No statement I have seen better exemplifies Oakland’s strategy than this quote by City Administrator Fred Blackwell from the SF Business Times:
“San Francisco has given the Warriors a waterfront offer that they could not refuse,” said Fred Blackwell, assistant city administrator, in a statement. “And in the end, we will leave a space for the Warriors after they have are exhausted from the CEQA litigation and cost increases required to be on the San Francisco Waterfront.”
Replace “Warriors” with “Athletics”, “San Francisco” with “San Jose”, and CEQA litigation/cost increases with territorial rights, and you have Oakland’s attitude towards the A’s in a nutshell. Oakland has had counsel from the Giants to fight the A’s efforts to move. It wouldn’t be surprising if they went back to that well again just to make things more difficult for the W’s. The difference is that the W’s don’t have a Byzantine league statute to fight.
It’s as if the City of Oakland has no choice. Almost 50 years ago a group of civic, business, and government leaders had the foresight to build what was then a state-of-the-art sports complex for a reasonable cost. It had parking and a future transit link in the plans. The stadium was built initially for football but was designed to accommodate baseball as well, better than any other multipurpose stadium ever. With the Coliseum complex, Oakland and Alameda County built up a 30-year lead over the rest of the Bay Area. Over time that lead was diminished as other cities struggled and eventually succeeded to build new venues. If the Warriors and A’s get their new digs, that 30-year lead will have vanished with only one team, the Raiders, struggling to hold on.
All this posturing makes it appear that Oakland has no choice but this strategy. That’s entirely wrong. They do have a choice. But it starts with making the toughest choice. Instead of this “fake it ’till you make it” strategy of sounding like they’re committed to all three teams, commit to one first and make that team a positive example that the other teams will be attracted to. The resources definitely aren’t there to make Coliseum City fly as a redone, three-team complex. Why would a private developer commit to the W’s part of Coliseum City if they know that a more lucrative play is available across the bay? Even a two-team plan is sketchy due to the logistical complications (phase-in, what to do with the old venues). For now it looks as though Oakland’s putting its arrows behind the Raiders, since there is some prep work being undertaken. Until either Oakland decides or has the decision made for them, they’ll continue with the “fake it” strategy of saying they have several ballpark sites when in actuality there’s zero consensus on one. That’s a shame because it leads to false hope. That’s what organizations like Save Oakland Sports and Let’s Go Oakland are hanging their hats on. Rooting for someone else to fail works from a schadenfreude standpoint, but it doesn’t get anything built. Longtime East Bay fans are about to find that out.