Field of Schemes
sports stadium news and analysis


This is an archived version of a Field of Schemes article. Comments on this page are closed. To find the current version of the article with updated comments, click here.

April 27, 2010

San Jose A's land costs hit $72m and rising

MLB commissioner Bud Selig's Oakland A's relocation task force still hasn't issued its recommendations, but that's not stopping the city of San Jose from buying up land for an A's stadium, if a move to San Jose is approved (and the A's owners can afford whatever payoff MLB deems necessary for the San Francisco Giants' territorial rights). The city has already spent $24 million assembling about half of the 14-acre site, and the total cost, including new roads and infrastructure, is now expected to exceed $72 million.

Notes the San Jose Mercury News:

San Jose must contend with private property owners hoping for a bonanza in a down market. Others may not want to sell, raising the unpleasant prospect that the city's redevelopment agency might ultimately have to seize their land. And it is still unclear where the agency will find all the money the ballpark site and roadwork are expected to demand.

The Merc News describes the current landowners as "homes, mom-and-pop businesses and a gas supply company that sits roughly where center field is envisioned." Asked if the city would use eminent domain to seize property, John Weis of the city's redevelopment agency demurred: "We are going to negotiate the property acquisitions."

The city is planning to buy up the property whether the stadium happens or not; if not, it plans to build retail space, offices, and possibly housing. To replace the current retail space, offices, and housing. That should be an interesting eminent domain hearing...


That assumes of course it comes to eminent domain. It seem the landowners they've negotiated with so far have been willing to sell. Also what's not taken into account is that a portion of that $72 million is buying land for the Autumn St extension, not the ballpark. The extension is something that's been in the works for over a decade to link Coleman Ave (and the large shopping center on that road) with the area around the Arena long before the ballpark plan came about.

Posted by Dan on April 27, 2010 02:00 PM

"...If not, it plans to build retail space, offices, and possibly housing. To replace the current retail space, offices, and housing. Bla Bla Bla." Apples and oranges Neil! Big difference between 1940's, decrepit single family homes and decrepit office/retail vs. new high-rise condo's/commercial space with ground-floor retail. But alas, a ballpark will be built on the site, so I won't badger you to much on that one.
As much as you'd like to see it, for the umpteenth time Neil, the Giants won't be allowed to extort the A's for the right to move to San Jose. Again, the greater good and the best interest of all of MLB, not just the Giants.
Lastly: I know it goes well with your "Field of Schemes" ideals, but is it right to lump in (as Dan alluded to) the cost of a roadway with the ballpark-site acquisitions? One that would have been built even without a ballpark? Pretty dishonest if you ask me Neil.

Posted by Tony D. on April 27, 2010 09:17 PM

Somebody didn't click the FakeAPStylebook link...

As for replacing "decrepit" homes and offices with "new" ones, I'm sure that will be the city's argument at an eminent domain hearing, if it gets to that point. But that's really stretching the definition of "public benefit."

Posted by Neil on April 27, 2010 11:11 PM

It would always be wonderful if our reporters and like could try to avoid sensationalism in their writings. Trying to bundle togehter infrastructure improvements that will happen regardless of whether the ballpark is built and than positioning that only half of the ballpark property has been acquired is a bit of a stretch. While there may be 50% of the remaining site to acquire it is 2 parcels---one owned by ATT and the other a 3/4 acre peice that is rented to a welding company. Using eminent domain for either of these entities would trigger a collective yawn from most constituents. Lots of other areas in SJ to place similiar type of operations. Using ED to acquire very old homes in very poor condition to complete the Autumn extension is also an appropriate use of it---

Now I know that Neil and others say these types of investments do nothing for a city but ask any restuarant, bar or hotel in the downtown core what the impact of the Sharks is on their business and you will quickly understand the benefit of doubling the number of dates as well as the number of attendee's by locating the ballpark in the downtown core.

I prefer to listen to those who live it on a daily basis v. those who analyse it from a theoretical and philosphical perspective-

Posted by SanJoseA's on April 28, 2010 12:06 AM

It is a rather tiresome argument for new stadiums that is easily refuted by some simple arguments:

1. Modern stadiums are built to include a wide variety of money-spending options expressly designed to NOT encourage people to spend money in the "local neighborhood". The need for new "revenue streams" at public expense can have the perverse effect of causing severe disruptions in the local economy (as demonstrated by the new Yankee Stadium). Not many "family restaurants" can wait out a two year readjustment.

2. For every stadium/arena that supposedly "rejuvenates" a local neighborhood, there are quite a few more that don't ever seem to get there. The Nats Ballpark in DC doesn't seem to have sprouted a vibrant neighborhood, unless the opening of a Starbucks has had an extraordinary effect on neighborhood morale. Not sure Cleveland and Baltimore are really "better off" today than they were 15 years ago.

3. No one would dispute that a restaurant getting "extra" business wouldn't by happy about a stadium (if indeed you could correlate it). The real question is--should a government use scarce public funds to redirect the spending of entertainment dollars from a restaurant not near a stadium/arena to one that happens to be near a stadium/arena? How much of this spending is actually "new"? Never as much as boosters claim.

Sorry if a "theoretical approach" doesn't suit you. But when you are arguing from a perspective that anything that builds a funhouse is justifiable, its hard to have a real argument. That this conversation is from the financial disaster known as California is most telling.

Posted by GDub on April 28, 2010 04:57 AM

Isn't one of the city's role to invest in areas that will generate more revenue for the city and help to support fire, police etc---taking land that will sit idle for many, many more years and providing a cheap land lease to lure the development of a $500M ballpark that will result in increased revenues for the city is a no-brainer---sit on land that is producing nothing while the vacancy rate is 20+ percent or work to build a ballpark that increases the city's revenues----hummm--ok---guess that funhouse would be a good idea

Posted by SanJoseA's on April 28, 2010 04:02 PM

The problem with your argument again is that it is irrefutable. You think "doing something" is great if it leads to a baseball stadium, you aren't really serious about debating options.

I would have to ask--who exactly is going to build this $500M ballpark? If a private venture is going to spend $500M, why choke on $72M on unused land in a bad economy, especially in Northern California?

Then we're talking about public money building a stadium. And no, I don't think your expenditure of public money on construction (plus unseen variables like maintenance, depreciation, renegotiated leases, policing, etc.) will lead to any sort of "profit" for the city in overall revenues. They haven't in lots of other places.

So I guess it is a no-brainer if the bountiful revenues actually materialized. But since your historical basis for such an argument is next to nil, the argument might still be in play.

I would advise San Jose to look at encouraging businesses to come that are open more than 81 days a year.

Posted by GDub on April 29, 2010 02:30 PM

Ahh---always fall back on the exaggeration of what it really will cost to acquire land for a ballpark--$72M? That includes the Autumn extension that will happen regardless of whether or not a ballpark is build---anything else you want to throw in in terms of cost? Any yes, the ballpark will be privately financed as was AT&T---puts the burden on the fan to help pay the mortgage and not the city--

Tell a few of the folks in the construction trades who have 30% unemployment right now that you would prefer to blow off $500M of private invest so that you can keep those 14 acres of land as parking lots and distressed buildings producing nothing for the forseeable future---yaa---makes sense----

Posted by GoA's on April 30, 2010 02:33 AM

I guess I'm dumb enough on business matters to wonder why a "sure thing" $500 million dollar project funded with private money is going to founder on a measly couple tens of millions of dollars for land (you say $72 mil is too high). Especially when the threat of eminent domain can give that extra push to people to sell out.

I guess the burden is on the supporters of this fiscal silliness to show exactly who these "private" investors are who have an extra half-bil in change in the sofa, and why they haven't made themselves available for previous versions of this "White Elephant" (sorry).

No doubt, in the end the real cost of this stadium to the taxpayer will be much higher than a few million bucks that were going to be "spent anyway" but why should anyone worry about public finances in California?

Posted by GDub on April 30, 2010 03:56 AM

Tell it to MLB--once the territorial rights restriction is lifted than they will be more than happy to review the financial details--but remember that they already have a naming sponsor--Cisco--they have a new TV contract with Comcast---seat licenses (just like ATT) etc---don't say it cant happen because it already has happened in SF--the exact same detail----rainy day people like yourself try to play on fear--you have no evidence to support your statement that costs to taxpayers will be higher than expected---once again non-factual emotion bs---

Ask SF if the gints ballpark was a financial fiasco for the city of SF----ahhh--right--reality is no--its been an incredible addition that has spurred an incredible amount of investment around it---of course--why talk facts here---lets play off the fear emotion

Posted by SanJoseA's on April 30, 2010 10:47 PM

Um, San Francisco for the previous 10 years was one of the hottest and most expensive real estate markets around, so saying something got developed because of a ballpark is probably pushing it. Ballparks haven't done anything in plenty of cities where no development was happening anyway.

There's a big difference between $500 million and $250 million. But if the SF baseball model is the way it works out for you, great. I'm not holding my breath.

If that's the way it worked

Posted by GDub on May 1, 2010 01:10 AM

China Basin was a wasteland before the gints built there--obviously your not familiar with the area to make such a ridiculous claim--San Jose was a hotter market than SF--also has the highest per capita income in the US---but Diridon didn't get built out---why--because a ballpark that is privately financed as was ATT is a catalyst for other developments---no wonder the gints just battled to get development rights to the 24 acres around ATT---

I know your not holding your breath---too much hot air coming out of your mouth right now with nothing to support it but unsubstantiated claims-

Posted by SanJoseA's on May 1, 2010 01:20 AM

ad hominem is the way to go on message boards.

I point out only two things--again.

1. There are more examples where stadiums/arenas did little to nothing for cities than examples where they could plausibly be credited for doing anything. So if you want to say a ballpark led to a "renaissance" you might want to explain why Washington DC, Cleveland, Baltimore, St Louis, Kansas City, the Bronx and South Philly remain (to differing degrees) economically challenged cities, given a similar "ballpark influence".

2. San Francisco (I happen to be from Northern California) has been a super-hot real estate market for some years. It also, unlike San Jose, is extremely limited in space (the important distinction). The premium wealthy people are and have been willing to pay to live on the Bay makes what had been dodgy parts around the Embarcadero much more suitable for development than it might have a few years before. A benefit of changing urban tastes.

I would say the broadly expressed (and expensive) desire to live in one of the world's great cities has a longer-term and more pervasive effect on development than a baseball stadium that is open less than 1/4 of the year. Would the desire to live in San Francisco collapse if the Giants left? Please.

One could also point out that SF got the (relatively) good deal it got by telling the civic boosters of "public investment" (who, as always, predicted doom and gloom) to stuff it. We can hope San Jose residents do the same.

I await your learned response to my points.

Posted by GDub on May 2, 2010 04:42 PM

You choose to cite other venues across the country when you have a shining star of success 40 miles up the road....interesting choice of playing the gloom and doom emotion---San Jose is more like Clevland than SF...interesting

Once again you show your lack of knowledge about the Bay Area--SJ is a more expensive residential real estate market than SF when using median costs of households---the fact remains that SF is not a sports town (undertand why the gints don't want to give up SJ. The fact remains that ATT feuled signficant development in the distressed China Basin area---development that would not have occured had their not been a catalyst---how much have property values increased in the area...resulting in property tax revenues...ahhh--a benefit for the city and taxpayers-

You also show lack of knowledge as to how ATT became---because SJ voters rejected a publically financed ballpark for the Giants in 1992---San Jose voters are well aware of what publically financed means v. private and if you look at the recent polling numbers on the A's potential move to SJ you will see the support fairly strong for something that can't move forward until MLB removes the T'rights restriction

Posted by GoA's on May 2, 2010 05:15 PM

Latest News Items