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.

FanFest Ballpark Q&A Session

On the way back from my stroll from the Jack London Square Amtrak station to Howard Terminal, I got an early seat at the Q&A session for the Howard Terminal ballpark. Video from the session is below. I didn’t stay for subsequent sessions. I chose not to ask any questions as I wanted to hear fans speak out.

Gondola simulation video

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

For Kyler Murray’s sake, I hope he is able to follow his dream, whatever it is. I’m sure his parents and representation will guide him through whatever arcane and complicated economic systems he has to deal with to become a successful professional athlete.

In the meantime…

Kaval Call Part IV: Coliseum redevelopment

Imagine the mid-60’s. You’re driving on Highway 17. There’s a flurry of construction near Hegenberger. Terminal 1 at Oakland Airport opened. The tumult (and the joy that comes with six world championships) of the 70’s was still in the distance. Oakland was hitting the big time!

Starting tomorrow the Coliseum may only have one tenant, the A’s. That lone team announced its intention to leave last month. What will be left of the Coliseum complex?

Coliseum originally under construction

In the picture above you can clearly see all of the notches in the lower bowl. The Coliseum started out with the Raiders as its first tenant. Seating risers mounted on steel plates could be moved around to suit football or baseball, which came in 1968. There were actually two different configurations for football: one for the overlapping baseball and football months where the gridiron ran from home plate to center field, and the “permanent” first base-third base configuration. The notches allowed the football field to fit the bowl, and are still in use today.

Knowing that the notches are part of the charm of the Coliseum, it’s curious that the A’s and BIG released the following rendering of a mostly deconstructed stadium.

Coliseum reimagined as amphitheater

The distinctive corner notches that would normally exist in the regular football configuration are gone. The notches at the foul poles remain along with a redone backstop notch, making this ampthitheater-Coliseum in some ways more of a true ballpark than the Coliseum ever was.

Closeup of redone Coliseum baseball configuration with arena in background

So… what happened to championship plaza? In this vision, the plaza is gone along with the plaza and upper decks, replaced by a grove of trees. It hardly makes sense for a city that’s about the spend significant effort to preserve its football history and tradition to simply cast that history aside. Now I get that these sketches are very preliminary, but they show a certain blindness to Oakland sports history. Even though the Raiders are leaving and no replacement is in sight, it doesn’t make sense to keep this baseball configuration when the A’s aren’t going to play many (one per year? any?) games there while so many fans also want football. Or if they can’t have football, they’d like a reminder of what once was. If this is the future of the Coliseum, it should reflect the venue’s rich history: football, baseball, concerts, monster truck shows, all of it.

Looks like a park, feels like a cemetery

Look at the outline of the Coliseum field above. There’s the plentiful foul territory and the backstop notch. I was surprised to find that also intact is the misshapen outfield wall, once euphemistically called the “Jagged Edge.” It’s the last remnant of a to-be demolished Mount Davis. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that the concrete east stands are gone, but the outfield wall was never an architectural highlight. I suppose that it too is an important part of history, so perhaps it should remain. Unlike my previous argument for the notches, the jagged edge was a by-product of design choices made with the 1995 renovation. If anything, bring back the Bash Brothers-era outfield fence and dimensions.

Around the amphitheater are a lot of nice amenities. As Oakland doesn’t have a large urban park, and maybe this could work despite its distance from downtown. Yet check out the nomenclature. Meadow. Lawn. Soccer. The Hills. Youth Sports Academy. Job Training. Soccer (again). No “football” to be found. A few tennis and basketball courts. The term Community bumps up against the Nimitz Freeway. It all speaks to a sort of whitewashing/greenwashing of sports in Oakland. Toss in some “affordable housing” and facilities that should help East Oakland residents, and Bob’s yer uncle.

I remember back to Frank Deford’s write-up of the Coliseum complex in Sports Illustrated, marveling at how things have (or haven’t) changed in the years since. Consider this pearl of wisdom:

The teams all have come so fast that, among other things, Oakland has neglected to support them. People in Oakland tend to gloss this over.

In 1968 there was a bonanza in the East Bay. In 2018 the teams are in a hurry to leave.

A narrative has emerged recently in which Raiders fans looking to place blame for the Raiders’ departure say it’s the A’s fault for “squatting” at the Coliseum.  The argument is not based on any facts or real evidence. All the A’s asked for in their lease extension was for 2 years to make plans for their own eviction if the Raiders put together a bona fide stadium plan of their own. That never happened. And if we’re being honest, Mark Davis would’ve been a fool to turn down $750 million in stadium subsidies from Nevada. Such a gift was not awaiting him in Oakland ever.

These days attention is turning to having Howard Terminal become the centerpiece for another civic revitalization effort, while the A’s, being the last team standing in Oakland, negotiating control over the Coliseum land and reaping the benefits. When I first heard that was the plan I was incredulous. It’s hard enough to build one big development in the Bay Area. Now Oakland wants to hand the keys for two of them to the A’s? The East Bay Times’ recent editorial captured this sentiment well, a sentiment that will undoubtedly grow in the coming months.

Comparison of new large real estate developments

The A’s don’t plan to build out the Coliseum per the Coliseum City plans. It would be nice to have for future development. Even if there’s no new stadium, or even if the old one becomes the Oakland Mausoleum. Just think of it. The A’s could have control of 170 acres, entitlements to 8,000 homes and some 4 million square feet of commercial square footage – in two separate, high-profile locations. To the victor loser goes the spoils, I guess. For the A’s, the spoils are being able to have the East Bay all to themselves. They can dictate what kinds of development can occur at the Coliseum complex, including another football stadium.

I asked A’s President Dave Kaval about the A’s plans for the Coliseum. He ruled out building a ballpark there. Kaval’s response:

We’re still following the entitlements for the Coliseum that were approved for Coliseum City. We have to build up the areas at the Coliseum to deal with sea-level rise.

That led to the obvious follow-up question: Is there a Plan B?

You know we’re the Oakland A’s, we’re all about Plan A. We think we’ve done a lot of community outreach and we’ll do a lot more.

After the backlash suffered with the Peralta plan, I don’t blame the A’s for trying to cover all of the bases this time. I have to wonder if the world – nay, the Bay Area – is moving too fast for them.

Goodbye Oakland Raiders, Hello… SF Raiders?

The Raiders are scheduled to play perhaps their last game ever in Oakland vs. the Broncos on Monday night. Already, Denver local news is sounding the alarm about the dangers that await Orange Crush in the Black Hole.

Stories about rough and lawless crowds for Raiders games at the Coliseum are the stuff of legend. Like most legends they tend to be either fictional or largely embellished. There have been incidents in the past, though, and for the final game in Oakland Raiders history, the Coli is likely to be quite lathered up for the occasion. I don’t blame fans if they do, save for violence.

“Ballpark” is the new “multi-purpose stadium”

To add insult to injury, the Raiders have started talks with the Giants to play the 2019 season at AT&T Park. It would only be a temporary stop as the Raiders await their palace under construction in Vegas. Still, the Raiders playing in SF has to be insulting for at least some Raider fans. Is it possible, though?

We’ve exhaustively covered MLB’s territorial rights here on this blog. Not so much coverage of the NFL’s T-rights. And yes, they do exist. There haven’t been many instances where NFL T-rights had to be defended, though the LA situation could have been trickier had only one team been there for an extended period when the other moved in. Historically, the NFL has been more prone to teams moving than expansion, with teams generally moving to new markets. That would make the NFL’s general by-laws about T-rights pretty straightforward:

“Home Territory” with respect to any club means the city in which such club is located and for which it holds a franchise and plays its home games and includes the surrounding territory to the extent of 75 miles in every direction from the exterior corporate limits of the city, except as follows:

I smell a catch coming…

(A) Whenever any two member clubs, other than the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, are located and hold franchises for different cities within 100 miles of each other measured from the exterior corporate limits of the city, then the territorial rights of each of such clubs only extend to and include an area of one-half the distance between such cities.

and…

In respect to the San Francisco and Oakland franchises the following provisions shall apply:

The home club in each city shall have the exclusive right to exhibit professional football games played by teams in the League in its city, and neither the San Francisco nor the Oakland club shall have any right to play professional football in the city of the other without the consent of the other club.

In respect to the area included in the home territory of both clubs, but located outside the city limits of both cities, both clubs shall have joint rights of exclusivity, and both of said clubs may play games with other clubs in the League within such area without the consent of the other club also operating in the same home territory or any part thereof.

No other two-team market is codified this way. In fact, the only other two-team NFL markets (NY and LA) either have a shared stadium or are building one. So it would appear that the Raiders need express permission from the 49ers to play in SF. That’s despite the fact that the 49ers don’t play their home games within SF city limits. The Bay Area is weird that way.

Whether the Raiders play at China Basin, East Oakland, or Timbuktu next year, the lawsuit filed by the City of Oakland against the NFL and the Raiders is likely to continue. To that, I look at it as every pile after a tackle – nobody knows where everyone’s hands have been.