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March 30, 2006
Fremont A's: The plot thickens
Rumors that the Oakland A's could be headed to Fremont are heating up, with co-owner Lew Wolff telling a local men's club he's "quite serious" about exploring the southern East Bay as a stadium site. (As you'll recall, the conspiracy theory goes that the A's would move to Fremont, just outside the San Francisco Giants' territorial limit, then rename themselves the "San Jose A's" to lure well-off fans from Silicon Valley.) The 143-acre site, a plot of undeveloped land controlled by the San Jose-based Cisco Systems, would provide ample room for both a stadium and the large swath of accompanying condos Wolff wants to build alongside it.
It's also served by only a single, overcrowded highway, and miles from the nearest BART station (thanks, Chris, for the map), meaning it'd be unlikely to draw more fans than Wolff's other leading option, a stadium in the Oakland Coliseum parking lot. It's conceivable, though, that Wolff, a real-estate developer before he bought into the A's, might not care: The Oakland site isn't big enough for a housing development, and if moving to Fremont is the price he has to pay for lucrative development rights - Wolff's stated requirement in exchange for building a stadium with private money - then he might be willing to treat the ballclub as a loss leader for his condos.
It's the sort of thing that MLB really should step in to prevent, if not for the sake of East Bay fans - heaven forfend - then for its own interests, given that Wolff would be consigning a franchise to mediocrity, or at best cannibalizing fans from a neighboring ballclub, in order to boost his own non-baseball revenues. But then, Bud Selig hasn't exactly distinguished himself when it comes to discouraging owners from cooking the books - how's that YES Network audit coming, anyway, Bud?
Posted by Neil deMause
the site is actually near 2 freeways, not one
What, 680? That doesn't help from the East Bay, though I guess if you're punting those fans it doesn't matter.
I mentioned 680 because of where I live (and IF the stadium were to get built there), that would be the freeway I would go to the games on.
The 680 to 880 interconnects there are not themselves freeways; they have stoplights and heavy traffic. In addition, that stretch of 880 is *already* a traffic bottleneck.
Neil, I'm not sure what you mean by "consigning a franchise to mediocrity." Is that a dig at Fremont? Has Oakland suddenly turned into paradise? Financially, the A's will be better able to compete and has supposedly has sponsorships and corporate revenue already lined up in advance of a move south. They'd hardly be cannibalizing the Valley. Looking at the Giants' current sponsors and roster of suitebuyers, they're barely scratching the surface in the Valley. If the Giants are really being hurt the move, they can open up their books to the public and let us judge for ourselves. Until then I'll remain skeptical.
As for traffic, it is a major concern. Though traffic has lessened slightly since the economic downturn, it's not expected to stay that way. A major widening project for 880 will be completed by 2008, well before a ballpark is built. The planned BART extension to south Fremont will probably get a boost since BART would face a loss of ridership if the A's left for Fremont. The extension could be done by 2010-2011, right around the time a Fremont ballpark opens. The station is roughly 1 mile from the ballpark site. Additional traditional rail service is also planned for the line just to the west of the area.
The biggest cause for concern in Fremont is the environmental impact. Changing the zoning from light industrial/commercial to medium/heavy residential is not going to go over well with environmentalists who fought tooth and nail with Catellus to limit the scope of its original development plan for the land.
I'm saying that if Wolff is accepting a less-than-ideal stadium site in exchange for getting development rights, that's bad for the team, even if it's potentially good for Wolff.
That's good to hear about the planned transit improvements, I guess, though it's tempting to consider a BART extension a hidden public cost, if it wouldn't happen without the A's moving to Fremont. (Obviously it would serve as a public benefit in other ways, of course.) I guess I'm still not convinced, though, that if the A's can't draw in a location well served by transit in the heart of the East Bay, they're going to do much better by splitting the difference between the East Bay and the South Bay. This is baseball, after all, not football - you need to be in a place where people can get in and out not just on Sunday afternoons, but on Tuesday evenings after work.
Things like environmental impacts and other public costs - sewage/utilities to all those new condos? - are going to be interesting factors. Do we know yet if this would need to go to referendum?
The way the plan is being presented, a referendum won't be required. Fremont isn't supporting any bond measures or tax hikes (Alameda County already has the highest sales tax in the Bay Area at 8.75%). Now if Wolff claims there's a shortfall, then we'll see how committed the two sides are.
BART is a complicated situation. The extension to south Fremont is fully dependent on BART coming to Santa Clara County. The County is not a signatory to the existing BART agreement, so they have to go it alone on funding. They're facing an uphill battle getting federal matching funds and have put up a suspiciously vague June ballot measure that might provide funds for BART. Sometimes I think the only difference between San Jose and NYC is that San Jose people don't yell as much.
Uhmm, I think we are forgetting something here. Fremont sucks. It is residential sprawl with no center, no individuality to draw interest. Oakland isn't paradise, but Fremont is just bland. I'd NOT go to a game because 1) the traffic and 2) it would be in a boring residential area. Screw that - A's, Stay in Oakland!
I work in the vicinity about 3 miles away, and I can tell you traffic, already very bad now, will become really bad on I-880 on game days if this plan becomes a reality. Traffic regularly backs up between Auto Mall Parkway and Dixon Landing Road on I-880. And this is on so-called non-peak hours.
There's no direct BART station access - the nearest station is 2 exits to the north and another 3 miles away via Stevenson Boulevard, to the east. Kind of a disincentive to use BART.
I hope this goes down in flames.
Oakland's Mayor Jerry Brown rejected the perfect spot for a ballpark right in downtown Oakland. This would have been the ideal spot.
I would NEVER go to Fremont to catch an A's game.
Fremont has no culture and doesnt deserve the A's (neither does San Jose)
Come on folks - 20 to 30% of available parking is on the north side of Automall parkway. Which means that you have 1000's of feet traversing Automall while 1000's of automobiles are trying to get off of 880 and get access to parking which will be distributed to the West along Automall . . .. let's see - traffic lights wait for foot traffic to cross - vehicular traffic comes to a halt on 880 - wow - this backup goes for MILES folks . .. . . sorry but this thing is so flawed from a traffic standpoint and the darn Wolf family is so cheap they won't agree to the pedestrian "flyovers" that would be a huge advantage. . . . . dont be fooled - there's nothing about improving Fremont that is on the Wolf's agenda. . . oh, and please dont rationalize the "other" approaches to the park - a majority of access will be off of 880 north and southbound onto Automall . . . . the backup will be immediate and will run for miles.