Ken Korach is awesome. He is professional. He is erudite. He is classy. As my Quasiuncle Lester always says, “Ken Korach just sounds like summer.” It was nice to start the off season with some good news for us A’s fans, Ken Korach is staying put. It was good news because the move brought some semblance of continuity to a fan ecosphere that has become increasingly chaotic and unstable. It was also good news because Ken Korach is among the best in the business. One of my favorite aspects of the Ken Korach broadcast, just behind “The lights are on but not yet taking effect,” is when, at a critical juncture, he brings total clarity by “resetting” the game. He explains the situation, gives the count, and explains how the game got to whatever critical juncture it had arrived at.
With all the speculation in the media lately, it seems it is time to reset the stadium game a bit. No?
What do we know? I was reading through the comments in a recent thread (one that had devolved into another San Jose v. Oakland steel cage scaffold match) and this question came to me. In particular, “What do we know about Oakland, still the A’s home city of record, and it’s efforts to keep the team?” So, what has Oakland done? The answer is, more than San Jose boosters will admit and less than Oakland boosters believe. There is nuance here.
Let’s start with the stuff we know for certain:
Nine months ago the Oakland City Council authorized up to $750k for an EIR to support the potential development of a MLB stadium just south of Jack London Square (depicted below and outlined in green and red):
Prior to the authorization of the EIR, Oakland met with Bud Selig’s committee and the City was asked to provide potential ballpark sites. They listed four potential sites for the committee. The Coliseum, Howard Terminal and JLS West as well as the Victory Court site depicted above.
Additionally, the City was asked to provide a plan for acquiring the site, relocating businesses and making necessary upgrades to the surrounding infrastructure. Oakland’s plan was to tap RDA funds to carry out this task.
Let’s Go Oakland, without prompting from MLB’s committee, collected $500k from around 30 potential suite owners.
Publicly, that is all we know. MLB asked for some specific things, Oakland delivered (at least a concept in the case of financing site acquisition while RDA works its way through the legal system). Oakland boosters also took an extra step to show there is a premium ticket market in Oakland and the East Bay. These things above have been confirmed by Doug Boxer, co-chair of Let’s Go Oakland.
What else have we heard? Well, we heard Bryan Grunwald’s 980 Ballpark concept had been tabbed as an alternative to be studied in the EIR. We have heard that maybe MLB had floated a potential loan of $150M for a ballpark in Oakland. We heard that Clorox might be interested in naming rights. We know that Jean Quan and Lew Wolff met recently and we heard they talked about the Coliseum and Victory Court.
None of these things are verifiable. Therefore, we don’t know these things.
This leaves us waiting for one thing: the completion of the aforementioned EIR. What’s troubling about this is that when the EIR process was being discussed, it was mentioned by Oakland Boosters that the whole process could be done within a year. As ML outlined at the time, it could have been done in a year, provided the Draft EIR was completed within 3, or so, months. This week we heard rumblings that the EIR hasn’t even begun because of ongoing negotiations between the City and the firm doing the work.
To be clear, we don’t know anything about the EIR at this point. We don’t know when it will be delivered. We don’t know that it has started. The Draft EIR could almost be done.
Just like we don’t know anything about stadium construction financing in Oakland. There could be a neatly sewn up package of naming rights, sponsorship deals, a loan and charter seat sales just waiting for Larry Ellison, of Mark Cuban, to pry the team from Lew Wolff. There could be back room discussions with the local State legislators to work out bonds backed by the income taxes of the Athletics players to help finance construction, as was pitched in Portland when they were trying to get the Expos to come to town.
And this is the challenge with Oakland’s strategy of saying nothing and waiting out Lew Wolff’s time as an owner… It leaves all kinds of room for wild speculation and wrong assumptions. The question for me, which admittedly leads to more speculation, is “Why isn’t Oakland sharing the path they see to a new stadium being built in their fine City?”
I have heard and read many different versions of why they aren’t being open. They don’t want Wolff to know the plan so that he can’t poke holes in it. They are working around Wolff with MLB and MLB wants them to be quiet. The sponsors they have lined up don’t want Wolff to know they support an Oakland plan because they want to have sponsorship opportunities in San Jose should that be the eventual choice.
Here’s another potential reason for the strategy: they are hiding the fact that there are no answers to the tough questions everyone wants to hear answers to.
There could be any number of reasons for the tight lipped approach. Until someone speaks up, we will all be left guessing.