Battle of the dueling ENAs

So here we are, almost Memorial Day, and the A’s have entered separate Exclusive Negotiating Agreements with two potential ballpark sites in Oakland: the Coliseum and Howard Terminal.

That was followed by A’s president Dave Kaval’s response on Twitter to an inquiry about Howard Terminal:

First, it’s good to hear that the A’s will have (with the Port’s help) a weather station installed at Howard Terminal.

But where will it be located? And is one enough?

To gain some insight, let’s check with our friends at Weather Underground. Unlike last year, when it appeared that a station was installed on a buoy in the Oakland Estuary, this time it appears that it’s situated on the southwest corner of the Howard Terminal pier. That’s not the likely location of home plate or the grandstand, but it should provide a sense of the prevailing winds in the neighborhood.

Here’s what that station is registering as of 6:20 PM tonight:

Now let’s look at the Coliseum area at 6:23 PM:

Now I’ve heard a lot about how Howard Terminal won’t be Candlestick, Part Deux. Let me point out that Howard Terminal is not Jack London Square, and while HT isn’t exactly Land’s End, it isn’t the most wind-protected area ever and it’s probably not going to be in the future. Even if a ballpark is built there, local and environmental groups will fight hard to keep the A’s from building a 100-foot-tall, 800-foot-long edifice on the waterfront. The A’s will probably unveil a design that orients the park more towards downtown and away from the water, to provide allow the ballpark grandstand to block the wind. Or, as the Giants found out:

The wind and temperature conditions aren’t necessarily going to be the gating factor that determines the viability of Howard Terminal. Economic factors and political process will.

Speaking of process, now that the ENAs for the Coliseum and Howard Terminal have been approved, the A’s now have given themselves a scant six months to figure out all of the details.

Say that Kaval makes an announcement in early December. Because of the normal City Hall schedule, a project won’t be brought up for City Council review, let alone planning commission review, until early next year. Then the CEQA process will begin. If you’re keeping track of how other recent projects have been affected, consider that the Warriors ownership group bought the site of the future Chase Center from Salesforce in April 2014. It’s scheduled to open in time for the 2019-20 NBA season, which starts in October 2019.

Then remember that the Coliseum, thanks to the aborted Coliseum City project, already is entitled for one or more stadiums and a slew of ancillary development. The Warriors ended up going with a backup plan. What will the A’s do?

Las Vegas AAA’s?

No, that’s not a typo.

BANG’s Jon Becker is reporting tonight that Las Vegas is opening up – but it’s not quite the threat you think.

Vegas, which briefly hosted the A’s at Cashman Field in the mid 90’s, will soon lose its AAA team, the 51’s, to Syracuse, where the Mets will better localize its minor league operations. The Mets purchased the Chiefs in 2017 and will officially change the affiliation starting next year.

Meanwhile, there is a new ballpark being built in the Vegas market. However, it’s not on the Strip or near downtown Vegas. It will be in suburban Summerlin, which feels much newer (and nicer) than the rest of Vegas. So nice, in fact, that the NHL’s Golden Knights built their practice facility, City National Arena, in Summerlin.

In the never-ending game of affiliate musical chairs, where does that leave a team in Vegas? Or Cashman Field, for that matter?

For starters, Cashman Field is being abandoned by baseball. A USL soccer team, Las Vegas Lights FC, started playing there earlier this year. Once a minor league team moves into the under-construction Summerlin ballpark, the soccer franchise should have Cashman all to themselves (unless they want to move to tonier Summerlin as well). There’s also talk that the XFL may choose Vegas as a city in its next iteration; chances are they’d choose the larger Sam Boyd Stadium instead.

After being ditched by Sacramento for the Giants, the A’s went to Nashville, which is far away but at least has a new ballpark. The A’s player development contract with Nashville ends this year, as do several others:

  • Fresno
  • Reno
  • Round Rock
  • Colorado Springs
  • Rochester
  • Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
  • Norfolk

Fresno may be a favorite because of its Central Valley location, but it has suffered for years for having a subpar airport, contributing to high travel costs for teams and players. Reno’s better in that regard, as is Vegas. The rest are likely to re-up with their existing MLB affiliates, with Colorado Springs always in flux because of its elevation.

Reno could happen because the MLS Earthquakes have a partnership with USL side Reno 1868 FC. It would be easier for ownership to make junkets to Reno to check out both the USL and PCL clubs.

We should find out towards the end of the season which way the AAA’s move.

P.S. – I took some pics of Cashman when I was in Vegas last year. Here’s one.

Port of Oakland set to vote on Howard Terminal ENA

Does this read like deja vu?

That’s because it is.

The Port of Oakland is getting ready to approve a one-year window for negotiating with the A’s on Howard Terminal. To help pave the way, they will also approve a feasibility study for the site. I know you’re asking, wasn’t a study done a few years ago? And I’m here to tell you, no, it was never done. Not one released in public, at least. The A’s shared their findings with the City and Port. Neither the Port nor City furnished their own study or EIR. Neither did Oakland Waterfront Ballpark, the group that championed Howard Terminal oh so long ago. Here’s the agenda item:

1. CLOSED SESSION (1:00 p.m.)
1.1
Closed Session discussions and materials may not be disclosed to a person not entitled to receive it, unless the Board authorizes disclosure of that confidential information.
CONFERENCE WITH REAL PROPERTY NEGOTIATOR – (Pursuant to California Government Code Section 54956.8)
Property: One Market Street, Oakland, CA (Howard Terminal) Negotiating Parties: Oakland Athletics and Port of Oakland
Agency Negotiator: Pamela Kershaw, Director of Commercial Real Estate Under Negotiation: Price and Terms of Tenancy
Property: Oakland International Container Terminal (Berths 55-56 and Berths 57-59) and Matson Terminal (Berths 60-63 – Port of Oakland
Negotiating Parties: SSA Terminals (Oakland), LLC; SSA Terminals, LLC, and Port of Oakland
Agency Negotiator: John Driscoll, Director of Maritime Under Negotiation: Price and Terms of Tenancy
File ID: [141-18]

Not much has changed in the intervening years. Obstacles remain for any project at HT. There’s the lack of BART serving the area. It’s still polluted. It’s still on the wrong side of the tracks, as mentioned by former city administrator Dan Lindheim:

“The reason was it was on the wrong side of the tracks,” Lindheim, now an assistant professor at the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Policy, said recently. “Major League Baseball feared in the event of a catastrophe. their illustrious fans and players would be stuck. They didn’t want 40,000 people stuck over there.”

And don’t forget the A’s finding that Howard Terminal is appreciably colder than other sites in Oakland. Or the constant pounding noise coming from Schnitzer Steel at night.

Maybe the A’s-led effort will resolve the myriad issues plaguing the site. You have to give the parties credit for giving this a good old college try. However, I’m afraid that thanks to MLB backing the A’s into a corner, the team will have no choice but to kick the can down the road. We’re all familiar with that routine by now.

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P.S. – You noticed how third parties came out of the woodwork to hopefully bid on the Coliseum, but none have done the same with Howard Terminal? I wonder why.

Kaval pitches gondola to link Howard Terminal, Downtown Oakland

That’s right. Matier and Ross are reporting that, absent a BART link to Jack London Square and Howard Terminal, A’s President Dave Kaval is proposing a cable car or gondola to link the waterfront to Downtown Oakland.

Oakland and BART have experience working with this type of transportation before, having built the $500 million Oakland Airport Connector from the Coliseum to the airport. It was built by Doppelmayr, an Austrian firm with plenty of experience building similar systems for ski lifts and other urban environments.

The need for an alternative may be guided by this revelation:

then BART General Manager Grace Crunican recently slammed the door on the idea of building a new BART station near Howard Terminal, claiming it was technically infeasible — not to mention that the price tag would be in the stratosphere.

Many transit advocates were hoping for a Howard Terminal BART station to be useful for a second transbay BART crossing. It still remains to be seen if that will ever get beyond the planning stages. The 2004 JLS Feasibility study covered BART and streetcar links to JLS, but it didn’t investigate an aerial tram.

A possible JLS gondola would have to soar from 50-60 feet above I-880 as the freeway travels above downtown. That would make for a very scenic, but brief trip to and from the ballpark. The Airport Connector ride costs $6 each way atop your regular BART fare, so I would imagine that a ride for the shorter JLS line might cost $3-4 per person each way.

The question is, who pays for it? Riders could if they were locked into the fare gate system as they are at Coliseum BART. The experience would be different for JLS-downtown, as you’ll invite patrons who might want to park downtown and then take the gondola. An A’s ticket surcharge would help during games, but what about others who go to JLS/HT for other reasons? And who would foot the construction cost? This Cable Car is Over My Head, indeed.

Personal Update #2

Okay.

If you’ve been following my Twitter feed, you may know that I was discharged from the hospital a week ago. Since then I’ve been holed up in my twin brother Caesar’s house only a few blocks away – the better for making appointments.

While I still suffer some short and long-range effects from my stroke in late January, I’m working on becoming fully mobile and able-bodied. I can stand unassisted and can get in and out of bed, which is real blessing compared to three weeks ago when I wore a binder on my chest and bed straps on my arms (I had trouble processing the whole ordeal). Now my brothers are kicking my ass therapeutically, from advancing my walking to feeding me practically no carbs throughout the day. I joke that I’m walking like a newborn baby. I think that’s just because of lack of practice.

Mentally I feel like I’m working my way up a mountain. My sharpness is coming back quickly, though I’m still finding I have holes in short-term memory and vocabulary. I’ve made a lot of progress with speech therapy and so-called executive functions, but there’s still a ways to go. Unfortunately, my employer-provided health insurance has ended, so I’m having to do outpatient therapies via Arizona’s version of ACA, called MercyCare AHCCCS, or “Access.” Personally, I can say that I’ve been rather fortunate. So far the old health insurance has paid approximately 98% of my claims (percentages subject to change), leaving the YouCaring account (still open!) Caesar set up to pay for out-of=pocket costs. Thank you to all who have contributed, from old friends to baseball media backers to long-time readers I have only met through emails or the comments section.

The best thing that has happened so far is that after suffering a series of seizures with my stroke, I haven’t had a seizure since (or another stroke for that matter). That allowed the doctors to focus on two key problems: hypertension and adult-onset (type 2) diabetes. The blood pressure is under pretty good control thanks to the drugs and especially because of diet so far, and my blood sugar is so good one of the doctors started to wonder if I actually had diabetes (I do, don’t kid yourself). The point is that it’s becoming manageable with a single oral drug and no insulin injections so far. To me that means there’s hope. I was also taken off the seizure medication, which I was informed had weird interactions with the blood pressure meds.

That’s all the gory details I have so far. Have a good weekend everyone, and be good to your friends, family, even those you don’t consider friends or family. This game runs nine innings, and sometimes those innings take more than 2:30 to complete.

If you get a chance, watch the HBO documentary “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling.” Truly inspirational.

The Caldecott Derby

Folks, today we’re gonna talk about something I’m sure (only) some of you are interested in: minor league soccer.

In an interview with the SF Business Times’ Ron Leuty, East Bay developer Mark Hall made a full throated pitch to add not one, but up to two USL soccer franchises in the East Bay. One would be in Concord, the other in Oakland at the Coliseum.

The strategy is smart in that it has a built-in hedge. Perhaps Hall, who was granted both franchises, is only able to execute on one. So be it. If Hall can get two sites in the highly competitive Bay Area and get the support needed to fill both sets of stands, bully for him. He’s also bidding for the Coliseum arena, where futsal, the indoor soccer variant played on a court the size of a basketball court, could be a winner.

Hall could prove his teams’ worth now. The problem is all his talk so far is speculative. There is no USL team actively playing in Oakland or Concord, no futsal or lacrosse clubs. Hall doesn’t say if the clubs would start up right away or wait until their venues are built, whenever that is. Beyond that, these teams are decidedly peripheral or minor league. USL is the second tier pro soccer league in the US, and it is already experiencing growing pains given what’s happening in Cincinnati and Phoenix. There are success stories, such as Seattle and Portland. Even so, FC Cincinnati, Phoenix, and Sacramento have their eyes on a higher prize, an MLS expansion franchise, and roadblocks have been put up to stop them. FCC plays in the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium. Phoenix Rising and Sacramento Republic play in pop-up stadiums. All three franchises’ move to MLS (Major League Soccer) are pending the completion of new, permanent venues.

Does Hall endeavor to have a MLS team in the East Bay? Or stick with one or two teams that average 7k fans per game. The community cluster plan that Hall espouses has been done for decades – but not in American soccer. It’s the domain of high school football. That’s America’s community grown, grass roots sport. I admire the soccer crowd for trying to advance a community-based version of their sport, but it shouldn’t aim for 18-20,000-seat stadiums like Avaya Stadium or what Hall wants in Oakland. Manchester United just announced the 2018 pre-season tour, which will include a match and San Jose. At Levi’s. Which, when you think about, is the only stadium whose size and amenities could properly hold the match.

And with this soccer-related interest in the Coliseum site, there is interest from Tesla, which already has the 310 acres of the NUMMI plant in South Fremont. They want to expand, but they can’t make enough Model 3 cars to fend off their furious cash bonfire. What about the two groups who want to launch new pro football leagues, the reborn Vince McMahon-led XFL and the Alliance of American Football? Should Oakland and Alameda County keep options open for the Oakland Invaders? The AAFL will try to launch in 2019 after they pick their first eight franchise cities.

A Personal Update

Hello everyone. Your friendly regional blog runner here. A lot of you have wondered where I’ve been and what/how I’m doing.

It starts like this. I’ve been dealing with high blood pressure for some time though I haven’t done much about it. It finally caught up to me January 21, when I fell after having a stroke and multiple seizures. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t have the healthiest lifestyle out there, with all the bad foods and drinking. I was taken to the local emergency room and eventually transferred among three hospitals in the Dignity Health system in Phoenix. At the time I was 42 years old.

My twin brother Caesar, who is an occupational therapist at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, has been watching me like an eagle the whole way through, including the part when I was placed in a medically-induced coma for a month, and my eventual ongoing recovery. I’ve been making good progress on the recovery, as my mind has taking leaps and bounds. My body is taking longer, as I’m too weak to walk long distances and I’m mostly wheelchair and walker-bound. It should all come back as my core recovers (not that I habitually work my core out). I’m getting discharged from the hospital today, and I’ll be staying at my brother’s place for a couple months-plus while I get the walking part down. During that time, you may see me more active on the blog and on Twitter as I’ve been this week. I’ll be doing that until I’m cleared to work again.

When I emerged from the coma, my body had atrophied so much I had a hard time moving in my bed. For the first week, I thought I was in better condition than I actually was, leading me to have a couple of accidents in my hospital room, one involving me kissing the business end of a commode when I tried to stand up. I eventually was restrained until I calmed down and was transferred to Barrow, the Neuro Rehab side of this sprawling complex. There I got some religion and have been nice, compliant patient ever since.

The lengthy hospital stay is likely to incur massive bills, so I’m going to refer you to the YouCaring Page that was set up on my behalf to help defray the costs. Hopefully existing insurance and ACA will help with some of that as well. I was working for a small startup business when the accident occurred, and they decided to let me go last week as it was getting too expensive and the timeline for my return was still unknown. (Arizona is an “at will” employment state.)

I expect to come back the Bay Area for an A’s series or two in the summer. I hope to meet many of you (again in many cases) when I do. You may notice that I have stopped drinking, as I need to do that on doctor’s orders, to prevent any adverse drug interactions, and because, frankly, it’s time for me to do so. I’m also considered a mild Type 2 diabetic, so I have to watch that, although my treatment for that isn’t nearly as invasive as you might think.

If you have already contributed, thank you very much. To those who are going to do so, thank you all for your support. If you questions about what I went through, comment below.

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P.S. – Thanks to the great team at Barrow, Select, St. Joe’s, and Scottsdale-Osborn for your patience and professionalism. I’ll be back sometime, hopefully walking in and joking around.

P.P.S – Additional thanks to my family, including both of my brothers who have been kicking my ass during recovering, my sister-in-law Andrea who has witnessed some of my rehab up close (and is expecting in a few months), and my various cousins and other relatives who have been sending support from afar.