If we can get the olive out of the bottle

Forum thread

Lew Wolff was interviewed by Greg Papa in a lengthy segment on Chronicle Live today, and for once just about everyone can find a little bit of hope in what he had to say. Wolff’s folksy demeanor shows up most when he sheepishly admits something, such as when he talked about his “silly tarping” idea (that won’t go over well) or when he didn’t realize that the A’s had the worst attendance in the league in 2009.

Papa did the right thing in progressing the questions from Oakland to San Jose. He asked why Oakland didn’t work and Wolff mentioned his notes, which would take an hour and 45 minutes to go over. I have gotten a look at these notes, and while there wasn’t time to go over everything, it was quite thorough and helps Wolff make his case rather clearly. That said, on two occasions Wolff mentioned that while he felt he was exhaustive in his search, the MLB panel could make another recommendation within Oakland or the East Bay. Whether or not the panel actually does that is another story. Still, it’s a glimmer of hope that the process will give Oakland another shot at getting everything together for a ballpark. (Cue the Oakland preso anytime now…)

When the subject switched to San Jose, Wolff played down San Jose in terms of economic virtues. Instead he framed his argument entirely within the confines of running the club: It’s the only place a ballpark can work now due to infrastructure there, and the concepts in Fremont and Oakland (Coliseum North) can’t work now because of the economy. Keep in mind that in the San Francisco Magazine article, Wolff said that he wasn’t pursuing additional land in the Diridon area, so building a mall or some other fancy development wouldn’t be in the cards.

On territorial rights, Wolff felt that the decision had to be made “in a measured manner,” with neither owner likely lobbying other owners on his behalf.

Among the other tasty tidbits from the interview

  • Wolff corrected Papa on the A’s 2008 revenue: not $160 million as Forbes reported, but rather $130 million. That includes the revenue sharing receipt ($32 million).
  • A ballpark in San Jose, if all the hurdles are cleared, would take 9-12 months to finish planning and 2 years to build. Wolff did not rule out a 2012 opening, but that’s not likely given that the public vote would likely be taken next November. Even if they break ground a day after the election, they’d still have only 16 months from that point until Opening Day 2012. So dont get too excited about 2012. The Mayans caused enough trouble there.
  • Wolff hinted that MLB may have some say in the eventual size of the ballpark – which may be where the 36,000 figure is coming from.

There’s another thing I’ve picked up from these public statements and others from other teams – there’s a palpable sense of kinship between the A’s, Raiders, and 49ers. The A’s, while they’ve criticized the Coliseum for not being baseball friendly, have not directly blamed the Raiders. They’ve said that a shared facility isn’t ideal long term and that’s that. It’s an important distinction, as all three teams know they’re in the same boat and it wouldn’t make sense to attack each other when it’s hard enough to get a deal done. Fans have the latitude to throw blame. Owners, not so much.

Want more? Watch the interview, which is almost 15 minutes long has been broken up into several segments on the CSNCA video section.

77 Responses to If we can get the olive out of the bottle

  1. Connie Mack says:

    The A’s know exactly where their ticket holders are. The fact that they are determined to move south (first Fremont, now SJ) says something about how “strong” their fan base is near and to the north of the Coliseum, compared to what they think it can be south of the Coliseum.
    All this passionate Oakland booster talk about where the fans are is unfounded speculation, wishful thinking, or pure ignorance. The A’s are the ones with the solid demographic info, and they are in this to make the most money, not to avoid stepping on the toes of Oaklanders who have not supported the team very well over 40 years. Look at the historic attendance figures — they are far worse than the team’s on-field performance would merit. The Bay Area may be a good market, but Oakland isn’t.

  2. Bay Area A's says:

    Exactly CM. The A’s didn’t just throw a dart at the map and decide on San Jose. This is where the team will be able to operate successfully for years to come with millions of people to draw fans from.

  3. navigator says:

    Marine Layer has all the numbers of where paying Oakland A’s fans come from. Oakland has the highest number of fans per capita than any other city in the Bay Area.. Alameda and Contra Costa Counties have the highest number of paying customers, followed by San Francisco County. The support for the A’s south of Hayward is minuscule. As a matter of fact, support from San Jose is downright embarrassing. Marine Layer has already put out those numbers. Unfortunately, San Jose Boosters aren’t interested in the facts. Also, there is a “Let’s keep the A’s in Oakland” site with 22,423 members and a site to “bring the A’s to San Jose” along with a site to just “keep the A’s in the Bay Area.” Question: As we compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges, which of these sites has by far the most supporters?

  4. GoA's says:

    Nav…always fun to twist stat’s to paint any picture we like….”…highest number per capita…? Oakland is a city of less than 400k people—even though it is “something” to make this claim it means “nothing” when you look at horrible attendance numbers…which by any standard are not bragging rights for Oakland or the East Bay in general…

    Once again..you have both ownership groups coveting the same territory…meaning that “something” that you brag about for Oakland/East Bay means “nothing” to the Gints owners even though it would be much closer than SJ/Silicon Valley

  5. BrutuS says:


    Long time reader, just never a poster.

    Why not just link to the forums using the comment link instead? Anyone else finding it hard to read the comments which are posted on this new setup besides me? Seems that the newest posts are no longer at the end?

  6. Mike M says:

    GoA’s, let’s bring YOU back to reality. I’m not saying that a new ballpark in Oakland is the answer. Did you read me saying that? In fact, I think they can still play in the current one. The team and the fans don’t NEED a new ballpark at all. In fact look at teams like the Yankees and the NY football Giants. New stadiums usually mean that the average fan can no longer afford to go to the games. So who NEEDS a new stadium? The owners and major league baseball do. MLB wants to retire old multipurpose stadiums from their portfolio and owners know that a new stadium (and especially a new town) means $$$$. Ultimately, the fans lose. That’s a huge difference that needs to be highlighted.

    I’ve been a lifelong A’s fan, and I was there when the A’s handed out the “2,000,000 Thank Yous” pennants when they broke that number in 1988. Same stadium. The difference was that there was a winning product on the field. Baseball has changed with small markets not truly being able to compete via payroll figures that can’t be matched by small market clubs. But a new stadium will do nothing to change that. A new location/market will. So that’s why Wolff & Co. want to move the team. That’s the reality of what’s going on.

    Wolff is trying to use attendance numbers as a key reason as to why a new ballpark is needed, but it’s disingenuous when there are steps taken to willfully limit the attendance to save costs. They didn’t even open the 3rd deck during the PLAYOFFS. What a complete joke. If it’s supply/demand, open up the 3rd deck on those games when the demand is sky high (Iike what I have mentioned) or offer discounted tickets and then at least be honest with the attendance figures because right now they are not.

  7. thisplanetsux says:

    Mr. Wolff has been developing large-scale real estate projects in San Jose since the 1960s. No one is suggesting a dart was thrown at any map.

    So, you’re completely uninterested in the affects a crappy team playing in a crappy ballpark with premium prices should actually have on attendance? Your silence on this topic is deafening. Oh well, I just let you guys get back to working overtime on the San Jose ballpark initiative, I’m sure you’ve got plenty on your plates.

  8. GoA's says:

    TPS–might make sense if the attendance issues were something new–Coli used to be a very nice baseball ballpark–before the return of the Raiders—attendance wasn’t all that good back then either–what’s deafening is how this is all going to change in a ballpark where tix prices are going to go up to pay off the ballpark—unless of course the citizens of Oakland want to add to their 20M annual debt to pay off the current debacle–

  9. thisplanetsux says:

    FC, the reply button on your post was absent, so this won’t appear quite where it should.

    Why do you go out of your way to ignore the team’s performance, current ballpark situation, and high cost to attend in order to blame the metro area for the team’s attendance problems? We have seen over and over again, that teams like the Giants, Indians, Orioles, Rangers, Mariners, Brewers, Pirates, Padres, Reds, White Sox, Tigers, etc. can go from having similar attendance to the A’s in Oakland when playing in their previous, rundown ballparks, to having much better attendance after simply moving into a modern facility. And those teams have been driving the A’s attendance records steadily down the list over the past 20 years or so. When you stop ignoring the obvious to instead grasp for simple-minded, deceptive, and insulting claims, I’ll take you more seriously.

  10. thisplanetsux says:

    I don’t understan the deafening reference in regards to people being willing to pay more for a new facility. It’s happened over and over throughout the major leagues, and most cities where it’s happened have nowhere near the affluence of the East Bay, and had not established any greater attendance pattern than Oakland in their older ballparks.

  11. thisplanetsux says:

    You and others have a tendency to mischaracterize A’s attendance. Look at it this way:

    Despite playing in a crap, concrete, multi-purpose ballpark with high costs to attend, the first half of this decade, and with head to head competition across the bay from a pennant-winning club (in a brand-new waterfront baseball palace AND a player setting the all-time home run record), the A’s still hovered exactly at AL median attendance five straight years from 2001-2005. While this is not exactly exciting news, being consistently that high in attendance under those circumstance is pretty decent, when you also consider the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels totally own the top three spots, and you’re really looking at slot #4 as a resounding success in this league… And that sort of showing is simply not deserving of the level of derision you and others constantly dish out. We know the A’s could have drawn much better those seasons in Oakland, in a better facility than the Coliseum. We also know the SF ballpark is no longer the trendy new destination it once was, and that Barry Bonds is long gone, so there is every right for the A’s to pull a traditional Bay Area attendance switch on the Giants, as has happened over and over again throughout their history of cohabitation.

    It seems obvious to me, that you and a few others make a point to blatantly exaggerating or spin attendance problems to pin every conceivable negative viewpoint on the metro area, because you want the team to move closer to you, while you completely ignore the foul-ups by Mr. Wolff that are driving the _current_ descent in attendance figures from average to pathetic.

  12. Marine Layer says:

    That’s what happens when you have a threaded comments page. At least you have the list of recent comments that allows direct links to the latest. I’m trying to fix the date/time display in each comment box.

    Even though the vote favors the forums, the amount of activity in the comments speaks for itself. There is a link to the forum thread at the top of each article post, and registered users are welcome to start their own threads.

  13. GoA's says:

    So TPS–answer one question–why do both ownerships covet the Silicon Valley/SJ over Oakland and the East Bay? Why is Neukom so fearful of MLB allowing the Bay Area to do business like all other MLB 2 team areas and share the counties? What does he lose in having his competition move 40 miles further away into an area that according to the Oakland boosters on this blog are not fans of that team and therefore won’t go to any games?

    Based upon your logic that the EB is a baseball hotbed and none of these fans will travel to SJ to see the A’s play than Neukom should be salivating over the area—foregoing territorial rights so he can take advantage of the incredible number of baseball fans in the EB and get his competition 50 miles away instead of 10—

    What does he and the evil Wolff know TPS that you and the other Oakland diehards don’t?

  14. gojohn10 says:

    Two things

    1) The Coliseum is not quite the same as it was in 1988. They built this thing called Mt. Davis. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

    2) Maybe they didn’t open the 3rd deck in the 2006 playoffs because the last time the A’s played the Twins in the playoffs, the third deck was half empty. I don’t blame them for wanting to avoid that embarrassment.

  15. gojohn10 says:

    It’s possible that Neukom prefers to have the A’s move to San Jose, but he opposes it in public to keep the A’s in their crappy ballpark as long as possible and to maximize his compensation once the move is approved.

  16. gojohn10 says:

    Here’s another way of looking at it. During that time, the A’s were 2nd to only the Yankees in wins per season, yet only had average attendance.

  17. thisplanetsux says:

    Yeah, that’s true, but the Angels, White Sox, and Red Sox, playing in gigantic markets also won a World Series in that period, while the A’s did not even win a playoff series; the Mariners were in a fantastic, spanking new ballpark and won 116 games one season; the Orioles, Rangers, and Indians continue to draw great in their beautiful, newer facilities, even when they aren’t very good (even though in their old ballparks they could only outdraw the A’s by having a better record)… These are the teams the A’s are having trouble getting past in the attendance ranks while playing in a 45 year old concrete mausoleum. Let’s apply some grey matter to the process for a change.

  18. OAKLANDathletics says:

    Go A’s, since we’re talking about attendance right now I’ll answer your question and say that both ownerships want to move to Silicon Valley/SJ because of the corporate dollars only and nothing else. It has absolutely nothing to do with the fans. It’s purely money and politics and no tradition or the love for the game involved. There is no guarantee that a new ballpark in San Jose will draw better attendance than a new ballpark in Oakland.

    This whole argument that moving 40 miles away is better the Giants is just nonsense in my opinion. Since the Bay Area has two MLB teams, the South Bay market is and will always be pretty much the same distance from SF as it is to Oakland. Our territory is split by a couple of bridges and a large body of water so it gives us an even split. We’re both just situated at the upper half’s of the split.

  19. thisplanetsux says:

    From the Giants point of view, I’ve already spelled out for you the obvious problem here. It does not matter which of the two locations is best in the long-term. The Giants will either: A) lose out long-term, or B) take a long time, gradually losing fans in one area, and gradually winning fans in another to end up the eventual winner.

    They are understandably hesitant to just accept the gamble and say, okay, let’s go along with this and start a 10 year program for convincing A’s fans to become Giants fans, it might eventually work out in our favor–when they’re already doing just fine with things the way they are. This, I think is an especially valid position for them, considering the A’s already cold-cocked them once in 1968, and they just dug themelves out of that hole by building a ballpark and a solid fanbase with the A’s sitting in Oakland. Now the A’s are changing the freaking landscape again!

    And from the A’s point of view, come on… Mayor Reed and Mr. Wolff are plowing ahead on a major property development in downtown San Jose. Gee, that’s what they both do in their day jobs, right? There doesn’t have to be any evidence that San Jose is as good or better than Oakland for the A’s, their fans, MLB, the Giants, or anyone. Profit is all either of them need to see to move forward on this 400+ million dollar project. As long as the ducks can be lined up, and the project completed before they expire, they both figure to come out shiny on the other end, from purely the real estate development aspects. This ballpark will immediately become an asset of the franchise and drive up the franchise value before even one fan sets foot inside. And I realize that all this is a selling point for San Jose. I’m not knocking anyone or anything. I’m simply pointing out to you that the real justification for this ballpark is not “Oakland sucks”, like you love to claim, but that Mr. Wolff might have the contacts and right partners to actually get it done in the next few years. Period. Let’s quit bullshitting on the other stupid stuff, and recognize the real warts that do exist here in terms of population questions, traditional fanbase shifting, traffic problems, insufficient public transit, etc., K?

  20. OAKLANDathletics says:

    Do you San Jose partisans really believe that if a new ballpark was built in Downtown Oakland by the waterfront that the attendance would continue to be terrible? I’m sure you all might even say what about after the novelty wears off after a few years? Well at that point it would be entirely up to our management to continue put quality competitive teams out on the field and the fans will continue to come as well as they did in the past. There’s also no reason why we couldn’t get corporate sponsors given it’s in the right location (3rd & Oak?) and with the right people on board with us.

    It’s all quite simple. The formula is build a ballpark in a kiss ass location (regardless of the city), close proximity to downtown/urban area with restaurant and bars, plenty of parking, quick and easy access to freeway on/off ramps and close enough to mass transit. These are all things which Oakland does have and could be very successful with if the right people who could just show some support for the vision. I really do feel that with all things be considered, this BRC is giving us some serious consideration.

    They’ve probably only met with San Jose officials to make sure they don’t miss any cracks with possible “alternate” locations throughout the entire Bay Area (including Giants’ territory) in the event they were unable to determine a suitable site in Oakland. I’m sure they are sticking by their original assessment to first see if they can find a new site in the Athletics’ CURRENT TERRITORY.

    I mean if Selig is going to step down in about two years, I’m sure he’s not planning on waiting around for the Giants to battle this out in court for several years before the A’s ever get their new ballpark. Causing a disturbance between the owners is also something Selig is not too fond of doing, so I guess we shall all have to just wait and see what happens?!

  21. GoA's says:

    oakA’s–happy to hear that you at least acknowledge the importance of corporate dollars in supporting a modern sports franchise…and that SJ has a significant edge over Oakland in this category…that admission by you is progress from my perspective. Yet to imply that 10 miles and one bridge equals 40 plus freeway miles to the south is a bit of a stretch.

    tps–not even sure where to start with your response—the obvious reason as to why the gints are fighting T-rights is because they want one thing—the Bay Area all to themselves. They know that the odds of something happening in Oak are zero to none…regardless of how many potential sights are thrown into the mix…and SJ is the A’s last hope before they pack up their bags and head elsewhere-

    I don’t see the “real warts” of moving to SJ that you do–I have and will continue to travel up to Oakland to see games as long as they are there–as oakA’s said–SJ is far superior to Oakland in terms of corporate dollars–key to today’s sports business model–traffic problems—freeways work both ways, as do trains— those that are fans will be thrilled to have a new ballpark so that the team can compete–in a great downtown location.

    And btw—-I have never said, nor do I believe the city of Oakland sucks…but they are not a destination city for sports franchises.

  22. reggie jax says:

    Look at the Mariners situation as a comparison. languishing for years with a mediocre team at the Kingdome. Then 2000 comes and the new Safeco field opens (this coincided with the M’s making the playoffs) – attendance has grown every season despite what most would consider a mediocre team as of late. The M’s put money on the ballpark experience as a way to fill the seats, having an actual good team is gravy. I think Wolff and co. are trying to follow this concept by the book in the quickest way they know how – SJ

  23. thisplanetsux says:

    Okay, we’ve hammered away plenty, and we’re obviously seeing things way differently. I’ll just drop a few extra credit story problems on transit for you to consider.

    A) If an A’s fan gets in his car near Diridon Station and drives up the 880 corridor to the Coliseum, and the majority of A’s fans using 880 to get to the Coliseum came from the opposite direction, will the traffic south be the same for an A’s fan leaving the Coliseum area to drive down the 880 corridor for a game at Diridon?

    B) If a person in San Jose can get in his car and drive to Fremont, park it and ride BART to Oakland, can someone in Oakland walk to BART, ride to Fremont, then get in a car and drive to San Jose?

    C) If the current 98 million dollar budget deficit for VTA results in service cutbacks mentioned here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/43028, will car traffic in San Jose get worse or better in the coming years? And if car traffic gets worse, will that affect the enthusiasm for building a major traffic generator in the downtown area?

  24. Marine Layer says:

    Considering how incredibly off-topic many of you have gotten in this comment thread, I’ll point out that it would be far more appropriate to start a forum thread with this line of questioning. Just saying.

  25. bartleby says:

    This is a layup.

    A) The traffic south will be far lighter than the traffic north for a weeknight game, because it is the counter-commute direction. Huge numbers of East Bay folks work in Silicon Valley. Virtually no South Bay/Peninsula folks work in the East Bay. East Bay folks will have a smooth sail to games in SJ, in contrast to the traffic nightmare we South Bay/Peninsula folks currently endure to attend weeknight games at the Coli.

    In addition, because of the foregoing, a large number of East Bay folks will not have to endure rush hour traffic at all to attend games in SJ, because they’re already down here for their jobs. In fact, they’ll get to avoid the rush hour traffic they otherwise face on a daily basis. They can work their normal hours, go out for dinner in downtown SJ, and then stroll over to the park. After the game, they can cruise home after commute hours with virtually no traffic.

    In contrast, those of us who must cross a bridge to get to the Coli must currently allow two hours to be assured of making first pitch. For many of us, this means leaving the office early, and still does not allow time for a decent dinner before the game.

    It makes me laugh every time some Oakland partisan starts rambling on about how Oakland is “convenient for the entire Bay Area,” or Navigator starts blathering about how more season ticket holders hail from Alameda County than Santa Clara County (surprise, surprise).

    B) Of course not. At least, not right now. Hopefully within a few years of a new ballpark opening, BART will reach downtown SJ.

    But let me tell you, the Fremont BART option is no great convenience for South Bay fans. It’s like twenty minutes off the freeway, plus time waiting for the train, plus the ride itself, plus time walking across the BART bridge. It saves you the stadium traffic, but In the end, it still takes close to two hours. I usually do it anyway because I REALLY hate traffic, but most people don’t bother. ML has posted many times only 15% of A’s fans take BART to the trains anyway, but I’d bet almost anything that number is way lower for South Bay fans.

    C) If VTA cuts back service I suspect the overall impact on South Bay traffic will be minimal because, sadly, the rate of ridership is so low to begin with. Plus, the reason VTA and other transit systems have budget problems is because the economy is so bad. Unemployment will likely more than offset any traffic impact due to transit cuts. When the economy improves and more people are driving, presumably more revenue will flow in and cuts can be restored.

    Anyway, is it your belief East Bay transit systems will avoid budget cuts? A lot more people ride East Bay transit than South Bay transit, so one can reasonably expect the traffic impact of East Bay cuts to be more severe.

  26. Mark says:

    I would hardly call 880 South on a weeknight a “counter-commute.” It’s still painful most nights.

  27. bartleby says:

    To be clear, we’re talking about 880 south of the Coliseum. Below the San Mateo bridge especially, the difference is significant.

    South Bay: Lots of jobs
    East Bay: Cheaper real estate.

    Classic counter commute.

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