The opening of the San Jose Earthquakes‘ new stadium has been pushed back from 2014 to 2015 because builders “encountered concrete vaults deeper than expected” at the site, according to a “source involved with the project.” (An official announcement is expected on Monday.) I know you’re all disappointed.
Though maybe some of you are actually a little extra disappointed if you already bought season tickets for the new stadium for next year, which apparently a bunch of Earthquakes fans already had. The San Jose Mercury News helpfully reports that “team officials will have to address what to do with the season tickets already sold for the new facility.”
San Jose Earthquakes managing partner Keith Wolff (son of owner Lew) gave a presentation to San Jose residents last night on the progress of their long-stalled soccer-only stadium, and if he’s to be believed, it could be stalled not much longer. Skip past all the stuff about noise complaints (which is important if you live near the stadium, but not likely to be a major holdup) and stadium design (which is largely unchanged from two years ago), and you hit this tidbit:
The overall budget for the 15000-18000 seat stadium would require “up to a $60 million investment” by team ownership and was not dependent on securing outside corporate funding.
If true, that’s a big change from last year, when Lew Wolff said he’d need to pre-sell “sponsorships” to raise money for a new stadium. It’s not clear why that would have changed — improving revenue projections for MLS? increased desperation on Wolff’s part to get shovels in the ground leading him to front the money himself? — but if it has, then a new Earthquakes stadium could be open by … probably not 2013, but certainly 2014, if they get rolling soon.
Athletics Nation has posted a long three-part interview with Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff on multiple issues, including his new stadium plans. Among the highlights:
- Asked when a decision will be reached by MLB’s relocation commission, Wolff sounded frustrated, as always: “I wish I could give you a finite answer on that. There is actually no reason in the world that any of us can come up with that either the Giants or the baseball Commissioner should not approve us to move 50/60 miles away to San Jose so A’s can get a new ballpark. The Commissioner … is not the kind of person, for reasons that I don’t know even though we are very close, that gives you a firm date on anything until he is absolutely ready to do so. So I feel embarrassed that I can’t answer the question to say, ‘By the end of November…’ but I can’t.”
- Wolff hinted that he hasn’t been directly negotiating a territorial rights buyout with the Giants, saying, “I haven’t heard much from the Giants either, not that they need to,” and adding: “So this really boils down to the commissioner deciding, which he has the power to do, whether or not he will grant our request to share the Bay Area two-team market as the other three two-team markets in MLB all do.” He also reiterated several times that the former A’s owners handed over San Jose rights to the Giants for nothing “for the good of baseball,” and that handing them back to the A’s would likewise be for the good of baseball. Reading between the lines, this appears to be: “We’re not going to haggle over the price, so it’s up to Bud to force an agreement down the Giants’ throats”; given Selig’s proclivities for avoiding internecine conflict, good luck with that one.
- Wolff ruled out staying in a new stadium in Oakland, insisting: “We have exhausted every option in Oakland. And you’d think within the last two years that somebody from Oakland would pick up the phone and say ‘here’s a finite plan that you missed and that we wish to discuss with you.’ I haven’t heard one word.” As if in answer, yesterday the Bay Citizen profiled plans continuing for Oakland stadium proposals by Jack London Square and near Lake Merritt Channel — whether you consider them viable options or not, they are “finite plans.”
- He reiterated the “nobody wants to play on our grass” argument, asserting: “We have lost players in past years who would rather take a bit less money and play in a modern venue in a stronger market,” and citing Rafael Furcal and Adrian Beltre as specific examples. (Though in Beltre’s case, at least, indications are that he signed with Boston mostly to play in a pennant race and juice his batting numbers to earn a better subsequent contract in free agency.)
- “We are, I believe, the only team in baseball to share our ballpark with another professional sports team.” When the interviewer points out the Florida Marlins, Wolff replies, “No, I think they just play there by themselves. I think it is a football stadium, but they play there without a team there.” That stadium would be the facility until recently known as “Dolphins Stadium,” where the Miami Dolphins play — they may be going through a rough patch, but “unprofessional” is kind of harsh.
- On moving the team if San Jose falls through: “John Fisher and I don’t want to own a team outside of the Bay Area or outside of California. So if the Commissioner says to us, ‘Sorry I can’t do anything for you.’ Then I don’t know what we’ll do. We have not measured those options.” Wolff also reiterated the claim that he’s “never once threatened a move to another city,” though that hasn’t stopped his media proxies from doing so on his behalf.
In related news, Wolff told the San Jose Mercury News that he can have a San Jose Earthquakes stadium built by 2012, or maybe 2013, once he actually starts building one, if he does. “We’re taking every step toward a building permit that we can,” he said. “I don’t want to overdo it. These are very difficult times.” In other words, don’t hold you breath there, either.
Much news from Santa Clara County:
- A former Santa Clara mayoral candidate has sued to block the June vote on building a new San Francisco 49ers stadium. Deborah Bress charges that the ballot language is misleading and hides the project’s true costs; given that this issue has been raised before, if nothing else it’ll be interesting to see a court of law take up the question.
- The 49ers, meanwhile, have already spent $1.4 million on the stadium vote campaign, including, presumably, for the lawyers who wrote up that contentious ballot language. The stadium opposition has raised all of $3,000, which according to the 100-to-1 rule (stadium referendums generally only pass when proponents have outspent opponents by that margin) indicates that if these spending trends keep up, the Niners have a good chance of winning the vote. Assuming, of course, that there is one.
- Over in San Jose, meanwhile, Earthquakes owner Lew Wolff clarified his plans for where the heck he’ll come up with $40 million or so in “sponsorships” to pay for his proposed new stadium: He’s going to make some calls. “The process of contacting potential advertisers and sponsors will begin in about a month, maybe sooner,” Wolff told MLS Insider, adding, “It has to be privately financed in California, there is no public financing, so we do need certain level of pre-commitment to get the stadium done.”
- Finally, MLB commissioner Bud Selig said Sunday that he’s still waiting for that three-man commission he appointed last April to finish its report on sites for a potential new Oakland A’s ballpark — the most important element of which will be whether San Jose is on the list, and if so whether the commission has decided how much A’s owner Wolff would have to pay the San Francisco Giants owners for an official incursion into their MLB-designated territory. “They’re getting reasonably close to competing their work, but they have some left,” Selig told reporters Sunday. “They’re working their way through a lot of things and they’ve made no recommendations to me.” This is taking longer than watching Jack Cust try to score from first.
Lost in yesterday’s blizzard of stadium news was word from San Jose that the city council approved a rezoning bill needed to clear the way for a new Earthquakes stadium near San Jose Airport. For those interested in the gory details, Center Line Soccer liveblogged the hearing.
When the stadium will open is still up in the air: Quakes owner Lew Wolff is still working on selling naming rights and other sponsorship deals that will allow him to finance the estimated $40-60 million construction cost. And, of course, he also has other things on his mind.
The San Jose Earthquakes released some sketches of a proposed soccer-only stadium on Saturday, but there’s no indication when it might be built: Team owner Lew Wolff still doesn’t know how it would be paid for, and would say only that it would open about two years after construction began, whenever that might be.
“People expect you to break ground,” Wolff told the San Jose Mercury News. “I’ve been breaking ground all my life. But I don’t like to generate expectations beyond what I can deliver.”
Interestingly, Wolff didn’t entirely rule out having the Quakes share space with the Oakland A’s should they move to San Jose, though he said, “The first goal is to have it soccer only.” Meanwhile, team execs announced they’d be cutting ticket prices for next season — some by as much as 40% — which is probably as much about the team having just finished in last place two years in a row as it is about the deflating ticket bubble.
Has the MLS pixie dust worn off? San Jose Earthquakes owner Lew Wolff has told the San Jose Mercury News that his new soccer stadium isn’t opening in 2012 as planned, as he hasn’t been able to line up the necessary sponsors. And this even after getting
an offer of cut-rate land from the city of San Jose.
“You can’t do it out of magic,” said Wolff. “There’s no sense building a stadium unless you have some flow of revenue.” Guess he didn’t like the view from the diving board.
In what the San Jose Mercury News calls an effort to “speed along a San Jose Earthquakes soccer stadium threatened by the cratering economy — now that doesn’t sound promising — the city of San Jose has agreed to cut their asking price for the proposed stadium site from $132 million to $89 million. There are two ways to look at this, of course: as the city offering the Quakes a gift of $43 million, or as a reflection of the fact that California land isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on right now. City councilmember Sam Liccardo, whose district includes the stadium site, took the latter view: “Prices have come back to earth, and we have to face that reality. Doing something beats doing nothing in this economy.”
While the council is expected to approve the land sale next month, it’s still uncertain how the stadium would be financed; Earthquakes owner Lew Wolff (remember him?) originally proposed one of his patented development-rights swap deals, but with development not so much a going concern in California anymore, that plan is now “on hiatus,” according to the Merc News. Last word from Wolff was that “we’re trying to piece it together and I think we’re going to get there.”
In other Wolff-related news, the San Jose city council voted unanimously last night to move ahead with attempts to lure the Oakland A’s to their city, with councilmembers calling for a study group and new environmental impact report for their proposed stadium site near the Diridon rail station. San Francisco Giants exec Bill Neukom responded on a local TV news show: “Those are our [territorial] rights, and we will continue to defend them.”