I have had the opportunity to talk to a few folks from Oakland over the past week about ballpark related items. It all started when I got a message to my facebook account that said something like, “There is a site in Oakland that no one is talking about.”
I made a few phone calls, spoke with a few folks (very excellent, forthcoming people who shall remain nameless as I have promised) with varying degrees of information and I came away with one conclusion. Oakland is playing Stratego while Oakland Boosters think they are playing chess.
Oakland’s strategy has three main points:
- Wait out MLB. Obstruct and keep from having a decision on TR’s made in San Jose’s favor.
- When Lew Wolff grows tired of waiting/TR’s are reaffirmed, recruit Larry Ellison to buy the team.
- Pledge public funds for a ballpark at Victory Court.
I know, I know. I teased you all with a “plan,” implying specific tactics, and came back with a high level “strategy.” Let’s delve into each of the points above a bit, shall we?
Territorial Rights Affirmation
To a man, everyone with knowledge I talked to said, “There is no way MLB will let the A’s into San Jose.” Almost that direct quote, almost like it was being read off a card.
The answer? Various versions of, “because the Giants owners told us so.” The main argument is that San Francisco floated bonds to fund 5% of AT&T Park based on the Giants existing territory (As Dennis Herrera said when threatening a law suit). They claimed there was a contract between MLB and San Francisco. I can only assume they are referring to the letter from former National League President, Leonard Coleman, sent in 1997. That is what Herrera referred to in his shot across the bow (PDF).
I’ll be honest, this one baffles me. From what I can tell… the idea hasn’t been broached with Larry Ellison. It is an assumption that has been made by those who want a new owner. Larry Ellison wanted to buy the Warriors and lost out. The Warriors are in Oakland. Therefore, Larry Ellison wants a professional sports team based in Oakland.
It sounds crazy. The thing is, multiple people told me that Ellison is the guy that Oakland will try to persuade to buy the team. They didn’t say, “We will find a new local owner.” They said, “We will try to get Larry Ellison to buy the team.”
I am not sure if they realize Ellison also tried to buy the Seattle Sonics and move them to San Jose, before he tried to buy the Warriors. I am not sure if that is important.
As you can probably tell, this part seems really unrealistic to me. But what do I know?
We have all assumed this already, right? Victory Court is the site that Oakland refuses to confirm as the site. There are some challenges though, and I wonder if avoiding a spotlight on said challenges is the real reason for all the subterfuge.
Newballpark.org has obtained a series of letters from nearby neighborhood associations, most notably the Jack London District Association, urging the City of Oakland to consider an alternative to the alternatives presented to MLB. Here are the reasons as stated in the letter:
It is far too soon to actually endorse this plan vs. any other option, but the preliminary assessment is that it would create far less disruption to existing businesses and residents and create an environmentally preferable commute for many of the workers at the facility, who could walk from their West Oakland and downtown homes. In addition, there would be far fewer environmental mitigation issues, compared to the frequently toxic environmental conditions in much of the Port and Jack London District Areas. This new site proposal also has the advantage of requiring far less land acquisition, reducing cost and potential litigation, when compared to other suggested sites.
Those near Victory Court are concerned with a one thing in particular, in addition to those called out in the paragraph above. Traffic.
Even with BART about a quarter of a mile away, most folks will come to baseball games via automobile. Should only half of all spectators come by car there will be thousands of cars that aren’t normally there. The freeway infrastructure around Victory Court, and the surface streets in the area are not set up to handle a great deal of cars. There are basically two approaches, one coming West on Oak Street, which requires use of an off ramp with a sharp 90 degree turn. Or, coming up from the South on Embarcadero, which requires crossing train tracks. The combination of an inadequate off ramp and trains, that frequently pass through the area, have the potential to create a huge traffic nightmare. How huge? We won’t know until someone way smarter than me does a real traffic study for an EIR.
If my sources are correct, and I believe them, MLB has told Oakland that it will come up with a loan of about $150M for a ballpark in the city, if it is in the right place. That would leave Oakland CEDA on the hook for an estimated $150M for property acquisition, business relocation and environmental remediation. There is another $400M to be found somewhere in this calculus.
I am told, that some portion of this money is expected to come from City issued Bonds. Raiders, anyone?
When I used to love to play Stratego, my favorite part was figuring out where to set my bombs and using my miners to defuse my opponents bombs. It was a slow, and painful progression at times. Sometimes, it worked and I captured the opponents flag. Sometimes it didn’t and before I defused enough bombs they had my flag. It seems to me that the City of Oakland is doing something similar. Lying in wait, watching the progress of San Jose from afar and banking on too many bombs blowing up in their path. Leaving Oakland with the only clear path to the flag. Is it a good strategy? I guess time will tell, but I can think of a better one.
This started with someone reaching out to me about a different potential site in Oakland, didn’t it? And didn’t the letter from JLDA above mention an alternative to consider?
Those are one in the same. Stay tuned….