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May 09, 2007

A's: Fremont stadium will rain manna from heaven

Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff still won't say how he'd pay for his new stadium, but he did present the Fremont city council last night with his promised economic impact report for the stadium and the "ballpark village" of condos and upscale retail that he wants to build around it. The report by Economic Research Associates - who you'll remember from such fanciful studies as those it conducted for the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys - projects that the whole project would cost $1.8 billion, with the stadium alone bearing a price tag of $450 million; "economic impact" to the city of Fremont would be $191 million a year.

I was ready to launch into a long explanation of how "economic impact" (which counts all money spent in a given area, regardless of whether taxpayers get a cut) isn't the same as fiscal impact (the actual return on public investment), and how the ERA report examines benefits without including all costs, but I see the San Jose Mercury News' Barry Witt has done it for me:

Because the land the A's intend to purchase is in the city's redevelopment district, much of the value of new property taxes would be limited to redevelopment purposes. The report estimates annual revenue for the city's redevelopment agency of $15 million, and another $3.6 million a year for the city's general operations fund.
That last figure includes a $1 million annual payment the report says the A's would make to the city. The report, however, did not attempt to evaluate how much the city would have to spend each year to provide services such as police and fire protection to the new development on land now zoned for industrial purposes. Services to residential populations are considerably more expensive than those for businesses.

The A's delivered the ERA report to Fremont councilmembers at their weekly meeting, so there was little public questioning of the impact figures. ("I don't know what to ask because I haven't seen the report," quipped one councilmember.) Wolff insisted to the council that he was "confident" (the Merc News' word) that the city of Fremont wouldn't lose money on the deal - there's no evidence to that effect in the ERA report, though, so guess we'll just have to take his word for it.

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