The Big Lew Wolff Interview, Part 1

This interview, at 12,000+ words long, is an order of magnitude longer than the typical posts on this blog. Because of that length, and because of my desire to confine the discussion to the topics within each post, the interview is being split into five parts. However, you can also get copies of the entire interview right away if you donate via the PayPal button on the right. The interview is available in PDF, ePub (e-reader), and Mobi (Kindle) formats for you to use on your computer or preferred device (Kindle uploads require calibre or similar software). Here are your options:

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Last Monday, I received an email from A’s PR man Bob Rose. He indicated that his boss, A’s owner Lew Wolff, wanted to have a chat with me. After some back and forth, we arranged for a meeting at the Fountain Restaurant inside Wolff’s Fairmont San Jose early Wednesday morning. The discussion went two hours long and covered a wide range of topics. Wolff expressed his interest in having an unedited conversation to explain what he’s been doing, and I was more than happy to have that chat. The transcribed discussion below has minimal editing – only to clean up incomplete sentences, the inevitable “uh” and “um” moments, and for me to add brief editor’s notes when I felt the need. My comments and questions are all in bold, while Wolff’s is in regular font. Editor’s notes are in italics/square brackets. I have intentionally not included links so as to not distract the reader. The interview runs more than 12,000 words. This is Part 1 of 5. The topics covered are as follows:

  • Part 1 – History of working in Oakland, 980 Park site, Process
  • Part 2 – Oakland now and what it takes, Earthquakes, contraction
  • Part 3 – Territorial rights, Giants’ motives, Dodgers/Mets, Coliseum
  • Part 4 – Tarps, discounts, player development, CBA, payroll, T-rights again
  • Part 5 – Redevelopment, Target Field, Cisco Field, Keith Wolff, museum and history

I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did. I think you’ll feel that there are many revealing answers in there, and plenty of stuff for Oakland and San Jose backers to dislike. I’d also like to thank Lew for allowing me the opportunity to do this Q&A.

– Marine Layer

ML: You became managing partner in 2005, after a year-plus stint as VP of venue development. Coincidentally, I started this blog in 2005, partly as a writing exercise, and to inform fans. Over six years have elapsed. Did you think it would take this long?

LW: No, obviously I didn’t. Prior to buying the team I was working on the thing. I’m not sure the title meant anything. I thought that we would figure out a way to do it on the Coliseum site or one of the sites in Oakland. At the time the economy was booming and the value of residential entitlements or zoning was huge. There were a lot of public companies, all these big homebuilders, were dying for the ability to get more and more residential rights, to build apartments or homes.

We came up with the idea. The very first editorial which I saved in Oakland – this was before I was even the owner – said “No public money in baseball.” Which is okay. Except for the Giants and Dodgers, all teams’ new ballparks have had some form of public help (financing). So we had an idea that if we brought a new ballpark to Oakland or any place, we could say to the community, “You don’t have to write a check, but we’d like to entitle certain property for residential” – not for our developer. The reason this escapes everybody is because nobody’s going to take their time to look into it except you.

The idea was this: Say someone wanted to build 1,000 apartment units. And they’re going through the process. You entitle that – assuming the city wants that – those entitlements back then were worth $100k per unit just for the right to build, sort of like land value. Instead of the developer taking that money, that money would go into a small joint powers unit (authority) and be used to fund a baseball park. That’s a double win there. The city gets more housing and those entitlements don’t have to be by the ballpark. They could be in Dublin or Fremont, they could be anywhere (in Alameda County). This was a very interesting concept and we checked it legally. It was very clearly stated in an article in the Chronicle, so it wasn’t a hidden idea. With all the delay and difficulty in both Oakland and Fremont – Oakland in the sense of land availability because it’s a built up city – to get land assembled, and then all the issues with traffic and freeways and off-ramps and so on – so time went on and of course the economy changed. So this entitlement approach to build a ballpark is a dead issue, and we don’t see it coming back for a long time. That says, “Oh my goodness,”  instead of putting up $100 million, which we were hoping to do at the most, we now have to do the whole thing ourselves. That pretty much requires us to be in a central business district (downtown) because the infrastructure is already there. We don’t have to rebuild the freeway or an off-ramp. The entitlement aspect of it – somebody should’ve jumped on it. We couldn’t do it by ourselves. We weren’t looking for money, we were looking for process. So we spent the time before we bought the team and about a year or so after. I think I told you before – I don’t have the book with me- that it takes me one hour, forty-five minutes to go through everything we did in Oakland. Even though somebody has a sign in RF saying, “Lew lied, he never did anything.” That person hasn’t come and sat down and asked, “Tell me what you did do?”

The other side of it is that side – Oakland, Richmond – that whole area was built up rapidly during WWII, shipbuilding and so on. (Land) ownership is very diverse. Just land acquisition alone is difficult. Even though some of the areas look blighted, as soon as you say we’re trying to build a ballpark there, immediately the land values go way up. Some people say that the “North of 66” plan was just a gimmick. What they’re not willing to do and be fair about is that we looked at every possible site – Coliseum, Laney, even the Victory area – all that stuff and somebody at the City said to me, “We can’t help you here. What do you think?” At the same time Councilman Larry Reid was looking at another area around the Coliseum where he was going to acquire a lot of stuff. I drove through there and it looked pretty blighted. All I wanted to do is start a dialogue with 50 property owners or 30. Except for one or two people, nobody wanted to even discuss it. There was relocation, we could’ve moved people to the (shuttered Oakland) Army Base. People will just say, “Oh he just made that up.” If I had my material with me you’d see that before even looking at that we looked at every opportunity that was available. We wouldn’t do it if everybody didn’t want to do it. We couldn’t even get traction.

It’s very simple. One of the very first things any city should do is look at their (county) assessor’s office. Draw a boundary around Victory Court or something. It takes a day or two determine there are 20 property owners and their names. Some of them are in a trust or something. If you just took the assessed value – and because you’re going to buy the property add 50% – you’d have a good idea of the that (total value) is and if you really wanted to, you’d call each person and say, “We’re just thinking about this. You’re a property owner here. We’re not doing anything yet.” Then you’d get an idea of the desire to participate from the beginning. Someone might say, “Oh my god, that’s my business, I can’t take it.” If we gave you that assessed value, and then we paid for relocation to the Army Base and a nicer (newer) facility – I mean it’s a lot of work. I didn’t expect Oakland to do that. But I also didn’t expect them just to draw a line around six blocks and say, “Oh there’s a ballpark.”

ML: We get that too much now.

That’s all we’re getting, because I believe – and this is not a defense – it’s because we’ve explored everything more than once. For two years now this committee, which I ‘ve had very little access to – and I’m sure they haven’t talked too much to the Giants either – guys I know, they’re good guys. They’re supposed to step in and check out if I did everything, and if I missed something. I haven’t heard that I missed anything. You could’ve written a PhD dissertation by now.

ML: Certainly.

There’s other reasons that perhaps Bud Selig is contemplating this. He’s my friend, and he’s involved in lots of stuff in baseball.

ML: You’ve had that information that you showed me last time we talked here two years ago. Because it’s taken this long and you have access to this panel, do you feel that the you and the argument you’ve made have been somewhat rebuked?

No, just the opposite. I think they can’t find a flaw in it. If they can, tell me what it is. They’re not rebuking me. I think it’s so overwhelming. If someone flew in from Mars and you were going to put a ballpark somewhere and one was already in San Francisco, where would you put the next one? [laughs]

Had they come up with a different approach that could be refuted or digested, I think it I would’ve seen it by now. At the same time, I can’t give a reason why a decision hasn’t been made. It’s a baseball decision. The commissioner is a very contemplative person. I’m an owner that wants to cooperate with baseball. When I got into this Bud Selig told me, “What I encourage owners to do is to put baseball first and their teams a very close second.” Instead of putting a team in bankruptcy or whatever’s happening in other cities. I’m just not cut out for that. I feel that being in baseball is a privilege, and we’re enjoying it.

ML: We’ve already gone plenty into my second topic, which is a lot about the pro-Oakland crowd who’ve said you’ve lied. I’ve written that the only thing you’ve really lied about is that you didn’t have a Plan B. Is that right, or am I off-base there?

Well, the word lie is a very strong word in my life. I don’t call people liars. The Plan B would be that if someone says to us – no fault of Oakland by the way – that “you have a team that you can’t move and you have to stay in this facility and make it work with the Raiders there.” Plan B is fairly simple, it’s just that we haven’t addressed them. Moving out of the state to other markets, of which there aren’t many. Selling the team to somebody that can do what we can’t do.

ML: Which a lot of them are hoping that you do.

That’s fine, but that party should also have a real plan, go through what we’ve gone through. The one thing that I wanted to do, because I’ve been in public dealings with cities my entire life, is that I didn’t want to be the owner who says, “If you don’t do what I tell you we’re moving to San Antonio.” Also, I didn’t want to get on a plane and start schmoozing with the mayor of San Antonio or Portland or Las Vegas or Monterrey, Mexico. I don’t think that’s the way to do one of these things. I still don’t think it’s the way to do it. But almost every new ballpark, including the Giants’, has been done under the threat of leaving town. So Plan B, the options are obvious. I think a better way to phrase your question is, “Have you spent time doing that?” The answer is, “We have not.” We still don’t feel like we’re moving out of the market.

ML: I’m in the market and I just took the train down here.

Exactly. Frankly, I don’t have the energy to start discussing with another city council outside the state of California. If we were dead in the water, we’d have to ask baseball what they’d want us to do.

ML: You’ve led into my next subject already with the discussion about what’s been done in Oakland. What is the difference between getting something done here, in San Jose, and in Oakland right now?

Very simple. One, we have a downtown location. When I say “San Jose” all I’m talking about is a specific site in San Jose.

ML: That one. [Ed.: I point in general direction of Diridon]

If somebody that you could go to San Jose instead of Oakland, that doesn’t mean it just happens. San Jose acquired land and went through the process of acquiring it in a downtown area where the off-site costs are minimized. They would be in downtown Oakland if there was a site. There’s a demographic difference, but if our entitlement program worked in either Oakland or Fremont we would’ve been there. I don’t care what people say. We would’ve been there. As much as I love San Jose I wasn’t thinking about San Jose at the time at all. We wouldn’t have spent the amount of time and money we did on Fremont if we wanted to get out of our district. People don’t remember that.

There have been huge demographic changes since the Bash Brothers and the A’s drew X attendance. Back then the population of Oakland was probably twice what it is today. [Ed.: The 1990 population of Oakland was 370,000, slightly less than the current figure of 390,000.] I don’t track it. St. Louis is the city where I came from, and the city used to be 800,000 people, it’s 300,000 now [Ed.: This is correct]. There used to be ten, twelve major company headquarters there. Now there aren’t any except Anheuser Busch, who is rumored to be leaving. There’s been a shift. Even if there were a site in Oakland, if we didn’t have the entitlement program it would be very hard to rationalize it. It’s even hard now. $400-450 million for a privately financed stadium – which it should be private, why should the people pay for it. The process that the public can help you with it can be huge. San Jose, through whatever reasons, has gotten the process so that we can go ahead.

If we started in Oakland, whether it’s Victory Court or floating over the freeway – I want to talk to you about that one.

ML: Yeah. We’ll get to that one (980 Park).

Can I tell you my quick stance on that one?

ML: Sure, go ahead.

It’s an A+ in planning and an F in implementation. [laughs]

ML: Okay!

I love concepts like that.

ML: Well, it came from an architect.

Geodesic dome over a city so that you can control the climate?

ML: [laughs]

I like that stuff, but I’ll let somebody else do it.

ML: That reminds me of a documentary on Robert Moses. There were all these concepts for a Dodgers’ stadium. One of them was a geodesic dome by Buckminster Fuller, which would’ve been interesting for 20 years until they got tired of it.

Two things about that. One thing I think you’ll like intellectually. Housing filters down. So if the Rockefellers live in a mansion with a roof and spread out. I did some work years ago in Guam. A subdivision house with a carport and so on is what filtered down. Now if the Rockefellers were living in a geodesic dome we’d have geodesic domes everywhere.

ML: Makes sense. 

Give me Robert Moses for one year and I’ll have a new ballpark anywhere you want. [laughs] He had more power than the mayor and the president. This great metropolis (New York), that great ability to create, we don’t have that today. I always give a speech that if you have a cure for cancer somebody will be against it. I like the democratic approach to things, but it’s inhibiting the state getting things done.

ML: Sure is. State. Country.

You know when the President said, “shovel ready?” If he meant shovel ready after the environmental work, we’d be talking about a decade sometimes.

73 thoughts on “The Big Lew Wolff Interview, Part 1

  1. One more thing – I’m not inserting much commentary into the posts, but if you have questions about context this is the place for it. Fire away. Please try to stay within the topic framework for each post and don’t skip ahead if you can help it. If you can’t help yourself, email me instead.

  2. This is a no brainer – put down my five bucks after giving it about three seconds of thought. Do you think, after all of this waiting, that there is a decision on the horizon? I can’t help but think that if he wants to do a two-hour sit down interview implemented by a PR person, that something is very close. Congratulations to you ML, this is a huge scoop and further cements your status as the stadium authority.

  3. @daveybaby – The only person who has any idea if/when a decision will be made is Selig. It’s easy to read stuff into this, probably misleading.

  4. Eh, I guess I’m just being hopeful. But hey, I’ve been hopeful for a while now. It’s extremely compelling stuff.

  5. @ML – regarding History of Oakland: Did you have a chance to discuss the Uptown project. How close was that to reality? If then Oakland city manager Robert Rob and assistant city manager Rosie Rivas had not been given the bums rush (Jerry Brown fired both employees), would we now be watching A’s baseball at 19th and Telegraph? Why weren’t the A’s executives (Steve Schott – Preseident and Lew Wolff – Venue development) more upfront in support of that site?

    • @Dan A – No discussion of Uptown because it pre-dates Wolff by two years. It had no support by Schott or Jerry Brown, which politically made it no better than wishful thinking.

  6. An epic job of transcription! thanks ML….you’ll need the $5 a reader for your RSI treatments. Fascinating stuff. Wolff comes off as considerably more sophisticated than previous interviews have indicated.

  7. @ml Thanks for the editors comment regarding the population of Oakland. I’m suprised that someone of Wolff’s background would be looking at the population within the city limits and not the MSA. Compared to St. Louis, Detroit, and Cleveland the East Bay would seem to be a sunrise MSA (growth in population) and not a sunset MSA.

    It would seem odd to compare Oakland to St. Louis (home of one of the most successful franchises in MLB). Many of the teams in sunset MSAs (Cleveland and Detroit) seem to be holding their own, not thriving but holding their own. The franchises with money problems (New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Texas Rangers) are in MSAs with strong demographics. But I’ll leave that topic for the Part 3 discussion.

  8. @ML – Maybe my question is premature and it will be answered in one of the other parts. Did Lew mention anything about his supposed meeting with Quan in July? Did they actually have a meeting?


    Why don’t you ask Lew Wolff the following questions?

    Who said “I don’t intend to test … MLB’s territorial rights .. ” in an interview with the Oakland Tribune?

    Can you ask that question?

    I know that’s a very inconvenient statement to bring up. But as a someone who is decidedly “pro-0akland” and was enthusiastic about this new ownership after reading that statement,, I’d really like to hear the explanation.

    Also, can you ask this question?

    How would Mr. Wolff explain that on one hand he really wanted to make it work in Oakland, but on the other hand he was quoted as saying YEARS BEFORE he became part of the ownership group that the only place he would focus on building a new stadium is SAN JOSE?

    Can you ask him to explain this contradiction?

    I expect that this post will never see the light of day but oh well.

    Why did he contact you to explain his position rather than do an interview with East Bay mainstream newspaper writers?

    A’s observer.

  10. …I was at the Coliseum yesterday and there were no signs about getting rid of Wolff, etc. Just one urging Wolff to build at Victory Court. (the problem Wolff faces is the average fan in the stands may not know or care about the economics involved – moving 16 businesses, expensive infrastructure improvements, the lack of any public support for the project – unless these fans are looking at this blog. The average fan might just think – “Here’s a site, now get to it.”

  11. @A’s observer – I think I explained this in the intro. Wolff feels he’s been given a raw deal by local media and he wanted to chance to explain himself long-form, without cutting him down to soundbites. A blog like this can do that. This interview is 12,000 words long, most of the words his. He’d be lucky to get 120 words of quotes in an article for one of the local papers.

    As for the contradiction, think about this. The San Jose quote came years ago without him owning the team – and thus, without the weight of the territorial rights problem. Now that he owns the A’s, T-rights has forced him to consider other avenues. It’s right in there. There will always be debate as to whether he tried hard enough in Oakland. I’ll leave that for every fan to consider.

  12. ML – Thank you for doing this.

  13. Wow, was I waaay off with the “Riddle” answer. Just made my donation RM. Can’t wait to read the entire thing.
    In terms of T-Rights forcing Wolff to consider other avenues, you mean other avenues in actually dealing with those stupid rights…right? You’re not implying that he’s avoiding them (as he shouldn’t). Until the Giants allow us our freedom OR they decide themselves to privately finance a MLB ballpark in downtown SJ…the fight continues!

  14. @Tony D. – Ever since the Fremont unveil, I’ve always thought Wolff’s M.O. has been “path of least resistance.” That could mean internal MLB politics, city/regional politics, financing, process, or a combination of all of those factors. Over time the situation has evolved in a way that some factors now mean more than they did a few years ago. It’s that calculus, I think, that has guided Wolff this entire time. The rest of the interview bears that out.

  15. Marine Layer and Lew Wolff (because I’m certain you read this),

    Thank you both for your time and effort in conducting/transcribing this interview. As an A’s fan, I truly appreciate both of your efforts in keeping the “core/intelligent” fan-base informed.

    Lew, you can not be faulted at all throughout this process. You have done MUCH to bring stability/success to this franchise. Your public stance to 1) not ask for public money for this project and 2) to not use the threat of relocation as a negotiating ploy MUST be APPLAUDED. Thank you and keep up the good fight.

  16. ML – Great interview. Thanks for your efforts, and a big thanks to Lew Wolff for the taking the time to do the interview.
    I have several comments, but they all pertain to what is covered in parts 2-5. I will say though that I’m surprised with Wolff’s comments regarding dealing with MLB, Oakland, and the Coliseum Authority. He doesn’t seem like someone who favors threats and confrontation. Instead, he’d rather allow things to play out, and then go from there. Also seems to buy into big time the “for the good of baseball” philosophy.

  17. I know its really early in the interview but …

    I’m really trying but having a lot of trouble buying Wolff’s usual rhetoric. How come he always references this “magical” booklet presentation but never has it on hand (esp. if he’s the one who contacted you for a sit-down; be prepared). Even if it [the book] was scrapped and no longer exists, your telling me you can’t surmise a 45 minute to 1 hr presentation in a few minutes in a interview? He never does. A stadium w/ surrounding residence to pay for it is a terrible idea from the get-go. I haven’t seen one site in sports already done where you develop around it first, rather the other way around (even AT&T park). But then again Wolff wouldn’t see/tell you that. He sounds like every other realtor or land builder, “its always a great time to buy/invest” unless it doesn’t excite their bottom line, then its the “economy, political pandering, or shift in demographics.”

    @ML – I do applaud your efforts

    > Interesting Wolff notices the RF sign but doesn’t remember having a sit down w/ the kid who originally was removed from a game for having the exact same sign (smaller version) a year ago

    > I’m glad you were able to edit [call out Wolff] on Oakland’s growth/decline in population.

    > On a side note, I do/do not feel bad for Wolff. e is the public face of the ownership. The signs/ and chatter of fans surely isn’t fair in all circumstances, but it comes with the nature of the position.

  18. Lew didn’t explain the fatal flaws in the “implementation” of the 980 Freeway concept. He simply dismissed it as being not capable of being implemented. That is not good enough.

    The City of Oakland should proceed in acquiring the air rights of the 980 Freeway for either a new ballpark or basketball arena. Both teams desire a downtown venue. Both facilities require roughly the same footprint.
    –FYI, The Urban Land Institute’s magazine features a plan by Hollywood to put a lid or “cap” on 100 acres of the depressed Hollywood Freeway.

  19. @bryan, you know Wolff is going to shit on anything regarding oakland right now and he wants to move to San Jose. If you go in knowing that, there is no reason to even read the rest of the interview.

  20. @angelakalalo – Last Monday I had requested to Bob Rose that Wolff bring his documentation, the same stuff I had seen two years earlier. Unfortunately, Wolff had already flown up to the Bay Area and left the info back in LA.

    He’s trying to privately finance a ballpark. What do you expect him to say? If there’s a creative, feasible way to finance it he’s all ears, or so he says.

    @Bryan Grunwald – Wolff goes more into 980 Park in Part 2. I suspect you won’t be satisfied with his response there either.

  21. Just finished reading the entire interview. Best $5 I’ve ever spent!

    [Ed. – Remainder of comment deleted. I asked to not spoil the rest of the interview. Please respect that.]

  22. @ML-Wolff may not be speaking with another city but MLB is, hence the delay. As Wolff pointed out unless the BRC can prove he missed something in Oakland or in the East Bay he does not understand the delay.

    Wolff means well and I like the guy. His statement says it the best “. They’re supposed to step in and check out if I did everything, and if I missed something. I haven’t heard that I missed anything. You could’ve written a PhD dissertation by now.”

    PHD dissertation….this tells you there are ulterior motives here that fall outside of the Bay Area. I will of course reserve more judgements until I read the last 4 parts of your interview.

    But him mentioning San Antonio is kind of eerie…..

  23. ML did he straight out approach you or did you request an interview? Just wondering.

    Thanks for your work on this. Some people will never be happy but what can you do. Will be sending over some money a lil later to get the rest of this as your work deserves to be rewarded.

    On the one comment about him not remembering talking to the kid with a similar sign. I sit by there all the time and didn’t know it was the same person. So why would he from across the stadium? I’ll keep my opinions about the person to myself.

  24. @Mike – Wolff/Rose approached me. I knew what they were trying to do, which is why I explained that in the intro. It’s up to readers to decide if that adds context.

  25. Sid,
    Just stop while you’re already way behind. I read the entire thing and didn’t get any of that out of the interview.
    (if you’re stating all that nonsense just to be humorous, a blog comedian, than my bad as well).

  26. Sid since you know what city MLB is talking with, can I ask what city is it? How do you know MLB just isnt ignoring this situation at the current time worrying about L.A. And N.Y. Instead.

    Also the other comment on here about the book not existing, ML has seen it before and hopefully his comment he asked Lew after he left L.A. Is good enough for you.

  27. Cool beans, ML. I look forward to the rest of the interview, although, I never really get the whole “the media takes everything I say out of context” argument. It seems like most people who make that claim, in reality, should share some culpability in terms of the negative public perception.

  28. Thanks M.L. that’s what I thought that they approached you. It’s gotta make you feel good knowing your site is known by the team and not ignored. Must help you when thinking if it’s worth putting all the time in to. Were all grateful for your time. We would all be a lot more in the dark about things without you.

  29. @Mike – To say it’s validation would be an understatement. It helps me keep going, along with encouragement I get from readers.

  30. Mike,
    My prediction: when the news finally breaks, this site will be the first to report it.

  31. @Tony D. – I seriously doubt it. Chances are the news will come out of owner’s meetings, a conference call, or CBA negotiations.

  32. Thanks ML, good interview so far. Too bad it wasn’t done at his Coliseum office instead of his Fairmont Hotel, but you live in SJ and it’s close for you.

    Wolff’s comment on Oakland’s population from 1990 to now irks me. How can he be so far off on the numbers? Half the population now he says, where it’s actually gone up about 5%? Huh? And it’s not just the city, but the surrounding counties where most fans come from, that have actually grown a lot in population in the last 20 years. He doesn’t mention that.
    Coco and Alameda Counties have grown from 2.082 mill in 1990 to 2.560 mill in 2010, or 25%.
    Santa Clara Co has gone form 1.497 to 1.781 mill in the same period, or 20% (San Jose’s population is a little more than half the county’s and has gone up about 20% in 20 years also). Figures don’t lie and this is NOT, I repeat NOT based on emotion bartleby, Anon and others who like to rip me on that.

  33. It is pretty crazy that he does this huge sit down interview (the entire thing is excellent and well worth $5 by the way), and the same day it comes out, is absolutely being raked over the coals on SFGate. They even put up a separate link to the comments, which are just brutal. You would think that some people might be real careful what they wish for, considering there doesn’t seem to be any major Oakland-loving bazillionaires out there ready to spend $800 million for a team and ballpark. I am much more concerned about the A’s leaving the Bay altogether. And of all the comments ripping the owner, there doesn’t seem to be many ripping the city or any others who might be culpable. If bashing the owner fits in a certain world view for the Pro-Oaklanders of the world, hey, whatever.

  34. @jk-usa I was off put by the population comment, as well. Tip of the hat to ML for correcting him on the blog. It is beyond amazing that the owner of a franchise does not know the population numbers of the territory he is in. It didn’t even seem like a accidental slip, he seemed to be actually using this false statistic as an arguing point. Oh, brother.

  35. I would love to see the A’s get to San Jose but at this point it seems there are bigger issues involved that are not “transparent” and no one can argue that with the 869 day delay.

    Someone asked me why I think the Giants could contribute 90M in revenue sharing in a 1-team Bay Area and it is because the A’s drain 40M while the Giants contribute 40M….its a wash as a market right now hence why Selig says a 2-team Bay Area has always been “controversial”.

    If the Giants own all 9 counties and increase their ticket prices to reflect a 1-team market it will boost their franchise value to Red Sox and Phillies range and increase their revenue sharing payments big time, more than double.

    The A’s of course would be paid off to leave the market and the Giants would make a lot more $$ as they would own Alameda and Contra Costa counties giving them the largest 1-team market in MLB.

    The problem with San Jose is that it has to be 100% privately financed. Therefore the revenue sharing payments for the first 20 years will be only in the 20M-30M range each year for the A’s.

    The Giants would go from 40M to 20M-30M a year as they would be given a “break” for losing San Jose to the A’s. That 20M-30M would stay consistent with the A’s in San Jose for giving up their T-Rights.

    In Oakland a privately financed ballpark would be a disaster as they would still be draining 40M or even more with the debt service on the ballpark without the corporate dollars in the East Bay. This plus it would take away revenue from the Giants without a doubt.

    In conclusion, the Giants paying 90M+ a year in a 1-team Bay Area makes more $$ for MLB as a whole than getting 40M-60M from both teams in San Francisco and San Jose combined. 2 privately financed ballparks in the same market does not make sense for MLB for this reason….Especially if the 2nd one is in Oakland. At least in San Jose the league makes 40M-60M more a year….But I think Selig is greedy and wants more.

    I have gone through so many scenarios around this trying to figure out Selig’s logic….there it is guys. TR rights are not really the problem, its the issue of maximizing revenue sharing for MLB and baseball as a whole.

    Wolff states: When I got into this Bud Selig told me, “What I encourage owners to do is to put baseball first and their teams a very close second.”…….

    I PRAY I AM WRONG 100% and the A’s get something in the Bay Area….But my logic is sound.

    • @Sid – Your logic is anything but sound, and you’re pulling numbers out of your ass. Read the entire interview before reindulging yourself with these doomsday scenarios.

      @all – I knew that people would seize on the Oakland population error. Some people will see it was a mere misstatement, others will say it’s part of Wolff’s continuing campaign against Oakland. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Yet I am amazed at how that – not the depth or breadth of the interview – is what many people talk about. Boggles my mind.

  36. Of course my doomsday scenario requires the A’s to be moved to a city where there is a facility to play in temporarily and a free ballpark down the line or at least 75% of it publicly subsidized.

    Hence the delay….Selig is trying in vain to accomplish this. He might have something in the works. Wolff’s mentioning of San Antonio and then San Antonio again in the next sentence with Portland, Monterrey, tells you something….There is something bigger in the works.

  37. RM,
    Re: Sid, you took the words right out of my mouth. Sid, go have yourself a beer already and relax!

  38. This is epic, made all the more so by the idea that ML was approached by them and not the other way ’round. Of course the Oakland error sticks out and people will seize on that, but there’s a lot more going on between the lines here and not just that snippet. I wanna hear what LW and Jean Quan discussed and what the tone was before making any premature judgements of what was said so far.

    Obviously an incredible job by ML here, major praises to him for the galactic-size transcription effort.

  39. Impressive work, ML. Thank you for this.
    Wolff’s comments certainly do not leave the impression that he or MLB have “something in the works” with another city. To the contrary, he sounds like a guy who wants relief from the negative local press coverage while the endless wait for some kind of MLB directive continues.
    One interesting point was Wolff’s Comment that the team would probably be sold and relocated outside California if MLB decided to play at the Coli “with the Raiders around.”. Maybe I’m just parsing words here, but if the Raiders cut a deal to share the 49ers stadium during the next 12-24 months, could Plan B be a revival of the option for a baseball-only facility at the Colisseum site?

  40. LW has said that Oakland population thing a few times in interviews, how it’s losing poplulation where actually has stablized compared to some of the rust belt cities. I know he likes to downplay Oakland and upsell his SJ but this is just plain wrong.
    @ML–how was the food at the Fountain? I’ve never been there. It looks nice on the website, but Yelp critics only gave it a 3 out of 5 stars,. Hotel eateries are alwyas a mixed bag.

  41. good interview ML! I’m happy for you. I still don’t believe half of what Wolff has to say, re: “making it work in Oakland”. Lots of red meat in part one. Haven’t read the rest, but i was put off by his “geodesic dome” comment -although i’m not invested in that plan. re: Oakland’s population… that’s not a big deal for me. i’m a lifer and i’ve met score of folks who don’t anything about the demographics here. I do hope Wolff notices the positive changes in the downtown area. I’m Pro-Oakland. Nothing against SJ. I just want to my team to stay in this community.

  42. @ML I’ve only read the first snippet of the interview and, while I’m very intrigued by what will come, out of the first section, the population gaffe/misinformation is the most glaring nugget. I don’t think anyone here is downplaying the breadth of what you have done, it’s just that tidbit is a red flag on an already sensitive issue.

  43. The population gaffe is not only irrelevant but is being completely blown up by the usual suspects here.
    Getting our ballpark built…that’s all that matters.

  44. Tony I agree withit getting blown up, the guy isn’t allowed any mistakes.

    M.L. Any chance of emailing the A’s with a followup about the error. To give Lew a chance to defend or correct himself, so people could move on? Since the A’s are following this site anyways, maybe they can take the proactive approach and email you before you even ask.

  45. @tony d. While I don’t think the population comment is earth shattering, I don’t see how the comment is irrelevant. Wolff is an owner that is in the process of trying to get a stadium built in a possible variety of locations. Having a negative perception of a region’s population size/growth or in fact just being ignorant about these numbers could have an impact on what ultimately gets done. Again, not information that is mind blowing or that will likely be the end all be all in terms of building a stadium, but I think it’s curious and totally relevant.

  46. To those worried about San Antonio –

    No facility, or any facility on horizon.

    Population and corporate base less than Alameda and CoCo counties.

    Would violate Rangers and Astros T-rights, at least their TV rights.

    Really not feasible.

    Other ones – Portland, again smaller population and corporate base, and no facility or any on horizon.

    Sacramento – same thing, but even smaller. Nice AAA situation though (I’m a Sac area resident, and enjoy the River Cats.

    Monterrey Mexico – seems very far fetched. Population is huge, don’t know about corporate base. Probably lacks a facility, and probably very unlikely to build one. Could see appeal of expanding North America Market, however.

    I’ll reiterate what another poster said Plan B might very well be to build on the current Coliseum site.

    To me, that has always, always made the most sense. I understand MLB wants a downtown or waterfront stadium. I know the corporate base in SJ is very attractive. I know LW prefers SJ. But I do believe he made a very strong effort to build in Oakland or near – his time and huge amount of money put into the Fremont site proves this – it was only squashed down by special interests/voters. I even think Wolff is probably open to the idea of building at the Coliseum site, but MLB has been against it (because they want downtown stadiums).

    But building a new baseball park on one of the parking lots of the coliseum would be by far the cheapest and the easiest option. The infrastructure is already there. It’s right off the freeway. It’s right by BART. It has tons of parking. There are no T-rights issue. No relocation of businesses. It would have a great view of either the Oakland hills, or the bay (depending on alignment).

    We already know that the A’s are capable of attracting 2+ million a year – they’ve done it before. With a brand new stadium, they would easily attract 2.5+, and no longer be on the MLB dole.

  47. JA,
    Coliseum aint happening! Already ruled out.
    When’s the interview with Keith Wolff? That’s the most important ? at this point.
    Time to get excited around here!

  48. @ML–how about during that Doug Boxer interview with CT a few months ago, when he had some attendance figures wrong, the pro-SJ crowd was going nuts saying that he lied and slipped that in there. He apologized and corrected his misstatement. Wolff truly believes that Oakland’s population has taken a tailspin like all those rust belt cities. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
    I’m done with this population thing and look forward to the other parts of the interview. I can only take this guy in small doses and can wait for the rest.

  49. Did anyone see the article in the Tribune a few days ago about the Oakland council authorizing more money for a new Stadium design plan and an Enviromental Impact Report for the Raiders at the Coliseum site? While I know the city wants to keep both teams, I get the impression that if they had to choose they would pick the Raiders over the A’s. I think that part has been covered here before.I just don’t see how Oakland could get two major projects of this size accomplished at the same time.If the Raiders move to Santa Clara, then Oakland could concentrate on the A’s situation. But I don’t see that happening. It also mentioned that City Councilman Reid said that this new plan doesn’t include a new arena for the Warriors.That could mean the exsisting arena stays or is torn down.Even if the Warriors left they should still keep the Arena.It’s amazing that there are so many obstacles that are not in control of the A’s..

  50. @TonyD–yes, MLB did rule out the Coliseum, and have also ruled out SJ 19 years ago, but SJ is somehow still back in the picture, and I believe the Coliseum is still too if SJ stays in SFG’s territory and VC/980 fall apart.

  51. jk- I called Doug Boxer out on his number. It led to him and I having a lunch and talking through a lot of stuff (which was the published on this blog).
    This population thing is lame. Just like the Doug Boxer attendance thing was lame. It is all beside the point. It really isn’t all that relevant because most folks who come to games won’t be coming from the city the team plays in (which is true in Oakland, San Jose, or even San Francisco). I am pretty sure he knows what the Metro population is. I’d be shocked if he didn’t at least have an understanding of how many folks are within a 10 mile circle, 20 mile, 30 mile, of any stadium location. What the median incomes are within those circles. How many corporations are in the given circles… etc. Those are really important numbers when you are trying to build a stadium with 100% private financing.
    The main point, which he segued into, is that the Corporate buyer doesn’t exist in Oakland. At a minimum it is a fraction of what exists in the South Bay. That isn’t really debatable, though people will try and debate it with press releases about solar companies and Pandora. The larger point he makes is entirely valid.

  52. jk, I know you’re still stuck on the population comment and not to defend Wolff, but he didn’t ever specifically state 1990. And while it is true Oakland’s population has gone up 4.5% since 1990, it’s also gone down 2.5% since 2000 which was far closer to when Wolff got involved with the whole affair than 1990. His comment was still patently wrong on it’s face regardless of which year you’re talking about, but the idea that Oakland has grown and is a healthy city is also wrong. Oakland is currently a shrinking city, in fact one of only two such cities in the Bay Area which I’d suggest might have been the idea behind what Wolff was saying, and has said previously.

  53. Hey Lew, 20 property owners(VC site) is a lot easier to deal with than your fantasy site (N of 66th), where you have over 100 owners to deal with. Add to this the population gaffe and this guy has me shaking my head over and over again.

  54. @Dan–LW said Bash Bros. era, that’s around 1990. Population up a little since then, not half like LW said. He said a huge demographic change since then. What does he mean by that? It’s actually more diverse than ever now and incomes have gone up quite a bit with empty nesters and the hipsters moving in.

  55. So now some have come full circle to champion (once again) the Coliseum option? Wow! That’s all I’ll say about that. Read all five parts and then get back to me on Friday.

  56. @TonyD–i will. Talk to yah on Friday, bro.

  57. Nice job, ML. Looking forward to reading the whole thing.

  58. Just get something done…as much as I want the site in Oakland, at this point I just want a new park. I’ll still show up to the Colliseum & the A’s as the team I love.

  59. Just finished the whole thing. You know you’ve done a good job when the reader wants more. Was saddened when I got to the end, because it was a good read.

  60. Reading this blog is such a treasure. I am grateful, ML. As a former journalist myself, this interview is a tribute to how a source will open up to you and provide thoughtful, candid responses when the interviewer is very hardworking, fair, and highly educated on the topic.

    To those who wonder why Wolff prefers to grant this level of access to ML, rather than an east bay columnist: keep in mind how much ML knows about city planning, architecture, stadium construction, etc. I’ve learned a ton about those topics in the last few years reading this blog. From wolff ‘s perspective, it makes ML enjoyable to talk to for two hours, because they are two guys talking on the same level.

    Basically, it’s the opposite of how beane probably feels when he talks to Lowell Cohn. The exasperation of an intelligent baseball man being forced to waste his time explaining obvious concepts is palpable even in the transcription of their back and forth.

    Anyway, it’s a treasure ML. Thank you.

  61. To Marine Layer and anybody else:

    why do you think there’s been ‘negative coverage’ by local media?

    This just randomly happened, right? The media just decided to take a negative tone for no reason?

    Actually, the premise that ‘local media’ have been ‘negative’ is WRONG!

    Mark Purdy, John Shea, Gary Radnich and Chris Townsend have all been very supportive of moving the team to San Jose.

    A’s observer.

  62. @A’s observer – I don’t think Lew has done himself any favors in terms of how he’s handled this over the years. He would’ve been better off if he fully explained everything to the fans from the get-go via fan forums and sit-downs. He did some, but only for select groups. At the same time, I think most columnists have fed into the negative coverage, and that works because it gets clicks and hits based on activity at SFGate and other sites. Nobody feels sorry for the rich guy, and almost no one is going to read a dry explanation of a ballpark financing plan over an easy-to-identify-with rant.

  63. To Marine Layer:

    you have valid points but columnists – overall – haven’t “played into the negative’ coverage.”

    They’ve simply pointed out truisms and contradictions.

    For example, LW can’t say that Oakland/East Bay can’t support a team when the numbers say otherwise.

    A’s observer.

  64. A’s observer… When did Lew Wolff say Oakland/East Bay can’t support a team and what numbers show otherwise? I guess “Slumlord Owner” is a new integer.

  65. “I always give a speech that if you have a cure for cancer somebody will be against it.” Oh Ok Lew now you’re curing cancer. idiot. Some people have cancer reading this blog, idiot.

  66. Pingback: MarineLayer’s Interview with Lew Wolff | Baseballin' on a Budget

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