An idea so ludicrous it was laughable was “reported” last week by a pair of writers: that the A’s would play two years at AT&T Park and then be moved to another city.
It seems likely this was one last attempt by baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to help his old fraternity brother Lew Wolff put pressure on Oakland in the negotiations for another lease. But even Wolff was embarrassed by this ham-handed effort. The day the report came out, he said the A’s would be negotiating a new contract with Oakland and had no plans to play in San Francisco.
The A’s aren’t going anywhere. About six years ago, Selig appointed a former major-league club executive to look at cities that had been mentioned for expansion. He reported back that none of them would be suitable. But it is clear that the A’s need either a new park or an improved one. The problem now is that there are too many possibilities.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has a utopian vision of a Coliseum City, which is about as reasonable as her other ideas. She would have the city (and Alameda County) build a new football stadium, basketball arena and baseball park. Good grief. There’s certainly no money for a new football stadium — the 49ers’ new stadium cost more than $1 billion. Oracle Arena is fine for basketball, but Warriors co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber want a new arena as part of a huge real estate operation on The Embarcadero in San Francisco.
A more realistic scenario would have the Raiders sharing the 49ers’ stadium in Santa Clara, with the Coliseum remodeled as a strictly baseball park. But the Raiders appear to be inclined to remain in Oakland, though the Coliseum does not spin off the money from luxury suites, club seats, etc. that new stadiums do.
So, the A’s will need a new park. There are two sites available on the north and south ends of Jack London Square that would fit well with the growing residential and restaurant area in Oakland.
The one most favored currently by business leaders and Oakland city planners, aside from the mayor, is one at Howard Terminal to the north. This site was used by Matson shipping for many years. It would require a massive cleanup and has been declared financially unfeasible as a site by Wolff, who wouldn’t be paying for it, but it would be on the waterfront, approximating the AT&T location.
Another site has been proposed by an imaginative designer who sent me his plans. It would be in the area between the KTVU (Ch. 2) building, which might be rebuilt and modernized as part of the project, and the Victory Garden area the city once looked at as a site. I have talked to the money man behind this plan and he assures me he could get private financing swiftly, mostly from Saudi Arabia contacts. I’d prefer this site because it’s in the middle of new housing and many fans could walk to games.
But not until Quan’s Coliseum City plan collapses can private developers start the process at one of these sites. It takes a lot of patience to be an A’s fan.