We Built This City (On Concrete and Steel)

A concept rendering of the proposed Coliseum City project.

Hey folks, sorry again for the lack of updates, the computer I use at home just won’t allow me to do much of anything since it’s bogged down with a bunch of crap. I’m hoping to get it resolved this weekend. On the bright side, a lot has happened since the last update, so at least it’s been an interesting week of A’s baseball.

Even though this blog is about a month old, I’m managed to avoid the hot-button issue that has been on the minds of A’s fans everywhere for the better part of the past decade or so: The need, and fight, for a new stadium. And unless you’ve been ignoring the news, you know that Lew Wolff has been adamant in his desire to move the team to San Jose.

I’m just getting this reference out-of-the-way right now.

When Wolff, along with John Fisher, first bought the team in late 2005, Wolff publicly stated that he would never test the territorial rights the San Francisco Giants hold to Santa Clara County. Depending on who you ask, Wolff either tried his best and failed to secure a deal for a new ballpark in Oakland, or he never really gave much of an effort because he had his sights set on Silicon Valley the entire time. Interestingly enough, I was reading a timeline in class today at BaseballOakland.com that has a link to a 1998 San Francisco Chronicle story in which Wolff was quoted as saying, “If I was going to pursue a ballpark, I would certainly do it in San Jose…I wouldn’t spend five minutes on any other city besides San Jose.”

Sure, he said it seven years before he bought the team, but Wolff has been a key figure in a number of major South Bay real estate projects, so it’s hard for me to believe he didn’t have a grand plan of just using the A’s as a vehicle to embark on a profitable real estate venture. Hell, the Fremont plan he pitched in April 2006 called for a “ballpark village” to be built around the park, with commercial and residential property sales being used to pay for the cost of the stadium. Seeing as how the housing market began sliding into hell that same year, it’s probably for the best that Wolff was gave up on that plan in early 2009 amid protest from the citizens of Fremont.

Let’s be honest here: Nobody should want to go to Fremont for anything. Ever.

Ever since Wolff gave up on Fremont, he has been lobbying the hell out of Bud Selig and MLB to force the Giants to cede their rights to Santa Clara County. Over the past few months, officials from both teams have expressed in interviews with the media that they believe that they have a right to call Santa Clara County their territory. The verbal skirmish has really heated up in the past week, thanks to a speculative column by prominent sportswriter Bill Madden, and a pair of press releases by each organization that could be characterized as ‘shots fired‘ and ‘shots returned.’ In between that media mess, the city council of Oakland took a huge first step towards hopefully retaining all three of their professional sports franchises this past Tuesday night by approving spending $3.5 million to study the feasibility of plans for a new stadium, hotels, conference center, shopping, entertainment and other amenities in the 750-acre area around the Coliseum and along Hegenberger Road toward the airport. The project, which is expected to cost around $3 billion, has been dubbed ‘Coliseum City.’ I’m not sure how they intend to finance it, but I heard something a few weeks ago about Mayor Jean Quan having Chinese investors lined up. I’ll keep on the lookout for more information.

While this is an encouraging first step, we must also remember that the city council approved an environmental impact report for the Victory Court site and nothing really ever happened after that. And given Oakland’s lack of urgency to get anything done over the past decade and a half, those of us who want the team to remain in Oakland shouldn’t be celebrating anything until shovels actually get into the ground. If you want the team to stay in Oakland, you should keep badgering the city officials to make sure that they just don’t let this fade into the background like Victory Court. Of course, that would all be moot if Wolff gets his way and is granted permission to move to San Jose.

I want the team to remain in Oakland, but when I look at the situation objectively, I can see why Wolff and Fisher would want to relocate to the Silicon Valley. San Jose is the 10th most populous city in the country, it is home to many of the world’s leading high-tech companies and could provide ample sponsorship opportunities, and it is generally a pretty nice city. Many people think that moving there would provide the financial boost the A’s sorely need, but I really feel that the same is possible in Oakland. They point to attendance numbers and say it proves that the East Bay doesn’t and can’t support the A’s, but there are plenty of teams that are thriving now that looked doomed 20 years ago thanks to a new stadium and an effort to revitalize interest in the team. However, we must realize that a new stadium doesn’t cure what ails every franchise, as Pirates fans can attest to. It doesn’t guarantee that it will draw fans for years to come. The success of the team on the field as well as the relationship they maintain with the community have just as much to do with attendance figures as the quality of the stadium. There are plenty of teams with new parks that average around just 25,000 a game (which is around what the A’s pulled in before Wolff took over) because the novelty of a new yard has worn off.

In the seven years since they bought the team, Wolff and Fisher have failed in their quest to build a stadium, and have only succeeded in polarizing the fan base over the issue of where the future of the franchise should be. People have thrown their support behind Oakland or San Jose, and do nothing but bicker and argue like idiots when somebody brings up the stadium issue. Instead of being hopeful for the future, everybody is just all pissed off and bitter. Both sides think the other is full of it, and they refuse to listen to any objective analysis or insightful opinions if they don’t have the same views.

Whatever happens (stadium in Oakland, stadium in San Jose, Wolff sells the team), let’s just hope it happens soon, because it has been a long time coming and I’m sick of all the pissing and moaning by the teams, the media, and the fans. I want the A’s to stay in Oakland and I don’t have a high opinion of Wolff & Company, but all this back-and-forth between the Giants and the A’s, as well as between pro-Oaklanders and pro-San Josers, is not solving anything and doesn’t make any side look smarter or better than the other.

Besides, do you really want to get into an argument with guys like these?

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