New Waterfront Ballpark Plans Unveiled; Time for Wolff to Sell Team?

The same group, led by Clorox CEO Don Knauss, that made headlines in May 2012 when they announced their “pledge” to help keep the A’s in Oakland is back at it again.

Roughly a year and a half ago their news was the intent to formulate an ownership group of Bay Area businesses with a desire to keep the A’s in Oakland if Lew Wolff and John Fisher were unwilling to budge on their stance that there was no feasible site for a ballpark in Oakland. Today, they released artistic renderings of their proposed ballpark at the 50-acre Howard Terminal site just west of Oakland’s Jack London Square.

Photo: MANICA Architecture

Photo: MANICA Architecture

The proposal for a 38,000 seat ballpark had the instant approval of Mayor Jean Quan, stating “It’s one of the two sites we promised Major League Baseball we would offer, and it will be available early next year,” according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

The other site that Quan is referencing is the existing Coliseum site, and would be a part of the Coliseum City proposal currently centered around keeping the Raiders in Oakland.

The Chronicle states that the group supporting the A’s Oakland ballpark proposal does not intend to push for ownership, however if Wolff and Fisher fail to sign onto the idea, then they would be willing to form a group that would be able to purchase the team and move forward with the site plans.

The artistic renderings of the $500 million new stadium are sure to give a jolt to Oakland fans’ “StAy” movement, and would certainly provide a boost to the economy of the Jack London Square area and the city as a whole.

Although die-hard A’s fans will likely hate the comparison, the ballpark would become the East Bay’s own version of the Giants’ AT&T Park, a waterfront beauty with its own nearby dining and entertainment to boast.

From a convenience standpoint, the proposal also makes sense. It’s location is roughly a mile from both the West Oakland and 12th Street BART stations and close to both 880 and 980.

628x471 (1)

Photo: MANICA Architecture

According to Quan the site is already zoned for a convention center, and she seems optimistic that a ballpark would be no problem for the zoning commission to approve.

A ballpark and the roughly 3 million visitors a year that would attend the 81 games (assuming they can sellout with a new stadium… 81 x 38,000 = 3,078,000 in attendance), plus additional visitors to the proposed retail center, additional events that can be hosted at the stadium during the offseason, and of course post-season play, the revenue from a sports venue would definitely outweigh the potential continued use of Howard Terminal for maritime usage.

Of course, this is all the bright and sunny, optimistic outlook to the proposal.

Wolff looks at it as “impossible” still, though, and seems unlikely to jump on board any time soon.

“It would be easier to build on Treasure Island,” Wolff told The Chronicle. “All I care about is getting a new home for the A’s in the best possible circumstances – and under any circumstances, Howard Terminal would be as close to impossible as anything.”

It’s really no surprise that Wolff came out in opposition of the proposed Howard Terminal site. He has banked so much time at this point on San Jose that he would never come out in support, even to the smallest degree, on any site outside of San Jose and risk it jeopardizing his chances of swaying MLB and the 3/4 ownership vote he will eventually need to bypass the San Francisco Giants territorial rights and move.

There certainly are a number of issues that call into question just how realistic this proposal truly is. As the NewBallPark.org blog points out, there are issues ranging from existing proposals of usage for the site that the city won’t be able to ignore forever, to the distance from the water that the ballpark can be built because of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) jurisdiction. There’s also the curious case of how a site once ranked as one of the worst possibilities due to $177.5 million worth of infrastructure and other improvements, is now the best site. As well as how the cost apparently dropped from $517 million in estimated cost in 2001, to $500 million in 2013.

 

I don’t pretend to understand the legal issues surrounding the A’s proposed ballpark move anywhere near as well as the author of NewBallPark.org, so a visit to his site is definitely worthwhile if you’re an A’s fan awaiting a new stadium.

It’s hard to say whether a court decision last week allowing the city of San Jose to appeal their antitrust claims against Major League Baseball to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affects Wolff and company’s willingness to reconsider Oakland. They have long stated there is no site in Oakland, or anywhere other than San Jose for that matter, that they are willing to give a second thought to.

Wolff has repeatedly stated that he has no intention to sell the team and that he is not considering moving the team outside of the Bay Area. He appears to have all his hopes riding on San Jose though, so the prospect of another ownership group being the A’s only chance of staying in Oakland appears more likely with each hurdle MLB throws at the A’s proposals to move.

Word came recently that the commissioner denied the A’s proposal back in June, the day before the city of San Jose filed their lawsuit. Wolff was left with only a glimmer of hope that he could still see a ballpark in downtown San Jose as the judge allowed a single claim, regarding the A’s land-purchase option, to continue. He received a bigger boost of confidence when Judge Whyte allowed the city to appeal their antitrust claims against baseball.

Wolff and Fisher won’t entertain any ideas of selling their ownership stake in the team so long as there is still the prospect of moving the A’s into the corporate rich boundaries of San Jose, regardless of any backlash they hear from the fan base.

In fact, as all A’s fans have long known, Wolff himself is the biggest hurdle to the A’s getting a new stadium in Oakland at this point. For all his good intentions for the franchise with a move, this fact has never sat well with the loyal East Bay fan base that does not want to see their team head south to Santa Clara county.

With Knauss and his partners, former Dreyers Grand Ice Cream boss T. Gary Rogers and other East Bay business leaders ready to move, a final rejection of the A’s relocation proposal for San Jose, or a defeat in the appeals court, could wind up being the alternative option that winds up keeping the A’s in Oakland.

Remember, back in 2012, Knauss stated, “If the current ownership group is not committed to Oakland, we want to make clear that Oakland and the East Bay business community are ready to step up to the plate to help ensure the A’s stay home where they belong in Oakland. We’re confident we have identified an ownership group with the financial wherewithal to buy the team, keep them here and get a new stadium built.”

We will likely have to wait (as has been the case for the past four years) on the courts and Major League Baseball, but Knauss’ group supporting the A’s staying in Oakland, along with Mayor Quan, have made their latest move to backup their 2012 claims.

Mr. Wolff, it’s your move now (you know, following the results of all pending litigation, and the MLB panel results, and all environmental impact reports, and whatever delay comes up between and now then).