Reopening an old wound

Mark Purdy’s newest column revisits a fuzzy period when the halcyon days of the Haas era were ending, and East Bay looked to bring the Raiders back to Oakland.

Reinsdorf’s statement about Oakland, meanwhile, outlines a chapter of the A’s stadium pursuit that many East Bay citizens either forget or refuse to acknowledge. The chapter dates to 1994, not long after the Haas family sold the team to Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann. The two men had big plans for remodeling the Coliseum into a fine baseball-only structure. They requested a meeting with the Coliseum commission.

“Here’s what we’d like to do,” Schott told the commission, outlining his remodeling ideas.

“That’s all very nice,” the commission replied, more or less. “But we have some news. The Raiders want to come back to Oakland, and we’ve got a financing plan to make it happen that will include building a new center field addition. You can’t fight this, because the important people in Oakland want it to happen and they’ll make it difficult on you if you try to get in the way.”

Schott and Hofmann acquiesced. From that moment forward, the A’s long-term future in Oakland was probably doomed. Years later, after Wolff and partner John Fisher bought the team, Wolff did assemble a new ballpark proposal near the Coliseum site. His plan involved mixed-use redevelopment and required Oakland’s assistance to acquire the necessary land. The project went nowhere when the city did not or could not cooperate. Wolff then looked south to Fremont and spent years on another failed plan before finally settling on San Jose as his last, not first, resort.

15-17 years doesn’t seem like that long ago. I have trouble remembering all of the details. Purdy’s account sounds roughly correct, though I’m not certain about how all of the dates fit together. There was a point after Schott’s proposal when the old Coliseum Commission came to an end in a political brouhaha, to be replaced by the Coliseum Authority (see “A Cup of Joe with the Georges” for George Vukasin Sr.’s take).

Fast-forward to last year, when the Coliseum Authority worked with the Raiders again on plans to redevelop the entire Coliseum area by constructing a new football stadium to replace the to-be-demolished old Coliseum. A proposal by Wolff when he worked for Schott and Hofmann went nowhere. I’m sure MLB cares not one whit about the apparent favorable treatment the Raiders repeatedly received over the A’s. It won’t affect their decision making at all. Water under the bridge, right?

54 thoughts on “Reopening an old wound

  1. IDLF misstating the facts all the way back in 1996. Some things never change…

  2. In the Purdy article: “Wolff did assemble a new ballpark proposal near the Coliseum site (North of 66th). His plan involved mixed-use redevelopment and required Oakland’s assistance to acquire the necessary land. The project went nowhere when the city did not or could not cooperate.”
    Uh, blame the city on that one too, huh? Total BS, Mr. Purdy. Please lay off the Wolff Kool-Aid; I thought you were smarter than that! That pie-in-the-sky plan was DOA. You have 120 businesses to deal with. Paying them off and relocation would of taken years and would be tied up in the courts. VC only has like 16 businesses to deal with. Much more manageable. Also, Wolff wanted an in-fill Bart station at the 66th Ave. site, or it was a no go, but Fremont didn’t need a Bart station for his other “vision.”

  3. Actually, I “blame” Laney College for no Oakland site. The best site in Oakland is at the HJK Convention Center. Close to freeway. Close to BART. Wonderful and scenic location. Unless I’m completely off base here (and please correct me if I am), the college refused to play ball with the A’s.

  4. Facts are facts. Oakland has bent over backwards for the Raiders and done zip for the A’s. Time for the A’s to move on. And Purdy is right that it makes sense to have the two Bay Area teams in the two largest cities, 40 miles from each other. Let Oakland have its Raiders for 10 days a year and San Jose can have the A’s for 80 days a year.. (I , for one, think the Raiders could very well move back to LA)

  5. The challenge with Victory Court is going to be how long the EIR will take and whether businesses will sell, which seems iffy. I think it were farther along it would be more viable. If the City had done due diligence and worked on this option earlier I think this would be a much more viable option. Thats going to be a significant cost. Diridon is not going to be an easy option, AT&T is going to want to extract max, which they won’t get. Beyond that you have the referendum campaign. To think what would have happened had the commission not worked with Al Davis and instead focused on the A’s, perhaps a lot less debt and much less skittishness in trying to develop a long term option in Oakland. The political support has never really been there, not with Brown, not with Dellums, and with people like IDLF. It always seems like its Raiders first, every else is an after thought, and despite being a Raiders fan, that infuriates me. Part of me feels that with a move to SJ it will come with a heavy heart, but time to move on.

    PS, it will be nice to see the A’s shutting down Albert Pujols and the Angels in San Jose in 2016

  6. Who pays the hefty tab to remedy the gigantic trains going right by the VC site? Not the railroad – they were there first…Diridon, just like any other site, will have difficulties. Just like Fremont, etc. But Diridon is near the finish line and VC – the horse hasn’t left the barn yet and probably won’t..

  7. OT, sorry – Pujols to Angels; 10 yrs 250m.

  8. Did the A’s put in a bid for Pujols? (Agent Scott Boras has come out and said the A’s need to go to San Jose. He knows the A’s right now are a team he cannot pitch his big clients to since the A’s can’t play that game. Fewer bidders = lower salaries.)

  9. @hcf – It wasn’t just Laney. HJKCC is a bit too small (not wide enough) of a site, had little parking around it, and interfered with the City’s plans for reconstructing 11th/12th Street. It never would’ve gotten off the ground.

    • @hcf – It wasn’t just Laney. HJKCC is a bit too small (not wide enough) of a site, had little parking around it, and interfered with the City’s plans for reconstructing 11th/12th Street. It never would’ve gotten off the ground.

      Thank you. Would have been an awesome site though.

  10. Sounds like Mr Purdy has had a “peak” of the report as well 😉

  11. …lots of pro-SJ comments on Purdy’s article. Hope these people are SJ voters.

  12. @pjk – That’s exactly what I was thinking as I was reading the comments to the Purdy article – “hopefully these people are San Jose registered voters.” I know the A’s and the city of San Jose are confident that a vote would pass but I’m still very nervous about an election. The Giants/”Stand for San Jose” will probably get dirty and mudsling. IIRC, there were some anti-ballpark “push poll” phone calls sent to SJ voters around two years ago.

  13. Somewhat OT, but I’ve noticed some chatter from the Oakland-only crowd about protesting at Diridon to delay construction of the ballpark (if it comes to that). I was wondering whether this might be an issue. I’m thinking it will.

  14. Purdy basically outlined why I have no sympathy for Oakland in this whole thing. They’ve treated the A’s like crap for nearly 20 years and yet they expect the A’s will just hang around.

  15. The issue with “Stand for San Jose” is the Giants should be required to cease and desist all support of this group – ie, no more paying for lawyers, lawsuits, PR campaigns, etc. Like I said in the other tthread, MLB can’t have one franchise fighting another franchise, whether its through surrogates or whatever. Is like McDonald’s in Sunnyvale fighting the McDonald’s in Santa Clara. The Giants’ naked greed and disingenuosness (Talking about San Jose’s budget problems? LIke the Giants really care?) are evident for all to see..

  16. re: Oakland-only protesting. Probably wouldn’t amount to much. More of the same strategy for them – try to stop San Jose while doing nothing to bring about an actual solution in Oakland. Don’t point fingers at Oakland pols for doing nothing for the A’s, point fingers at SJ pols for actually doing something for the A’s, I guess.

  17. gojohn, don’t see how. Send in the SJPD and remove their asses real fast for trespassing just like they’ve eventually done with every one of those moronic Occupy camps. On difference here is there wouldn’t be any 1st amendment questions as no one has the right to invade private property to protest.

  18. So they’ll come down to SJ to protest but won’t come down to attend games? I’m speechless! Anyhow, if the Diridon site for some unknown reason (successful lawsuit, eminent domain difficulties, etc) became to difficult or impossible, Wolff/A’s might have a fallback (or two) in SJ:
    1) Airport West/FMC- he already controls the land with more than enough room for both ballpark and Quakes SSS.
    2) North San Pedro/Brandenburg-9 acres in downtown core controlled by Barry Swenson. Proposed housing not yet broken ground nor imminent. Swenson could lease/sell land to A’s in exchange for development rights to other downtown plot (Diridon South?).
    Nice to think outside the box, but don’t feel it will come down to any of this. Diridon it will be!

  19. Not sure there’s enough room on that Coleman site for both the Quakes and a ballpark. I drive past the site all the time. I guess Wolff could shoehorn the two there if he can do without any parking. Not likely the next-door-neighbor Lowe’s store wants to provide any parking for the A’s/Quakes. Diridon has train access and plenty of downtown parking – not the case on Coleman.

  20. Protestors?? Imagine how the construction Union brethren would react to that—also- there are many prep steps to go before actual construction of the ballpark which wouldn’t begin until 2013 in a perfect world

    • Protestors?? Imagine how the construction Union brethren would react to that

      Construction workers vs. Oakland Hipsters? I’d pay see that blood bath!

  21. While I might sympathize a little bit with the hard core A’s fans that live in Oakland and don’t want their team to leave for SJ, I will shed no tears for the city of Oakland, assuming the SJ thing goes through (and it’s looking like it will).

    The city Oakland’s extreme incompetence and outright negligence in dealing with the A’s has been monumental. If any city doesn’t deserve to keep it’s MLB team, it is the city of Oakland.

  22. And to any of the Oakland only posters –

    If the team does indeed go to SJ, don’t be mad (they’ll still be local!). But if you’re going to be mad, don’t be mad at Lew Wolff, MLB, or anyone else.

    Be mad at your own city politicians, at the Coliseum Authority, both for having their lips surgically attached to the Raiders posteriors, and for treating the A’s like the red-headed step child.

  23. Correct, Jeff. While Seattle, Atlanta, Cleveland, Minnesota, New York, Baltimore, San Diego, Arlington, Houston, Detroit, Cincinnati, etc, all did what was needed to get their teams new ballparks, Oakland proudly sat back and did nothing (except ruin the current stadium). We have to conclude hosting Major League Baseball simply is not a priority for Oakland…

  24. A vote will not be an issue nor will the lawsuit. The Giants had to go through lawsuits for their China Basin ballpark years ago.

    With Baseball San Jose and SVLG campaigning with Wolff this will be a slam dunk vote because San Jose is getting a free ballpark….The land will mean little to the voters.

    If this was a publicly financed ballpark then the citizens would come out with pitch forks and protest in front of city hall in this day and age….the vote would fail badly.

    For all the years of San Jose getting shut out by the Giants and MLB the citizens are going to get a free ballpark….That sounds like a great deal to me as a voter.

  25. @pjk (or RM),
    isn’t Airport West/FMC between 40-60 acres? Looking at Google Earth, using nearby SCU Schott ballpark as a reference as well as existing soccer field, it appears there’s more than enough room for both. Also, the site is served by SC Caltrain station and is future terminus of BART line, a future quick hop from downtown Diridon. Alas (again), it won’t come down to any of this, but nothing wrong with sharing hypotheticals.

  26. The CalTrain station is across a big field from the Quakes property and people would have to cross the tracks. I suppose the Santa Clara Caltrain station might work but there are issues to be resolved. Its a bit of a walk.

  27. Tony: If you’re in the neighborhood of 880 in San Jose, exit at Coleman and right next to the Lowe’s and In/Out Burger is the Quakes property. Judge for yourself if it could fit both a soccer and baseball stadiums.

    • @pjk/Tony D. – The land extends all the way up Coleman to the BAE Systems building on the corner of Brokaw. The Quakes stadium land on the south end only accounts for a small fraction of the total. The Quakes put practice fields on the property and they’re so far inside the complex you’d never know from driving by. Trust me, there’s plenty of land.

  28. Sounds like the Coleman site could serve as a backup. Didn’t realize it was that big. I only looked at the cleared property with the Earthquakes sign on it. Probably ho referendum needed, either.

  29. Wouldn’t think so. Wolff already owns a portion of the land, and the option for the rest. And should own the rest within the year since construction on the Quakes stadium is expected to begin in the next 3 months (ie: before it would be needed as a fallback for Diridon). Once he owns it all there’s no reason the city would need to hold any referendum. Though I don’t even know if he’d need one at that site in the first place since Wolff did pay current market value for Airport West. It’s actually a very appealing fall back should Diridon get derailed. And it has none of the NIMBY issues that Diridon has either since the ballpark would be located even further away from houses than the Quakes stadium will be.

    However given the option Diridon is still the far more appealing site so close to downtown.

  30. I’ve watched lots of homes and businesses sprout up right near – dare I say it – ATT Park. There are people who do fine living near ballparks and don’t view them as unwanted land uses akin to garbage dumps, sewage treatment plants, etc. I live a few hundred yards from SJ Airport (used 365 days a year, not just 81like a ballpark) and don’t even remember the place is there a lot of times.

  31. If we get to the point where the A’s have to start considering the Airport West location, I assume we’d have to go through the entire EIR process again for that site?

  32. Not hugely excited about Airport West as a site. Shea Stadium redux.

  33. @fc – Yes, they’d need a new EIR. They don’t want to go that route unless Diridon is completely, totally not in play.

  34. Why the talk about moving the SJ site- while scenario planning is important I cant see anyone want to consider this- did I miss something?

  35. My bad GoA’s. I just brought up the hypothetical of the Diridon site becoming impossible for a ballpark. Don’t think it will happen, but we’ll have to get past referendum, frivolous lawsuit, and AT&T parcel acquisition to be 100% sure.

  36. Meanwhile, the Angel’s sign the best player in MLB in Albert Pujols, while boy genius BB does nothing and wants to rebuild again hoping a new park in SJ will solve all their problems down the road. Pathetic.

  37. Yeah! BB should have offered King Albert $300 million over 10 years, with a full-blown tour of the coliseum to boot! The hell with getting a new venue! Shame on them! (He he)

  38. A’s hands are tied. They have no $$ for free agents, who don’t want to play in an empty football stadium anyway. Wolff and Beane are doing what needs to be done: getting a new venue in a viable location. Then we can talk about bringing in Big $$ free agents. Right now, that’s not going to happen for the A’s in Oakland…

  39. “Meanwhile, the Angel’s sign the best player in MLB in Albert Pujols, while boy genius BB does nothing and wants to rebuild again hoping a new park in SJ will solve all their problems down the road. Pathetic.” Seriously? ROTFLMAO……priorities and logic are definitely not your friends are they? 😉

  40. Looks like 1st phase of BART to SJ will start in March and be completed nearly 2 years ahead of schedule- ballpark and earthquakes stadium should improve ridership projections for phase II

  41. @GoA’s – Link please. Thanks in advance.

  42. Well here we go… A’s already have one foot out the door, Raiders are exploring their options outside Oakland, and now we can officially add the Warriors to the abandoning Oakland discussion. According to the Chron the owners have come out saying they’ve been having discussions with the Giants and SF mayor about a new arena south of Pac Bell to open by 2017. Looks like SF may lose a football team only to gain a basketball team.

  43. Since the Giants are funding Stand for San Jose, and they are part of the Warriors new arena deal, The A’s should fund stand for S.F. saying an arena would be horrible. Just to mess with them.
    First quick thought is but the ballpark is already there in S.F. anyway, well so is the shark tank in San Jose.

  44. So Oakalnd may lose all 3 sports teams within the next 5-6 years. I bet you Oakland haters are feeling pretty good now if it happens.

  45. Who hates Oakland? I don’t.

  46. I love Oakland, but definitely get the sense that not only the authority but the City Council and Quan really have no clue what to do next. The only really progressive step that has been made have been discussions about a new Coliseum for the Raiders, but the Raiders have two potential outs, Santa Clara with the Niners or Farmer’s Field in LA. Davis would probably need to sell a minority share to Phil Anschutz for LA to happen. The Authority and the City need to decide what there priorities are or unless they are going to be a bride without a wedding.

  47. I don’t hate Oakland, I hate the finger pointing.

  48. If Oakland wanted to get a leg up… They could start the EIR for VC with an alternative being a multipurpose arena at the site. Or they can start a PR war and start whining and pointing fingers at everyone else…

  49. jk, no one hates Oakland. What everyone hates are the morons running Oakland. They’re to blame for this mess. They treated the two teams they should have been focused on like crap and now they’re going to get boned by them and the Raiders (and who couldn’t have predicted that the Raiders would stab them in the back)…

  50. @jk There are no Oakland haters. Seriously, do you even realize how crazy that sounds? Recognizing that Oakland is not an economically viable location for an MLB team (at least with the Giants in China Basin) does not constitute “hating” the city. There are a lot of terrific cities in the U.S. that would not make good locations for MLB.

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