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February 24, 2009

What next for the Fremont-free A's?

With the Oakland A's-to-Fremont plans in disarray, everyone and their sister is speculating what's next for the team, since owner Lew Wolff says he doesn't have a Plan B. Latest to throw their hats in the ring:

  • Sacramento Bee writer Bill Bradley offers up his city as a nice destination for the A's, though noting that Wolff told local sports editors last fall that Sacramento "lacked the corporate and TV base necessary to succeed."
  • Morgan Hill Times writer Michael Moore (what, do all journalists in Northern California have to share their names with famous people?) notes that "one local property owner" is pushing for the A's, Raiders, or San Francisco 49ers to move to her town on the west side of the bay for "the benefit of humankind."
  • The San Francisco Examiner's Glenn Dickey (okay, they don't) suggests that Wolff reopen talks with Oakland on building a new stadium there, which was, after all, his original plan. Dickey proposes two sites adjacent to the A's current home, as well as one just south of Jack London Square, though he says nothing about who would pay the construction tab.

Wild speculation aside, what seems most likely is for Wolff to lay low for a year or two, while working behind the scenes to put out feelers for a new site, and wait for the economy to perk up a bit. Though given recent reports, he might not want to hold his breath on that last one.

UPDATE: Wolff has now officially stuck a fork in Fremont. (Thanks to Dan for the link.)


Here's the letter Wolff sent to the city of Fremont and Alameda County. It officially puts an end to the Fremont saga. But it is also the first time Wolff publicly states "Northern California" as his area of focus, which of course opens up not just Oakland, but Sacramento and San Jose as possible final destinations of the team.

Posted by Dan on February 24, 2009 03:19 PM

didn't see the northern cal reference in the note ... maybe I missed it?

But I find it interesting that he said "as long as we remain in the bay area ..."

this could indeed mean that he might consider traveling accross 80 to sacramento in the near future.

Posted by jack on February 24, 2009 03:33 PM

The NorCal reference is near the end of the letter.

Posted by Dan on February 24, 2009 03:39 PM

sorry, still don't see any "norcal" reference ... I re-read it too.

Posted by jack on February 24, 2009 03:49 PM

Whoops, that was in a statement he made today in addition to the letter.

�My focus now is on baseball with spring training and the opening of the 2009 season. I am extremely excited about the team�s prospects this year. My goal and desire for the organization is to determine a way to keep the team in Northern California. This goal has not changed.�

Posted by Dan on February 24, 2009 04:05 PM

thanks ... I actually think Sactown would be a good option ... it keeps them in Norcal and some in east bay can still make the trek there but it opens up a new market for them to have for themselves instead of being ugly stepchild in bay area.

Posted by jack on February 24, 2009 04:56 PM

I'm sure they'll keep the option in Sac open for future consideration. But I think the obvious front runner is San Jose now. Wolff has deep ties to SJ, good relations with the mayor and city council, good relations with local contractors etc..., and good relations with the two existing pro teams in the South Bay (his own SJ Earthquakes and the SVSE owned SJ Sharks). His connections to Sac by comparison are nil. And with the EIR done in San Jose the only real obstacles are money, which would be the case anywhere in NorCal as public money is a non-starter, and the territorial rights issue. And the latter isn't really an issue if Selig and the other owners back Wolff, which I suspect is highly likely given the benefits to MLB a healthy A's would bring in and Wolff's long time ties to Selig.

Posted by Dan on February 24, 2009 05:10 PM

Money is going to be the issue anywhere: It was pretty much unthinkable that a stadium would pay its own way before the crash, and now it's even less likely. Lower labor costs may bring down stadium prices a bit, but the worsening economy also means that the payoff from luxury seating and naming rights and such will be less.

Wolff is really between Scylla and Charybdis here: Sacramento is smallish and isolated from much of the Bay Area market, but San Jose would require a major payoff to the Giants, even with Bud's help. Little wonder he's hedging by saying "Northern California" - he's probably holding out hope that Fresno will throw half a billion at him or something.

Posted by Neil on February 24, 2009 07:46 PM

I do not see how they can possibly end up in Sacramento when the Kings can't get a new arena? As for San Jose, the Giants can fight this in court if they wanted to. Plus, I can imagine all the "Code Pink" & ACORN type pressure groups complaining about spending any money with a new stadium with an 9% unemployment rate? It is not happening.

Posted by Januz on February 24, 2009 07:59 PM

Januz, that is one thing you won't have to worry about in San Jose is public money going to the stadium. It's against the law in SJ without a vote, which we all know won't pass in the best of times so it's definitely a non-starter in the current climate. But as for the Giants "rights" even if it does go to court, which I highly doubt, I don't see how the Giants could win. First, they have baseball's anti-trust exemption to contend with, and second you have the conditions under which those rights were granted back in the early 90's. The Giants were given the rights to the South Bay on the assumption they were moving to Santa Clara. That move never materialized and I bet you baseball can work it that because they didn't move, their rights are null. The best the Giants can do is go along with it and hope Bud compels the A's to toss a little money their way.

Posted by Dan on February 24, 2009 09:16 PM

Dan, I agree with you that the Giants are the last of the considerations involved with San Jose (And maybe the easiest to overcome). But there are many others involved....... Including location (They need to find one first). Even if a team picked up 100% of the stadium costs, it would create controversy, because stuff like environmental impact studies (California has perhaps the strictest in the country ),transportation access, displacement of businesses and people, and taxes, that are the responsibility of goverment, and can generate major problems. For example: Here in New York, one of the demands that was required by the local City Council to allow a New Yankee Stadium , was a suburban train station. This station was actually planned in the 1920's, and was promised to the Yankees if they decided to stay back in the 1970's. It will finally be completed in 2009. Guess what? Because of cutbacks in other areas, groups such as those representing subway riders are livid about the train station.
The point being that even if the Giants said today they A's can move to San Jose, and the A's said we will pick up the entire stadium cost, it might be at least five years until they get there. That still brings us back to the Raider issue. There is no way that Oakland is going to let the A's remain there for five more years, and pack up (Or stay by themselves, in a stadium that is outmoded, just waiting for ANY opportunity to leave. Such as when the economy improves, and another city offers them a sweetheart deal)), while seeing the Raiders end up in the City Of Industry, or sharing a Stadium with the Niners's somewhere else. From Oakland's perspective, because of stuff like competition, advertising and profitability, Davis and the Raiders getting a long-term lease has to be the priority.
Once again, the time and costs involved with a new Bay Area stadium for the A's, the idea of consolidation makes the most amount of sense

Posted by Januz on February 25, 2009 11:10 AM

Actually San Jose has already addressed most of your questions. The Stadium would be placed just south of the HP Pavillion (San Jose Arena) on 14 acres of city owned land. Presumably to avoid triggering the vote, Wolff would purchase those 14 acres from the city at market value. As for the EIR, it's already completed for this site. San Jose completed it back in 2006 as I recall. As for transportation, the site is adjacent to Diridron Station which gives the site Caltrain, ACE, Capital Corridor train access as well as BART access when the San Jose extension is completed. There is no better site transportation wise. The site also has direct access to I-280 and CA 87 giving it two freeways in very close proximity.

As for the Coliseum, Oakland has no plans to assist the Raiders. Any talk about using the Coliseum site for anything is purely hypothetical and largely irrelevant. There is neither the political nor the voter will to assist the Raiders with any improvements to or replacement of the Coliseum right now. Not when Oakland is still paying off the 1995 "improvements" to the Coliseum. If the Raiders want to leave, there is nothing stopping them and likely nothing that will stop them. But in the meantime the Coliseum authority will be happy to have the A's stay in the interim, just as they had no problem renewing the A's lease last year despite the then pending move to Fremont. The Coliseum authority has made it very clear they don't mind having the A's there, and that even without the A's they have no problem maintaining the stadium as they make the majority of their money off of non sports related events (ie: tractor pulls, concerts, monster trucks...)

Posted by Dan on February 25, 2009 11:28 AM

Granting the Giants the rights to San Jose was really and truly bogus. I just don't see a justification for it. I'm not going to sit here with a divider and a map, but I doubt SF is closer to San Jose than Oakland is. I'd bet you're talking minutes of difference in travel time from SF vs Oakland.

Sac is a non-starter, too. No TV base, no corporate base, no taxpayer will to fund a stadium. Yeah, we're supporting the RiverCats, but even that support is waning. The sellout streak is long since over. And I don't buy the theory that Raley Field can be expanded. Well, I suppose it could, but the first thing you'd do is fire up the bulldozers.

Somehow or another, I think the A's will end up near San Jose. Getting them closer to Monterey Bay is an added benefit. Santa Cruz/Monterey/Carmel/Salinas is pretty close to a million people these days.

Posted by MikeM on February 25, 2009 12:14 PM

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