $37 million in private development surrounding the ballpark. It’s a deal similar in structure to Petco Park, though there is some fuzziness on whether that private investment truly has to come in and when. Construction only started in earnest in March, making the development time very short, much like El Paso, Reno, and Sacramento.

Certainly the A’s front office was attracted by a brand new ballpark, as it would make for an easy transition for players who don’t make the big club. Sounds owner Frank Ward was probably salivating at the prospect of a winning, contending team playing in his new digs, as the Brewers-affiliated Sounds haven’t gone to the postseason in eight years, a cumulative .504 winning percentage since becoming a AAA city in 1985. Coincidentally, the Sounds finished with a 77-67 record this season, good for second in the American Southern division, but the team has generally been inconsistent.

FTP is bounded by 5th Avenue N, 3rd Avenue N, Jackson and Harrison Streets. While a 1,000-space parking garage will be built next to the ballpark, the site is only three-quarters of a mile from Printer’s Alley, Nashville’s well known downtown nightlife area. Numerous hotels are located downtown, with several more located along Music Row to the southwest. Catch some live music, maybe a Predators game at Bridgestone Arena, or take a tour of legendary Ryman Auditorium, the former home of the Grand Ole Opry.

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After going over several different design options, it was decided that the ballpark would be oriented south-southeast. The northern edge would have an entry gate behind home plate, but otherwise there wouldn’t be the usual contour following the seating bowl that you usually see at most minor league parks. The idea is that ancillary development would occur to the east and south, between the park and downtown. If done correctly, a “ballpark village” of sorts may emerge, capturing visitors and locals who may park downtown and walk to the park. Again, there are shades of Petco Park in the site plan, although at a much smaller scale.

The full Sounds 2015 schedule is not yet available on the team’s website. When it is I’ll put together some sample ballpark trips you may consider. Next summer I’d like to do a AAA trip consisting of Nashville, Memphis, Indianapolis, Louisville, and perhaps Columbus again. The closest cities (within a 4 hour drive) are Atlanta, Cincinnati, and St. Louis, so putting together trips that involve MLB teams, especially the A’s, will be tough. If you’re planning a trip, you may find yourself flying through ATL, so that may work to your advantage.

As for the River Cats? I wish them luck. Their PDC with the Giants is only 2 years, a somewhat surprisingly short term considering the fan cultivation effort that is obviously the goal of the affiliation switch. They should do fine in 2015 thanks to a honeymoon period of sorts. The River Cats have a good promotional machine that should crank up into high gear with the Giants involved. If they can regain some of the attendance losses they’ve suffered the last few years, the change will have been worth it.