The Big Lew Wolff Interview, Part 3

[Ed. – Before I start again I have to mention that there are some blogs out there who are cutting and pasting huge chunks of this interview for further commentary. I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with the fact that I haven’t received a single request to use this interview for any kind of reuse of large chunks of it. I mean, really, it’s not like I’ve spent a lot of time on this. It’s not like people care about professionalism or common courtesy anymore. How about a heads up? Maybe a link to the original interview? It’s the least you can do. The very least. We may not agree on much, but we can at least show courtesy and respect others’ work. That’s all.]

Part 3 of 5 (Part 1, Part 2)

ML: You’ve frequently said here and everywhere that it’s all about keeping the A’s in the Bay Area, in this market –

For our ownership.

ML: Right. Recently, Giants president Larry Baer has hinted that while he supports the A’s looking in their territory – Alameda and Contra Costa counties – but if they can’t they’re welcome to try somewhere else such as Sacramento. How do you respond to that “hint” by Baer and the Giants?

If tomorrow you had the only McDonald’s in San Francisco, and fourteen miles away there was another location in Oakland. And your SF McDonald’s is worth $10 million and the Oakland McDonald’s is worth $100,000. That was fine for you (SF). Now the Oakland location says they’re closing up and they’re moving outside of the territory. What happens to the only McDonald’s then? Larry and the Giants would benefit hugely, I guess, in their minds. They dominate the market now, they may want to dominate it totally. Their market value might jump a huge amount.

However, I don’t get it. I don’t get why they’re so adamant about this. It’s just a difference of opinion.

ML: Do you think the Giants have a motive for protecting their territorial rights other than what they’ve stated publicly? Which is – they just want to pay off the ballpark.

I’ll have to say that going back to – forget that it’s Oakland or San Jose – there are four two-team markets. [Ed.: Note exclusion of DC-Baltimore] Three already have the same boundaries. I think this one should too. I think we would have a great rivalry with them. Why shouldn’t we have a beautiful ballpark? In fact, one of the backers and instigators is my partner and his family, the Fishers. I think if you actually went to a lot of the passive investors in the Giants – these are people who want to support the Bay Area, not just one team. What is it gonna hurt? In fact I think it’s gonna be better for them too. Everybody has their own views.

ML: There’s been some talk from fans and media about challenging baseball’s antitrust exemption. Knowing what you know, being in what they call “The Lodge”, is there anything realistic about that?

Well, today we live in a litigious society. If you want to sue over this chair you’re sitting on you can sue the manufacturer because you’re not feeling well. We are not of that ilk. We are a partner. Maybe this is an odd view, but I believe that we’ve entered a partnership. This is what the commissioner chose. As I said before, we’re not even thinking about it (suing). It’s not right based on being part of a partnership. Therefore it’s not a lever for us, it might be for someone else. If the reverse is true, maybe a smart attorney running a baseball team might say, “We can do this, we can do that.” [Ed.: I chuckled] We’re not going to do it, that’s all there is to it. It’s just not right.

ML: This seems to be something very consistent that you’ve said, even going back a couple of years ago. The partnership idea that all of the owners are in one boat and they’re all supposed to be rowing in the same direction.

I know I’m a little naïve when it comes to that, in the world that we live it, but that’s how I’m gonna run it.

ML: Okay. When it comes to making a decision, is it really all up to the commissioner?

Yep. Well – that’s a good question – he would need a vote of the owners [Ed.: 3/4 of owners]. Since I’ve been there, there haven’t been a lot of votes. Maybe the Giants wouldn’t vote for it or a couple of teams. Again, it’s a collaborative thing. With all the work that’s gone into this, whatever the decision is, it’ll have a lot of backing. I think if he decides to let us move to San Jose that he’ll get a lot of votes. I don’t think the voting will be an issue. He even has the power to go beyond that if it’s for the good of baseball. I really don’t sit there and analyze this from a legal point of view. If the decision is “you can’t” or “you can” the support will be to follow the commissioner’s lead.

ML: And that’s really all you’re looking for. Yes or no.


ML: You mentioned the Dodgers and Mets offhand. Are they on the front burner and the A’s on the back burner, or does it not work like that?

You’d have to ask the commissioner. No, I don’t think we’re on the back burner. I really think the Mets and the Dodgers are two different situations. But they’re both important (teams), important markets, important to us. The Mets aren’t suing baseball. They’re just trying to survive – and maybe they made some errors with this Madoff thing – I don’t know that much about it. The Dodgers are attacking, they put their team in bankruptcy. If they follow the constitution of baseball that’s cause for taking over the team. I’ve got my own stuff I worry about every day. We need those markets to have ownerships that are committed and capable of not getting into these issues.

ML: Commissioner Selig, when asked about what’s happening with the A’s a couple of times this year has said, “We’re working on it,” in nice, vague terms. Are they really still working on it? Seriously.

[laughs] I think what he’s working on – and I don’t know – is unless Oakland knows something that I don’t know. I answer is I think he’s contemplative. Way beyond where I am. We talk several times a week, not on this issue but on others I’m involved in. I’m having a – I enjoy the commissioner. We’ve known each other a very long time, longer than I’ve known my wife – and we’ve been married 54 years. I think he’s got enough information to make a decision. He may be trying to figure out a good way that the Giants are happy and we’re happy. He tends to do that. And right now, what choice do I have? Last night we won a game. That’s more fun than worrying about this crap.

ML: I agree, I agree. Now let’s talk a little about the Coliseum. I’m sure you’re aware that attendance is up this year as opposed to last year, and over 2009 as well. 

When Russia went from communism to capitalism they had a huge jump in economics, but that’s from a very low base. [laughs] When I talk to the commish he’ll say to me, “You know, you’re up 4.5%.” The one thing he follows is attendance. Now I follow paid attendance, I’m not sure that he does.

ML: Fair enough.

Attendance is up (league-wide) according to my last conversation. They’re up a little bit in the American League.

ML: Yeah, I think it turned around after the weather. 

Now I don’t know if it means in the ballpark. I look at Dodger Stadium and it looks almost empty sometimes.

ML: I believe that it’s paid attendance and it’s somehow withstood the drop for the Mets and Dodgers. 

What happens is that some people are afraid to give up their tickets. I was hesitant to give up my Laker tickets. But then I look back and ask how many games did I go to since my kids all moved out of L.A. Do I really need these tickets? And then a year later I decide to do one more year. I worry about the impact of that.

ML: I see.

I just wish the Dodger thing was settled and we could move on.

ML: In the past you’ve mentioned the Coliseum’s defects and its chronic state of decay. Could a ballpark be built alongside or replace the existing Coliseum? For now let’s put aside the financing – well no, we can’t put it aside.

No, let’s put it aside for the moment. First I looked at the Coliseum, because there was nothing downtown. We’re talking about the physical stadium. This is where I read the older (sports) writers, they’re living in the past. A lot has changed for Oakland since then. The last year the Haases owned the team they had the highest payroll in baseball and drew 1.2 million. You might want to check that out.

ML: They were. [Ed. – 1.2 million in the strike-shortened 1994 season, 1.1 million in each of the following two seasons.]

[Ed. – At this point Lew’s son-in-law, Dean Rossi, comes by with his son, Arthur. It’s mostly a personal conversation so I’ll leave this out. Lew will drop Arthur off at the Coliseum to run around the clubhouse – every kid’s dream – before heading up to City Hall to meet with Mayor Quan. Note: Two partners in Rossi’s law firm help run Baseball San Jose.]

So where were we? Coliseum.

ML: So is it possible?

Let’s talk about it. Aside from the market being – Oakland used to have several major corporations, doesn’t have them any longer. The whole thing with the Raider thing, Mt. Davis, we had nothing to do with that. You can never get sight lines that satisfy two sports in one venue anymore. Even inside it’s not good to have hockey and basketball. You can do it but, you know.

There are so many physical issues. Right now if we wanted to move the fans closer, I don’t know what to do. The field is 22 feet below sea level so there’s no way to move forward without tearing down all the seats. You’d understand that better than most.

ML: Yeah.

The field is great until football. The field is great because we have a great groundskeeper, Clay Wood. As soon as the Raiders come in – it’s just not good.

About the site. You can make all the drawings you want on that site. This is what really bothered me. The Coliseum wasn’t even the #1 site in the HOK study. Even Fremont was in the study. The Coliseum had a little line about some kind of utility thing. I asked if there was a title report ordered for the Coliseum. In my world that’s one of the first things you do. Nobody knew, the city didn’t know, it was just a bunch of bureaucratic nothing. So we ordered the title report, which is just about this thick [fingers spread an inch apart]. There is an easement.

[Ed. – The Coliseum Authority recently bought the land in question as part of its new Raiders stadium effort. Oakland Councilman Larry Reid envisions an ancillary development project similar to L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles, next to Staples Center. The Authority is also proposing $4 million in additional expenditures related to project study costs.]

ML: You mentioned this. It was the sewer interceptor.

It’s not an easement you can move. So any architect who wants to build over the freeway or whatever, needs to sit down and determine what easement does relative to placing a football stadium or arena. That kind of even minor detail, we could say, “oh we’ll do it” but never do it. None of that’s done. The average fan shouldn’t have to bother with that. But that site isn’t as simple as we thought.

One time I thought it would be a good idea to buy the triangle that heads out to Hegenberger (Malibu/HomeBase lots). I said, “Look, we don’t know if we’re gonna stay here, but we need that piece to do parking or mitigate, otherwise it’s chaos if you’re trying to develop that site.” All of a sudden another architect comes up with an idea for these multistory garages. Well, who’s gonna pay for those? And if you’re on the fifth floor of a garage for a baseball team, you might as well stay home. So it was just a hundred inhibitions.

Now, we recently had someone come up to me, a legitimate guy. I didn’t ask who it was as it came through someone else. He said, “Gee whiz, we think there’s a way to remain in Oakland and live with the Coliseum” and so on. Well, tell me what it is. “If you guys want to sell the team” and all that stuff. I’d like to know what you’re talking about before I would even contemplate that. Other owners haven’t been able to do anything in Oakland (build stadia) either. We’re not the only one. The Coliseum’s an over 40-year old facility. Dodger Stadium is too. Dodger Stadium, I believe, would take a minimum of $100 million to keep it going – and they keep it pretty well maintained. So you tell me what this would cost.

ML: I have no idea.

I don’t either. They (Coliseum Authority) don’t have any money. We’re constantly making repairs that are not our obligation.

ML: Really? Like what?

Leaks and things. The scoreboard. There are two of them because of football. I think they’re finally going to replace them, but if they don’t there are no more parts. If a light goes out we borrow it from another one. It’s aggravating. But they basically say they don’t have any money. They still have bonds to pay off. The place is old and this is not the time for cities to write a check for sports.

ML: Yet they’re going forward with a study for the Raiders.

All these studies. If I were an investigative reporter I’d like to know how much is spent. Supposedly that study is done. And that’s fine, they should, the Raiders are fine. Where are all these things? Who’s doing them? If it’s a six month study what happened to the first two months? We have heard nothing. And we’ve been more tolerant than the other two teams (as tenants). We’ve never affected our rights there. If we win (legally), what do we win if they don’t have any money? It was a baseball park once. I wasn’t around when any of that happened, but the amount put into that sure seems strange to me. That was before my time.

ML: The litigious part kind of speaks for itself at least for the other two teams.

Look, I’m just not litigious. I think our legal system is killing us, so much initiative. I’ve been in business almost 50 years. I’m a real estate developer. Most of my contemporaries are suing someone every three months. I’ve had two lawsuits my entire career. I think everything can be settled. But you can’t do it if someone’s not willing to cooperate.

72 thoughts on “The Big Lew Wolff Interview, Part 3

  1. @Baseball Oakland/White Elephant Parade – make sure you take care of ML, this is a lot of hard work on his part!
    @ML – you da man! Did Wolff say he had some come up to him trying to buy the team? I was a little confused by the quotes in that section.

  2. @David – Someone who represented someone else was inquiring about the team. They wanted to “make the Coliseum work.” Naturally, Wolff was incredulous about it and wanted to know how it could work before he could even consider the possibility.

  3. What a great guy that Lew Wolff. Makes 20 mill profit a year of the A’s and is actually willing to fix leaks and things at the Coliseum!
    Also, good news is that the scoreboards may finally be replaced. They were too small and antiquated back in 1996 when they were new. The billboards overwhelm the tiny video boards. They better be bigger and hopefully high-def.

  4. Wow. What really comes out in this part is his contempt for how the A’s have been treated relative to the Raiders. And how they’ve been good tenants relative to them and still get the shaft.

    You have to think this helped to push him to SJ.

  5. More blatant BS on Wolff’s part I picked up on this part 3. White Elephant Parade and Baseball Oakland are also having a field day with this guy.
    The A’s did draw 1.242 mill in the strike shortened 1994 season (22, 191 in 56 games) and 1.174 mill in the lesser strike 1995 season (16,310 in 72 games), Haas’ last year as owner, but their payroll was no way even close to being tops in MLB. Their payroll was 34.5 mill in 1994, or #12 out of 28 teams; and 33.3 mill in 1995, or #17. NYY’s were #1 both years. The A’s held the #1 spot in 1991, and #2 in 1992.
    When Schottmann took over in 1996, payroll was slashed by 1/3rd down to 22 mill, and almost half as much more the next year to 12 mill. Attendance also sunk to 14,100 and 15,600 average in those 2 years–both dead last in the majors. Haas’s A’s have NEVER been last in attendance and they’ve had their share of poor years on the field. Finley’s A’s have been last 3 times, his last 3 years (77-79), before Haas came in and saved the franchise. Wolff’s A’s have been 30th and 29th the last 2 years and 29th so far this year. If FLA picks up the pace and we don’t, he’ll be dead last again. Looks like we need another new owner to come in and save the day again for this once proud franchise.

  6. Correction here, before you all jump my ass. 1980 was the last year under Finley, not 1979. My bad. They did draw better under that first year of Billy Ball at 10,400 a game, triple the previous year, but still 26 out of 28 teams. The next year under Haas, another strike shortened season, the A’s jumped to 23, 287 per game, or #8 out of 26.

  7. When the forest is dark (from your point of view), you tend to ignore it….
    I thought Wolff’s analysis of Selig trying to figure out how to make both teams happy was perceptive. If there’s no way of achieving that goal, though, what does he do?

  8. White Elephant Parade and Baseball Oakland: a load of predictable, lazy, horseshit.

  9. jk is still waiting for another owner like the Haas’s, willing to lose Big $$ just to keep the A’s as a charitable enterprise in the East Bay.

  10. @jk-usa: it’s great when you’re behind a computer and have ready access to information on hand (or in this case through other people). wonder how much of a historian you would be if you didn’t have google at your fingertips. 😡 just repeat after me with these 2 words for you: big picture.

  11. and jk – since u’re going into attendance statistics and all now being the ever so up to date a’s historian, might want to look up the records of those teams you mentioned and correlate them back to attendance, or as some anonymous internet guy who had an epiphany once said: ““the team dived in the standings and at the gate unfortunately“”

  12. @ML – outstanding work again as always. I’m sure our resident Bartleby can help you with an Cease and Desist letter for copyright infringement! 😉 My take from this interview is as follows: 1) The Gnats and Neukum are stonewalling the A’s on the territorial rights. This is pretty evident from all the comments about litigation, being in the lodge for the greater good, etc. 2) While he denies it, the Mets and Dodgers do have precedence over the A’s in priority for MLB. It’s clear in his quote that he wished the whole Dodgers thing would get settled. 3) There is clearly some frustration also with Oakland, especially the fact that money is being used to fund the whole raiders deal when there supposedly is no public money to be used for the A’s. Did he seem to have a lot of emotions when you mentioned about the Raiders study?

  13. it puzzles me – the amount disdain some A’s fans have for their fellow A’s fan. Some, like to hide behind their facts… that’s cool. How someone can get “mad” at another person for what they write on the internet, is also puzzling. We all want the A’s to thrive. I hope. Clearly, this is the #1 place to get news relevant to the A’s pursuit of a new stadium. Unfortunately, in my view, it will continue to have a reputation as biased toward SJ. Not for any fault of ML or Jeffrey. But because of the comments of a vocal few. In the long run – it won’t effect the stadium hunt. ML has been very cordial with other A’s blogs. I think some of us should tone it down a bit. Why? Because maybe more fans will turn into contributors, instead of lurkers. I think that would be a good thing for the “debate” and helpful to ML’s bottom line as a journalist.

  14. @David: Could the blog have a reputation for being pro-SJ because, perhaps, and I might be going out on a limb here…. the fact show that San Jose is the best logical choice based on the information we have, and in some cases, don’t have?
    Something might come out tomorrow that changes that. Maybe Diridon is stalled after it is discovered to be the ancient burial ground of a Native American tribe? Maybe a large shipbuilder decides to open up shop in Alameda and pledges support to name the stadium? We don’t really know.

  15. Interesting that Oakland is finally going to put new scoreboards on the Coliseum. It’s needed them for over a decade. Bout time the city put some money into the dump.

  16. It really seems like the Coliseum Authority, and the City of Oakland, have been total slum lords. Let’s face it, the A’s have been treated like dog poop by them, while the Raiders have been treated much better.

    It’s just inexcusable that the Coliseum Authority does not keep up with repairs. It’s not the tenants’ responsibility to keep up with repairs. And this “we have no money” stance is pure hogwash. What about the money the tenants (A’s and Raiders) pay for rent. That should cover it. It’s not tax payer money that pays for repairs, it’s tenants’ rent payments that pay for it.

    While sympathize with them completely, the pro Oakland crowd does not seem to understand all of the ramifications. One, the Coli is old and decrepit and in disrepair. Two, there are no real viable sites within Oakland (that are affordable and/or logistically feasible). Victory Court looks very intriguing, but looks very very difficult (moving too many existing businesses, adding a ton of infrastructure, space, etc). Meanwhile, the SJ site looks close to being shovel ready.

    Also, there is corporate support. While Oakland’s corporate base is often underestimated, it’s far far less than SJ’s.

    I have no dog in this fight – whether it’s Oakland or SJ. In fact, my first preference is to keep the A’s in Oakland. I just want the A’s to get a new stadium, period, whether it’s Oakland, Fremont, or SJ. But at this point in time, the SJ site looks far and away the most feasible, and the greatest potential to make the A’s more profitable.

  17. ML: Maybe you should sign up with Righthaven. They’ll hook you up!

    • @Ed – Righthaven is the Voldemort of the publishing industry. Don’t talk about them!

      @all – I remember reading in the A’s lease at the Coliseum that they are credited for repairs or other capital expenditures against their lease payment. That payment this year is $1.2 million, which is larger than previous payments but not much given the amount of upkeep, the cost to do the baseball-football conversions, etc. In the end it Plus most venues now have some kind of capital improvements fund to take care of upkeep. And since $1.2 million barely puts a dent in debt service, getting less because of those credits makes the financial picture even worse.

  18. What Jeff-athletic said.

  19. I’m somewhat encouraged about this bit:

    “I think he’s got enough information to make a decision. He may be trying to figure out a good way that the Giants are happy and we’re happy. He tends to do that.”

    … other recent quotes from Wolff.

    Wolff talks regularly with Selig. The above quote and others seems that Wolff has a feel that Selig is going to decide on allowing SJ, but wants to do it in a way that doesn’t piss off the Giants too much.

  20. @ML

    Does that mean that when Wolff forks out for repairs, he gets repaid by the Coli Authority? Or does he get an equivalent credit on his lease payment?

  21. @jeff-athletic – It’s a credit on the lease.

  22. Duh. Your statement says that it’s a credit to the lease payment. My bad.

    If that’s the case, then I’m less sympathetic towards Wolff, and less mad at the Coli Authority. And he shouldn’t complain about having to spend money on upkeep, since he gets a credit towards his lease.

    And since it’s a credit on the lease payment, then Wolff is evidently at a bare bones upkeep strategy, since the Coli is not in great shape. Now, I can’t say I blame him for wanting to put most of his eggs in the new stadium basket, and in the meantime spend bare minimum on Coli upkeep. Even if he did spend lots of money on Coli upkeep/improvements, it probably would not help attendance all that much. It still has Mt Davis, it’s still old, the field still gets F’d up by the Raiders. No matter how much he spends on Coli improvements, it’s still not an attractive baseball facility, and thus casual fans will stay away (only a nice new facility, and/or winning will bring them in).

    No, it’s best to push as hard as possible for the new ballpark.

    Sucks in the meantime, though.

  23. Hey guys, I’m just pointing out factual errors, okay? No need to beat up on me. You give LW a free pass on everything. The population gaffe was pretty bad. It’s like Doug Boxer or Jean Quan saying “Yeah, that San Jose’s population has been pretty flat for 40 years now.” Where infact it has doubled in that period.
    And shouldn’t LW know the history and books of the team he owns? Saying that Haas’ payroll was the highest in MLB along with lousy attendance the last few years of his ownership was another doozy that you guys just shrug your shoulders. I’m surprised you didn’t catch that ML.
    @Jeffrey–WEP and BO predictable, lazy horseshit?.. Where are they wrong? They back it up with facts, quotes, articles, etc… As usual, LW gets a pass from you too.
    @ML–OAFC isn’t speaking too fond of you on their blog this week. Are you going to take them off your link list too like WEP and BO?

  24. Just to clarify my earlier statement, I bear no ill will at the folks who run Baseball Oakland, White Elephant Parade or anyone in either the Pro Oakland or Pro San Jose. I root for them. What bugs the crap out of me, about both WEP and Baseball Oakland, is that they are essentially PR campaigns.
    Big on flash, light on substance. Very, very light on facts.
    Here is the thing that really, really annoys me… Those folks, they have a preconceived answer that they are trying to twist facts, and hurl invectives, in order to influence people to believe.
    I’d prefer they were honest about things and said, “Sure, San Jose has more corporate money available. Yes, that is part of privately financing a stadium/revenue stream stability. We understand that is a challenge, but we feel like it can work in Oakland. Here is why…”
    “Here is how you fund a stadium in Oakland…”
    Instead, I waste five minutes of my life (and five minutes is valuable to me) reading the same contrived, reactionary crap about Lew Wolff as the boogieman.
    Not to mention that they didn’t really do much work here. They took ML’s interview (a guy they take pot shots at all the time) and added their opinion and went back to read old articles and try and paint the picture that fits their narrative. Check the “talking points” checklist twice….
    That is predictable. That is lazy. It’s not personal. I’d have a beer with any of those guys.

  25. @jk-usa – Don’t get too defensive when people pick on your nitpicking. It comes with the territory. Did Wally Haas run up payroll to unsustainable levels? Yes. Did they lose money as a result? Yes. You can debate the finer points if you like, but it doesn’t go anywhere. I keep OAFC on the list for historical context. The other blogs provide nothing new and nothing of substance, only rants.

    Here’s the difference between what Wolff’s saying and what you, BO, and WEP are saying. Wolff is challenging Oakland on its actions. You are challenging Wolff on his words. As the old saw goes, actions speak louder. He has proof in memos and general non-action on the City’s part. You have quotes in newspapers. And this recent move by the Coliseum Authority is the best proof yet. If Oakland approves the expediture, they will have spent more to retain the Raiders than the A’s and will be more advanced in doing so. Sometimes you have to make choices (especially nowadays), and it seems more apparent with each passing week that Oakland is choosing the Raiders. That’s fine, just don’t front like you’re making the effort when you’re not.

    BTW, the guy who runs WEP, Michael Bond, is a PR man. What should people make of that?

  26. jk- where are they wrong?
    Lew Wolff, in radio interviews and at press conferences, etc explained that the public help he wanted was for entitlement changes. That he could use the development rights (by selling them to other developers) as a way to pay for the stadium. Linking one article that doesn’t say this explicitly and pretending that it was never talked about is to prevaricate. Of course, they linked an article that explained this (East Bay Express from 2006), they just linked it in a different section to take a different pot shot at Lew Wolff.
    Their constant references to that impartial source, Jorge Leon, and his take on his meeting with Wolff is pretty ridiculous. I don’t know what renderings Wolff showed Leon in that meeting, but I dare those guys to actually point to something in the San Jose renderings that resembles a condo complex. And, by the way, the Oakland renderings included condo’s, the Fremont did as well… As a way to PAY FOR THE STADIUM. Got a better idea? Cool, what is it? I am ready to support it.
    Their break down of the “North of 66th Plan” is a laughable exercise in conspiracy related histrionics. See, Wolff told everyone about his plan in Oakland so that he could have a reason to abandon his plan in Oakland… Because that is how people who want to get things done go about getting things done.
    Anyway, I don’t feel like wasting my time playing gotcha with a website I hardly read because they play gotcha with some rich guy i don’t know. I can leave it at, I won’t read those sites with any regularity until they start getting real instead of running a PR/Political campaign.

  27. @Jeffrey

    “I’d prefer they were honest about things and said, “Sure, San Jose has more corporate money available. Yes, that is part of privately financing a stadium/revenue stream stability. We understand that is a challenge, but we feel like it can work in Oakland. Here is why…”

    Very well said.

    Demonizing Wolff accomplishes nothing. I do think Wolff has made an effort to find a suitable Oakland site. He also tried wholeheartedly to get the Fremont site (spending a lot of money in the process).

    Personally, I think a site in Oakland, either with a downtown view, or a waterfront site (particularly Jack London Square), would be very cool. But nothing looks feasible economically or logistically at this point.

    And Wolff has repeatedly said that he’s all ears. Come up with a feasible plan (both economically with private financing, and logistically with space, traffic, parking, transportation), and he’ll look at it. Heck, evidently, he has looked at a number of sites in Oakland (including JLS/Victory Court), and nothing has penciled out so far.

    So the pro Oakland crowd (who again, I’m very sympathetic with, and keeping the A’s in Oakland is my personal first choice), need to show up with a real, feasible, plan, without demonizing Wolff, and realize Wolff isn’t in this as a charity and wants to make money, or go home and be quiet.

  28. To Jeff:

    Can you please explain why you think that a site in Oakland “would be pretty cool” but then you casually dismiss your own statement by stating this doesn’t look “feasible.”?

    To Jeffrey: and the pro-San Jose crowd hasn’t engaged in any “pr campaigns”? Why is it okay for the pro-San Jose crowd to trumpet its position but the pro-Oakland crowd gets slammed on every single point?

    I suspect that if someone wrote “Oakland has really nice weather” there would be a rebuke from the pro-San Jose posters.

    Finally, I’m not going to engage in vitriol.

    A’s observer.

  29. The Oakland financing plan remains as it has been: Try to get a charitable billionaire to donate a free $500 mill ballpark to the city, with no regard for whether he makes his money back or not. No change there.

  30. “Pro-SJ” A’s fans refer to Wolff’s plan. “Pro-Oak” A’s fans don’t have a plan to refer to. I cannot for the life of me understand how anyone thinks a fan who isn’t a multi-talented (engineer, RE developer) type, is going to present a realistic plan on this, or any other blog (and if you have one, present it to Wolff and get paid!). I cringe every time someone goes there.
    Have we forgotten the two-way street of mistrust? Have we forgotten Boxer’s comments about keeping things from the A’s and dealing directly with MLB? The $25,000 bribe money to the Perata campaign? I know that’s old news. Thankfully, the ice has thawed and Quan and Wolff have talked. I can’t wait to hear about that little meeting!
    SJ and Oakland, both, have huge fiscal issues. However a new stadium gets built, is definitely going to have some group of people (who are not invested, or interested in baseball) pissed off!

  31. re: SJ and Oakland, both, have huge fiscal issues
    …Once again, San Jose’s fiscal problems are not an impediment, since a privately funded ballpark is shovel-ready and all that’s needed is purchase of two more properties. In Oakland, there is not enough of a corporate base for a privately funded ballpark to work, so Oakland’s difficult financial situation definitely is an impediment, since public funding would be needed for the ballpark and Oakland has none to offer…While Oakland chose to do nothing for the A’s, San Jose did all the legwork, even though it still has no reason to be optimistic about getting a team. And who gets blamed for Oakland’s dismal treatment of the A’s? The team owners, of course.

  32. @David- a bit of realism needs to be added into your “mistrust” scenario. First of all do you really think that MLB would keep LW completely in the dark about a possible financing plan for a ballpark in Oakland because Doug Boxer doesn’t trust him? Remember–its LW that is going to be spending $500M to build the thing not MLB—so as LW alludes to in the interview—nothing is going on in Oakland from a plan of how to privately finance a ballpark.

    Second, as ML just said the leaders of Oakland continue to show more love for the Raiders than they ever have for the A’s—building one sports complex is going to be challenging enough—but building both a football and baseball stadium would be impossible in today’s financial climate–

    Last, meeting with mayor Quan is something that LW should do—odds are you will never hear anything about what was said in that meeting because there is nothing new to report–

    What is apparent to me is that any of the pro-“city” folks will never be influenced by logical arguments…whether they support Oakland or San Jose—A’s fans who place the team over their “city loyalties” want our team to have a ballpark to play in near-term that will generate sufficient revenues to compete on a regular basis–and based upon the information that has been provided it is clear that SJ, assuming the TR issue can be effectively managed, is much better positioned to support a privately financed ballpark in a reasonable timeframe

  33. @A’s Observer

    “Can you please explain why you think that a site in Oakland “would be pretty cool” but then you casually dismiss your own statement by stating this doesn’t look “feasible.”?”

    A sites “coolness” and it’s economic and logistical feasibility are two different things.

    It would “cool” because I hear Jack London Square is really nice, and a real up and comer. It would be “cool” because it’s near the water (and we’ve seen how “cool” home runs hit into McCovey cove over at AT&T are). It would be “cool” because the A’s would still be in Oakland, and it would help both Jack London Square and the city of Oakland move in a positive direction.

    It’s probably not feasible because they would have to relocate a lot of existing businesses. It’s probably not feasible because there isn’t much space. It’s probably not feasible because there would need to be a ton of infrastructure work done (more off ramps, etc). It’s probably not feasible (yet) because the planners who are pushing for it have not yet finished it’s economic feasibility report.

    Again, the coolness factor, and the economic/logistical feasibility factor, are two different things.

    Example – I live in the Sacramento area. It would be waaaaaaaay cool for me if the A’s moved to Sac. That would be waaaay more cool for me than Oakland, Fremont, or SJ all put together.

    But Sacramento is probably not economically feasible for an MLB franchise. Population is too small to support 81 games a year. Corporate base, which is much smaller than Oakland’s, is way to small to support MLB (and have it be a economically competitive team with other MLB teams).

    So, you have a cool idea (Victory Court). Now make it work. Show Lew Wolff and MLB the money. Basically, to be blunt (sorry) ….. Put up or shut up.

    I’m sure everyone concerned – all A’s fans, all posters here at, MLB, Bud Selig, Lew Wolff, the Giants, would dearly love to have a totally viable option at Jack London Square. Why wouldn’t they?

    (actually I take it back about the Giants – I think what they want is for no viable options in the bay area at all – they would dearly love for the A’s to move out of the BA entirely, or be contracted – that is their true motive).

    Again, put up or shut up. We’re all A’s fans. We all want the A’s to have a new stadium. I don’t care if the A’s are in Oakland or San Jose. But right now, SJ is by far the most viable option. So I encourage all of the pro Oakland crowd to come up with a real viable plan. The more the merrier. And the Giants can stick it!

  34. @David For several years now, Wolff’s stance regarding Oakland has been that a ballpark there won’t work. He’s said he has looked exhaustively for a solution in Oakland, but couldn’t find any. He has said several times that if someone has a detailed Oakland plan he’d like to see it. To date, we’ve never heard even a whisper of a plan from the city or any of it’s A’s boosters*. Based on that, I think it’s only natural for those of us who want to keep the A’s in the Bay Area to demand a response from Oakland A’s boosters to support their cause.
    *trying not to use the term pro-oakland b/c can’t one be pro-oakland and still be open to moving the team elsewhere to keep them local?

  35. And oh yeah – the whole privately financed thing – for that to work, for it to be economically feasible, i.e. for there to be a decent ROI within a reasonable time frame, there needs to be a large local corporate base. SJ has it in spades. Oakland, not so much.

    And we all know that Oakland has no money to provide financial assistance. It has to be privately financed.

    SJ = viable (good ROI on privately financed stadium)

    Oakland = not viable (probably not good enough ROI on privately financed stadium).

    I think Selig knows this. He also knows there are no viable situations elsewhere (San Antonio, Sacramento, Portland, etc.) And contraction is out of the picture (would have to pay out cost of franchise to owners), other than as a bargaining chip for CBA.

    Oakland is probably not feasible.

    San Jose most definitely is. Bud Selig knows SJ is the only feasible option for the A’s. I’m also sure he knows the A’s in SJ would be great for baseball (a team currently on the revenue sharing dole, suddenly is off of it, and is profitable on it’s own, and actually pays into it). I’m sure he also knows it won’t hurt the Giants (heck, they would pay less into revenue sharing, and probably receive a fee from the A’s for TR).

    I think the only question for Selig is making sure all the T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted, and then figuring out how to keep the Giants happy, and not have anyone else worried about their T rights.

    That’s what is taking so long.

  36. A’s Observer, why, whenever there is a legitimate critique of Oakland is the response “San Jose did it to?” Or “San Jose has to have a vote, Oakland doesn’t!” Or “Oakland’s got plenty of corporations… They are just in San Francisco or San Ramon, or Pleasanton, or…”
    When are Pro Oakland folks gonna urge the people who are trying to keep the team in Oakland to come out with answers to the legitimate questions, rather than play a PR game? When are you guys going to stop throwing pot shots at anyone who doesn’t come in with the preconceived notion that is it Oakland or bust and start demanding a realistic, feasible plan from somebody in Oakland. I guarantee you, that if that realistic plan existed then the PR war would be unnecessary.

  37. Jeff Athletic hasn’t been at this site long, AND YET HE’S NAILED IT! Great posting my friend.

  38. Thanks tony d.

    I’m kind of new here because I’ve rediscovered how much I like baseball in general, and the A’s in particular, after having gone to a number of River Cats games over the last few years, and really really enjoying it.

    I’m a huge soccer guy (Quakes, EPL, Bundesliga, World Cup, etc). But I have a long history with the A’s. Started liking them in “Swingin’ A’s” years. Followed them during Billy Ball v1 (with Armas, Murphy, Ricky). Went to a bunch of games during bash brothers years.

    But once Fox Soccer Channel came around, I watched soccer obsessively, leaving less time for Baseball and others. But still followed the A’s during “Moneyball” years, which made me proud.

    But now I’m back into the A’s obsessively. I even took my wife and kids a game earlier this season, when they swept the Orioles (Willingham had a 3 run shot – it was awesome).

    Anyway, now that I know the Coli is not so great anymore (it was fine pre Mt Davis days), I’m passionately into getting the A’s a new ballpark – look what a new park did for the Gnats.

    So I’ve mostly been a lurker here. Now I’m a poster. 😉

  39. @David Following up on my comment above, I don’t expect you to present a realistic plan for an Oakland ballpark because, for Pete’s sake, your a teacher not a city planner. I couldn’t do it either, BTW. However, since you are such a passionate Oakland ballpark booster I would hope that you would be lobbying hard for the city of Oakland and/or LGO to come up with a plan. Don’t do it for me or ML or to spite Lew Wolff. Do it because you love the A’s and want them to stay in your city. Because if the Oakland ballpark boosters don’t present a plan soon, they’ll could very well be gone.

  40. And Jeff-athletic likes soccer. As a Quakes STH, good sign there. And my history is around the same time, right on.
    An honest question to anyone who is “pro-Oakland” – you have your issues with Wolff, I get that. But are you more upset with Wolff or with the city? I’m sure there is plenty of blame for everyone, but is it fair to say “Wolff hates Oakland” as well as the other talking points? I don’t consider myself a pro-San Jose guy, just another in the long line of pro-A’s guys, even though I live in South San Jose. And I gladly have held Warriors season tickets for the past four years, and have no problem whatsover going to games there.
    In 2012, four short months away, we will be celebrating the 17th year of Mt. Davis. How come there is not as much vitriol towards the city, even now, trotting out press releases as to how to create an amazing stadium for the Oakland Raiders 2.0. Is Wolff just an easier target? Is Wolff really so much harder to work with vs. working with Al Davis?
    The Giants have an amazing stadium that sells out every night, can’t blame them for that, even though I can’t stand them. All I want as an A’s fan is what they have. I think my team deserves that. And whoever gives them the best shot at that, I’m all for it. Pro-A’s.

  41. I’m confused about the final parcels of land at Diridon. Is San Jose actively working towards purchasing them or are they waiting for confirmation from MLB before moving in on those remaining parcels.

  42. Something gets lost here with both Pro-Oak and Pro-SJ people. We tend to look at this from a secular point of view as Bay Area people.

    MLB or Selig is looking at this from a league-wide view. All the points for SJ are well taken and even the not so good points for Oakland and vice versa.

    The Bay Area is a wash right now guys, the Giants put in 40M and the A’s suck out 40M, that right there tells you this should not be a 2-team market where the teams are now.

    If MLB thought San Jose was viable they would have let them have their ballot initiative already instead of denying it. Lying about paying for a spring election, ignoring SVLG’s letter and the recent letter from Mayor Reed…..San Jose is not happening guys, the signs are too distinct….T-rights are sacred, its bullshit, blame Wally Haas for that one, the A’s owned San Jose originally.

    As for Oakland, a privately financed ballpark would be disaster and Selig will never let that happen, he does not want any team to fall into debt who does not have a means to pay for it. Otherwise who pays for it? MLB does via revenue sharing, therefore without public money Oakland is not happening.

    Selig has another plan to relocate the team to another city and he has made progress on it hence why he will not return San Jose or SVLG’s calls/letters.

    Selig feels that MLB is better served with the Bay Area being a 1-team market, the Giants revenue sharing #s will explode with the A’s gone. Selig has done the math and if you all open your eyes you will see what he is doing.

    Selig is trying to pull a Montreal Expos to Washington Nationals in the background. His BRC is working with another city hence why Selig states we need to go over every “conceivable” option and he “wants to get it right”….he wants a new city who will fund a ballpark and then find new owners…in that order like he did with Washington.

    What he means is, if the “other city” falls through, only then will Selig consider revoking the Giants rights to San Jose and letting the A’s build privately. My guess is San Antonio, they have a temporary facility to play in like Washington did and almost landed the Marlins a few years ago. Its the last big city besides San Jose without a MLB team in the US.

    Granted MLB makes $$ with the A’s in San Jose but not “maximum $$” that they would make by moving the A’s out of here to a city and letting the Giants reign supreme in the Bay Area.

    Selig does not want 2 privately financed ballparks in the same market. The Giants will need to be cut a “break” for losing San Jose and the A’s will have debt service prohibiting them from making up the difference.

    In the end its all about money….that is why Selig lags and what his motivation is. Do not not doubt him for one second….My guess is Wolff has a backroom deal in place with Selig and knows its San Jose or MLB taking over the A’s with him getting the Dodgers.

    Hence why Wolff is staying patient….he wins either way as he lives in LA most of the year cause of his wife……why not let everything play out and let MLB decide who lives and dies? It makes life easier on him by far.

    Like Wolff said in the first part of this interview: “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.”

  43. Interesting points, Sid.

    The problem lies in the viability of a San Antonio. San Antonio has about the total metro area population as Sacramento (both around 2 million), and around the same corporate base. Also, no MLB facility, no public financing likely, and finally, and very importantly, San Antonio is part of Rangers and Astros TV rights. Those teams won’t give up TV rights easily.

    Finally, SA barely supports the Spurs (can’t sell out play-off games).

    So, SA is far from a likely scenario.

    Check out this thread from SA fans … very telling and very interesting.

    … so, moving the A’s is far from an attractive option for Selig.

    Same goes for Sac, same goes for Portland.

    • Interesting points, Sid.

      The problem lies in the viability of a San Antonio.San Antonio has about the total metro area population as Sacramento (both around 2 million), and around the same corporate base.Also, no MLB facility, no public financing likely, and finally, and very importantly, San Antonio is part of Rangers and Astros TV rights.Those teams won’t give up TV rights easily.

      Finally, SA barely supports the Spurs (can’t sell out play-off games).

      So, SA is far from a likely scenario.

      Check out this thread from SA fans … very telling and very interesting.

      … so, moving the A’s is far from an attractive option for Selig.

      Same goes for Sac, same goes for Portland.

      I agree. San Antonio would also need an indoor stadium.

  44. Also, the fact that both San Antonio and Portland tried to lure the Marlins (who are starving for fans), and both failed, says a lot.

    I agree that Selig is looking at all options. If SA would publicly finance a new ballpark, and if he could get the Rangers and Astros to not balk at loosing some TV rights, he’d seriously consider SA.

    Similar thing Portland. Not big enough population base or corporate base to support MLB. No public money available for stadium. In Mariners territory.

    Basically, there are no easy answers for Selig, Wolff, or the A’s.

    SJ ain’t easy, but it’s probably the least difficult.

  45. @gojohn – I do what I can, when I can. I showed up at the December meeting to start the D-EIR in Oakland. I got to about ten games a year. I’m raising my boys to be A’s fans. If they asked property owners to consider a parcel tax (to partially fund a stadium), I would try to convince my wife to support that. And we are already paying a lot of taxes. I don’t have access to Quan, Boxer or Wolff. I have talked to Korach and he would like the A’s to stay. But thanks for being reasonable about “presenting a realistic funding mechanism”. I appreciate that.

  46. @Sid – You keep peddling this drivel. Contraction’s off the table, no facilities are forthcoming in any new cities, and no unclaimed cities provide the revenue base to make the moves worth it. Wolff had a sour look on his face as he tossed off those cities. Why did he mention them? They were probably off the top of his head since the Marlins’ parade of those cities was so recent. Worst of all, having two teams in the same “moving” scenario creates a bad situation for MLB in that there’s even less to leverage of the cities since the teams will be in just as much competition as the cities. You think you have these scenarios well thought out. Frankly, you don’t.

  47. The A’s are so dysfunctional right now. There are fans that love/hate Wolff, fans who want to stay/go to/in Oakland/San Jose/ anywhere in the Bay, no players on the team that are or will be a superstar (Weeks may be good, I don’t think he’ll be great) for the fans to get behind, a future that fans can’t grasp, a team in the region that is(currently) everything the A’s are not, it’s exasperating. I know the A’s winning is a rallying point us fans can get behind, but it just seems so unlikely this year and, more than likely, next year. So we have a schism in the fan base, no figurehead in the organization, either a player or management, that all fans can get behind and a future that is either cloudy or the status quot.

    I have this question: What do ALL OF US have as a common rooting interest or as a signal of hope? I probably shouldn’t post after a loss, but I’m getting sick of this crap.

  48. I understand that one of the (many) problems with VC is the cost/feasibility of relocating the +/-20 property owners. People have talked about moving them to the Oakland Army base and a few other places.
    However I’m wondering specifically why Lew couldn’t incorporate these property owners and/or businesses into the condos, retail and office space that will be built around the park? Whether he builds in Oak, SJ or otherwise, it appears that Lew intends to make the money off developing real estate rather than tickets so the condos are pretty much assured.
    Instead of relocating them to a dead Army base or anywhere else, he could offer them a slice of the killing he’s going to make when he flips the team onto someone else. Homeowner’s get a condo, business’ get a store front in the open air mall that springs up. It might be a solution to the VC footdragging Wolff offered in Part 1.

  49. I don’t believe condos are a given, nor are they a part of the proposals at either VC or Diridon. At one time selling development rights was going to fund stadium construction, but I think Wolff has stated that that is no longer an option in today’s housing and economic situation. Besides, whether they have to move to the Army base or down the street within JLS, those businesses still have to move and that will be an issue for some of them.

  50. jackterrier, there is no plan for condos around the San Jose site, despite what Jorge Leon says is in the renderings. That was a mechanism to fund stadium construction at two potentially large plots (North of the Coliseum and in Fremont).

  51. Dude, ML, Jeffrey- thanks for the heads up. I guess I need to do a bit more hw.
    I guess I’m just trowling for ideas so I can give Kaplan an earful ( in a good way) if I see her around town.
    What’s a typical schedule for EIR btw?

  52. ML, so far, have you gotten any reaction from any mainstream media members on this interview? What has been the reaction from the media community or even the team itself, if any?

  53. jackterrier – kudos to you! Instead of always talking and fantasizing scenarios, there should be more folks like you who openly ask these questions and solicit feedback from their own city government. as jeffrey pointed out earlier, its great there are passionate fans like OAFC, WEP, etc., but are they going to actually do something instead of citing 40k+ facebook fans? Are they so blinded by their government leaders smoke and mirrors that they forget the history of the last 15 years? I’ve asked my SJ councilman direclty about the a’s in SJ and he responded almost immediately on his blackberry, while in traffic! Where’s the transparency and trust in Oakland?

  54. @daveybaby. I’m a mainstream media member (not sure that’s the most felicitous phrase). It’s a very nice interview by ML, but after reading all five parts I’m kind of wondering what the headline is. “Wolff thinks Selig trying to make both teams happy,” maybe. Any suggestions?

  55. Jackterrier, in Oakland the VC site is expected to be the “hole in the donut.” surrounded by Oak to Ninth, JLS, a Lake Merritt channel park thingy mo bob and, under 880, Downtown. None of the ancillary development is part of an actual stadium plan, they are decoupled technically… But a portion of the development is likely to be scuttled without the ballpark.
    I can imagine something like Petco Park sitting down there. It could be stunning.
    It is a long way from actually happening.

  56. Having worked with City government, Sid I’m impressed you think a City could keep something this big absolutely quiet without even a rumor getting out.

    Jeff-Athletic. Impressed by how well your points have been laid out and responded to questions asked without changing subject.

    jk. Am I not mistaken you have pointed out many times how Haas spent so much money all the time and fans always showed up. Not your using the opposite against him just to prove lew wrong. If I’m wrong I apologize.

    M.L. keep up the good work. is there any chance you heard at least a rumor of when these new scoreboards may happen? I’m simple minded, this news was one of the breaking things I haven’t heard before and care about 😉

  57. @baycommuter–you don’t want to know what i think the headline should be…lol. Jorge Leon could write it!
    @jeffrey–every time I drive by that VC site (at least twice a week), I can just imagine a cool ballpark there. Something like a Petco there would be insane (except for the name of course). I’ve walked from Lake Merrit
    @Mike–Haas did spend a lot on payroll most years, he loved his players so much, was trying to win and hang on to fan faves. And he did lose money most years but not as big as LW said ($30 mill), and payroll was lowered to the middle of MLB (not at the top like LW said) when they took a dump 93-95. The fans showed up most years, but droped a decent chunk the last few years.The strike didn’t help things either. The Giants lost a lot of $$ during that time. I’ve worn out this historic attendance/payroll thing to death, and will back off it for now.

  58. @baycommuter I suggest you spice it up a bit. How about “Lew don’t know shit and we’re all just waiting on Selig.” I think it has a certain ring to it, don’t you?

  59. oops..continuation from previous post: I walked from the Lake Merritt Bart station to the VC park site, just a few short blocks away, and i can visualize the excitement and buzz this area could have at game time. 36-39k fans coming from all directions would have the LM, DTO, JLS area hopping. Have a little Oakland baseball museum on site, a sports bars nearby, picnic area on the premises, Gondola’s and water taxis coming up the LM channel dropping fans off.. Build it (somehow) and they will come.

  60. @ML–maybe they can get some used scoreboards from a torn down minor league park somewhere…lol. Anything is better than the ones we got. All the burned out bulbs is embarrassing. Bigger, sharper, brighter, no burned out bulbs, etc…would be cool. That would make the fan experience much better just from that. Upgraded auxiliary boards on 2nd deck with color would be nice too, but where would that money come from?
    BTW, good job on the interview. I really appreciate your hard work. Part 4 coming up in 20 minutes.
    That must be a pain transcribing what was said on audio and to put in print format. Is their voice recognition software to help you?

  61. @jk-usa – I could’ve used vox recognition software but the conversation was so casual and full of interruptions that it would’ve been just as much work to clean it up as to transcribe it straight.

  62. I can’t remember who told me this at the doubleheader, if it was you, ML, or Townsend, but the A’s scouted for any other places who were using the same scoreboard technology, and supposedly bought the old one from some field in Australia. They had been in the process of upgrading to newer technology, and the A’s knew it was the best source of spare parts for what they have.

  63. I talk to the commish he’ll say to me, “You know, you’re up 4.5%.” .. Interesting, Lew knows that Selig follows attendance. Lew wants San Jose, attendance has dropped dramatically under Lew. Coincidence, I think not.

  64. Jesse… Attendance has dropped dramatically under every single ownership group in Oakland except for Schott and Hoffman. Did they all want to move to San Jose?

  65. it fluctuated under Haas

  66. Jesse, look at the last Haas years… It plummeted.

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