The Chronicle’s Matier and Ross are reporting that the A’s and the Coliseum JPA are in talks regarding what could be a five-year extension at the Coliseum. As expected, MLB is facilitating the negotiations, which is sensible considering the sides’ general chilliness towards one another. There are a couple of interesting bits to the talks:
The lease was handed over to the team three weeks ago, and while details are still to be worked out, A’s managing partner Lew Wolff told us that he is “absolutely” interested in reaching an agreement.
“Even if we were building a new ballpark, it wouldn’t be ready until then anyway,” Wolff said.
According to insiders, one possible problem may be the $50 million penalty the Coliseum wants if the team leaves early for San Jose.
First of all, Wolff is basically admitting that a ballpark wouldn’t be ready until 2018. That’s a two-year slip from previous statements. Whether that’s a process issue or more a Giants mortgage issue isn’t clear. In any case it’s a long ways off.
The $50 million exit penalty is a potential showstopper. The A’s have had exit penalties in previous lease extension, but those simply had the A’s pay the remainder of the lease upfront (plus perhaps a nominal fee) to get out. In this case the JPA is using leverage (no other MLB ballpark in the A’s territory) to effectively force the A’s to stay or pay off more of the horrendously bad Mt. Davis deal.
Wolff, for his part, says he’s interested in reaching a deal. Probably not this deal, though. He probably wants something more along the lines of the three-year deals (plus two one-year options) he bargained for previously. And a $50 million exit penalty is not something I can see either Wolff or MLB approving. To put it in perspective: the A’s haven’t paid $50 million combined in rent since Mt. Davis was built, and that was 17 years ago.
The Coliseum Authority could be playing hardball here, or it could be starting off asking for the moon. It’s the first step of a negotiation that could last all winter, and could get very testy as it moves along. We’re a long way from the situation I described in August, but if that exit penalty is real and the JPA isn’t budging on it, MLB could very well get the impetus it needs to look elsewhere.