Hope for Sacramento?

The A’s recently signed a four-year extension to their development agreement with the Sacramento River Cats. The key here is that the agreement runs through 2010. That’s pretty much the same year that the A’s other agreements – leases, radio, television – run out.

From a strategic standpoint, it puts the A’s in an extremely flexible position once the current arrangements end, whether it’s in the Bay Area or beyond. But does that mean a potential exodus to Sacramento? Bee columnist Marcus Bretón, who has been championing the A’s moving to Sac for several years, says it’s possible but isn’t counting on such a development.

Any talk about Sacramento has been complicated by joint efforts of downtown Sacramento business leaders and the Kings to build a downtown arena. The arena would be located on the site of a 240-acre, abandoned Union Pacific railyard. Two measures are on the November ballot for a 1/4-cent sales tax hike in Sacramento county as well as a plan to develop the railyard, which would conceivably include the arena. However, yesterday the Maloofs broke off talks with the city/county over the size and scope of the arena piece. Supposedly the plan is short on parking for the arena, among other things.

Does this provide an opening for the A’s? It’s possible, but it would be a long shot. First off, a ballpark alone could have double the physical footprint of an arena (in this plan the arena is 8.5 acres, a ballpark could be 12-18 acres). While parking requirements in the area adjacent to a ballpark may not be as large as what the Kings are looking for, there’d still be a requirement of some 1,200 spaces or more. That would stretch the ballpark’s scope to around 20 acres, which is exactly the amount of land being allocated for the entire arena/entertainment district area.

For Sacramento to even be able to entertain the A’s in this regard, several things would have to happen:

  • Measures Q (authorizes usage of funds from Measure R) & R (1/4-cent sales tax hike over 15 years) must pass
  • The Kings choose not to go with a downtown arena (possible, given a recent statement by Joe Maloof)
  • Downtown interests redo their redevelopment plan to include a ballpark instead of an arena
  • City/county allow the Kings to build elsewhere without being required to provide public funds – this could mean in or out of Sacramento

Supposedly the tax would generate some $1 billion or more over the 15 years of the tax hike. Keep in mind that this money would not just go towards a ballpark. It would go towards the development of the remaining 220 acres, and that means large amounts of infrastructure. Cleanup of the land is expected to be costly. The land purchase is still under negotiation. I would be surprised if the various parties would be able to turn around and get something done in a year. My guess is that it won’t.

Bretón misreads the A’s situation in his article. He writes that the A’s have been faithful to the East Bay by virtue of the talks with Fremont, but based on Lew Wolff’s speech for the San Jose Chamber last week, it’s only true if “East Bay” were replaced by “Greater Bay Area.”

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