Scrounging Around For Loose Change

Late last night there was a flurry of legislative news out of Carson City, NV. It included the following:

In this case, Clark County would have been allowed to increase sales taxes to help fund a ballpark somewhere in the county using STAR (Sales Tax Anticipated Revenue) bonds. Thankfully, local legislators saw the folly in the proposal and nixed the idea, having seen evidence of their minimal efficacy in Northern Nevada. That didn’t stop Southern Nevada lobbyists from pushing for it.

Lobbyist Warren Hardy, representing a consortium of Southern Nevada governments, said there was interest in allowing STAR Bonds and tourism improvement districts as a potential “tool in the toolbox” for developers — including potentially the Oakland A’s, who have publicly floated moving the professional baseball team to Las Vegas.

STAR bonds couldn’t practically fund most of a ballpark because the actual sales tax revenue generated annually by a ballpark isn’t enough to service the debt. Let’s say that a new ballpark brings in $200 million a year. If you take a 5% sales tax from those sales (tickets, merchandise, etc.) it nets $10 million in bond-associated revenue. That’s not going to fund squat these days. If you create a mega-development around the ballpark that could draw more tourists and their revenue you might have a shot. You’d need a development that brings in $1 Billion a year to get to $50 million in set asides for a ballpark. Currently, Clark County’s sales tax is 8.375%, and you’ll be funding a black hole that traps tourist revenue while suffocating other businesses in the area. I can’t imagine the privately-funded gaming interests going for that.

That said, lobbyists have their toolbox. Who knows what they’ll pull out of it next?


Meanwhile, in the East Bay, the A’s are scrounging for Howard Terminal support.

Admittedly I’m being rather passive aggressive about this. Such is Twitter. Then again, the A’s want a vote in July before the City of Oakland fully studies the proposal, and the City wants the County to pledge its share of property taxes to the project. I have about as much of a PR strategy as anyone else involved in this charade.

Another Prop Has Occupied My Time

Is everyone clutching their pearls tightly?

Oakland’s City Council has a non-binding vote scheduled for July 20 on the Howard Terminal project. If the majority of the council votes Yes, the project continues, including the tangled negotiations for community benefits, transportation, and mitigation for the Port stakeholders. HT proponents, who are mostly a ragtag bunch of volunteers at this point, are pushing the pro message.

But what happens if Howard Terminal gets voted down?

That’s a subject that hasn’t been broached much by local or national media. Honestly, who wants to spend much time gazing beyond the edge of a cliff? Given A’s ownership’s recent Vegas trip, Sin City would appear the be in the lead as a candidate for relocation. A’s President Dave Kaval even nixed a planned trip to Portland, desiring to explore Vegas further.

So Vegas is the ace in hand, while Portland is the ace in the hole. Except they’re not. They’re both bluffs at this point. Kaval’s trip to Vegas was exploratory in nature, with no definitive sites or organized funding instruments at hand. Kaval tweeted from a Golden Knights playoff game, which created blowback from fans. There were meetings with Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, representatives from Henderson (where the Raiders training facility is located), and Summerlin (where the A’s AAA affiliate Aviators play). The three options provided are far from ideal. Let’s break them down.

Mayor Goodman wants to redevelop the old Cashman Field/Cashman Center complex to include a domed stadium just as her husband did. As the site is within city limits and not in unincorporated Clark County like the Strip, that makes sense. However, going north past Downtown (Old Las Vegas), past a freeway, and to the Cashman site, is its own cliff in a sense. I visited Cashman a few years ago, before the stadium was converted for soccer use, and well, it’s the same dump the A’s played in 25 years ago while the Coliseum was refurbished for the Raiders, except that it has aged. The concept for now is to level both the ballpark and the small convention space next door and build a domed stadium on the spot. Kaval weighed in with the Las Vegas Review Journal on the subject, including one foul tasting nugget:

Domed stadium? Say it ain’t so, Dave.

Henderson doesn’t have a specific site to offer up to the A’s yet. Summerlin’s plan would presumably be to build the dome over the curiously named Las Vegas Ballpark. Both Henderson and Summerlin are 10 miles from the Strip, in nicer neighborhoods than Cashman. As I considered the options, the A’s and MLB’s likely strategy became clearer to me. It all comes down to Vegas’s previous successes with the NHL (Golden Knights) and NHL (Raiders). Though we haven’t heard about it, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the recently vacated Sam Boyd Stadium enter the picture. It’s also 10 miles away (east) of the Strip.

If MLB considers Vegas a small market from a population and TV audience size perspective, any relocation or expansion-to-Vegas strategy will have to include a plan to capture as many tourist fans as possible. In the past that was somewhat controversial for the potential competition between pro sports and other forms of entertainment, but now, it’s all fair game and can be somewhat synergistic depending on whatever events are happening during baseball season. That makes the location of the ballpark key, as a 30-minute ride away from the Strip is not conducive to capturing much of that tourist base.

Last year, Caesars put the off-Strip Rio Hotel and Casino up for sale. There were rumors that the site would make a good landing spot for a MLB team, with space for a domed stadium and a mega-development. Alas, a real estate firm gobbled up the property and is rebranding it a Hyatt Regency among other things. Given how the stakes for teams were raised by Commissioner Rob Manfred recently, it’s worth asking whether The Strip or an off-Strip site is the only location in Southern Nevada that makes sense. If we’re going by the standard of placing a ballpark in the middle of a downtown or central business district, Henderson and Summerlin don’t make the cut the same way Fremont or anywhere on the I-680 corridor wouldn’t work in the East Bay. Never mind that the ballparks for the Braves and Rangers violate the “downtown” standard.

Beyond Las Vegas’s stalking horse status, let’s consider next steps. For Vegas to work for three-quarters of baseball owners to approve a move, there needs to be a clear economic advantage in moving a team there. Southern Nevada had the benefit of a Stanley Cup Finals-bound team in its inaugural year, truly an enviable feat. There’s plenty of earned goodwill to keep attendance strong there for years to come, plus the Golden Knights get the spoils of being the pioneer in the market. Despite the pandemic-marred 2020 regular season, Raiders attendance should be strong thanks to its large migratory fanbase. MLB is different in that so much of a team’s revenue is generated locally from ticket/suite sales and local television rights.

Sportico reports that the A’s pulled in $220 million in revenue for the 2019 season, the last full regular season on record. 2019 also happened to be the last year the A’s received a revenue sharing receipt (25% share), which showed when the team stripped costs to the bone in 2020 by laying off front office employees, minor leaguers, even scouts. The teams in the middle of the revenue pack, Minnesota and Milwaukee, had figures of $289 million and $286 million in 2019. That makes the gulf between the A’s and other small market teams that opened new ballparks recently around $70 million, inclusive of all media and sponsorship deals but without revenue sharing thanks to the A’s big market status. If the A’s move to a smaller market, they will immediately become a revenue sharing recipient simply because they won’t be able to compete with the big markets. Despite the top-heavy big-market focus of MLB franchises, baseball realizes that it needs all 30 teams to compete at least once in a while. If Tampa Bay moves to Montreal or a Southern city there won’t be a revenue sharing change.

The A’s remain a unique case because of its place as the economically inferior team in a two-team market. The traditional markets, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, don’t have strange revenue carveouts or oddly gerrymandered territories. The A’s are a sort of enclave (think Piedmont or Newark) within Northern California, which is dominated by the Giants. The O’s and Nats’ relationship is defined mostly by the O’s owning the sports network that broadcasts both teams.

Howard Terminal or Bust” is effectively the admission that the A’s can no longer function as a big market team under the current operating situation. They must move to a newer (albeit not bigger) stadium where they can maximize revenue. The A’s are only starting to rebuild their radio presence after a controversial online effort. The A’s TV revenue is in the middle of the pack among MLB teams, which is fine for now and helps to stabilize the franchise. Altogether, the A’s exploration of other markets is ostensibly the search for a replacement level market. If the A’s can get that extra $70 million annually through Howard Terminal, the team can stay in the East Bay. If they can’t get that $70 million, they might as well find out if that money can come elsewhere. Personally, I think they’re going to find out that’s a much tougher task than it seems. Local TV revenue is transforming thanks to streaming threatening to make many RSNs obsolete. Radio is a wounded animal, a necessary annoyance. Ballparks are getting smaller while trying to cater a more exclusive clientele. If the A’s and Oakland are going to prove they can hang with the big boys, Howard Terminal is the way to do it.

That’s what they want you to believe, anyway. I’ll have more to say on that later.

P.S. – Henderson, NV, was in MLB’s sights two years ago, when the Arizona Diamondbacks used a trip to Henderson to help pressure Maricopa County to help fund improvements to Chase Field. A ticket tax was approved earlier this month, though the team is being coy about whether they’ll use it. Henderson played its role well that time.

P.P.S. – The City of Oakland is urging the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to fork over a matching share of funds from the EIFDs (Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts) proposed for the Howard Terminal project. One of the EIFDs is for the 55-acres of Howard Terminal. The other is for a large swath of Jack London Square and the surrounding neighborhood, which got me thinking:

I thought Alameda County wanted out of the pro sports business?

Brodie Brazil captured how I’ve felt this month

Just watch Brodie Brazil from NBC Sports California, dissecting the A’s relocation drama point by point, including some historical references. It’s excellent.

I’ll have more to say later today or tomorrow.

Three Oakland City Council Members Respond to A’s Demands

UPDATE 4:40 PM – A synopsis

UPDATE 3:30 PM: The squeaky wheel always gets the grease. Council vote on 7/20.

I’ll preface the following (from KRON) by pointing out that the three signatories to the letter are the most ardent skeptics of Howard Terminal. Read what you will into the letter.

The questions are fair. It reminds me of two bits of fairly recent A’s history.


In 2015 the City of Oakland released a Coliseum Area Specific Plan. Amazingly, it had real estimates for various types of required infrastructure. Imagine what could happen if the A’s let Howard Terminal goes through a full, proper planning process instead of rushing it.

There’s a lot of additional City-owned land to throw into the pot if they want to sweeten a Howard Terminal deal or nudge the team back to the Coliseum

Ongoing talks over whether the City will sell its half of the Coliseum complex to the A’s are scheduled for May 20. I had a response to that as well:

Infrastructure: Death by a Thousand Curb Cuts

Two weeks ago, Roman Mars of the brilliant Oakland-based 99% Invisible podcast, told listeners that 99pi is being sold to podcast network Stitcher, itself a property of satellite radio giant Sirius XM. He followed the announcement with a rebroadcast from 2018, which I assure you is very good, for reasons that will become abundantly clear shortly. All corporate blowback aside, I’m certain Mars and company will be able to keep up the quality of the shows. 

The rebroadcast show’s topic was the humble curb cut, the sidewalk ramp you’ve seen proliferating in cities and suburban neighborhoods over the past few decades. The episode discusses the origin of the curb cut, which came partly because of the work of Ed Roberts, a disability rights pioneer who attended UC Berkeley in the 60’s and created the Center for Independent Living, whose purpose is to empower those with disabilities.

Curb cuts (or curb ramps in the EIR’s parlance) are the transitional ramps from sidewalk to street usually found at intersections. Initially meant for wheelchair use, they also help people with strollers, bicycles, even wagons, shopping and hand carts. In many commercial and residential areas throughout the country, ADA guidelines dictate the implementation of curb cuts. Those guidelines were revised over the years. Last year I saw a ramp near my house dug up and replaced with a different, more gradual ramp.

Map of project area with locations of needed sidewalk infrastructure improvement

Those of you who followed my story over the past few years are probably aware that as part of my post-stroke rehabilitation process in 2018, I was given a rental wheelchair. It was not powered, and I was fairly weak to push myself around in that thing. It was enough of a hassle that it motivated me to get walking sooner, and with my brother’s help, that’s exactly what happened. Those few wheelchair-bound months gave me fresh perspective on the struggles the disabled go through on a regular basis. I also started going to a gym in the Phoenix area called Ability 360, which is geared towards independent living for people of varying abilities. I got to see a few wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby (a.k.a. “Murderball”) games, which showed me just how tough these athletes are.

Eventually I returned the wheelchair and built up my walking regimen, which these days is 4+ miles (10,000 steps) per day. I may not walk particularly fast (23-25 minutes per mile), but I have no trouble negotiating distance. Yet I’m still concerned about Howard Terminal which, regardless of which BART or Amtrak station you travel from, is easily 3 times what would normally be considered a reasonable distance walk of a quarter-mile or 400 meters. 

Today’s (5/13) step count

The A’s are promising a range of solutions to help bridge the gap to mass transit and parking in Downtown Oakland. The gondola is one of them, though you rarely hear about it anymore. Instead there will be a transit hub with shuttles to the three nearest BART stations and possibly the Jack London Square Amtrak station, which is actually 0.8 miles from the Howard Terminal ballpark site. Ridesharing services (TNCs) should fill some of the gaps, though they don’t exactly remove cars from streets. The project also proposes a Transportation Management Program (TMP) to better route traffic away from the bubble envisioned around the ballpark. Side streets are planned to go on road diets to reduce cars and speeds. A bunch of shuttle buses seems like a highly inelegant if not ineffective solution, which project opponents have been quick to point out. But with a BART infill station in the area ruled out along with a Broadway-based streetcar, it’s obvious that there is no magic bullet to the transportation problem. The A’s aim has been to reach a specific goal of reducing the Vehicle Miles Traveled number by 20% compared to not having a TMP at all, in compliance with the CEQA streamlining bill. How do they do that without a real mass transit solution? Bike lanes and curb cuts.

MLK Way at Embarcadero West outside Howard Terminal: Left side has a curb cut, right side does not

Back to the other infrastructure being discussed. At this point you may be wondering: Why weren’t those curb cuts and bike lanes in the area in the first place? That’s more of a philosophical issue than anything else. In traditional downtowns and central business districts, it makes sense to put in curb cuts and bike lanes to encourage non-vehicular travel. ADA mandates it. For decidedly industrial areas like Howard Terminal, there is less momentum behind such changes because they encourage pedestrian and bike traffic, which most industry wants to avoid at all costs. Cities have to direct scarce resources throughout their jurisdiction, which includes deciding which types of infrastructure should go where. Around Howard Terminal, a large swath of which doesn’t have sidewalks or curbs, that infrastructure will have to built from scratch. That’s in addition to the pedestrian bridge that will bring some – but not most – fans to the transit hub where they will take a bus to BART.

Much of the infrastructure proposal, the part outside 55-acre Howard Terminal that the City of Oakland will have to be funded via tax increment, includes the shuttles, curb cuts and bike lanes introduced by road dieting. The gondola could provide a 5-7% car trip reduction depending on when a game or event is held. We don’t yet know how much the gondola will cost to build or operate, but there is a lesson from the Oakland Airport Connector, which was built by gondola vendor Dopplmayr. The connector was criticized as an expensive boondoggle at the outset which started gaining ridership as airport users became more familiar with the driverless people mover. That usage eventually was negated by the advent of ridesharing, as users decided it made more sense to Uber/Lyft to the Coliseum BART station or elsewhere along the BART network or away from the network entirely. That lesson has to give the City and the A’s pause, as someone has to pony up to build and operate the gondola. As it stands, the gondola is going to be dependent on ballpark visitors, local residents, and tourists. I’m not sure how good a business case that is. If the gondola doesn’t materialize, what does that do to the overall project business case?

With all the debate going on about what defines infrastructure from a federal budget standpoint, it may be easy to ignore the impact of a curb cut. It isn’t sexy like a gondola or monorail. In the long run, the combined impact of numerous sidewalk improvements may prove more useful than a magic bullet solution. All the same, all that new concrete, painting, signaling, and signage won’t be cheap. It adds up.

The real issue is the timing. The A’s are facing backlash from the Howard Terminal project’s sticker shock. Yet they had two bills passed during the 2019 California legislative session to shepherd these improvements through. Wouldn’t it have been prudent to spend some time between then and now educating the public (citizens, fans) about the advantages of these changes? The A’s didn’t do that, probably because they didn’t want to admit how much it was going to cost. They didn’t hire a PR firm to massage the messaging. Now you have random supporters trying to pick up the slack on social media when they are clearly not trained or educated enough to do it. 

What are we left with? MLB’s playbook has always been to intervene when a team’s ownership proves itself incapable to hammer out a deal on their own. Admittedly, Rob Manfred gave the A’s a lot of rope in the past to figure things out, even though baseball chose not to help the A’s with San Jose. We’re at the point where Manfred and the rest of The Lodge are fed up. Maybe idle relocation threats will make the City of Oakland flinch. I doubt the City will take a premature vote on a project that hasn’t been fully studied just because a bunch of A’s fans desperately want it. As I wrote three weeks ago, I wouldn’t be surprised if the City Council let the voters decide on Howard Terminal, taking the decision out of the Council’s hands. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to hear leaked reports about meetings with different cities, all of whom will scramble to cobble together coherent ballpark plans. They might have something at some point. They don’t have anything yet.

P.S. – Check out former Marlins President David Samson’s podcast on In this episode, he practically gives up the whole stadium extortion game, which, well, here’s my reaction:

Timeline Slips For Me, Not For Thee

New timeline (8/1)
Howard Terminal Development Timeline from Summer 2020

A good percentage of the A’s fanbase loved the team’s #RootedInOakland campaign and saw it as a movement. In the most optimistic of terms, it would build a new ballpark which would act as a catalyst for a downtown renaissance, which happened across the Bay 20+ years ago when the Giants moved to SoMa. It would establish Oakland’s waterfront as a major tourist attraction, more than merely Jack London Square. Most importantly, it would keep the green and gold in Oakland. The term sheet submitted by the A’s even has a non-relocation agreement, the better to calm that nervous fanbase. (Many recent stadium deals have standard non-relocation clauses.)

MLB’s “good cop” routine is out the window now that it gave the A’s its blessing to explore markets outside of Oakland. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Commissioner Rob Manfred set the price for new expansion teams at around $2.2 Billion. In doing so, he also set the price for relocating teams to new cities, which won’t have the luxury of having a newly relocated team play in an old multipurpose stadium or a souped up AAA park for a few years while they work out a MLB ballpark plan.

I’m not going to tell you not to worry about the A’s leaving. Some hypothetical mega-billionaire not named Fisher could swoop in, drop a couple of those billions on the A’s, spend even more on a ballpark plan and MLB will wave the team’s exodus through like a traffic cop. That person could also do the same for Oakland, though that’s like hoping that climate change doesn’t really exist. I am going to tell you that road to make that happen is long, steep, and not for the faint of heart. Sure, the A’s current lease at the Coliseum runs out in 2024. Can you think of a market that will have a brand-new, MLB-ready ballpark for 2025? I can’t. Maury Brown covers this in some detail at Forbes, which is worth reading because as he points out, the A’s are effectively limited to candidate cities in Western North America (Las Vegas, Portland, Vancouver, maybe Sacramento). The Eastern cities are effectively reserved for the Rays if they relocate (Charlotte, Nashville, Montreal). This prevents the two economically-challenged franchises from competing against each other for stadium deals. It also prevents most potentially awkward realignment scenarios.

A man (or team) is only as faithful as his options

Yesterday, Dave Kaval admitted that the ballpark plan’s timeline has extended to the point that an Opening Day couldn’t happen before 2027. Little explanation was given as to why. We can piece together the usual problems that we’ve identified from the beginning: cleanup, a lack of infrastructure to support it, and now, the eye-watering $12 Billion total price tag on the project. Simply put, it’s incredibly hard. There are still plenty of supporters who say it’s worth it. Maybe it is. Not surprisingly, I remain unconvinced. It was going to be hard 4 years ago, it was going to be hard 8 years ago. The A’s made some procedural progress, lacking major deal points. The Athletic’s Alex Coffey reported last night that MLB is stepping up as the muscle behind the A’s demands, which Manfred also offered to do in 2017 when the site focus was Laney/Peralta.

Despite another timeline setback, the A’s continue to push for a City Council vote on Howard Terminal before the August recess. Why would they do that, despite the proposal existing as a 6,000-page napkin sketch? The explanation is actually quite simple. Mayor Libby Schaaf made news earlier this week by unveiling her budget for 2021-23. It’s Schaaf’s last budget before she’s termed out. I won’t get into the particulars of the budget as that’s not my beat, but I will say that the A’s being urged to look elsewhere by MLB is an unwanted distraction to put it mildly. For her part, Schaaf continues to promote HT.

With the timeline extended, Howard Terminal suddenly becomes the one of the last major non-policy proposals of Schaaf’s tenure. Does she stick it out through the probably bitter end? And what of the 2022 mayoral race, whose candidates are only starting to announce their campaigns? Does Howard Terminal become a major campaign tentpole, which Schaaf hands off to her successor? What about the Coliseum as an alternative? Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan ran for mayor twice and is likely to be a candidate again. For years Kaplan has been the strongest proponent of building at the Coliseum, which the A’s ruled out in short order yesterday. There will surely be at least one candidate who will champion Howard Terminal as much as Schaaf. How much traction will that provide in what will surely be a contentious race? From a 50,000-foot view, it looks like the A’s are aware that there’s no champion waiting in the wings. Their rush to lock in the deal this summer reflects that uncertainty.

Howard Terminal or Bust

You’ve probably heard by now that the A’s received permission from MLB to explore markets outside of Oakland (reported by Jeff Passan). I’ll have plenty to say about this tomorrow. For now @AsFanByDesign has the proper sentiment:

Letter to A’s fans from President Dave Kaval:

P.S. – Nailed the headline.

Rail companies comment on Howard Terminal

Overhead closeup of recent Howard Terminal ballpark rendering
I love this rendering the most because it gets rid of the train entirely

The other day I was looking at the comments Union Pacific sent in regarding Howard Terminal. UPRR’s comments are bundled with comments from RailPros, a rail services consultancy that would probably engineer any modifications to the Embarcadero corridor that is used by UPRR and Amtrak. As you might expect, both sets of comments deem the HT transportation study and the mitigations identified as insufficient. UPRR calls for full grade separation if the ballpark is built, a consistent stance from the beginning. Given what’s at stake from a safety standpoint, I agree. Unfortunately, the A’s continue not to address this issue to the fullest. Robert Bylsma, UPRR’s Senior Environmental Counsel, ends his comments by quoting the Draft EIR and providing a response.


“Provision of a grade-separated crossing prior to commencement of Project construction was deemed infeasible given the length of time it would take to design, get approval for, and construct a new grade-separated crossing and the stated Project objective to complete construction of the new ballpark, together with any infrastructure required within a desirable timeframe and to maintain the Oakland Athletics’ competitive position within MLB.”

UPRR (Bylsma):

So, apparently it was the Oakland A’s who made the decision to reject grade separation — the only safe and effective means of protecting Oakland A’s fans, as well as families residing in the Project area and other Oakland citizens, using Project facilities — as infeasible because of the “length of time it would take” to design and build, and would affect negatively “the Oakland Athletics’ competitive position within MLB.” However, the DEIR’s evaluation of this alternative is deficient because it does not indicate how long it would take to permit and build the needed grade separation, and whether the A’s decision to “maintain [its] competitive position within MLB” in exchange for the lives and well-being of those who will use Project amenities, truly makes grade separation “infeasible” as a matter of law.

Perhaps rail safety isn’t deemed a showstopper for the A’s. What can’t be argued is that this is a bad look. It reeks of potential negligence from the A’s in search of a quick buck. If the A’s truly want this to work, they’re gonna need to step up. Not stepping up because it will jeopardize the ability to “maintain the Oakland Athletics’ competitive position within MLB” is a pretty lame excuse. If you’re going to build something as transformative as a $12 Billion neighborhood-cum-ballpark, you need buy-in from all your neighbors. This ain’t it.

Manfred sets the bar for MLB expansion (and relocation)

During a Sportico forum held yesterday, MLB commissioner said that future expansion fees could reach $2.2 Billion. $2.2 Billion also happens to be the average of franchises in 2021, so the figure serves as a starting point for future discussions. For now, MLB is not opening the gates to bidders.

As the Bay Area currently has two MLB franchises and isn’t looking to add more, expansion doesn’t seem like a relevant topic. However, if you look at it in terms of setting a market price for moving a franchise (*cough*A’s*cough), it quickly gains relevance. By setting the price at $2.2 Billion, Manfred is effectively saying MLB franchises are premium properties that don’t merit shortcuts, whether we’re talking about ballparks or media deals.

Sportico ranked the A’s as 25th out of the 30 MLB teams at $1.3 Billion. Over at Forbes, the ranking was 26th while the valuation was $1.125 Billion. The A’s lost $40 million in revenue during MLB’s pandemic-truncated 2020 season. Some uncertainty awaits thanks to the upcoming CBA expiration and negotiations. The good thing for the A’s is that their unique phaseout of revenue sharing apparently hasn’t affected their valuation at all, so even if revenue sharing doesn’t come back the asset should remain strong, if not the team’s operating revenue. Either valuation is roughly 5X a normal revenue year, higher than it used to be but not out of line considering how many different types of assets appear overinflated these days.

If you’re in Portland, Charlotte, Las Vegas, or even Montreal, the bar is set. You have to put together an ownership group that has $2.2 Billion, plus access to more to run the team. You also have to have a ballpark deal in place. Gone are the days when you could try to entice a team to play at a multi-purpose stadium for a few years while you hammer out a bespoke ballpark palace. Oh no, that won’t do anymore. Manfred – and probably the entire Lodge – wants new teams to hit the ground running. Remember that the last relocated team, the Expos-Nats, were actually contracted by MLB, then expanded. The Nationals played in venerable RFK Stadium for several years while the District worked out a new ballpark deal at Navy Yard. A true team relocation hasn’t occurred since the second version of the Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers in 1972.

Expansion occurred in the 90’s with the new teams taking advantage of existing multi-purpose stadia in Miami and Denver. Purpose-built domed ballparks were built in St. Petersburg and Phoenix to varying degrees of success. The markets being considered for expansion won’t have to worry about extreme weather situations like in the Sun Belt, but they will have to come ready to impress customers. Sad to say that an expanded AAA ballpark, no matter how nice, won’t cut it. If you look at the AAA ballparks built in Vegas, Nashville, and Charlotte, they’re not designed to add 25,000 seats, and even if they did it wouldn’t be optimal.

Las Vegas Ballpark: A very nice AAA ballpark

You might be thinking that perhaps one of those cities could lure the A’s or Rays away for cheaper than a $2.2 Billion expansion fee. You might be right. However, the same rules apply. A prospective city/county/state will need a stadium deal in place, preferably to open when the franchise begins play. Plus MLB will set a price for relocation, which is completely unknown at this point. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if MLB set a relocation fee of $1 Billion, to keep other team valuations high and to prevent those pesky shortcuts. So if you want a baseball team and you aren’t in an established MLB city you have to follow three easy steps:

  • Have new stadium deal in place, up to $1 Billion in construction cost
  • Buy A’s or Rays with intention to move for going market rate ($1.2 Billion)
  • Pay $1 Billion relocation fee to MLB to buy their approval

Easy peasy, right? After all that, you’ll be lucky to have a franchise worth $3 Billion. You’ll have a ton of debt. On the bright side, you’ll be in an extremely elite club and you’ll have parked your money in a fairly safe place before interest rates rise. Good luck!

Now That’s A Statement

From Carroll Fife, Oakland District 3 (West Oakland including Howard Terminal) Council Member:

On the eve of the EIR comment period deadline, that’s a doozy. The thread is worth following to get a taste of the constituencies at work.

In addition at Oaklandside, Dan Moore mostly succeeds at summing up the coming battle for the future of Oakland through the lens of the Howard Terminal project. It’s a worthwhile read.

Carry on.