New Stadiums, Raiders, Yankees Plight
by Glenn Dickey
Oct 24, 2007

AN ON-GOING QUESTION: Which of the proposed new stadiums – the 49ers in Santa Clara and the A’s in Fremont – will be finished first?

The correct answer is neither.

I’ve maintained from the beginning that the A’s proposed park in Fremont is a non-starter. This is a real estate deal, plain and simple. A’s managing partner Lew Wolff has made his money on real estate deals, using other people’s money to work the deals, and this is another one. It makes sense as a real estate deal, and my feeling has always been that Wolff would try to get that part through and then back off from the baseball park.

There are just too many negatives. There is no public transit and apparently, there wouldn’t even be parking next to the park. Traffic on that 880 corridor is horrendous at rush hour, which is when fans would be driving to games. I know that from personal experience in driving to the 49ers practice facility from Oakland, and I’ve heard from people who live south of the proposed park that it is just as bad coming north.

Because the park would only seat about 34,000, hardly more than 75 per cent of the Giants park, ticket prices would be comparable to those charged by the Giants, much higher than what the A’s have charged in Oakland. The Giants have been able to do that because they’re dealing with an upscale audience, but the A’s fan base is much more blue collar – and good luck on wooing the Silicon Valley people away from the Giants. Many of them have invested in the Giants’ park already, with “charter seats”, a.k.a. PSLs. And though a park in Fremont might be closer, it would be more difficult than getting to the Giants park, either by driving up 101 or taking Cal Train.

Wolff showed a measure of desperation by saying at a talk before the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco that it was Fremont or nothing, but I think that's an empty threat because his options are limited. The two most commonly-mentioned cities – Las Vegas and Portland, Ore. – have obvious flaws. I mentioned Sacramento in an earlier column because I think it is more attractive than either of those cities. But my gut feeling is that Wolff will stay where he is rather than make any of those moves.

The Santa Clara stadium for the 49ers makes more sense because it is in a location close to the bulk of their fans and is easily accessible for Sunday’s games by freeways and public transit.

But the 49ers are still The Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight. Their plans for the new stadium include using the Great America parking lot.

So, what’s the first thing you do before announcing your plans?

Talk to the Great America people.

What’s the last thing the 49ers did?

Talk to the Great America people.

Originally, the Great America people said they could work with the 49ers but, after looking at the proposal for some time, they’ve said absolutely not.

That on top of the fact that the 49ers included in what they laughingly call their financial plan an $180 million contribution from Santa Clara. No, that’s not a joke. Though Bay Area communities have been turning down ballot initiatives to help finance sports stadiums for more than 20 years – including two Giants plans for building a park in either San Jose or where the 49ers practice facility now stands – the 49ers think Santa Clara is going to commit public money to their project.

Wait, there’s more. The 49ers have long figured that a new stadium would be partly financed by the NFL’s G-3 program that “lends” money (since it is repaid out of the visitor’s luxury box revenues, it’s really a gift) to teams with public/private financing. The money has run out on that program. The NFL will probably find a way to resurrect it, but even if it is, the old plans called for a maximum $150 million contribution, if the team chunked in at least twice as much.

But, Denise DeBartolo York controls the purse strings, and those who know her doubt that she ever will contribute the money needed. She may not have it. The Yorks are not on the current Forbest list of the 400 richest Americans, though former owner Eddie DeBartolo is.

So, fans, get used to watching games at Candlestick and the Oakland Coliseum. You’ll be there for awhile.

THE RAIDERS have to start getting JaMarcus Russell ready to play in games, as I wrote in Tuesday’s Examiner, but there’s been a complicating factor: Russell reported at least 20 pounds over his playing weight; estimates were at least 275 pounds. After he’d taken his shirt off in the dressing room, a woman writer noted that he could use a bra.

This is not the first time Russell has gained weight when he isn’t playing. He ballooned up between the time he played so well in the national championship game and the NFL draft. That’s a disturbing sign because it may indicate a less than total dedication to football. Could we be looking at the next Ryan Leaf?

COACHES DECISIONS: NFL coaches are often so conservative that they’ll kick a field goal on fourth-and-inches – hello there, Mike Nolan! – so it was a surprise to see Raider coach Lane Kiffin go for the first down on fourth-and-one from the 17 against Kansas City. The attempt failed, and Kiffin said after the game that he’d make the same decision again.

I hope not. A coach always has to consider the circumstances of the game. In this case, it was clear that this was going to be a low-scoring game; it was 6-0 Kansas City at the time. In that situation, you go for the three points.

Kiffin’s a smart young man. I think he’ll learn from his mistake and, despite his postgame comments, make the right decision next time.

YANKEES DECLINE? Since the trade for Babe Ruth in 1920, the Yankees have dominated baseball, with only a few fallow periods – but they may be headed for one of those now. There have been several reports that owner George Steinbrenner is in the early stages of Alzheimer. Significantly, he did not make a statement after manager Joe Torre refused an incentive-laden contract offer. His sons handled the news conference and are running the operation now.

After the way his sons handled that situation, they don’t seem up to the challenge of filling Steinbrenner’s shoes. Steinbrenner has always been very direct, and he had said that Torre would be gone if he didn’t make it to the World Series. If the sons had left it at that, they’d have been far better off than their tactics of making an insulting offer they knew Torre would decline.

Now, they have to worry that some key players may leave. Alex Rodriguez could opt out of his contract and, though he had another disappointing run in the postseason, he’s coming off his best year. With Scott Boras as his agent, Rodriguez may choose to go for another contract for even more money. The Yankees have other possible free agents, including closer Mariano Rivera.

It’s hard to imagine the Yankees in a non-contending position, but it could happen.

AN INCENTIVE? Coaches and managers always like to put up taunting remarks from players on another team to inspire their players. The latest example came when Red Sox players said they were inspired by a quote from Cleveland first baseman Ryan Garko, after the Indians failed an opportunity to win the ALCS at home, that “The champagne tastes just as good on the road.”

To put that in context, the Red Sox and Indians were battling for the right to play in the World Series. Any player who needed additional inspiration doesn’t belong on a major league roster.

PAUL BYRD: Another shoe fell when Cleveland pitcher Paul Byrd was reported as having ordered human growth hormone for what he said was health reasons. There will be many more names soon, some of which will surface when George Mitchell makes his report public in November or December.

Those around the game know what’s come out so far is just the tip of the iceberg. Use of steroids and the related human growth hormone are rampant in baseball. Yet, writers who should know better often write as if Barry Bonds is the only one getting help. Shameful.

FIELD OF DREAMS: A grass root effort by parents of Oakland Tech students is underway to build a baseball field for the Tech team, which currently has to play at Bushrod Park (the original practice field of the Raiders in 1960) on the Oakland/Berkeley border. The new field is planned for the former playground/field of Carter Middle School, which was recently decommissioned by the Oakland school district.

There is a fundraiser scheduled tomorrow night with business and civic leaders. For more information, go to the Oakland Tech website: http://www.oaklandtech.com/fieldofdreams.htm.


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