The squeaky wheel gets the grease?
The Sharks took a more conciliatory tone today — one week after the organization went public with a threat to leave San Jose because of displeasure with the city and Google’s re-development plans around the Diridon area surrounding SAP Center.
“It would seem that we are not the highest priority,” San Jose Sharks president Jonathan Becher said last week, of the city of San Jose.
After taking his the team’s case to city council on Monday, Becher said today: “I am more optimistic now. Our message was heard loud and clear.”
Becher covered a wide range of topics this morning: Will the NHL season start on New Year’s Day? Will the Sharks be forced to hold training camp outside of California? Are they laying off more employees? Why is he more optimistic about the re-development around SAP Center not hurting the Sharks? Are the Sharks wearing six jerseys next year? How’s the San Jose Barracuda’s new arena coming along? And do the Sharks want to extend their SAP Center lease past 2040?
He also cracked a “Time is nigh” joke.
Jonathan Becher, on if he believes NHL season will start on New Year’s Day:
I’m more confident in January than I am in January 1 as an exact date. It’s certainly possible January 1 gets delayed a week or two.
It would be important, if we can, to try to finish before those Olympics happen.
Becher, on whether or not San Jose Sharks will play in SAP Center next season:
The league can’t make this decision unilaterally. Each local health official will decide what can be done inside their arena, inside their county as well.
It’s certainly possible some teams can play in their buildings, other teams cannot. We have to try to figure out how to put on a season where it’s fair for everybody.
Becher, on whether or not Sharks would need to hold training camp outside of California because of local restrictions:
That would be a last resort for us. But if the season is going to start in January and we can’t train here, we would have to train somewhere. So that is a back-up plan.
Becher, on San Jose Sharks’ layoffs:
We did do a small re-structuring. Only small, if you’re not taking part of that. But it was much less than 10 percent of the organization. Some of the changes were COVID-related, some were not.
At this point, we haven’t discussed nor do we have anything planned. We’ll go out of our way to avoid doing it again.
It’s impossible to say with 100 percent certainty it won’t happen again. It’s somewhere between unlikely and highly unlikely.
Becher, on how city of San Jose has responded to the team bringing out their concerns to the public last Friday:
There’s been a number of conversations with city officials, council people, that we had not previously talked in much detail with. Many of them expressed that their own constituents had reach out to them.
One councilman member said to me, I never realized I had so many Sharks fans in my district.
Becher, on the timeline for the city of San Jose to act:
The heart of the message I was trying to get across was we need more than just talk. We’ve had a lot of good conversations. This is not the time for talk, this is the time for action. Essentially, the window closes in the spring. Many of these decisions will be made. To parrot one of our athletes, the time is nigh to make a decision. Not some time in the future.
Becher, on if he’s feeling more optimistic about the Sharks staying in San Jose now, as opposed to last week:
Our message was heard loud and clear.
I am more optimistic now.
Becher, on if the city would take care of most of the organization’s concerns if they address the reduction in the street network and honor the outstanding parking agreement:
If they do those two things…It seems more likely now than before [they will]. That goes a long way.
The only other big thing that we’re concerned about, there are five major construction projects going on — there’s the Google project, which gets a lot of the press. There’s also a very large project going on at the Diridon Station.
On top of that, there’s BART, coming to us. There’s Caltrain modernization. A fifth one could be high-speed rail coming from SoCal to us.
Somebody’s got to master plan all five of those. Because each of those projects, just the nature of construction, is going to shut down roadways temporarily. Temporarily could be months, not weeks.
Worst case, all five are happening simultaneously. They’re all closing roads with no master plan, the roads all around the building will be closed for months on end. So you couldn’t even physically walk to the building, let alone drive.
Seems like common sense that won’t happen, but all those projects are operated independently. Someone has to step in and govern those five, that would be the city.
Becher, on why he spoke at Monday’s city council open forum:
Education, get our message out. The city asked for the public to express their opinions. We’re one of the largest members of the public in San Jose. I wanted to make sure we expressed our opinion and went on record.
Becher, on tweeting out the San Jose Sharks were considering wearing six jerseys next year:
It was a bit tongue and cheek. But not entirely. Our work’s not done yet announcing stuff, as Doug hinted to you when you talked. There is more stuff coming. And there may be more of more stuff coming than you expected. Whether there’s a sixth, seventh, or eighth jersey, that was more tongue in cheek, but there is more fun stuff coming. And some of it by popular demand is maybe my hint.
Becher, on how the renovation of the San Jose Sharks’ practice facility and the construction of the San Jose Barracuda’s new arena is coming along:
We’re on schedule, maybe slightly ahead of schedule.
We’re on track to open in time for the 2022 season.
Becher, on if the San Jose Sharks would be willing to extend their lease at SAP Center past 2040:
That would be good news. We would enjoy extending beyond 2040. We don’t have a proposal from them yet, but we would welcome one.
Let’s be transparent: If there’s going to be construction around SAP Center from, I’ll make up the dates, 2025 to 2045. We wouldn’t want to be here for all the construction issues, but not here without the upside and benefits.
Certainly, if we mitigated all the problems, you could still access SAP during construction, street network was fixed, all the things we talked about, it would be great to have a thriving downtown.
An extension is something we would welcome.
The Sharks were born here. We want to stay here.
And all the money we’re investing in the building, we can extend the useful lifetime of this building for a very long period of time. She’s got good bones.
Becher, on how season ticket renewals are going:
In January of 2020, we started renewals for the 2020-21 season. That renewal season would typically end at the end of March. We typically see more than 85, maybe as much as 90 percent of season ticket holders renew. This year, because of the pandemic, we shut down that renewal season three weeks early. We shut down at roughly 80 percent renewed. I think we probably would’ve gotten pretty close had we not not gotten the COVID pandemic, if we had given people the three extra weeks of time.
But of those people who renewed — we gave them a chance to pause a year — you can retain your tenure and your seat but push until the 2021-22 season. Whatever money you paid in so far, you get an extra five percent. To date, 50 percent of people who renewed have taken us up on that pause option.
We’re allowing people to essentially pretend that this season doesn’t exist if they’re worried about COVID or [any other] uncertainty. Then start back without any penalty, and in fact, with a nice five percent kicker for the following year.
Becher, on what SAP Center will look like when fans come back:
We’re moving to 100 percent digital ticketing. That makes it contactless.
We’re moving to a cash-light, almost cash-less building. What if the fun things we’re adding is what we call a reverse ATM, where you can take your cash, put it in what feels like an ATM machine, but you get a debit card back. You get a Sharks-branded debit card back, which works not just in our building, actually works anywhere. It’s a true debit card. It reduces cash handling through the building.
There’s a bunch of little changes, like sanitation stations that have already gone in.