Wolff suggests MLB will help subsidize Oakland ballpark

Tyler Clippard did better as A’s closer than I expected, possibly faint praise in light of the pitiful nature of the rest of the bullpen. After Clippard was traded to the Mets for potential back-of-the-rotation starter Casey Meisner, Billy Beane was asked about the team’s strategy and philosophy. Inevitably the discussion turned to his thoughts on a future ballpark (h/t BANG’s John Hickey), whenever the hell that’s gonna happen.

“It seems the environment maybe is right. It’s not my department… I don’t want to be Pollyannaish. I’m hopeful that something or some progress will be made. It will make it easier to plan from a baseball operations standpoint. If you had a ballpark (in the works), this would probably be the proper approach.”

Beane has echoed similar thoughts before, as the A’s were pushing for ballparks in both Fremont and San Jose. It would be completely acceptable for Billy to be gun-shy considering the failures of the past. Yet Beane seemed practically optimistic, despite there being no specific date to break ground, let alone open a new park.

Backing that optimism was Wolff, who took the notion of an Oakland ballpark further, admitting that he’s – get this – talking it over with Rob Manfred.

Wolff did say that new commissioner Rob Manfred was fully behind the A’s getting a new venue as soon as possible. And the A’s owner said Major League Baseball would likely kick in some money to help the A’s get a stadium done at the Oakland site, public money not being available.

That’s about as big of news as we’ve heard all year on the ballpark front. A private subsidy – that’s what we’re talking about here – is exactly what the A’s will need to make a ballpark in Oakland… wait for it… feasible. Oakland has a hearty albeit small fanbase, and it lacks San Francisco’s or San Jose’s corporate wealth. Money from MLB, which would really be paid by the richer clubs, is the stable revenue stream that the A’s need to stay in Oakland. And since it doesn’t come from Oakland or Alameda taxpayers, it’s politically above board.

The easiest path to that money is MLB to continue to keep the A’s on revenue sharing, which I suggested a week ago. While it doesn’t fulfill the goal of getting the A’s off the dole, it solves the Lodge’s problem of figuring out what to do with the A’s without fighting over territorial rights. Enshrined in the current CBA is language specific to the A’s:

Beginning with (but not before) their first full season of operation in a new stadium, the Oakland Athletics shall be subject to the same-percentage revenue sharing disqualification that applies to other market-disqualified Clubs in the given Revenue Sharing Year.

Those “market-disqualified Clubs” are the top 15 markets (teams) in MLB. The bottom 15 are fully eligible for revenue sharing. As long as the A’s stay in the Coliseum, they straddle that line between the two. The owners and Bud Selig probably thought that the A’s stadium mess would’ve been resolved by the end of the CBA, that’s why the language is in there. Instead, Selig’s successor, Manfred, and those same owners now have the choice of resolving the A’s problem by allowing the A’s to stay on revenue sharing. It’s a compromise plan to be sure, one the owners always had in their back pocket.

Revenue sharing is designed to help the have-nots with player development, not for stadium development. That’s an issue that would have to be worked out internally. I would expect that, as with the current CBA, the A’s place within the revenue sharing recipients pool will have another sunset clause, one that’s perhaps 10 years down the road.

There is an alternative to revenue sharing in the form of MLB’s credit facility, which allows up to $100 million per team for reasons outside of normal baseball operations. Eventually that may be the better way to handle the situation. Use of the credit facility would be more like the NFL’s G-3/G-4 program, in that a loan would be taken out against future TV revenues. It’s a smaller subsidy, but if the ballpark costs a reasonable amount ($600 million), it could be enough to cover those years when stadium revenues are running a little dry.

If you were looking for a sign that Wolff and John Fisher are serious about building in Oakland, this is it, short of a plan unveiling. It shows that ownership is serious, MLB is serious, and Oakland is the main focus. At the same time, there is still the saga of Coliseum City to deal with. Nate Miley suggested today that nothing was happening as far as alternative proposals until Coliseum City ends, so we can look forward to that at some point, maybe in the coming weeks. Until then, this is progress.

52 thoughts on “Wolff suggests MLB will help subsidize Oakland ballpark

  1. but but but wolff hates oakland right?

    • @ letsgoas
      Not that I think Wolff hates Oakland, but in all fairness he can hate or dislike it, but if MLB is willing to give him an unparalleled deal to keep him in Oakland (out of San Jose), then he can hate (again not that I think he personally dose) it, and still size the opportunity.
      It’s a reasonable assumption that Wolff doesn’t care for Oakland from a baseball standpoint, I think he has made that painfully obvious, and while many Oakland-Only people will vilify Wolff no matter what he does, it’s fairly safe to say Wolff won’t be doing anything in Oakland out of the goodness of his heart, not that I think he has an obligation to do so, but if he ever builds in Oakland that won’t prove that he loves or hates it. Most likely it will prove (if anything), that MLB was willing to do enough to cause Wolff to be willing to build in Oakland, which of course willingness is neither love or hate.

  2. Wow, this news has the potential to be substantive. We have been staying for so long now (many of the comments here, and the author of this blog), that MLB would have to do their part if a new ballpark in Oakland would have the chance to ever materialize, it seems like they may be willing.

  3. big question is whether wolff has already had some company do any plans and or drawing of any new potential park to be built at the current coliseum location.

    i’m still not in love with the site of a new a’s park built next door to the coliseum as i really wanted any new a’s park to be built in an urban area where you have restaurants and bars nearby across the street from the park but at this point i’m just want a new damn park for the a’s in the bay area wherever it is.

    • That’s not a question. HOK has been studying the Coliseum at Wolff’s request since last year. Of course they have plans. Can’t release them until the Coliseum City business is through.

  4. so instead of a park built in a highly density area like what we see with

    cleveland’s progressive field

    frisco’s at&t park

    san diego’s petto park

    a’s if they build at the coliseum will follow the same paths as other new parks that are basically build in the middle of open space like

    philly’s citizen’s bank park

    mets’ citi field

    milwaukee’s miller park

    not like there’s anything wrong with parks built in open space but i think it would’ve been great for a a’s park to be have been built near an urban area where it would be a huge benefit for the local area in terms of businesses. i don’t know how a park built near door to the current coliseum will help the city in that kind of fashion.

    • The Coliseum *is* in an urban area (mixed use commercial/residential)… just not an ‘upscale’ one.

    • If memory serves, both Citi and CBP are adjacent to the sites of the prior multipurpose stadia they were built to replace. Not surprising to see the same thing happen at the Coliseum.

      • While not necessarily adjacent, I think this is fairly common for most new stadiums in that they’ve been built in about the same area as the old.

        This is just off the top Just as an example the below new downtownish stadiums are right next to their old sites:

        Safeco Field
        PNC Park
        Great America Ball Park
        New Busch Stadium
        Comerica Park

        Not factoring in expansion teams, the Giants and the Padres are the only two teams I can think of that had an existing stadium and built a new stadium in a more downtown/urban location. You could potentially argue this even in the case of the Giants as when the stadium was being built it was by no means central and was more or less built in an industrial wasteland.

        I think what this shows is that it’s tough to build a stadium in a downtown site if one doesn’t already exist. Stadiums need a decent chunk of land and a lot of infrastructure. Most downtown areas are already fairly filled in so this is tough to do unless things are already in place to support them.

  5. Only fair. If MLB wants the A’s in Oakland, where there is no public money and not enough private money, then Big $$ MLB should be prepared to write checks to make it happen. FWIW, we know MLB would get a shellacking PR-wise if it moved the A’s out of struggling Oakland. So it looks like MLB may not play the “pay up or we move the team” game in this instance.

    • Of course, all bets off if Oakland decides to give the site to the Raiders. You’re on the clock, Oakland.

    • I seriously don’t think very many people outside of Oakland could care any less about where the A’s play. I also think very few people IN Oakland really care where they play. No shellacking on the horizon.

  6. And this begins MLB’s “panic mode” in light of the pending SCOTUS conference on the San Jose suit…

  7. If Oakland was really interested in the economic benefits of having a ballpark built in or near the downtown area, they would have to kick in a sizable part of the funding. The public funding portion would be necessary to make up for the much higher costs in building such a facility in or near the downtown core. As is in the case, Oakland is unwilling to fund anything directly for a new ballpark, other than maybe towards some infrastructural improvements surrounding the new facility. The bottom line is that building a ballpark in the open area of the Coliseum site would be significantly less costly to do than anyplace else within Oakland. Without public funding, it limits new ballpark locale options within Oakland to only the Coliseum site.

    • So Oakland should forgo a possible downtown location where things are really buzzing because of cost? There really wouldn’t be businesses like we have in the world today with this kind of apprehension. What’s the worst that could happen? Sell the team for a, um, measly profit?

      I, myself, had to take a chance at my career knowing the initial monetary outlay was significant to achieve the ultimate in returns later on. I’m quite sure I am not the only poster here who had to take a chance in life. C’mon now.

      Or, just play it safe and build at the Coli site with all kinds of extensive parking options and revenue sharing guaranteed? Wow, I am thinking that someone would take a chance to build a kick ass park in a place where things are heating up quickly.

      I think some vision is needed just a bit. Because this situation is what it is. Make do with what you have and friggin prosper. Not too difficult to conceptualize.

      • MLB formed a “blue ribbon committee” that deliberated for years, looking for an acceptable downtown site in Oakland. It couldn’t find one. \MLB is begrudgingly accepting the Coliseum site – a big parking lot in a drab industrial area – because that’s the only site that is remotely feasible. It wants downtown or waterfront sites and nothing workable like that could be found in Oakland.

    • They can kick in a sizeable funding and without a doubt reap the benefits a DTown ballpark would create in the DTown area. The City should buy out a sizable portion of land near Lake Merrit and the BART area and build restaurants , lounges and bars around a potential ballpark and it would revitalize that section of DTown. Funny how places like San Diego were able to do that for Pads and the southeast corner of DTown SD and is now thriving.

  8. I wish Manfred would have mentioned the Howard Terminal site, if for no other reason then just to make peoples’ heads explode.

    • Howard Terminal is DOA. Not going to happen. There are folks who still want to steer the A’s over to it so the Raiders can have the Coliseum site. But the Day of Reckoning is coming: Raiders or A’s – which is it going to be? (I’m seeing more resignation in the media lately that a new Raiders stadium is not going to happen in Oakland.)

      • Howard Terminal is allegedly DOA become some people with agendas want it to be. Fact of the matter is JLS/Howard Terminal is a hidden treasure for a ballpark.

  9. Or they could just declare the market size of the A’s and Giants to be based on the counties they have territorial control over instead of the full market. That should be enough to stick the A’s into the havenots that they’re being forced into while keeping the Giants in the haves.

    • The simple solution: Open Santa Clara County, and the threat to MLB’s ATE goes away, and then Oakland and San Jose can compete for the A’s on a level playing field.

      MLB has to be concerned that SCOTUS will take the SJ case…guess we will know on 9/28!

      MLB may give the A’s $100M plus long term revenue sharing to build in a parking lot away from an urban center, but won’t let them go to a brand new downtown stadium in the 10th largest and richest city in the country with no MLB subsidy or revenue sharing! Amazing!

      • KA–agree with your solution but my sense is that the cost to buy off the gints is much greater than the cost to help build in Oakland by continuing revenue sharing. Absent a favorable decision by the SC I think a renovated ballpark in Oakland is Option A unless MLB continues revenue sharing going forward and allows the A’s to use it to subsidize a new ballpark.

      • @KA, Couldn’t have stated the case for the A’s to San Jose any better. MLB looks awfully foolish!

      • Just out of curiosity, what if MLB simply said, “Nahhhh, we made a mistake, Giants. It’s better for MLB as a whole if we rescinded your territorial rights. Fight it out, SJ and Oakland!” Other than the Giants being FURIOUS, what could they do?

      • @ Mark
        In the past there were rumors that the Giants would take MLB/A’s to court, although MLB has a standing policy that one team can’t take another to court. I guess the Giants would just bypass that and do it anyway; I really don’t see how the Giants would be successful even if they did try to do that.
        I think the Giants have convinced other key large market teams that their issue with the A’s is simply about the encroachment of territory, rather than the unequal distribution of those territories, which is what it’s truly about.
        That’s why this issue is bigger then just the San Francisco Giants, it’s about the present and future (fear), territories of both New York and LA teams, as well as lager single market teams like Philadelphia, Boston, and perhaps the Dallas metro in the future.
        In spite of the fact that the Bay Area is clearly an unequally divided market, and viewed distinctively different than any other two teams market in MLB, the Giants have clearly won the framing of the augment among enough owners.
        In a league that has valued having everyone on board before moving forward, that’s huge because it could mean they will not move forward if only a hand full of teams are not happy about this, and not simply be satisfied with a three quarters vote.

      • @LSN: Your comment is likely accurate that there may a handful of MLB owners that support the Giants, however, most MLB owners evidently support the A’s move. Although no other MLB owners have publicly supported the Giants, several have supported the A’s. Even the MLB commissioners office (under Manfred) wonders how the Giants believe they will lose fans if the A’s move 40 miles further from SF.

      • No guarantee the cheap azz Fisher and Wolff would spend and keep good talent here even if they were to get a new ballpark here in Oakland due to the revenue sharing crutch excuse. Heck….even in an alleged “bigger market” in SJ the cheap Fisher and Wolff may still not spend the money. They need to sell make their money and get out…end this torturous charade. Sell to owners like Lacob/Burbank, Knauss or Ellison who will want to build a waterfront ballpark at JLS/Howard Terminal and then start to spend the money they make on keeping good players on the team and building around their core.


      • Yup and we know the MLB blue ribbon committee was an utter sham and a complete and utter farce!

  10. @ pjk – then move somewhere. Take your millions and “explore” other cities since SJ is off the table for the time being. Oakland is starting to thrive and if LW wants no part of it then leave.

  11. What I haven’t read anywhere, is if a new stadium in Oakland that’s not in a cool place (like HT) would really help the A’s be competitive and retain players. Look at San Diego and they’re in a desirable area.

    • Wolff’s comments show that MLB acknowledges the fact that in Oakland the A’s are not a big market team. A new stadium in Oakland doesn’t solve all of their problems, just like new stadiums for the Padres, Pirates, Brewers, etc didn’t solve all of their problems. Baseball is still the have’s and the have nots and MLB is acknowledging that Oakland is a have not.

      A new stadium does however help with players. Granted they haven’t done a lot of this, but the A’s have tried to sign big name free agents. It was a while ago but they tried to sign Beltre and he turned them down primarily because he didn’t want to play in the Coliseum and that was pre-sewage fiasco.

  12. 200M subsidy is what it would take here, not 100M, that would only make a solid dent for infrastructure improvements and tear down. Wolff would still need to fork over 400M or so for the stadium itself.

    Also the other big issue is are the A’s on the hook for the 200M? In the NFL teams pay it back over time, is this what MLB is pondering?

    The the problem is even with a new Oakland stadium the revenue sharing problem is not solved.

    You cannot ask Wolff to pay back a loan when he is getting $$ from the same people on revenue sharing…..it defeats the purpose.

    If anything, since this will be privately funded stadium if MLB says OK we will make sure you make X amount of money each year on Y amount of revenue or based on percentages of both then I am sure Lew Wolff is all “ears”.

    In that case, Wolff has a revenue/profit guarantee each year for staying in less than a ideal location in his market that doesn’t maximize his franchise’s value…..even in a new Oakland stadium.

    In this case, the extra $$$ from revenue sharing would be used to pay for debt service on the stadium. Right now the A’s get what? 40M-50M on revenue sharing?

    Debt Service alone will be another 40M-50M a year meaning 100M a year from MLB to appease the Giants??

    This makes zero damn sense, why would MLB protect the Giants like this? Why would the other owners agree to increase the A’s share of revenue sharing on this level to help them build a new stadium?

    SCOTUS is breathing down MLB’s necks, and Manfred knows it. So he is talking to Wolff now about the Coliseum site assuming the Raiders leave after 2015…..It is the only explanation.

    If the Raiders stay or SCOTUS rules in favor of hearing the case it is over and MLB knows it….the clock is ticking.

    • “are the A’s on the hook for the 200M?”

      You mean the ±$200M Lew Wolff offered to cover months ago?

    • I agree about your comment about the other owners. I don’t understand why the other owners in MLB aren’t pissed over this.

      There is an easy solution that allows the A’s to be self-sufficient, get a new stadium, expand MLB’s overall market and allow the A’s to get off of the revenue sharing list? The cost of this, is that the Giants might be a little less profitable. They’re already one of the most profitable MLB teams as is.

      I would get the concern of the other owners if this was a case of a team completely moving areas. This is a unique situation however so the general territorial concerns shouldn’t apply.

      This should be viewed as a subsidy for the Giants.

  13. Manfred’s effort to keep the A’s in Oakland does not please the Giants either. He evidently is not in cahoots with Baer, as some Giants fans have suggested.

    • Lemme see, the likely A’s fan response to the gnats being displeased:

      “I’m sorry can’t you play without overwhelming advantages? Wait, no, I don’t care. Sukkit.”

  14. The story keeps changing. Last week, it was modifying the existing Coliseum. Now, it’s building on another spot at the Coliseum property while staying in the current building until the new ballpark is done. Just get it done already. Hopefully, today’s NFL meeting with Oakland will speed up the process of the Raiders leaving. http://www.csnbayarea.com/athletics/wolff-would-build-ballpark-different-coliseum-site. Apparently, Lew does not see ATT Park as a temporary venue, even though Baer once offered it for that purpose.

    • Thanks for posting the link. I think the most encouraging line is the following:

      “Wolff said there’s been productive dialogue with both Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf and Alameda County Board of Supervisors President Scott Haggerty regarding an A’s ballpark, saying talks have been “more frequent and more outreaching.””

      I know there have been a lot of arguments about the New City ENA being open, but I think this really calls out the reason as to what the intent was. It was a CYA move on the part of the city to allow for these type of discussions without New City suing. It wasn’t intended as a way to get a formal proposal from Wolff of Davis while the ENA was in place.

      In terms of using AT&T, I think Wolff has been pretty consistent on this. Even when Baer said the Giants would be open to it as a temporary home of the A’s were building a new ball park in Alameda or Contra Costa County, Wolff said that the A’s would prefer to build a temporary home elsewhere.

    • That was my prediction – that the A’s would continue playing at the Coliseum – while building a new stadium at the site. They have no plans of temporarily playing at AT&T park. Also the suggestion of the A’s playing at phonebook park was a threat made by Selig -because ex Oakland Quan was giving the A’s the business during the A’s lease extension, Baer didn’t offer it, and the A’s never have expressed interest in it.

  15. so the county wants out of the coliseum now. Does that just make NFL even more skeptical anything gets done in Oakland on Raiders this year? This is the final straw right?

    • Actually getting the Raider hater Miley and the County out of the way may make it easier for Oakland to keep the Raiders. Than A’s either go to JLS/Howard Terminal or San Jose. If none happens …than Fisher and Wolff should sell and get their profit and get out and sell to an owner who wants to build and take advantage of a waterfront ballpark at JLS/Howard Terminal.

      • do you have hundreds of millions of dollars to donate to a HT ballpark?

        Or are you just ignorant about the problems with building a ballpark there?

  16. Once again Marine Layer you show your delusional support to the cheap Fisher and Wolff and their atrocious business model.

    Here is a good article for you and other Fisher and Wolff fans should take in:

    A’s deserve better than ownership’s penurious disgrace – SFGate

    via ble.ac/teamstream-

    I agree with the write by Jenkins except for the part that Fisher and Wolff deserve a new ballpark. No….they actually don’t. Especially when they won’t put the money back into keeping good talent here on the A’s.

  17. Thank you Miley….for suggesting and wanting the County to be bought out. It’ll be good to get you out of the sports business. Hope this makes it easier for Raiders and the City to negotiate in good faith and fairness when it comes to a new stadium. Meanwhile, cheap azz Fisher and Wolff need to still sell and take their asinine business model in which they are ruining the A’s with them!


  18. Man, I love it when, amongst many other hollow arguments, people complain about Wolff/Fisher being cheap and the Raiders are only willing to cover ~half the cost of a stadium that won’t even be big enough to host a Super Bowl (and this is assuming they can even qualify for the G4 program).

  19. The way Mark Davis avoids scrutiny when he is working with the Chargers to build a stadium in Los Angeles is just beyond me. But Wolff signs a 10-year lease, when Davis will barely sign one, and Wolff is the bad guy? By the way, what’s to negotiate? The Raiders want money, the city has none. Aren’t they and the county still paying more than $100 million on seats that Davis now tarps? Maybe they could have used that money.
    A’s been to the playoffs eight of the last 15 years selling $9 tickets with 8,000 a night. The fact they make the playoffs at all in a sport where there is no salary cap is beyond remarkable. Their owners aren’t threatening to go across the state, the Raiders are.

    • Wolff committed the unpardonable sin – he wanted to move 30 miles away to – Gasp!! – San Jose. Davis gets a free pass on looking at San Antonio and LA while refusing to even consider Levi’s, which keeps him well within driving distance of the current Bay Area Raiders fan base, but he is a good guy because he supposedly wants to stay in Oakland. Yes, he’ll stay if someone else pays for the stadium. There’s a ready-made brand new stadium for him in Santa Clara but he would rather move to LA than use it. Don’t be surprised if the league approves the Rams and Chargers to LA and points the Raiders at Levi’s, anyway.

    • I honestly think the difference here is that Wolff and Fisher are successful rich businessmen and Davis is not.

      This allows people to say that Wolff is rich and only cares about money, but Davis actually cares about Oakland and football. It doesn’t mean it’s true and all evidence about Mark Davis points to the contrary, but facts and logic don’t always win out.

      • Two things can be true at the same time.
        One of the differences could also be that Davis honestly wants to stay, not that him wanting to do so (if true) in and of its self will make it happen, but he comes off as someone how actually wants to.
        Where Wolff comes off as someone that is only considering Oakland, because he has one hand tied behind his back by MLB.
        What a minute, Wolff is only considering Oakland because the has one hand tied behind his back by MLB???

  20. How about across 880 with the views of the estuary. Entertainment and condos can be built. The coliseum site can be a business park with luxury hotels. Keep some space for parking, build a over pass directly over 880 to get to the ball park. What do you guys think?

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