Rain forces postponement of 4/16 game to 9/9 doubleheader

Rain the poured throughout the weekend forced the A’s to postpone Sunday’s game. Even though the rain was subsiding as planned first pitch time (1:05) approached, Later that day the team announced that the game would be made up in September, as the back end of a natural (single admission) doubleheader on Saturday, the 9th. MLB guidelines along with union preferences and financial pressures usually call for teams to schedule makeup games on off days, or if a doubleheader is absolutely necessary, a split or day-night doubleheader with separate admissions. Of course, this is the A’s we’re talking about, so they may actually benefit from one day’s admission more than two. Tickets for the postponed won’t be honored for the doubleheader because it’s not a new date. Tickets have already been sold for the original 9/9 game, so fans can trade in another date on the home schedule. That should also mean that they can trade in for 9/9, but there’s a good chance that their seats will be marginally worse. Best way to find out is to contact Ticket Services.

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As for what caused the postponement, remember that it’s been three years since the last postponement, also caused by a soggy field. Back then, the tarp was left off the field in hopes of some of the water evaporating. That’s quite different from the normal way of getting rid of water: gravity. Modern fields have some form of drainage system to move water out of the ground quickly. That works most everywhere except for the Coliseum, where the field remains 22 feet below sea level and is subject to tidal actions. On Sunday the tide was to start coming in as the game started, reaching high tide around the end of the game. On Monday night, high tide hit at 5:30 PM and was to recede as the night progressed. That allowed the A’s to start the game with some confidence, even though a shower hit in the late innings. DIY Network provided the blurbs above, which explain how the drainage systems work. The Coli’s system was done as part of the 1995 Mount Davis renovation, though the brief period between football and baseball seasons did now allow for a complete rebuild. The Giants’ system is interesting in that it uses a vacuum pump/air system to force water out. The field is 9 feet above sea level, which means it could be tidally prone on some occasions.

Coincidentally, the Coliseum parking lot is also 9-10 feet above sea level. Any new ballpark there should have its field at least at grade or higher to deal with climate change-related sea level rise. Howard Terminal and Brooklyn Basin are at elevation 11-12 feet, and being waterfront should be subject to similar standards. Laney College is terraced, going from 13 to 30 feet from south to north.

Whatever location is chosen, great care and thought will have to go into stadium placement, footprint, and orientation. In the modern era, that’s gonna have to include elevation as well, at least as long as you’re building along the bay’s flatlands.

 

The tarps are dead (upper deck)! Long live the tarps (Mount Davis)!

Tuesday off-days, rare during the baseball season, are pretty good days to make announcements. Dave Kaval made a big announcement this morning that can only win over fans. The failed scarcity experiment and objects of scorn known as the upper deck tarps are no more.

While the compression of the seating inventory helped make the venue more intimate at times, the optics of 12,000 seats of upper deck being tarped and cordoned off were embarrassing and could not be escaped. The policy was put into effect for the 2006, not long after Lew Wolff and John Fisher bought the team from Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann. That makes the tarps the one enduring visual symbol of the Wolff era, which officially ended last November.

The tarps atop Mount Davis will stay as the seats at the summit won’t be sold. When football season begins there will be a humdrum exercise in rotating between the A’s and Raiders tarps, covering seats that the Raiders wanted in 1995 but haven’t sold since 2013. The new baseball seating capacity will be 47,170 plus a thousand potential standing room admission tickets available for big crowd event games (Giants, Yankees, Red Sox, fireworks).

Tickets for the newly reopened sections (300-315, 319-334) will be $15 everywhere with half the proceeds for the upcoming 10-game homestead going to Oakland Promise, a charity and mentoring program that aims to have every Oakland high school student graduate with the necessary skills needed to finish college.

Say goodbye to the old seating chart:

Hello to the new (old) seating chart, whose URL is um, interesting:

Finally, we can’t bring back the Coliseum upper deck without that one incident (NSFW)…

During that first homestand with the upper deck reopened, the A’s will play the M’s on 4/20. It’s a night game. You know what to do. Note: the tickets do have seating assignments, so any thoughts that the upper deck is now some massive general admission section are at best unspoken and informal.

As for what the A’s should do with the tarps, I thought up some options. Vote on one. Now that I’m thinking about it, whatever happened to the tarps that covered 316-318?

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.

How quickly can Mount Davis be demolished?

Sorry, there’s no magical charm to hide this beauty

Short answer: Not this year.

I get it, A’s fans. You’re excited, I’m excited, the A’s marketing crew is excited. We’re all champing at the bit right now. Unfortunately, I’m gonna have to slow everyone’s roll. In California we don’t build things quickly. We don’t even demolish things quickly. You’re not going to see a big viral video implosion of the Coliseum, ever. Keep in mind:

  • Candlestick Park’s demolition dragged on for months to protect residents living nearby from asbestos and other pollutants.
  • Site prep for Avaya Stadium took a year longer than expected because of previously unknown underground bunkers and other items to demolish and cleanup.

The Raiders have already exercised their option on the 2017 year, so they’re in come August. Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas isn’t outfitted with the updated locker rooms and security fencing that the NFL requires. Any upgrades couldn’t come until after the 2017 season ends. It’s that classic tale about the boy who leaves the girl yet needs to crash on her couch for a few months while his new fling upgrades from a studio to a junior one-bedroom apartment. You’ve seen it – Cameron Crowe or Richard Linklater?

As long as the Raiders are staying for hopefully only year, the A’s should be able to break out the wrecking ball come February 1, 2018, right?

Nope.

The problem is at that point there will still be some $75 million in debt remaining on the Coliseum. The City and County haven’t figured out who or what is paying for it. Until that gets resolved, the JPA can’t so much as pelt it with rocks. Beyond that, the demolition will have its own cost which someone will have to pay out of pocket. The infrastructure funding plan offered to the Raiders and the Lott-Fortress group had the demolition of the entire stadium budgeted in. I imagine that the same offer’s on the table for the A’s should they choose to build at the Coliseum. If they don’t, demolition’s yet another cost to add onto the debt resolution. If the JPA quickly came to a deal with the A’s, demolition would probably be accommodated depending on the Raiders’ departure and the phasing of the teardown.

Once the debt issue is resolved, I would expect that demolition would happen in two parts. Initially, the peak of Mount Davis, otherwise known as the upper deck, would be lopped off. That would be the easiest aspect of the plan since only the seats and risers would be removed, along with the columns and beams holding them up. The Washington football team removed more than 10,000 seats from the upper deck, replacing many of them with the wall-like platforms used at Cleveland’s Progressive Field. Once the upper deck of Mount Davis is removed, the Oakland hills and Leona Quarry would be visible from parts of the original Coliseum, namely the original upper deck. Aesthetically that would be a huge improvement, if not a complete solution.

Outside Mount Davis

Once the easy part is dealt with, dealing with the rest of hulking structure becomes a project unto itself. The East Side Club is a four-story section that stretches the length of the stand, with two upper levels of suites facing the field and a vaulted ceiling above the club. It’s more like demolishing a gigantic concrete pier than your average tilt-up office building.

Everything at or below the plaza concourse would have to stay intact while the A’s played in the venue. The BART plaza is at this level, so unless someone wanted to completely rebuild that even though future plans have the old BART bridge replaced, it’s all staying intact. In addition, the only vehicular access to the field is via the steep centerfield tunnel underneath Mt. Davis. That can’t be touched.

East Side Club, suites on upper levels

I don’t mean to crap on your dynamite-charged fantasies, folks. As long as the A’s have to continue using the Coliseum there’s only so far you can go in terms of dismantling it. Eventually the whole thing will come down. Chances are it will be piece-by-piece. Maybe the A’s can have some of the demo team dance to YMCA for old times’ sake.

Raiders exodus is about will not blame

Listening to radio and read the internets today, it was no surprise by mid-afternoon the recriminations came in full force. Denial and pain set in quickly, thanks to advance reports of the pending NFL owners’ approval of the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas. So when it came time to start the anger and bargaining stage (3), no stone was left unturned, no name forgotten. Here’s a partial list of the people to blame for the Raiders’ departure:

  • Mark Davis
  • Libby Schaaf
  • Roger Goodell
  • Jean Quan
  • Floyd Kephart
  • Lew Wolff
  • Al Davis
  • Ron Dellums
  • Larry Reid
  • Scott Haggerty
  • Fazza (Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum), The Crown Prince of Dubai
  • Sheldon Adelson

Every player in this Coliseum saga wanted out of something. The pols wanted the albatross of Coliseum debt off their necks without giving away valuable Coliseum land or forcing any of the teams out. The A’s, Raiders, and Warriors wanted their own venues, preferably nowhere near one another. All were willing to leave Oakland to get that venue. The placed the City of Oakland and Alameda County in a delicate dance with three lukewarm dance partners. The team with the most freedom, the Warriors, announced their departure as soon as they could. The A’s tried to take a more circuitous route via the back rooms of The Lodge and then the court, failing to overturn the Giants’ territorial rights to the South Bay. The Raiders, whose owner had the least money and leverage, tied itself to city after city before going it alone in Vegas. Patience and persistence prevailed for Davis, as he somehow finagled gap funding from Bank of America, consequently earning the NFL owners’ trust in the process (31-1 vote).

Let’s go back to fall 2013. The A’s were focused on the postseason, while the Raiders were rolling out another bad run under Dennis Allen. In September, Davis came out of nowhere and suggested that his new stadium be built where the existing Coliseum stands. Had the JPA taken that proposal seriously, the plan would have been to demolish the Coliseum and construct a new Raiders stadium in its place, with the potential for a new ballpark down the road. The Raiders would play at Levi’s Stadium for two years. The A’s could play at AT&T Park for some length of time, probably longer than two years. Davis later rationalized the idea as needed to avoid all the construction-related upheaval and the related parking shortage.

The next spring, in 2014, Lew Wolff started lease extension talks with the JPA. Chastened by the legal loss over San Jose and MLB’s desire to get something going in Oakland, Wolff asked for a lengthy term keeping the A’s at the Coliseum until 2024. He also asked for a special set of conditions clearly related to Davis’s own concept: a process to vacate the Coliseum if the Raiders put together a Coliseum redevelopment proposal. Wolff’s notion was that the A’s needed some time to get a ballpark proposal started and wanted to minimize the chance of playing at a temporary venue (remember Cashman Stadium?). So he got language to give the A’s two full baseball seasons before they would be evicted. By this time Wolff was also working on improvements for the team’s new spring training facility, Hohokam Stadium/Fitch Park. The plans included new scoreboards for Hohokam and the Coliseum (buy in bulk!).

Even in 2014 Wolff and Davis were taking different approaches to the getting lease extensions (emphasis mine).

Wolff and Mark Davis are going at this stadium business in different ways. Wolff wants a lease extension, while taking that time to figure out the future either in San Jose or in Oakland. Davis is taking an opposite tack, declaring last year that it was time to stop delaying and get the stadium deal in place before any new lease. That puts the JPA in a very delicate spot. They’re already working with Davis, though he hasn’t been satisfied with the pace or the information he’s getting. Both owners, whether in league or not, are forcing Oakland to make a difficult decision between the two franchises. Both know that it’s incredibly hard to build one stadium, let alone two right next to each other. Public resources are increasingly scarce. Fred Blackwell’s leaving before he can get any blame for this. Smart move on his part.

Fred Blackwell. That guy is chilling at The San Francisco Foundation these days.

The A’s lease was stuck in deliberations for a couple months before approval. Raiders supporters decried it as something that would eventually force the football team out. The two-season exit, the demand for a bona fide football stadium plan and $10 million to secure it, and the length of the lease to 2024 hampered the Raiders’ flexibility. All those things would be reasonable arguments if not for the fact that Davis never formulated a proposal of his own beyond the aforementioned desire to build on the Coliseum’s existing footprint. Instead, he let Coliseum City complete its process without his signature, and the Lott/Fortress plan had virtually no input or involvement from Davis at all. Davis hired former 49ers exec Larry MacNeill as his representative at meetings. The NFL admonished both City proposals for no team or league direct involvement, yet the NFL reportedly never so much as inquired about the Coliseum land nor offered any alternatives.

Easy to blame Mark Davis there, and Lew Wolff if you’re so inclined. What this showed was that Davis’s will to build in Oakland was not strong. Schaaf held firm to her no-public-funds-for-construction stance, which can be interpreted as Schaaf not having the political will to get a stadium project going in Oakland. She’ll take that.

Since 2006, the Coliseum arrangement has been a series of short-term lease extensions for both the A’s and the Raiders, with no major fundamental changes. Oakland’s goal was to stay in the game with each extension, waiting for a great plan to materialize. Maybe they expected one team to change the game by seeking different terms. Turns out that happened in 2013, when Davis admitted he wanted to replace the Coliseum and evict everyone for a couple years. That started a chain of events which eventually brought us here, with Davis getting city he’s wanted since at least 1998.

The A’s get the Coliseum if they want it, and Schaaf may finally be the mayor that gets rid of the albatross. Dave Kaval, you’re up.

Eve of the Reckoning: Schaaf and Goodell exchange letters

They tried. Everyone can say they tried. Well, maybe not Mark Davis, since he hasn’t attended an Oakland stadium development meeting in at least a year. Instead, Davis hired a guy to sit in on the meetings he didn’t want to attend. The NFL can say they tried, since they kept Oakland in the game longer than St. Louis or San Diego, despite Oakland providing the least competitive offer among the three cities. Oakland did try repeatedly, though not hard enough for the NFL. And so we find a city and a fanbase at the precipice of losing its football team yet again, the second time less than forty years.

During a press conference-cum-rally yesterday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf defended the city, while expounding on a letter sent to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The letter was an effort to convince the league to give one more chance to keep the team in town. The presser was followed by a walk by supporters around the Coliseum complex and a pizza protest outside Raider HQ in Alameda. Sounds like a good day of fan activism, right?

Whatever positive momentum that generated was quickly squashed by the reveal of a reply by Goodell, which made it abundantly clear that Oakland needed to accede to the league’s demands, not vice-versa.

March 24, 2017

Hon. Libby Schaaf
Mayor City of Oakland
1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, 3d Floor
Oakland, CA 94612

Dear Mayor Schaaf:

We have had an opportunity to review the material your office released today regarding a stadium project in Oakland for the Raiders.

Before addressing the substance of the material, I want to personally thank you for your leadership and for the time and effort you have devoted to addressing the Raiders’ stadium needs and to keeping Oakland as an NFL community. As you have said more than once, the unquestioned need to replace the current stadium has been hampered by a long record of unrealistic and unkept promises that has complicated your efforts and constrained your options. I know from my own discussions with you, as well as those that have involved our staffs, that you and your team have made every effort to be accessible, creative, and diligent in exploring alternatives. I am grateful to you for doing so, and our member clubs are as well.

I particularly want to thank you for meeting on two occasions with our Finance and Stadium Committees, and much of our executive staff, most recently at our committee meetings on March 6. Those two committees consist of 18 owners and have devoted considerable time and attention to the Raiders. They will be presenting their analysis and recommendations to the full membership next week. Your presentations to those committees, as well as the many discussions between our staffs, have been valuable in giving us an understanding of the opportunity available to the Raiders in Oakland.

The material that we reviewed earlier today confirms certain information that had previously been communicated orally, such as a willingness to bring bank financing to a stadium project, and a proposed valuation of the land at the Coliseum site. It also confirms that key issues that we have identified as threshold considerations are simply not resolvable in a reasonable time. In that respect, the information sent today does not present a proposal that is clear and specific, actionable in a reasonable timeframe, and free of major contingencies.

In making this assessment, we recognize and accept the core negotiating principles that you have articulated as being appropriate to your community. A significant number of NFL clubs play in stadiums that have little or no public financial support (including the stadium being built in Los Angeles). We have long accepted your position that no public funds are available for stadium construction in Oakland. We also accept that you do not wish to exercise (and may not be able to exercise) the contractual termination rights related to the A’s.

We have been prepared for nearly two years to work on finding a solution based on access to land at a certain cost, without constraints on the location of the stadium or timing of construction, and clarity on overall development. However, at this date, there remains no certainty regarding how the site will be fully developed, or the specific and contractually-defined nature of the participation by Fortress or other parties. In addition, the long-term nature of the commitment to the A’s remains a significant complication and the resolution of that issue remains unknown. Other significant uncertainties, which we have previously identified, remain unaddressed.

We had hoped that the past two years would have allowed both of us to develop a viable project in Oakland. You have provided valuable leadership; for our part, our clubs have repeatedly delayed any relocation by the Raiders and committed an additional $100 million in NFL financial support (for a total of $300 million) to a stadium project in Oakland. We have had regular communications with you, your staff, and more recently with Mr. Lott and his colleagues. And of course, many of our owners have met with you directly, as noted earlier.

Despite all of these efforts, ours and yours, we have not yet identified a viable solution. It is disappointing to me and our clubs to have come to that conclusion.

At our upcoming meeting, the clubs will consider the Raiders’ application to move to Las Vegas. A key part of that discussion will be a thorough review of our collective efforts in Oakland. I will contact you promptly regarding any decisions made next week.

Thank you again for your leadership and for the material of earlier today.

Sincerely,

ROGER GOODELL

In short: Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

Financing and planning issues remain for Las Vegas, even with BofA’s injection of $750 million into the stadium project. I could see the project eventually splitting into two parts: the initial less fully-featured, indoor/domed venue that will be sufficient for the Raiders and UNLV to start, and then some $200 million to pay for Super Bowl-ready improvements. Super Bowls are already assigned through 2021, not including second go-arounds for the new stadia in Arlington, Santa Clara, and Indianapolis, so there’s time to figure it out.

If yesterday’s rally ends up the last hurrah, it would appear truly final. The Coliseum will be demolished within the next decade, whether there’s a tenant at the complex or not. The stance against public money will remain as strong as ever in Oakland. The city would end up competing with San Diego, St. Louis, San Antonio, and perhaps London for new franchises. If we say goodbye to the Raiders, be prepared to say goodbye to the NFL. Forever.