Fight to keep A’s in Oakland is alive

Oakland is fighting the San Jose attempt, aided and abetted by A’s managing general partner Lew Wolff, to hijack its team.

A plan to build a 39,000-seat park at Embarcadero and Oak Street, was presented to the Oakland planning commission on Wednesday. The 20-acre site, adjacent to Jack London Square, would include a parking lot and possibly retail outlets. It is next to Interstate 880 and close to the Lake Merritt BART station.

The city must do an environmental impact report. Meanwhile, San Jose mayor Chuck Reed, who has been campaigning to get the A’s to San Jose, did not put a ballpark measure on the March ballot because he has not received the green light he has sought from baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

Ever since Wolff and John Fisher bought the A’s in 2005, it’s been obvious that San Jose was Wolff’s preferred location for the team. He has been involved in several real estate deals in San Jose, including the downtown arena which now houses the Sharks.

He attempted to get a new park in Oakland, across 66th Avenue from the Coliseum, but he wanted the city to help him buy the properties on the site at cheap prices, and for BART to schedule a new stop by the site. Neither happened, and Wolff turned his eyes south again.

The roadblock has been the deal the Giants owners made with major league baseball when they bought the team from Bob Lurie in late 1992: They would build a new ballpark if they got exclusive rights in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Santa Clara County includes Silicon Valley, which the Giants tapped for  money to build their new park — and for “charter seat” subscribers. Having fulfilled their end of the bargain, they’ve expected MLB to honor its end.

Selig and Wolff have been friends for many years, and Wolff apparently believed that their friendship would influence Selig into moving to get the Giants’ territorial rights removed.

But Selig is the ultimate politician. He never brings an issue to the table unless he’s sure it will pass. He’s appointed a special committee to look into the sites in Oakland and San Jose, and the committee has not yet reported after two years — because Selig hasn’t wanted that report. He’s been giving Oakland every chance to come up with a ballpark plan. Now, the city has it.

Meanwhile, Wolff has done everything he can to depress attendance in Oakland, from canceling FanFest to closing off almost all of the upper deck. Attendance has declined every year Wolff and Fisher have owned the team, except for a slight uptick last season.

The Oakland effort has been hampered by lack of support from the mayor. Jerry Brown actively opposed a new park while pushing an apartment building project in midtown. (Brown’s project has succeeded. With more  residents downtown and cheaper rents than in San Francisco, Oakland has become a restaurant mecca.

Outgoing mayor Ron Dellums has been an empty suit, inactive on all fronts.

Incoming mayor Jean Quan, though, has promised support for the ballpark effort.

So, the fight to keep the A’s in Oakland is alive.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.

Glenn DickeyOakland ColiseumSan Franciscosports

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