Reopening an old wound
Mark Purdy’s newest column revisits a fuzzy period when the halcyon days of the Haas era were ending, and East Bay looked to bring the Raiders back to Oakland.
Reinsdorf’s statement about Oakland, meanwhile, outlines a chapter of the A’s stadium pursuit that many East Bay citizens either forget or refuse to acknowledge. The chapter dates to 1994, not long after the Haas family sold the team to Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann. The two men had big plans for remodeling the Coliseum into a fine baseball-only structure. They requested a meeting with the Coliseum commission.
“Here’s what we’d like to do,” Schott told the commission, outlining his remodeling ideas.
“That’s all very nice,” the commission replied, more or less. “But we have some news. The Raiders want to come back to Oakland, and we’ve got a financing plan to make it happen that will include building a new center field addition. You can’t fight this, because the important people in Oakland want it to happen and they’ll make it difficult on you if you try to get in the way.”
Schott and Hofmann acquiesced. From that moment forward, the A’s long-term future in Oakland was probably doomed. Years later, after Wolff and partner John Fisher bought the team, Wolff did assemble a new ballpark proposal near the Coliseum site. His plan involved mixed-use redevelopment and required Oakland’s assistance to acquire the necessary land. The project went nowhere when the city did not or could not cooperate. Wolff then looked south to Fremont and spent years on another failed plan before finally settling on San Jose as his last, not first, resort.
15-17 years doesn’t seem like that long ago. I have trouble remembering all of the details. Purdy’s account sounds roughly correct, though I’m not certain about how all of the dates fit together. There was a point after Schott’s proposal when the old Coliseum Commission came to an end in a political brouhaha, to be replaced by the Coliseum Authority (see “A Cup of Joe with the Georges” for George Vukasin Sr.’s take).
Fast-forward to last year, when the Coliseum Authority worked with the Raiders again on plans to redevelop the entire Coliseum area by constructing a new football stadium to replace the to-be-demolished old Coliseum. A proposal by Wolff when he worked for Schott and Hofmann went nowhere. I’m sure MLB cares not one whit about the apparent favorable treatment the Raiders repeatedly received over the A’s. It won’t affect their decision making at all. Water under the bridge, right?