A’s can’t make up their mind if Fremont stadium is dead

Depending on which Oakland A’s official you believe, the team’s plans for a baseball stadium in Fremont are either dead, not dead, or somewhere in between. On Friday, team spokesman Bob Rose announced: “At this time we have decided to no longer pursue the Fremont project. We are regrouping and will have discussions internally about our future options.” On Saturday, A’s owner Lew Wolff contradicted that statement: “Unless you hear it from me, it’s not necessarily true. I have not personally made an announcement yet” – though he added, “Things look gloomy there. I’m concerned about moving forward.”

Further confusing matters is that there are two sites under consideration in Fremont. An initial report in the San Francisco Chronicle implied that it was only the original site near I-880 that was being ditched – but also cited as one reason opposition from the NUMMI auto plant, which was actually complaining about the Warm Springs site near its facility.

San Jose councilmember Sam Liccardo responded to the news by saying he hoped this would open the door for the A’s to instead move to his city, but it didn’t sound like he was holding his breath: “For people like me who would love to see the A’s play baseball in San Jose, the fact that the deal is falling through in Fremont doesn’t hurt. … Until we hear from the Oakland A’s that they’d like to move to San Jose, there’s not a lot of reason to start banging the drums down here. There are still issues that need to be resolved before the A’s could come to Santa Clara County, and we’re hopeful that Lew Wolff and his team will find a resolution.” (Yeah, no kidding about those “issues.”) Chron columnist Ray Ratto, meanwhile, is ready to file a death certificate on the whole A’s-moving thing:

Oh sure there’s San Jose, and that is only a few hundred million dollars, some currently absent political will, thousands of angry taxpayers and a few environmental impact reports away from becoming reality. You’ll notice we didn’t include the Giants’ territorial rights claims. Because those are about as enforceable as Germany’s claims on Tanzania, we decided to ignore them as baseball will if and when the time comes.

More realistically, though, the A’s are back in Oakland and for many years to come, as predicted by smart people everywhere.

(Note: I don’t share Ratto’s dismissal of the territorial rights issue, if only because Germany never had Bud Selig on its side.)

Ratto also notes that if the A’s stay put, it throws a major wrench into the Raiders‘ recently floated plans to redo the Oakland Coliseum: “It is, after all, hard to get permits to build on a site that is still in daily use by a baseball team, and while Al would not necessarily find that a stumbling block, the A’s would probably object to having their employees duck wrecking balls while trying to chase down a double in the left-center field gap.” Though, of course, Jack Cust already fields that way.

Share this post:

34 comments on “A’s can’t make up their mind if Fremont stadium is dead

  1. I think Ratto underestimates San Jose. The only real obstacle is money. There is a fair amount of political will. Liccardo and Mayor Reed both support the idea. The EIR Ratto refers to has been done for some time now. And there will only be angry taxpayers to contend with IF the A’s chose to pursue public money in San Jose due to San Jose’s laws regarding using public money on venues bigger than 5,000 seats.

  2. Dan, do you really think that A) Wolff would try to self-finance or B) Selig would LET him? TIFs are very out-of-style right now, and that’s the only way they could even think about building a A’s stadium in SJ right now.

    The A’s stay where they are, and the Raiders? Who cares?

  3. Actually yes I think Wolff would look for some way to self finance. And Selig is a stooge of the owners, so he doesn’t get much say in how Wolff would fund a stadium. And actually I don’t think TIF is out of style at all, even now. People still make a very big distinction between TIF and direct city money (ie tax dollars, redevelopment funds, etc…) going toward stadiums, particularly in San Jose.

  4. The sad thing about the A’s (And the Marlins for that matter), is they are victims of bad timing. Most of the other teams in baseball have new or renovated facilities, and they are stuck in bad stadiums with expiring leases. The concept behind Cisco Field at Fremont was actually brilliant, with its new state of the art technology, and advanced software being the centerpiece of it all (Which is why the Yankees spent $17m, and took the Cisco prototype and added it to their new stadium). But the economy collapsed, and now they are stuck. Which puts the A’s in the same boat with the Kings, Raiders, & Niners as Northern California teams who will likely be unable to get new facilities (In fact, after the completed facilities of 2010 (Giants/Jets, Twins, Penguins & Magic), there is no major sports facility under construction for 2011 and onward).
    I believe, The best option would be to have Major League Baseball, buy out the A’s & Marlins, put the players in a dispersal draft, and strengthen bad teams such as Pittsburgh, Washington, Seattle & San Diego. This would be one option which would allow ownership of these franchises the opportunity to get out, while making baseball more competitive.

  5. Only problem with that idea is that contraction is a non-starter with the current CBA in place, and likely will continue to be under the next CBA as well. The players union wields too much power to let two teams fold.

  6. Januz, that’s the best idea I’ve heard of late … contract the a’s and marlins and disperse the talent – a’s and marlins have few fans as it is and they don’t support the team. mlb will be better off if both are gone … owners can fork over some bucks to buy out current a’s and marlins owners but in the long run will save since they won’t have to pay these 2 franchises revenue sharing any more.

  7. Actually, the A’s drew more fans than both the Pirates and Royals last year, but you don’t hear anyone talking about contracting them, because they have brand-new (or newly renovated) stadiums full of empty seats.

    I fail to see how abandoning two markets would help MLB. Even if a dispersal draft temporarily helped teams like Pittsburgh, they still wouldn’t be able to afford to outbid the high-revenue teams for players once they were eligible for free agency. (And Seattle spent $100 million on payroll last year to lose 100 games, so they’re hardly deserving of a bailout.)

  8. I regretfully agree that the a’s should be contracted rather than waste more time on these silly, misdirected stadium quests.

  9. I regretfully agree that the a’s should be contracted rather than waste more time on these silly, misdirected stadium quests.

  10. Neil, come on … you’re saying that it’s ok to be 27th in mlb in attendance as long as you’re ahead of sad-sack franchises such as the pirates and royals???

    the pirates and royals have had losing seasons for years running so the fans are not coming out … the a’s and marlins, despite success on the field, have always had attendance problems because they play in markets that don’t support them (or in the a’s case, only can support 1 franchise).

    contract the a’s!!!!!

  11. Hugh, don’t know if you’ve been watching the A’s lately but when they do well they’re attendance is middle of the pack among MLB’s 30 teams. The issue they’ve had the last 2 seasons is they’ve been dismal, particularly late in the season when they traditionally surge both on field and at the box office. Field a good team in Oakland and the fans will come back like they always do. Add a new stadium in and it may or may not help, that will be something to look at after it’s built, but if the Giants are any indication bay area fans will come out to see the latest greatest ballpark.

  12. I guess I just don’t see why failure to have a new ballpark is suddenly grounds for contraction. Should we contract the Cubs?

  13. YES we SHOULD contract the Cubs, Neil! Tho I’m also a White Sox fan. I’d say contract the Cubs & Marlins. If anything, attendance numbers during the 1997 Marlins season should tell everything, and that was back when things were good.

  14. The Marlins are a weird case, though I’m not sure a new stadium would help. It’s really unproven whether people in Florida want to go sit at a ballgame in the summer.

    Anyway, I guess my larger point is: Some team, by definition, is going to be last in attendance. Getting rid of teams would only raise the bar a bit, to where suddenly we’d be looking at the Pirates as the embarrassment, not the Marlins. I realize that it’s unfortunate for A’s and Marlins fans that everyone else has taxpayer subsidies (well, Cubs, Red Sox, and Giants excepted) and they don’t, but is there really any harm in letting things continue as they are? It’s not like the teams are that uncompetitive, even – again, no more so than other low-revenue teams like K.C., Pittsburgh, Cincy, etc.

  15. dan, not sure where you studied math or stats, but you might want to enroll at a refresher course a your local jc … a’s in recent history (back to turn of century) have only been higher than 19th in home attendance once (in ’03 when they were 17th) … by “middle of the pack” you are taking a bit of liberty.

    anyway, in the last 5 years, it looks like this …

    04 – 2.2m (19th) 91 wins (2nd in AL west)
    05 – 2.1m (19th) 88 wins (2nd)
    06 – 2.0m (26th) 93 wins (1st)
    07 – 1.9m (26th) 76 wins
    08 – 1.7m (27th) 75 wins

    so yeah, last couple of years attendance dropped off with crappy team on field … but how do you explain consistent decline each year despite good performances 04-06, batman especially with 100+ win years behind them in the 01-02 seasons?

    I recall poorly attended playoff games in 06 and earlier seasons as well – not even coming close to selling out playoff games!!! this is pathetic and indicative of a community that does not support the franchise. local tv and radio ratings are far inferior to the SF Giants who share the same basic market.

  16. Hugh,
    Your personal attacks aside, 19th overall is not taking a liberty. Middle of the pack in a 30 team league is 10th to 20th. 19th fits in that range. And the declines were negligible until the team’s performance started to tank after the 06 season, to say nothing of the steady increases the A’s posted in attendance 2000-2003 as the team was consistantly good. I notice you conveniently chose to ignore those numbers. ;)

    And as for the “poorly” attended playoff game you refer to, as I recall it was still a sellout game.

  17. I am the first one to acknowledge that Pittsburgh is an awful baseball market, but it is not the basket case that Florida and to a lesser extent Oakland is. One major difference between Pittsburgh (and KC) is those teams do not have to share stadiums with expiring leases. The Marlins have to move out of Dolphins Stadium, and the Raiders are the priority in Oakland.

  18. Hugh, don’t believe me, check the numbers. They back what I’m saying out. The A’s attendance increased year over year from 2000-2003. This is an indisputable fact. After 03 the team dropped off even with the fluke ALCS trip in 06, and the attendance followed suit.

  19. The Florida situation is a total mess. I lived in Pembroke Pines (Which is in Broward County, 2 miles from Dolphins Stadium), so I am very aware of how unimportant the Marlins are down there. Fan interest starts with the Dolphins and the Canes. Everyone else is on the bottom (And the Marlins interest level is the lowest of all). It will be even worse if they become the “Miami” Marlins, whose location in the former Orange Bowl will really hurt the fan base in Palm Beach and Broward Counties.
    The A’s situation has been a mess for almost a century (The last time they had their own facility was 1914 (Excluding the time the Raiders spent in LA)). This despite the fact that some of the greatest players EVER put on an OAKLAND A’s uniform (Including Rickey Henderson, Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson (I am not even going into Jimmy Foxx and other pre-Oakland Players)). In addition, they are below the Giants in fan interest, despite winning four titles to the Giants none.
    Finally, I saw Dan’s comment on the power of the Players Association. But no workers group (They are an ASSOCIATION NOT a union, and they are major legal differences, which takes too long to explain here) not even Fehr, Orza & Co., can force an entity to remain in business (Particularly in this economic environment).
    If it turns out the Marlins cannot get funding for the New Stadium (And my gut feeling is they won’t). Then they will be essentially homeless starting in 2011, so it will be a perfect opportunity for MLB to pull the plug on them, and the A’s after this season.

  20. Actually, Huizenga has already said that he’ll let the Marlins go year-to-year on their lease after 2011.

    The real problem for the Marlins (aside from the question of whether summertime baseball is viable in Florida) is that when John Henry bought the team from Huizenga, he didn’t do anything about the horrible lease that gives Huizenga virtually all of the stadium revenues. So the team has been starved for cash, and conducted a series of fire sales, which makes it hard to build a following even when you’ve won as many World Series as the Red Sox in the last 12 years.

    For the A’s, I really don’t think there’s a problem, except that they’re a “small-market” team as MLB is currently constituted. (This likely wouldn’t change with a new stadium, nor with a move to Sacramento or San Jose.) That means they end up being outbid for players by the high-revenue teams, but they’re hardly alone in that – it’s a problem of league fairness overall, not one specific to Oakland.

  21. Also, need I remind everyone that the last time a team was targeted for elimination because of on-field ineptitude and fan apathy, it was the Minnesota Twins. At which point the Twins promptly won their division four years out of the next five, the fans started showing up, and everyone forgot that they were ever considered a hopeless franchise.

  22. Neil makes a very good point about the Twins. And while it may not seem financially or box office related, fact is the A’s are the 3rd most successful franchise in Major League history after the Yankees and Cardinals. I can’t see an organization like Major League baseball folding that kind of legacy away.

  23. I am the first person to acknowledge the success of the A’s (Which is why I mentioned their success level in Oakland). The fact they are secondary to the Giants speaks volumes, about why they should be consolidated (Not to mention the fact that Califonia’s economy is in the dumps, and even a new Stadium in Sacramento or San Jose would not improve things much (Even if it could be done (Ask the Kings about getting a new facility built sometime)). Finally, I am willing to bet that if the City of Oakland, had a choice between the Raiders and A’s, the Raiders win out everytime). I know the Twins were considered for consolidation with guess who?………. The Marlins. But things have changed (The economy perhaps most of all), and if consolidation occurs, it should be Florida and Oaklamd.

  24. I am the first person to acknowledge the success of the A’s (Which is why I mentioned their success level in Oakland). The fact they are secondary to the Giants speaks volumes, about why they should be consolidated (Not to mention the fact that Califonia’s economy is in the dumps, and even a new Stadium in Sacramento or San Jose would not improve things much (Even if it could be done (Ask the Kings about getting a new facility built sometime)). Finally, I am willing to bet that if the City of Oakland, had a choice between the Raiders and A’s, the Raiders win out everytime). I know the Twins were considered for consolidation with guess who?………. The Marlins. But things have changed (The economy perhaps most of all), and if consolidation occurs, it should be Florida and Oaklamd.

  25. Dan, you speak like a fan(atic) not a realist … Januz is right … despite their success, the a’s have never had much success at the gate nor with tv, radio or merchandise. They are truly the ugly red-headed step-child in the Bay Area that nobody cares about. They should be contracted.

  26. Rocky, I won’t deny being a fan, but facts are facts. And fact is the A’s have, when doing well on field, consistently pulled in 2 million+ fans a season. This isn’t the Expos sub 1 million fans a year we’re talking about when they were considered for contraction a number of years back with the Twins.

  27. The reality of the matter is there is so much anger at sports teams out in the Bay Area it is not funny (Remember the tree huggers who stopped expansion at Cal Stadium for several years? What about the Sacremento Kings situation? The Proposition that tried to prevent Hunters Point development in San Francisco (Although that failed), and last, but certainly not least, the protests against the A’s in Fremont). There is no way this team is getting a new stadium (Or even a renovated Coliseum (Unless the Raiders end up in the City of Industry)).
    The reality of the matter, is this issue, may be coming to a head very soon, because the A’s Lease ends after the 2010 season, and the Raiders Lease after 2011. I see no way those two teams sharing a stadium forever (Sort of like the Marlins situation in Dolphins Stadium, the lease ends after 2011, and they can stay for another year or two (If necessary), but eventually, they have to move). Another factor, involved is the age and health of Al Davis. If they want to guarantee they keep the Raiders, Oakland needs to get a long-term deal done with Davis, guaranteeing whoever owns the Raiders after him, they will keep them in Oakland.
    These lease agreements (And the difficulty of getting a new stadium, or upgrade), once again show why consolidation of the A’s & Marlins makes a lot of sense.

  28. The reality of the matter is there is so much anger at sports teams out in the Bay Area it is not funny (Remember the tree huggers who stopped expansion at Cal Stadium for several years? What about the Sacremento Kings situation? The Proposition that tried to prevent Hunters Point development in San Francisco (Although that failed), and last, but certainly not least, the protests against the A’s in Fremont). There is no way this team is getting a new stadium (Or even a renovated Coliseum (Unless the Raiders end up in the City of Industry)).
    The reality of the matter, is this issue, may be coming to a head very soon, because the A’s Lease ends after the 2010 season, and the Raiders Lease after 2011. I see no way those two teams sharing a stadium forever (Sort of like the Marlins situation in Dolphins Stadium, the lease ends after 2011, and they can stay for another year or two (If necessary), but eventually, they have to move). Another factor, involved is the age and health of Al Davis. If they want to guarantee they keep the Raiders, Oakland needs to get a long-term deal done with Davis, guaranteeing whoever owns the Raiders after him, they will keep them in Oakland.
    These lease agreements (And the difficulty of getting a new stadium, or upgrade), once again show why consolidation of the A’s & Marlins makes a lot of sense.

  29. All this talk of contraction based on a message board comment is kind of silly. It’s incredibly unlikely that MLB would take the drastic step to eliminate teams.

    In Miami, the Marlins are poised to receive the most absurd public subsidy since the Bengals were awarded “holographic reply systems”. Even with concessions they are going to walk with one of the most favorable financing/lease agreements ever made.

    Here in the Bay, the A’s have just secured a lucrative deal with ComCast. The collapse of the Fremont deal may test Wolff’s patience, but the TIF game can be a slow process. Obviously it’s a slow economy, but MLB revenue sharing and the overall health of the game – not even the steroid controversy can slay the golden goose – assures that franchises will remain vital until the next wave of tax-free bonds, TIF, STIF, development rights, or whatever they invent next, comes back into fashion.

    If I was in Lew’s office, I’d propose a Fantasy Baseball Tax to fund my new palace.

Comments are closed.