Now that a federal district judge has dismissed San Jose’s suit against MLB for preventing an A’s move to San Jose, it’s time to look seriously at the A’s problems with the aging O.co Coliseum.
Oakland mayor Jean Quan several months ago announced a grandiose plan for a “Coliseum City” where the Coliseum and Oracle Arena currently stand, with new facilities for the A’s, Raiders and Warriors.
That won’t fly. The Warriors have a perfectly good arena, situated in a spot which is easily accessible for fans in San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and Contra Costa County, but owner Joe Lacob wants to build a monumental structure on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. He won’t be swayed by promise of a new arena in Oakland.
The cost of building a new football stadium has escalated; the latest price tag for the 49ers’ new stadium in Santa Clara is $1.2 billion. There’s no money for that.
Most likely, when the Raiders’ lease expires after this season, they’ll move into the 49ers’ stadium, which is easy driving distance for most Raiders fans. The NFL is encouraging dual occupancy of stadiums; the Giants and Jets are on their second shared stadium in New Jersey.
That would make it possible to restructure the Coliseum as a baseball-only park, much as Anaheim did for the Angels when the Rams moved to St. Louis.
The other alternative is building an entirely new park in the downtown Oakland area. Despite Lew Wolff’s protestations to the contrary, there are spots available. In the last couple of years, there have been prominent businessmen who have formed a group pledging money to build a new park, which would be much less expensive than a football stadium.
In the meantime, we can drop the fiction promoted by national media that the A’s are a small-market team.
Oakland itself is just over 400,000 in population but it is the middle of a string of cities from Hayward to El Cerrito which are contiguous except for the spot where Highway 24 cuts through to go through the tunnel to Contra Costa County.
And of course, the A’s also draw on the very fast growing Contra Costa area, fans coming in from that area on BART or by car.
It’s not unlike the situation in St. Louis. If the media looked at the population of St. Louis, only 315,000, they could describe the Cardinals as a small-market franchise. But the metropolitan market for St. Louis is 2.9 million, which is why the Cardinals are a thriving team and have been for some time.
Wolff, of course, has never been concerned with filling all the seats and, in fact, has made moves to discourage Oakland fans. But he’s salivated at the idea of tapping into the Silicon Valley people on the peninsula; his first plan for a San Jose ballpark had only 32,000 seats but many, many luxury suites.
Now that his quixotic plan is doomed, perhaps he can face reality and look for a new park in Oakland. Even better, maybe he and deafeningly silent partner John Fisher will sell, and Wolff will no longer have to pretend he really cares about the team.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.