Groundbreaking ceremonies for professional sports teams are usually bastions of hoopla, with owners and executives sporting hardhats and shovels for throngs of cameras.
But these are unusual times, and the San Francisco Giants opted to skip all the hullabaloo.
The Major League Baseball team, without fanfare or even press release, broke ground on the first phase of their $2.5 billion Mission Rock project across the inlet called McCovey Cove from Oracle Park in the Mission Bay area of “The City.”
They will save the spectacle for another time, a team spokesperson told Sportico.
While MLB has remained idle because of the Coronavirus, the Giants have been working on the mixed-use development project with the City of San Francisco and Port of San Francisco. The process was born in 2005, five years after the ballpark opened. Since then it has navigated a maze of public referendums, approval processes and financing models.
On a 27-acre lot of flat tarmac and home to 2,000 parking spots will rise 10 buildings accommodating retail space and apartment rentals, a parking garage and a five-acre park during the next seven- to eight years. The Giants and New York-based development firm Tishman Speyer are 50-50 partners on the project.
Jack Bair, executive vice president and general counsel for the team, and president of Giants Development Corp., the club’s real estate arm, said the port will generate ground lease revenue to pay for infrastructure, the city will generate property taxes, and the team will also have an opportunity to generate revenue.
The so-called ballpark village is the current favored concept in building new stadiums and arenas, a venue within the confines of a larger mixed-use development built around it and designed to generate the necessary revenue to construct the stadium.
The foremost example is Atlanta, where the Braves’ new ballpark opened in 2017 and is surrounded by The Battery, a collection of restaurants, theaters, offices, apartments and hotels built at a cost of $1.12 billion.
In Inglewood, California, a stadium for the National Football League’s Los Angeles Rams and Chargers is at the core of an $8 billion project. Similar ballpark-oriented projects have been discussed in Oakland and Phoenix.
Ballpark villages have also sprung up around existing stadiums in St. Louis, Arlington, Texas, and Denver, where a new multi-use project is rising on a parking lot adjacent to Coors Field.
The push to create Mission Rock is a continuation of the Giants’ path to develop Oracle Park, which is widely regarded as one of baseball’s crown jewel facilities with its picturesque vistas of San Francisco Bay.
Phase 1 should take about two-and-a-half years.
The Port unanimously approved the budget for Phase 1 last September, but a January groundbreaking was delayed until March, and then again until May because of the city’s shelter-in-place mandate.
Because the Mission Rock project includes affordable housing the construction was considered essential and allowed to continue.
The project is about a mile north of the $1.4 billion Chase Center, home to the National Basketball Association’s Golden State Warriors, who moved across the bay prior to this season.
Barry Bloom is a reporter for Sportico, Penske Media’s new sports business platform.