Wolff clarifies what he wants out of Coliseum lease

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.

46 thoughts on “Wolff clarifies what he wants out of Coliseum lease

  1. Hey Mr. Wolff, if you get the A’s to San Jose I’ll buy you a keg of beer!!

  2. Potentially 8 more years at Coli- really…

  3. Is it 5 years plus 3 one-year options, or 5 years,or which the last 3 are one-year club options?

  4. Wolff on sewage problem: “The sewage thing has been made much bigger than it really is.”
    Wolff: “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 (cont’d): “But more importantly, we’re willing to pay more than we have the last five years, only becausWolff (cont’d): “to buy a new scoreboard and fix up the facility. And we’re willing to offer that money up front.”
    Wolff (cont’d): “to buy a new scoreboard and fix up the facility. And we’re willing to offer that money up front.”
    I have been critical of Lew Wolff in the past, for as verity of reasons, although I have also defended him as well, many of my criticisms are in stark contrast to these quotes. I am really glad to hear Lew talk like this; it shows willingness on his part to slap a little lipstick on the old pig, till he gets a new home in San Jose, Fremont, or Oakland. I really appreciate what he said about the sewage issue, because he could be blowing it up (not that it’s not a problem), to serve his own interest.

  5. ML, mentioning Hohokam made me jokingly ponder the idea that should the Coliseum negotiations go south the A’s might actually have to consider retreating to HoHoKam (or Phoenix Muni) on a temporary basis.

  6. Also prayers for the Dodger fan murdered near Pac Bell Park last night. SF games haven’t been the friendliest events of late.

  7. Why is Lew Wolff openly discussing an on-going negotiation?

  8. The JPA needs to do everyone a favor and be up front with what they are capable of offering. If they are not in a position to financially put together ballparks for the A’s and/or Raiders, they need to say so. Posturing does no one any good. If they do not have any viable solutions, they need to step aside because they are mucking up the process.

  9. The JPA knows it cannot pay for new stadiums but is not going to admit that, in hopes that some miracle worker will arrive and build them privately.

  10. I think it’s 5 years with 3 years embedded within the 5..(?)

  11. @ Tony – I think/hope that’s the case. Maybe MLB is delaying any decision regarding SJ until a new lease agreement is in place. To announce a decision in favor of SJ now would certainly make the ongoing negotiations more difficult.

  12. From SI.com 9/26/2013:

    “It’s a pit,” Selig said on CBS Sports Radio. “It reminds me of old County Stadium and Shea Stadium. We need to deal with that. I’ve had a committee working on it for two or three years, and there’s no question we’re going to have to solve that problem.”

    “Look, you have one team that wants to move and the other team doesn’t want them to move, and it’s a very complicated situation. Before I leave, I’m satisfied we’ll work out something.”

    “I’m not happy about it. It’s an unfortunate mess. I wish there was an easy solution, but in truth, there is not an easy solution.”

  13. @fc,
    I thought the same. But if true, (going back to what I posted a few days back) why would SJ still file a lawsuit? I’m sure Wolff would have told SJ pols that a MLB decision revelation was pending a decision on a Coli lease; yet they still filed a lawsuit?

  14. @Tony: A little part of me thinks Selig actually wants the lawsuit because it could help him convince other owners to let them move or he could say, “I am operating under the best interests of baseball.” I doubt it, but it’s interesting none the less.

  15. Selig: “BEFORE I LEAVE, I’m satisfied we’ll work out something.”

    Selig leaves in a year-ish.

  16. SI: Your contract ends after the 2014 season. Can you say with certainty that it will in fact be your final season as commissioner?

    Selig: Yes, I can.

    SI: What if the owners come back, as they did last time, and say, ‘Commissioner Selig, you’re the best at this job. We need you to stay on.’

    Selig: Look, I’ve told everybody that I’ve got another 16, 17 months to go and I’ve got obviously lots of things I want to do and will do. But I am convinced — I think it’s Jan. 24, 2015 that is the actual date — that I will be done. I believe that and I think everybody now understands that I will be done.

  17. @Marine – True!

  18. There is no doubt that Wolff wants to stay at the Coliseum, until a new ballpark for the A’s is completed. I would think that Wolff would both want and have to get out of the new lease, if construction gets started on a new or partially new Raiders stadium at the Coliseum site. That could be the explanation for the one year at a time lease options. At this time, it stills seems unclear whether the Raiders would prefer to continue temporarily sharing the Coliseum with the A’s, or to go to Santa Clara as short-term tenants of the 49ers to give Oakland more time to work out a possible new stadium deal. I would tend to think that the NFL would have a lot to say on the Raiders’ decision on this matter.

  19. The conflict with the Raiders is a mess, unless the Raiders make a deal elsewhere. 5 years, with buyout/options, is good deal for the A’s. They better get the improvements going asap, though. With a cleaned up E Coli and a winning team, they’ll be able to re-build popularity as they get ready to move into the San Jose park–in 4-5 years. That’s the momentum you want (see, e.g., the Giants circa 2000).

    I have no trouble viewing San Jose’s lawsuit as a negotiating ploy. But what if they lose here in round one? Will that take some pressure off Selig and work against the A’s?

  20. @Tony D./fc
    I was thinking the same thing, to hell with the idea that San Jose made it more difficult for its self by suing MLB, I never agreed with that line of thinking, the real question is why would San Jose go forward with the lawsuit if they knew the only hold up to an official announcement was getting the five year lease done at the coliseum?, perhaps, and I think it was GoA’s, who brought up the possibility of it simply being for more leverage in negotiations. San Jose could not of done this because Oakland had a soon to be completed competing offer?, because we know they are nowhere near that ( may never get that fare), could it simply be because MLB is content to wait till Oakland can come up with any kind of offer?, even if it’s not very good. Perhaps Lew tells them (San Jose), look they (MLB), are going to make me stay in this situation (because of the Giants TR clams), they are going to wait till Oakland comes up with something (no matter how long it takes), you guys better get the lawsuit going because they (MLB), are going to push (reasonable or unreasonable), any offer Oakland comes up with? I just don’t get why San Jose would do that, I don’t think it hurts them, as some have suggested, I just dint see how it helps.

    @Steven, It was nice to hear him talk like that, but the one person I trust the least in this mind blowing soap-opera is Bud.

  21. @xoot–wondering that myself–I think that if they lose round 1 pressure for selig is the same–whatever type of deal currently proposed for SJ isn’t working for the A’s and currently oakland hasn’t got a plan together that would include financing some portion of a new ballpark–so a first round loss of SJ lawsuit just means that LW/JF can take the current offer for SJ (assuming there is one) or say it doesn’t work and we will continue to sit in limbo getting revenue sharing and playing in the eColi pit until either oakland kicks us out or you improve the SJ option or Oakland identifies how they will contribute financially to make HT work–

  22. @GoA’s,
    Agree. SJ looses lawsuit and status quo remains: A’s still play in “pit,” need new ballpark and $an Jo$e remains best option for private financing scheme (Fremont close second). I know, I know…

  23. @Xoot + Lakeshore/Neil: I think we’re assuming MLB and the Giants are working together. Selig may actually favor a move to SJ; However some aspects in MLB, like Giants’ ownership, are preventing it from happening with threats and current litigation – I’m making such a broad argument that I don’t even believe it, ha! There are other dynamics I’m not addressing too, like Wolff being better off staying in Oakland till revenue sharing ends.

    Upcoming scenarios:

    San Jose does not pass standing.
    So? It would seem to look bad for San Jose; However, MLB needs San Jose as a viable option to improve their negotiating power with Oakland. If Oakland seems like the only option, then Oakland can start dictating terms to MLB, telling them to put-up or shut-up. MLB benefits when San Jose is, in part, a viable option. SO it will continue to be a viable option even after the lawsuit. Under this scenario, San Jose needs Oakland to fuck everything up (something they’re proving to be good at).

    The lawsuit continues.
    Winning the lawsuit, I would argue, does not directly improve San Jose’s hand. However, it allows Selig, who may favor a move, to go directly to MLB owners and the Giants and say something like this, “I don’t want to get dragged through this shit. This drama will be bad for baseball because who knows what will come up in discovery unrelating to the current lawsuit. We don’t know what will happen. As of such, I am acting in the best interests of baseball to settle this lawsuit. As part of the settlement, it does not need to come to a vote by MLB leaders (last part speculation).”

  24. @Tony – I’m not sure how much discussion there is between Wolff and San Jose. I don’t think Wolff shares as much with San Jose as we think he does. He probably told them MLB will make a decision within the next 18 months so stay patient, but if they felt like they needed to move forward with litigation then so be it. It’s not something he’d support, at least not publicly.

  25. @Tony D
    I agree with you, but that still does not answer, the question of why San Jose filed the lawsuit in the first place? Could it have been as simple as leverage in future negotiations? I would agree with the idea, but that’s potently a lot of big risk, for a few extra bucks in future negotiation.
    You make some good points. I guess I question the lawsuit, because I don’t think it will gain standing (xoot, has made good points on this), and I believe San Jose was in good position, without it.
    I don’t think revenue sharing will end, the Yankees can scream all they want, but I don’t think revenue sharing is going anywhere, if anything I think it well become even more entrenched then it is at the moment. The NFL (Indianapolis, Green Bay New Orleans), and NBA (San Antonio, Oklahoma), already understand to have a viable league all teams, and thereby markets, must be able to compete at a high level, the economic modal of MLB should continue to change.
    Wolff may not tell San Jose everything, but man I don’t know it’s hard to believe he had little to no influence, over whether they filed the lawsuit in the first place. You could be right thought, who knows.

  26. another thing I have wondered–assuming there is some framework of a SJ deal–is there a declining fee for TR over a period of years and that is driving some of the behavior today. The longer the A’s wait the cheaper it becomes…this would tie into the ATT mortgage being paid off in 2017. Lawsuit is an attempt to expedite this–just another thought

  27. @GoA’s I thought that as well, but I think the Giants just refied, like three months back I think. I recall hearing it in the news, and filling like <₯%£}# they did that just so they could continue to have debt, and tell MLB we cant give SJ away we still have debt.

  28. Why do people keep bringing up the refinancing as a way for the Giants to drag on the payments and tell everyone they still need San Jose?

    If anything, the refinance shows that the Giants are rolling in dough because they plan to use that extra money to redevelop the area south of their stadium. That’s a ‘personal’ decision, not a baseball decision, and should be treated as a risk that a financially stable team can afford. It’s not up to baseball to protect that development, it’s up to the Giants to make sure that their baseball efforts don’t suffer from their extracurricular business.

  29. OT: if you ever want to piss yourself off (or go into deeper depression), read some threads/posts/comments from 1-2 years ago; you know, when this thing was on the front burner and had already dragged on for far too long…
    (someday, someday…)

  30. @LS
    Re: “Why do people keep bringing up the refinancing as a way for the Giants to drag on the payments and tell everyone they still need San Jose?”
    Because it’s probably true, you are correct they would have less debt, but they would still have debt, and there inlays the argument, and we all know the Giants will make any agreement they can to keep the A’s out of San Jose, this is the organization, that was most likely was behind the tabling of an ownership groups vote in the 90’s, that was willing to try to build in Oakland (in the A’s designated territory). I believe the only reason the Giants are ok with the A’s building in Oakland today, is because it’s not San Jose, in my opinion the Giants want the A’s out of the Bay Area altogether, and will stop at nothing to make that happen.

  31. @Lakeshore/Neil – The problem with that excuse is that no one, especially rich people who use money to make money, could possibly believe that the Giants are having a hard time paying off their debt of any amount if they’re developing south of the stadium.

  32. If MLB has to step in, what could they bring to the negotiating table? I think it’s clear what Oakland wants, and it’s not more money in the short-term. They want commitment.

  33. @briggs,
    Oakland wants “commitment?” That was hilarious! The same Oakland that can’t afford shit for the A’s (and possibly the Raiders for that matter)? IMHO, some money is better than no money, so they (Oakland) better be careful on how they handle the A’s lease proposal going forward. Or else the A’s and their revenue/jobs won’t be there next year…

  34. @GoA’s–I agree completely with your value-of-delay theory. The more time the Giants have to adjust to an A’s move, the further they push out the opening of the new park, the better for them. They’re schmoozing with the SV giants these past two years, locking them into long-term lux-box deals, etc. imo. The A’s are playing along because of the CBA/revenue sharing load they face (changing automatically from a receiver to a payor the moment the new ballpark opens). imo.

    Selig is probably telling the truth: He’ll announce the San Jose decision before he departs at the end of next season. The deal’s in place. If mlb doesn’t win the lawsuit in round one, they’ll settle rather than provide discovery. Again, imo. The settlement terms will be essentially those already agreed to.

    I’d say we have a number of parties to blame for the long delay. But the San Jose A’s seem inevitable to me now.

  35. @LS
    I agree with you 100%, sound reasoning. I am just saying the Giants will make any argument they can; it does not have to make sense, for them to argue it. Arguing that a team moving 35 miles away from you, having a devastating final impact on your organization does not make sense either.

  36. @Briggs – The problem is that the JPA is not in a position to demand a long-term commitment from either the A’s or Raiders. They have nothing to offer in the way of present or future facilities. As Tony notes, a hard line stance will only work against them in the long run.

    Again, a little self-examination on the part of the JPA is what is needed. Can they put together deals to keep the A’s and Raiders? If not, be upfront about it. If they can only commit to the Raiders, let the A’s and MLB know that they cannot help in the building of a ballpark in AC. I’m sure they would catch a lot of flack from fans, but it’s better to make the fiscally right decision, than to suffer the consequences – que Mt. Davis.

  37. It was well known San Jose wanted to sue 2-3 years ago but did not because Lew Wolff would not support it.

    San Jose knew they had a good case and had lawyers chomping at the bit to take in pro-bono which tells you something distinct about how strong the case is.

    Wolff, I believe did in fact receive guidelines from MLB about a move to San Jose but they were so unreasonable it pissed him off.

    I believe Wolff went to San Jose with the guidelines “off the record” and told them “I cannot publicly support a lawsuit but if you guys want to go ahead….I will not stand in your way”.

    Wolff knows full well at that point the lawsuit is the only way. Selig is so senile he stated yesterday its been 2-3 years the committee has been at work when if fact it is closing in on 5 years come January 2014….The man is in straight denial and there is no reason to believe he will change his mind before he leaves office.

    When San Jose wins and and is issued standing you will see this lawsuit settled and the A’s will be allowed to move forward ASAP in San Jose. The settlement will cost MLB $$ because of Selig and the Giants.

  38. Sacramento A’s
    Sorry this is off topic. I’ve been reading this site for the past several months now and reading all these arguments for OAK vs SJ. I’m neither pro-Oak or pro-SJ. I just see that a good solution overall is to build a new major league stadium on the current site of Raley Field. Not to expand Raley Field, since it wasn’t designed for that, but to build a new stadium from the ground up. I know Sac has been dismissed years ago, but they succeeded in funding a new stadium for the Kings, so they might be able to do the same for the A’s. The economy there is improving and the demographics would support a team. It’s an 85 mile drive from O.Co, so current A’s fans could still see them on the weekends. Just my two cents here!

  39. @Sid
    “San Jose knew they had a good case and had lawyers chomping at the bit to take in pro-bono which tells you something distinct about how strong the case is”.
    Just because someone takes a case pro-bono, does not mean it’s a slam dunk, in fact some layers do pro-bono cases, just for the publicity, notoriety, or challenge the case may provide.
    Part of me hopes your right, as it may be the only way the A’s can say in the Bay Area, but I think San José’s case is sort of weak, and I remain puzzled as to why they filed it, I felt San Jose was in good position already, it remains the best place economically in the Bay Area for the A’s, and this case does nothing to make that position stronger. I know it may seem like a typical statement from a pro-Oakland guy like me, but I am more pro-A’s then anything ells, and I wish SJ, would not have resorted to this, but you may very well have a good point, perhaps this will be the only way to get MLB to move on the issue of the A’s to SJ.

  40. @Sid, I have been echoing the exact same thing. I’m almost certain more and more of the MLB Lodge are starting to think along the same lines as we have been doing. They may be greedy, but stupid they are not. It’s only a matter of time, with or without Selig, that MLB will come to its senses and approve the A’s move to San Jose. We may even get an assist from the Coliseum when it starts experiencing the side effects from the fully attended post-season games.

  41. @fc – “Again, a little self-examination on the part of the JPA is what is needed. Can they put together deals to keep the A’s and Raiders? If not, be upfront about it. If they can only commit to the Raiders, let the A’s and MLB know that they cannot help in the building of a ballpark in AC. I’m sure they would catch a lot of flack from fans, but it’s better to make the fiscally right decision, than to suffer the consequences – que Mt. Davis.”

    Welcome to politics. Do whatever you can do to not piss your constituents off, even if it means lying to them. Vilify the ownership, attend rallies, hand out signs, photo ops at games. I bet they’re hoping that they can delay the bad news long enough to get through the current election cycle. That and maybe, just maybe, a solution will fall into your lap.

  42. There’s a risky play that SJ could (and should) make: Pull the option for Diridon land. That would scare the sh#$ out of MLB (as well as Wolff) that they then have NO OPTION except Oakland. That would force them to show their cards whether they realistically want SJ or if it is a negotiating ploy with Oakland….

  43. @Anon It sure would nice, to light a fire under someones ass

  44. @ Lakeshore – seriously, the only one that seems to want to do anything this past decade is SJ…. =/

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