In a wide-ranging interview with MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom, Lew Wolff talked about the lease terms he proposed to the Coliseum JPA, and the progress that has been made so far. Some key items:
“We’re willing to sign a five-year lease with three one-year [club] options at a much higher rate than we’re paying now,” Wolff told MLB.com during a lengthy interview this week as his A’s played the Angels at Angel Stadium.
“But more importantly, we’re willing to pay more than we have the last five years, only because they need money to buy a new scoreboard and fix up the facility. And we’re willing to offer that money up front. It’s a negotiation that’s hopefully coming to a close soon. The delay on a decision about moving has even limited those options.”
This reminds me of the deal Wolff proposed to fix up Phoenix Municipal Stadium a few years ago. In the end the City of Phoenix decided it couldn’t afford to spend anything on Phoenix Muni, which convinced Wolff that he needed to look elsewhere. When the Cubs planned to vacate Hohokam Stadium for their new complex on the west side of Mesa, there was suddenly an opening for the A’s, which Wolff took. I point this out to illustrate that negotiating parties can go in with the best intentions and sometimes it still doesn’t work out.
In Oakland there’s more at stake. If the A’s can’t work out a proper deal to stay at the Coliseum, it’s not as if they can move 4 miles away to another MLB-ready ballpark. Plus the Raiders have their own designs on the Coliseum complex, and it’s not clear how much the Raiders’ desires conflict with the A’s. Even with those conflicts, the JPA can’t be crazy enough to let the A’s walk away, right? Their biggest leverage is that the A’s don’t have anywhere else to go, not some competitive advantage. If this drags on through the offseason, it’ll be interesting to see if MLB thrusts itself into the talks.
Not that the two sides are entirely on the same page. Wolff wants an out if the Raiders commandeer the site for a new Coliseum. The JPA wants to lock the A’s in as long as possible. Contrast that with the Raiders, who want their own long lease, but because it’s forcing the JPA to make a bigger commitment, the JPA has been hesitant to finalize anything. Imagine if Wolff offered a long-term deal that competed with the Raiders’ offer. What would the JPA do? Would they be forced to choose one over the other?
For his part, Wolff has characterized the negotiations as anything but contentious, and close to completion. Yet I wouldn’t be surprised if this dragged on well into the fall, at which point a lot of people in and around baseball will start to get very nervous.