A’s owner Wolff standing in the way of new stadium

Say this for San Jose mayor Chuck Reed: He doesn’t give up easily. As soon as A’s owner Lew Wolff announced that he was having trouble negotiating a lease extension on the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Reed announced that they could play in a temporary home in San Jose. But that’s prohibited by the contract the Giants have with Major League Baseball.

Wolff’s problem with the Oakland negotiations: He doesn’t want to pay any rent. He inherited the contract Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann had with the Coliseum. When the Raiders moved back to Oakland, it caused serious problems for the A’s with the construction to add seats for football. The 1996 season opener had to be played in Las Vegas because of construction at the Coliseum. The Coliseum rewrote the A’s contract, not requiring them to pay rent for the rest of the lease.

Those conditions no longer apply. Wolff and his oh-so-silent partner, John Fisher, have prospered, reportedly earning as much as $23 million in revenue-sharing money one season.

Wolff created an artificial attendance reduction when he tarped off seats in the upper deck. That prevented the A’s from getting the 50,000-person crowds they often got when the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox or Giants came to town. Even so, their attendance has been rising and their fans support the team loudly; players often say how much they appreciate that support.

The A’s could certainly use a new park, but it is Wolff who is preventing that, in his quixotic attempt to move to San Jose. There are two plans to build a new park, on either the southern or northern end of Jack London Square. Oakland businessmen have pledged support for the first one and I’ve talked to the money man for the second project, who insists there would be no problem raising the money.

But Wolff isn’t interested. He’s still pursuing his San Jose dream.

It’s not going to happen because of the agreement the Giants have with MLB.

Forget the urban legend that, as A’s owner, Walter Haas granted territorial rights to Giants owner Bob Lurie so he could explore possibilities in the South Bay. Two attempts failed at the ballot box.

Lurie and Haas were good friends, both members of the Lake Merced Country Club, and I’m sure they discussed this. Haas no doubt told Lurie he wouldn’t stand in his way, but the fact is, there were no territorial rights at that time. Yet, this story keeps getting repeated by writers who don’t do their homework.

In late 1992, just before he stepped down as head of the group trying to buy the Giants from Lurie, Walter Shorenstein told me there would be two conditions in the new contract: 1) The Giants would have to get a new park within 10 years; 2) The Giants would then have territorial rights to all the counties down the Peninsula and into San Jose. They were looking at Silicon Valley, of course, and money from that area helped build the park.

No amount of huffing and puffing from Chuck Reed and Lew Wolff will change that.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at glenndickey36@gmail.com.

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