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Purdy: A little clarity in Oakland stadium saga

By Mark Purdy

Mercury News Columnist
Posted: 07/10/2014 06:19:56 PM PDT1 Comment | Updated: 3 days ago

Bob Melvin, who manages the Oakland A's, is a tactful and intelligent fellow. He puts out small ego fires daily. He juggles the quirky personalities of two dozen major league baseball players.

So I figured he would make the perfect diplomat.

"During next week's All-Star break," I asked him this week, "would you think about getting involved with the Oakland city council and their Coliseum lease negotiations?"

Melvin grinned slightly. I think he also suppressed a shudder.

"I just try to stay in my lane," Melvin said. "I do follow the story. But I have enough trouble doing my own job. So I stay in my lane. I appreciate the question, though."

Drat. Another path to global peace, thwarted.

"Chaos continues in A's ballpark situation." That's pretty much a consistent headline. Even so, this week, you would have to say the insanity reached new heights.

Thanks to the work of this newspaper's Matthew Artz, we have discovered that the Oakland city council is either clueless or delusional or both.

That's because, according to our reports, the council was negotiating with the Raiders on a stadium deal that would require demolition of the current Coliseum in two years . . . which would effectively sabotage the 10-year lease extension for the A's that was approved last week by several members of the exact same city council.

After this fact was reported, Oakland mayor Jean Quan stepped in to say that no, despite everything, all was well. Quan says the city council should vote to approve the A's lease because it can definitely find a way to keep the Raiders and A's both happy and . . . well, I think she threw in a promise of free unicorn rides for all East Bay residents, too.

Here's the odd thing, though. Amidst all this madness over the past few weeks, public documents and statements have helped us learn some important stuff. In small steps, we are reaching some form of clarity about several matters, following years of speculation and blather.

Such as:

We have always known that the Raiders want to build a stadium on the same footprint as the current O.co Coliseum. What we didn't know was that the Raiders and the private development group working on the "Coliseum City" mixed-use project there wanted to demolish the existing stadium in the next three or four years, to get the project under way. Of course, we still don't know where the money is really coming from to do any of that. Remember, the city and county still owe $180 million on the 1995 Raiders' remodel.

We have always known the A's want, ahem, flexibility in their relationship with Joint Powers Authority that runs the Coliseum. But the exact terms of the new lease -- which was approved by the JPA but still needs city council approval -- spell out just how amazingly flexible the A's situation is. While the new lease technically is a 10-year "deal," it allows the A's to opt out with minimal financial penalties after 2018 -- or even 2017, if the Raiders decide to tear down the stadium and put a $10 million deposit on that tear-down by next year.

We have always wondered why the Coliseum property couldn't support two stadiums. But it turns out that there's no realistic way to finance and build both Raiders and A's venues on the 120-acre site, even if Oracle Arena goes away after the Warriors leave -- and even if you include the two big parking lots north and south of the stadium. One problem is that so many utility lines and major sewer lines run through the site that would cost a fortune to relocate. A bigger reason is that two stadiums would simply take up too much of that property -- which must be developed into those mixed-use buildings to help pay for any new stadium or stadiums.

Any thought that the downtown Howard Terminal site in Oakland would be feasible as a ballpark location for the A's was squashed when Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement that rejected the idea. Oakland is finally beginning to realize something that San Jose learned long ago. The cities don't get to decide their ballpark futures. Major League Baseball is in charge.

And speaking of San Jose, the city is still in play as a future home for the A's, although there are way too many moving parts to figure out percentages or possibilities. Besides the Oakland situation, those moving parts include San Jose's ongoing antitrust lawsuit (which has an August hearing in federal district court) and the identity of MLB's new commissioner (after Selig retires this winter) as well as the identity of San Jose's new mayor (after this fall's election between Sam Liccardo and Dave Cortese).

Meanwhile, in another weird twist, the most relaxed and comfortable human being amidst all this turmoil is none other than A's co-owner Lew Wolff. He shot down any of the wild threats spouted by Oakland council member Larry Reid that the team might be moving to San Antonio or Montreal ("I've never explored any of those places," Wolff said) and seems content to let the East Bay politicos decide his fate.

Wolff has not revealed his ultimate strategy. But here's a good guess: He is gambling that all of the Raiders stuff will fall apart, as will the "Coliseum City" plan. When that occurs, Wolff will be ready with his own proposal to Oakland and Alameda County: If the public bodies agree to pay off that $140 million in stadium debt and give Wolff the entire 120 acres of Coliseum property to develop profitably, the franchise will construct a new ballpark.

And if Oakland gives the Raiders preference to the Coliseum site instead? Or rejects Wolff's idea? Or finds another way to screw up things? Then he turns to the new MLB commissioner and demands to either share AT&T Park with the Giants or finally receive approval for a San Jose move.

That is, unless Bob Melvin works out a better solution.
The article is here.
 

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And if Oakland gives the Raiders preference to the Coliseum site instead? Or rejects Wolff's idea? Or finds another way to screw up things? Then he turns to the new MLB commissioner and demands to either share AT&T Park with the Giants or finally receive approval for a San Jose move.
This seems like a crazy idea. Why would the Giants let them share AT&T Park if they are against them moving to San Jose.

Can you explain why the Giants are against the A's moving to San Jose. They have a huge fan base in San Francisco, best stadium in baseball and a great TV deal. Why doesn't MLB cut a deal like the one Baltimore got when the Nationals moved into their territory.
 

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This seems like a crazy idea. Why would the Giants let them share AT&T Park if they are against them moving to San Jose.

Can you explain why the Giants are against the A's moving to San Jose. They have a huge fan base in San Francisco, best stadium in baseball and a great TV deal. Why doesn't MLB cut a deal like the one Baltimore got when the Nationals moved into their territory.
For the same reason that the Niners coveted SJ so much: more of the Giants' ticket holders are in the south bay as are in San Francisco. There is a lot more disposable cash down here than there is up there.
 

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The article is here.
Thinking waaay outside the box, but it sounds like what Oakland needs is a new multipurpose stadium. Before everybody starts screaming that it's a horrible idea, stop and think about it. This isn't 1965. Surely, with todays technology and some imaginative thinking, a single stadium could be designed that would perfectly meet the needs of both teams.

This is an architecture forum. Architects drool over the opportunity to break new ground. Architects are supposed to meet the customer's needs. A modern multipurpose stadium for the city of Oakland would be a chance to do both.

Think about it --- then flame away.
 

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Thinking waaay outside the box, but it sounds like what Oakland needs is a new multipurpose stadium. Before everybody starts screaming that it's a horrible idea, stop and think about it. This isn't 1965. Surely, with todays technology and some imaginative thinking, a single stadium could be designed that would perfectly meet the needs of both teams.

This is an architecture forum. Architects drool over the opportunity to break new ground. Architects are supposed to meet the customer's needs. A modern multipurpose stadium for the city of Oakland would be a chance to do both.

Think about it --- then flame away.
It's something that never has been done very well. I don't to call a true multipurpose stadium impossible, but the differences in field geometry and culture of the respective sports are so great no one has ever made a facility that is good for both. It's either a decent ballpark that's terrible for football or a good football stadium that's a terrible ballpark. Not that I don't support innovative design, but history would suggest it's a futile exercise.

I would suggest they try hard to keep the prices down and do something like Pittsburgh did with PNC and Heinz.
 

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It's something that never has been done very well. I don't to call a true multipurpose stadium impossible, but the differences in field geometry and culture of the respective sports are so great no one has ever made a facility that is good for both. It's either a decent ballpark that's terrible for football or a good football stadium that's a terrible ballpark. Not that I don't support innovative design, but history would suggest it's a futile exercise.

I would suggest they try hard to keep the prices down and do something like Pittsburgh did with PNC and Heinz.
I would agree with all of those arguments, particularly that it's never been done well, but when is the last time that anyone even tried to do it. Off the top of my head, I would say the Metrodome in 1982 was the last multi-purpose stadium built. There is zero comparison of what can be done today compared to what could be done in 1982.

Just because it's never been done doesn't mean it can't be done.
 

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On second thought, Skydome in 1989 was probably the last baseball / football multipurpose stadium, but that was still 25 years and light years worth of innovation ago.
 

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Yeah, but it's not really a problem new technology can solve, one wants a somewhat asymmetrical nearly square field, the other a highly symmetrical field a good deal longer than it is wide. Football stadiums want steeper lower levels, baseball shallower. Baseball wants substantial cantilevers, football doesn't want anyone too far under an overhang. To do both the stadium you are describing would need to be a literal shape shifter. It might doable to get a stadium that is acceptable for both in today's climate, but it wouldn't be anything beyond that.
 

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Another problem with a multi-use stadium is that, even if the shape and sight lines are decent, you're still going to have 30,000-40,000 empty seats for baseball. No MLB team is going to be happy with a stadium that's half empty or worse even on the best of nights.
 

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For the same reason that the Niners coveted SJ so much: more of the Giants' ticket holders are in the south bay as are in San Francisco. There is a lot more disposable cash down here than there is up there.
The quick explanation on why the Giants have territorial rights. In 1990, BoB Lurie, owner of the Giants, wanted to move his team to San Jose. Walter Haas, owner of the A's, granted him rights for his team to the South Bay. The vote failed and the Giants never moved but the territorial rights never came up again until the A's wanted to move South.


I would not say the 49ers coveted San Jose in General as I am sure they looked at the South Bay as a whole. The population is in the Soth Bay and the income levels in Palo Alto, Woodside and Mtn View are quite high.

But another reason the Giants wish to uphold their territorial rights to the South Bay is with the hopes the A's will have no choice to move out of the Bay Area and the Giants will have it all to themselves. I know Wollf stated otherwise but the majority owner, Fisher, is the money behind the operation.
 

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Another problem with a multi-use stadium is that, even if the shape and sight lines are decent, you're still going to have 30,000-40,000 empty seats for baseball. No MLB team is going to be happy with a stadium that's half empty or worse even on the best of nights.
I think in some cases that that may be true, but in the case of Oakland I think that the Raiders would be happy with about 55,000 seats and the A's about 40,000. By the time you remove some of the field seats that would be in place for football, there wouldn't be much of a difference.
 

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Yeah, but it's not really a problem new technology can solve, one wants a somewhat asymmetrical nearly square field, the other a highly symmetrical field a good deal longer than it is wide. Football stadiums want steeper lower levels, baseball shallower. Baseball wants substantial cantilevers, football doesn't want anyone too far under an overhang. To do both the stadium you are describing would need to be a literal shape shifter. It might doable to get a stadium that is acceptable for both in today's climate, but it wouldn't be anything beyond that.
I'm familiar with all of the arguments against trying it, but I think that it is possible and that Oakland's situation is somewhat unique. The Raiders and the A's don't need a perfect stadium, they just need a better stadium. If they were to share a new stadium on the same site, they could both get what they need, even if it's not necessarily what they want.

Honestly, I don't think that designing a suitable stadium is even the biggest obstacle. Getting the Raiders, A's and City of Oakland politicians to work together and act like grown ups would be the biggest obstacle.
 

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Honestly, I don't think that designing a suitable stadium is even the biggest obstacle. Getting the Raiders, A's and City of Oakland politicians to work together and act like grown ups would be the biggest obstacle.
I disagree. The biggest obstacle is MLB's claim that San Jose "belongs" to the Giants. If that went away, then so would the A's in about three years, and Oakland and the Raiders would have no one left to blame but each other.

But I'd love to see if anyone out there has a new take on the multipurpose stadium problem.
 

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Sapporo Dome:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1q24--xddtM

For those of you discussing modern multi purpose stadium options.

Edit: 40,500 seats for baseball, 53,000 with temp seating for Soccer.


edit edit: its the home park of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters which just blows the "A's" out of the water....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapporo_Dome
I find it hard to believe that the Raiders or the NFL would approve a new stadium that wasn't expandable to at least 70,000 for Super Bowls.

Sapporo Dome is fine for what it is, but where are the 100+ luxury suites? Where are the 10,000 exclusive club seats? And the party decks?
 

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Sapporo Dome:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1q24--xddtM

For those of you discussing modern multi purpose stadium options.

Edit: 40,500 seats for baseball, 53,000 with temp seating for Soccer.


edit edit: its the home park of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters which just blows the "A's" out of the water....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapporo_Dome
You're kidding, right? Fewer seats, but the average seat is much further from the action, plus it has obscured viewing for all sports. I don't see this as an improvement on the Coliseum.
 

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I find it hard to believe that the Raiders or the NFL would approve a new stadium that wasn't expandable to at least 70,000 for Super Bowls.
The NFL only makes sure than the stadium meets the minimum criteria for league games. The team can apply for certification for a potential Super Bowl, but not every new stadium has to pass that certification.
 
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