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Op-Ed: Park/Rec Commission Approves Pro Baseball Despite Flimsy Plan

Steve Patterson, chair of the Federation of San Rafael Neighborhoods, outlines the concerns with the plan for pro baseball at Albert Park.

Professional baseball is by a group called Centerfield Partners for San Rafael.  Their goal would be to bring the equivalent of Double-A Ball to San Rafael beginning in May 2012 for 45 games at the Albert Park baseball stadium that boarders Anderson Drive, near B Street.  Centerfield Partners would like to expand seating from 800 seats to 1,500 seats as well as make other stadium improvements.  They insist that there would be many family friendly game promotions and the games would be places where moms and dads could bring their children for affordable entertainment.  They are still quite a number of issues that need to be addressed and worked out.  They include:

  • Parking—While Centerfield Partners has worked out a parking plan with the San Rafael Corporate Center that has parking right across the street from the stadium.  There is still a legitimate fear that if priced too high, the Gerstle Park neighborhood will be overrun with cars.  This is a real balancing act to pull off so that it works and does not stifle the edge of Gerstle Park and the close-by neighbors.  For the first year, I believe the parking should be free in the parking lot to create positive parking behavior and signify a positive relationship.
  • Alcohol/Security—How will the serving of beer/wine be balanced to keep rowdy behavior in check?  Will tailgate partying be a reality in the parking lot and precisely how will that be managed?  If done right and this is a truly family affair, it seems this can be part of the mix.
  • Noise—If 1,500 people start screaming for their home teams what type of acoustical solutions might be available.  PA systems also make noise and neighbors may not want to hear player stats and other particulars of the game involuntarily.  Noise also bounces so neighbors on the hillsides could be negatively impacted.  Some noise tests need to be piloted to see what the decibel truly might be.
  • Lights—The lights will likely get expanded and how will ambient light be managed so that people’s homes don’t get lit up, particular those on the hills.
  • Fans—Is this number 1,500 really the number of fans that will work, or might fewer attendees be acceptable but still generate acceptable revenue numbers for Centerfield Partners.  One wonders what the real number really is.
  • Revenue for San Rafael–It seems the City of San Rafael is receiving only a minimal stipend for renting out this stadium.  Some cash flow estimates indicate Centerfield Partners will take in at least $1.5 million in the course of a season, but will only pay San Rafael less than $500 per game.  It seems odd that for professional baseball the city would not try and generate a bigger revenue stream.

Other than some PowerPoint slides, not even a site map has been submitted about how and where the expanded seats would be located, no traffic plan, no parking plan with expected costs.  So many missing elements to this proposal it is amazing the Park and Recreation Commission can even hold a vote.

Many people have indicated a favorable response to the baseball plan.  It would bring people to downtown restaurants before a game and provide an expanded customer base for downtown businesses and the “alive after 5” philosophy.

However a smaller group of more immediate neighbors have hired an attorney and called for a full environmental impact report referring to baseball as a “catastrophe waiting to happen”.  They claim that “alcohol soaked” fans will urinate in public and smash windows after games. 

The position is a bit extreme and the inflammatory language just alienates people who might share many of their same concerns.  Even the substance abusers who are homeless and hang out near the park don’t exhibit that type of radical behavior.  It appears that some of lesser desirables who hang out at the park might, in fact, move on and the baseball games and the families might create a positive impact for the park.

But all this needs to be studied and analyzed by San Rafael planners.  At this point it is not clear when this type of scrutiny will be applied to the potential use.  Seems odd, since far smaller proposed land uses receive far greater scrutiny by the City.
In spite of not having full and complete information the Park and Recreation Commission . To many people it feels like this is being pushed through, no matter what.  Even people who support this baseball initiative question how the Park and Recreation Comission could recommend the plan with virtually no analysis of the proposal itself.  The plot will thicken, so stay tuned…

--Steve Patterson

Federation of San Rafael Neighborhoods

Contact the author at (415) 453-6541 or stephenpatterson.1@comcast.net.

joe May 24, 2011 at 03:56 PM
We really do not understand what the big fuss is? Its baseball in a baseball stadium. I really doubt that they can attract 1500 fans, meaning less traffic, parking etc. The lawyer they hired created a huge disaster, when he used those memorable statements to the audience. There is way too much speculation here. If most of the community wants the team, and only a few are against it, then let it be. If they build it, the will come! San Rafael needs an economic boost and a family friendly activity for the community.
Sarah S. May 08, 2012 at 08:35 PM
I agree ! i hope they can get a baseball team in san rafael ! it would bring the community together and it will give people something to do in the nighttime. also, i doubt it will be very much more traffic through there than the events they host already in the park.

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