A’s owner threatens to move to 4,200-seat stadium in San Jose, nobody laughs out loud

It isn’t often that we see a new addition to the stadium playbook, but I think that Oakland A’s Lew Wolff may just have pulled it off:

In one of the most bizarre twists of San Jose’s five-year-long odyssey to move the Oakland A’s to a downtown ballpark, team co-owner Lew Wolff on Saturday confirmed he is weighing the possibility of a temporary baseball stadium if he cannot extend his team’s two-year lease at the Oakland Coliseum.

According to San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, among the sites Wolff is considering: San Jose Municipal Stadium, home of the San Jose Giants, the Class-A team of the San Francisco Giants, which has fought furiously against an A’s relocation to the South Bay, claiming “territorial rights.”

The San Jose Mercury News article on all this is pretty breathless, and there’s a lot going on here, so let’s try to untangle it. From the sound of things, Mayor Reed told the Merc News on Saturday of the temp stadium gambit, explaining, “It’s pretty simple. They have got to go somewhere. If [Wolff] can’t stay at the Coliseum, the commissioner is not going to tell [the A’s], ‘You can’t play baseball for a few years.'” Wolff later confirmed these plans, saying, “If we cannot accomplish a lease extension, I hope to have an interim place to play in the Bay Area or in the area that reaches our television and radio fans — either in an existing venue or in the erection of a temporary venue that we have asked our soccer stadium architect to explore.”

Why are we hearing all this now? The key is that mention of a lease extension: Recall that Wolff is in the middle of hardball lease talks with Oakland on the Coliseum, and presumably needs to have some response handy if city officials come back with, “What are you going to do if you don’t like it, go play in the street?” Admittedly this isn’t a much better threat than playing in the street — the San Jose minor-league stadium only holds 4,200 people and is solidly in the San Francisco Giants‘ territory (if MLB were willing to let the A’s move to San Jose, they’d be there already by now), and Candlestick Park, another rumored option, is set to be demolished at the end of this year. But if you need leverage, any port in a storm — don’t forget that the Toronto Blue Jays owners once threatened to move back to their old home of Exhibition Stadium during a lease dispute with SkyDome, notwithstanding that the Ex had already begun being demolished at the time.

The other possibility here, of course, is that Wolff and Reed are somehow trying to pressure MLB to change its policy on territorial rights (the city of San Jose’s appeal of the dismissal of its lawsuit against MLB over this recently got fast-tracked), but “If you don’t let us move to a new 30,000-seat stadium in San Jose, we’ll move to a 4,000-seat stadium in San Jose” doesn’t seem like much of a threat. This being a lease negotiating tactic makes far more sense, so it’s probably best that no one get too excited about this for the time being … crap, too late.



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25 comments on “A’s owner threatens to move to 4,200-seat stadium in San Jose, nobody laughs out loud

  1. I don’t see an extension being agreed upon until the Raiders have made up their mind on where they will be playing in the future. That was the point of the A’s current 2 year lease just recently signed.
    Also if MLB continues to deny The A’s move to SJ, How can they have a temporary stadium in SJ or play at SJ Muni if both are supposedly in the Giants Territory? Are these ideas predicated on the A’s being allowed to build in SJ? The Raiders have until next February to notify the NFL of a desire to move. Hopefully we won’t have to wait that long to find out their plan.

  2. The SJ stadium is a non starter for the reasons specified. Maybe Wolff thinks he can create an emergency and then prevail upon his frat bro to let him have SJ after all, cos you know, emergency etc.

    That is unlikely to work, and would probably just piss off that portion of the MLB owners club that doesn’t already hate him.

    But a temporary facility isn’t really that far fetched an idea. He’d have to pay for it himself, and it would look alot like a div II college stadium, but temp facilities with a capacity around 30k have been built for under $20m.

    Of course, he would then face the problem that he loses all his leverage in negotiating with anyone outside Oakland (which he doesn’t really have, so zero sum there), and probably most of his leverage with Oakland as well (you’ve already built a stadium, a crappy one, but still…).

    As non-threat threats go, this one is desperately weak. But then, we’ve seen those work in the past…

  3. In Oak the name of the game is “delay, delay, delay”, for the teams that want to leave (A’s, W) that stand works because Oak has not promised them anything. On the other hand for the Raiders, Oak/developers were suppose to have already given the team some form of a development plan. In a recent interview the raiders owner is upset that he is being kept in the dark after even more delays. He now does not except any movement until after the November elections.

    For a team trying to “stAy”, they may just get fed up and start looking else where.

  4. Raley Field would definitely be a better option than SJ Municipal. It’s not even a close contest, really.

  5. re: Raley Field: You don’t wanna move into an AAA stadium because then somebody might notice that you’re the A’s and all you really need is a AAA stadium. Don’t want anybody getting it into their head that some major league teams don’t need a $500 million ballpark.

  6. Is it even possible for 2 baseball teams to share the same park on such short notice. Sent schedule already in place for both teams?

  7. Neil, to be fair it’s not Wolff who made this particular “play” but San Jose’s mayor Chuck Reed. Wolff mearly suggested that a temporary stadium in the A’s existing territory might be in their future if the Coliseum extension can’t be agreed on. It was Reed who made the asinine leap to say Municipal Stadium could be that temporary home.

  8. Why would the Giants ever give San Jose to the A’s for free. Weren’t the rights to San Jose partially reflected in the prices each current owner paid for their teams, regardless of how the Giants came to own the rights originally. Why would the rest of MLB owners support the A’s when it would call into question everyone’s territorial rights. There is a reason Bud has never ruled on this and it’s because there’s no ruling to be made. The reason he hasn’t cancelled the exploratory committee (or whatever it’s called) is because that hurts the A’s leverage with Oakland. Lew is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Oakland won’t give him as much money as he wants, he can’t move to San Jose without paying for it, and he can’t threaten to move to Portland, Vegas or anywhere else without alienating his fan base. Plus the A’s keep winning, so it doesn’t come off as big a problem as it would if the A’s were losing a hundred games a year.

  9. This year no. Next year it could be done. But it’s more likely to be AT&T Park instead of San Jose.

  10. Steven: The A’s have another year left on their Coliseum lease.

    Dan: Right, but Wolff is the one making the “we’ll play in a temporary stadium if we can’t get a new lease” play. You understand why he’s doing it, but still it’s gotta be a real longshot ever to happen.

  11. Honestly I’m not so sure it is a long shot. He’s done something similar before with the Earthquakes when SJSU played hardball with him regarding Spartan Stadium and its then future plans. And the BC Lions did show the way with their temporary 20k seat Empire Field a few years back. Granted the requirements of MLB are a little more taxing than the CFL, but it is not something that is impossible by any stretch. Particularly given how the A’s currently don’t seem to utilize those extra revenue streams like luxury suites half as well as most teams. Give Wolff an empty lot in Fremont, Oakland, Sacramento (or Rayley Field where there is plenty of space in the outfield to temporarily increase seating) and for 20 million he could have a decent temp ballpark up in a few months. And it’s an eminently better proposition than being the Giants co-tenant for X amount of years.

  12. Raley Field is a more reasonable option, but it’s the opposite direction to where Wolff wants to go. (Building a Sacramento fan base won’t help him if he ends up in the South Bay.) Building a temp stadium from scratch would be pricey — he’d almost certainly be better off agreeing to whatever Oakland wants from him.

  13. How about Oakland provide the public funding needed to get Coliseum City off the ground instead of stall stall and stall

  14. Dan:

    I agree a temp stadium is possible, but unless and until MLB allows him to relocate (even temporarily), that stadium would have to be within the territory he now “owns” according to MLB.

    As noted earlier, it can be done. But once Wolff plunks down $20m for his temp stadium, how will he exercise leverage over any potential destination or Oakland stadium? This would seem to be a case of Wolff responding to his lack of leverage in negotiations with Oakland by reducing it even further. It might be a better proposition than being the Giants tenant (which seems likely to become a permanent arrangement once begun, frankly), but is it better than remaining where they are?

    It’s probably true that clubs won’t want to come and play in a temp facility… but then again, they don’t really want to play in the Coliseum, Skydome, the Trop or Arlington in August either… but they do, because they have a contractual obligation to do so.

  15. According to 95.7 FM the game, the “partners” Colony Capital want 40% of the Raiders in order to build the Coliseum city football Stadium. Wow… this is a blow to the raiders, man the only team that wants to stay and they can’t get nothing go their way. lol!

    I wonder how the raiders owner feels about that, stall stall and then want to take almost half of your team.

    This may help the A’s, raiders are going to LA now you have another “site” in Oak to build.

  16. I caught a game at Muni Stadium back in 1972 when George Brett was playing in SJ, and it wasn’t much of a facility then. I vote for Sacramento and Raley Field as new digs for the A’s…permanently. Oakland and the Bay Area have NEVER cared about the A’s, even during their glory years, and it was stupid for Charlie Finley to move the team there in the first place.

    Raley Field was built to expand and Sacramento would be a much better destination than a really bad baseball market like Portland, where just years after serious bucks were spent renovating Civic Stadium, the Beavers were pushed out of town by yet ANOTHER renovation for an MLS team…MLS!!! Vegas? Good luck getting anyone out of their air-conditioned casino in July or August to watch a game.

  17. The A’s and Giants would just share ATT, i know all this talk and posturing but MLB will not allow a temp ball park when you already have one that can be shared.

    They only play a hand full of games a year when both teams are home. For most of the season they alternate home and away.

  18. This won’t fly. The Twins threatened something similar – they were going to build a temporary ballpark in the parking lot of Mall of America, right next to where the old Met Stadium stood. MLB put the stop to that fairly quickly.

  19. Guilty, problem is you’re wrong about Raley Field. It wasn’t built to expand. the original plan did call for that ability to be built in, but construction delays and changes to the plans eliminated that possibility. Raley as it exists now would have to be leveled and rebuilt to support permanent MLB use.

  20. Not to mention there’s no room for all the parking and access would be an absolute nightmare. Traffic would probably back up all the way to the 80 and can you imagine coming from downtown?

  21. Dan, I agree with you. Years ago, on the 4th of July, the Bee talked about how Raley is not expandable and only the playing surface meets MLB standards. Of course this was a while ago and I don’t recall the year of the article.

  22. Okay, I’ll retract the “expandable” part of my Raley point, but it’s still a better bet than SJ at present. Not that it really matters one way or the other…this is all posturing for a better lease or a new ballpark in the Bay Area, where there just isn’t enough interest in baseball to adequately support two MLB teams simultaneously.

  23. Pretty good though…. 23 comments on a story that was an obvious non-starter from the beginning…

  24. This is the latest installment of The Desperate World of Lew-Lew Wolf-ie, sounds more like a sheep-fan’s brilliant “idea” which has turned the clarity of Neil’s take on this into just another version of the typical “idiot’s delight”.
    Fans don’t understand that all pro sports leagues are businesses first and foremost.

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