Friday, January 20, 2012

More Dim Predictions, FanFest and SJ City Councilman Speaks on Land

It is pretty painfully obvious to most A's fans that barring some sort of Moneyball (the movie) style miracle, this year's team will struggle to win very much. Fox Sports's Tracy Ringolsby had this to say about the team in his preview posted today online:

They (the A's) folded. And the 2012 season hasn’t even begun.

The A’s seem more concerned now with excuses than successes.

Yes, they are a small-budget operation, and their plight in Oakland is seemingly hopeless, which has them basing their future off the hope that commissioner Bud Selig can pull off some hocus pocus and force the San Francisco Giants to open the door to the San Jose area in an effort to salvage the A’s franchise.

Ringolsby's "hocus pocus" comment echoes a lot of the sentiment by local media in the Bay Area regarding a potential move South, despite meetings that seemed to be indicative of progress in that direction (or at least some resolution of the matter).


A's FanFest, scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 22, will give fans an opportunity to speak with A's managing partner Lew Wolff. The vitriolic Twitter comments regarding this announcement are mounting. I would expect, given the highly fractious nature of the team's stadium issue, for these meet-and-greet's to take place in private areas well out of site. Still, kudos to Lew for coming. At least he can say he was in Oakland once this year.

SJ City Councilman Liccardo Speaks on Land Deal

Baseball San Jose -- a political action committee dominated by individuals with ties to A's-ownership -- reprinted on their blog a piece by city councilman Sam Liccardo, who represents the 3rd District in San Jose. It defends the city council's recent decision to grant the A's an option on part of the land needed for a downtown stadium (the other part is still held by private entities). The option was $50,000 and the purchase price was a shade below $7 million. It is important to note that the city spent $25.2 million acquiring the land. This passage was particularly noteworthy, especially given the extreme squishiness when it comes to justifying public funds for stadiums (especially those which will be privately held and controlled).

Under even the most expansive view of San Jose’s public investment in the project, the land sale comes at a bargain.   Critics assert that the RDA spent almost $25.2 million in acquisition and relocation costs for the six parcels, and the City’s Diridon Authority will acquire only $7 million in return, at a net loss of $18.1 million.   Consider this $18.1 million public investment in a fuller context, however: it will leverage a private investment of approximately $489 million in new construction, and millions in annual revenues to restaurants, hotels, and other nearby businesses.   For the taxpayers, the revenue produced directly by the stadium will bring some $1.5 million to the City’s coffers, and another $3.5 million in annual revenues to the County, schools, and other local agencies.  That does not even count the additional tax revenues flowing from nearby development catalyzed by a new stadium; the vastly revitalized urban neighborhoods surrounding stadiums in cities like Baltimore, San Diego, Denver, and San Francisco provide ample reason for optimism.  The taxpayers will get their money’s worth. 

For San Jose taxpayers, what is now AT&T Park in San Francisco is instructive as it  was privately financed as the A's intend to do. Rutgers University's Judith Grant Long in the book Baseball Between the Numbers notes that taxpayers ended up subsidizing 14 percent of then-Pac Bell Park's costs. (p. 224) These subsidies took the form of property tax breaks and free land. Surely the figure will be less as the A's are paying something for the land, but the city is already starting at a loss as it is selling for less than it paid. Neil deMause is the author of the chapter "Are New Stadiums a Good Deal?" it, along with the book and deMause's website Field of Schemes, are worthwhile reading.

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