Greener Grass, Episode 2: Attack of the Gnome

So now that me and the frog in my pocket have proven beyond the shadow of a doubt (yes I am kidding) that the Bay Area is the best place for the A's to be, we have to try and figure out where to put the lawn gnome? "Lawn gnome?" you ask. Yep, let's pretend the whole Bay Area is one big yard and we want to put a lawn gnome where the greenest grass is. It's fun!

There have been many debates in the blogosphere about where the A's should play (here, here and daily here). Personally, my only position is that the A's should play in the Bay Area. But before I get accused of being an "Oakland Only" person, or a "San Jose Carpetbagger" or some other such nonsense (terms which I have used and regret) I thought I should tell where I am coming from to avoid the appearance of bias. I was born in Oakland and have a great affinity for the city and it's residents. Lake Merritt is gorgeous, especially at night, Rockridge (the Crepevine is my favorite place to eat in the world, try the Tuscan), Piedmont Avenue, the Chabot Space and Science Center, The Oakland Zoo and the executive nine hole (I suck too bad to play 18) at Chabot Golf Center are a few of my favorite places in Oakland.

I have spent a great deal of time in San Jose as well. My favorite spots include the Children's Discovery Museum, THE greatest Egyptian Museum ever, San Pedro Square, The Tech Museum, The San Jose Museum of Art and many other places that I am leaving out. The point here is that both San Jose and Oakland have a lot to offer your Average Joe and Jane. I love them both and I always will no matter where the A's play.

But which place is better for the A's to plop down a new stadium? What criteria do we use to figure this out? I am going to ignore things like "The A's belong in Oakland" and "Territorial Rights" because one is an emotional argument and the other is stupid. Both of these fine cities should be under consideration for a new stadium.



Clearly, the answer is not "Which is a greater city?" If you have never spent time in either of these cities use my list above as a starting point. They both kick major ass and you will thank me for opening your eyes to their splendor. So then we have to get down to some fairly straight forward numbers. They are some of the same numbers we (the frog in my pocket and me) used before, like Average Joe and Jane Index, Fortune 1000 companies but we need to remove the Media Market question, because there is really no advantage for either city as they share a Media Market. We can replace media market with transportation accessibility (look at me talking transportation after I was all gaga over Fremont) and we should also consider funding a stadium, some how, some way.

So, we will use the exact same info from before for the Average Jane and Joe Index. And here it is:

CMSA: 7.2 Million, 6th largest in the country
MSA: 4.2 Million, 12th largest in the country
Population Density: 7,126 per square mile
Median Income: $40,055

San Jose
CMSA: 7.2 Million, 6th largest in the country
MSA: 1.8 Million, 31st largest in the country
Population Density: 5,216 per square mile
Median Income: $76,354

So, some numbers might have just jumped off the page at you (a lot like the frog in my pocket jumps at people), I know they did at me. First, Oakland is closer to a lot more people than San Jose is. That is what the MSA tells us. Second, people in San Jose are a lot more spread out than they are in Oaktown. Last the fewer people in San Jose make a buttload more money. How to read these numbers? If I were the owner of the A's the pros and cons of these two scenario's are sort of a wash. I could probably  make up for the huge lack of income between the two spots by drawing people in from surrounding communities in Oakland. I could make up for the lack of density in San Jose by the sheer fact that they got a lot more money there.

After the AJandJ Index I got to say it is all tied up, either 1 to 1, or 0 to 0 depending on if your prefer pitching duels or slug fests.

Next comes the Fortune 1000 numbers. If you prefer Oakland, brace yourself cause this is like game 3 of the 1989 world series only it ain't Oakland with all the home runs. We know from our (the frog in my pocket and me) last report that 57 of the 103 Fortune 1000 companies in California are in the Bay Area.

In Oakland, there is only 1 (Clorox, number 474). But in the surrounding area there are more so let's put 'em in Oakland's column for the sake of argument. In Pleasanton, there are 2 (Ross Dress for Less and Safeway, numbers 412 and 55). In Walnut Creek there are 2 (Central Garden and Pet and Long's Drugs, numbers 983 and 453) in San Ramon there is 1 (Chevron, number 3), in Concord there is 1 (Pacer International, number 905) and in Alameda there is 1 (UTStarcom, number 782). But, there are two more in the East Bay and we have to decide who gets 'em.

The challenge is that these two more are in Fremont. Sort of equidistant between San Jose and Oakland, if not exactly. The two companies are Lam Research and Synnex (numbers 759 and 350). I think we should just count them for both.

So after Oakland's turn at the plate, it is 10 Fortune 1000's and San Jose is coming to the plate.

Of the 57 Fortune 1000's in the Bay Area, Silicon Valley has 30. Included in that number is everything from Redwood City south to Cupertino and up the east side to Fremont. I left out a company in Watsonville that could be argued to be part of Silicon Valley, I guess. But the truth is that in close proximity to San Jose there are boatloads of companies. And actually, some of the Companies I put in the A's column are as close to San Jose (Think Pleasanton/San Ramon and 680).

So after the Corporate Dollar Index, it is clearly San Jose/Silicon Valley and this shot lands in the second deck. The score would read San Jose 2, Oaktown 1 if you played it conservatively, but it is probably more like 3 to 1.

Now for the new things. Transportation and Stadium Fundage.

For Transportation it doesn't get much better than Diridon. There is existing Amtrak/ACE, Light Rail and CalTrain. Arguably, Oakland's current site is served as well with BART reaching more communities than Light Rail or CalTrain and the Capitol Corridor/Amtrak line running right there as well. SO how do you grade either site? How bout other potential sites?

A brief caveat, I will forever be pissed off that Uptown Oakland didn't happen. It was the best site in Oakland. It could have been the destination the city center is sorely lacking. But other sites have been mentioned in Oakland. One near Jack London Square and a quarter mile from Lake Merritt BART, for instance. I am not sure what other sites could be considered in San Jose, though I know there always are the rumblings about Great America in Santa Clara. But the fact remains that from a Transportation perspective the two best sites are the two I mentioned first, Diridon and the Coliseum.

Living in the now, they are fairly equal. Looking to the future, not so much. Diridon with BART extensions and High Speed Rail San Jose offers the A's the chance to appeal to people from Sacramento to Merced to Fresno as well as the entire Bay Area. So provided the ballpark in San Jose is in Diridon and in the future, San Jose wins this argument too. Of course the Ballpark is not being built in the future, if at all, so for now let's just say this one is a wash again. This could change with different sites, like in the hills of Oaktown or in South San Jose, but the best of what both cities have to offer from a transit perspective is acceptable. Much more than Fremont, anyway.

So it's either 4-2, 3-2 or 1-0 nothing. San Jose in the lead.

The last question is how do either of these two cities impact the ability to fund a new stadium. There are a bunch of models out there, the now defunct build a village concept was really cool from my perspective but ultimately unfeasible anymore. The Yankees and Mets let the City pay billions for it model won't fly and it shouldn't. The example we should use is AT&T, Pac Bell, SBC, Jewel by the Bay Park/Stadium. There is some debate about how much of a public subsidy the park got, noted Ballpark Fear Monger Neil deMause says it was 10%, noted Portland lover Maury Brown said it was more like 5. But either way here is a breakdown of how the Giants funded their stadium from the most detailed source, the second article I just linked. The Giants used $170 Million (48%) in the form of a loan from Chase, $70 Million (20%) from PSL's, $102 Million (28%) from naming rights and $15 Million (4%) in TIF (tax increment financing). That adds up to $357 million dollars and that doesn't include land acquisition.

So for the A's to replicate this in Oakland, at the Coliseum on the parking lot, there would be no land acquisition costs. They would have to come up with at least $450 Million (actually more if you consider they would need to build at least one parking garage) via naming rights, PSL's and a loan. In San Jose it would be more, because they would have to purchase the land where the Stadium would sit at fair market value, let's say $550 Million in total. So let's look at each and and assign a probability, shall we?

In Oakland 48% would represent a loan of $216 Million. In order for a bank to lay that kind of scratch right now they would need to be assured of some really huge crowds for a really long time. Numbers don't really back this up as a possibility. In San Jose, this would mean a loan of $264 Million. Again... does anyone see a bank willing to give that chunk of change with the current credit conditions? Can San Jose boast of better attendance history than Oakland and the bank can then count on 30,000 a night for the next 20 years? I would say a big 'ol loan like that is not likely for either scenario and it is hard to give either the nod on this point. In Oakland 20% is equal to $90 Million, in San Jose $110 Million. That's a lot of PSL's. Based on the difference in affluence you have to give the nod to San Jose on this. More disposable income, but still... a staggering number. Naming rights... Cisco is already in the bag on this. I don't know if that will apply in Oakland, but for the sake of argument let's say it does. That deal was worth $120 Million over 30 years in Fremont. That number doesn't equal 28% in either scenario, it's 27% in the Oaktown scenario and 22% in San Jose. So there will be some coin to make up. TIF, as explained in the link above, is a mechanism where a city government uses future gains in tax revenue to help fund current development. Basically, the city and developer decide on how much development will increase the tax base and that future money is used to finance debt to complete said development. In San Jose, this would require a public vote. In Oakland, I can't see the future tax revenue increasing by a whole bunch. But in either case, based on the back of the envelope numbers above Oakland would need to come up with 5% of $450 Million, or $22.5 Million and San Jose with 10% of $550 Million, or $55 Million.

After running through this little comparison, I think it is safe to say that the real answer to where they should play in the long run, from an ownership perspective is how this financing model can be tweaked to make the stadium actually happen. As Iggy said, "Who is gonna pay for it?" Or more accurately, how are the A's gonna pay for it? I will personally support a new Oakland stadium or a new San Jose stadium as long as that financing question is answered and it matches deMause's 10% number in San Francisco.

What about you?





















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