I'm in favor of building a new A's ballpark in Oakland for a lot of reasons. A new ballpark will help economically redevelop the Oakland waterfront and ensure that the A's stay in the great city of Oakland -- a nice reward for loyal East Bay fans who've had to deal with owner-fueled uncertainty and threats to move for the past 15 years. And A's fans would passionately fill a new Oakland stadium if owners committed to staying put.
However, I'm not of the opinion that a new stadium by itself will make the A’s a better team or more competitive over the long term. A lot of fans and pundits claim that the A's need to move into a new stadium as soon as possible, no matter where it's located, so the A's can start competing with the big boys. Unfortunately for them, this is a myth. There is just no evidence to support this and anyone who is proposing that is misinformed or simply posturing.
Case in point: Look around MLB and see what has happened with teams that had new stadiums built in the past 20 years. Large crowds for the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians in the 1990s still didn't allow those proud franchises to keep many of their free agents. Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez led the Indians to the 1997 World Series. When they became free agents, did the success of Cleveland's new Jacobs Field keep them? Nope. They were gone. Thome to the Phillies, and Ramirez to Boston. Likewise, Mike Mussina was a star Orioles pitcher who played in front of packed houses when Baltimore's Camden Yards routinely drew more than 3 million fans per year. When Mussina became a free agent, he stayed with the O's, right? Wrong. Mussina instead signed with the New York Yankees, who always pull in the most TV money, thanks to the Big Apple's lucrative TV market. It got even worse for Indians and Orioles fans. Recently, both teams have had losing records with attendances in the bottom half of MLB.
There are plenty of other examples. Seattle, Texas and Arizona -- all of whom built new ballparks in the '90s -- have had similar ups and downs at the box office. While Detroit and Milwaukee have had some recent success, each of them sputtered for a few years beforehand. In Detroit’s case, the Tigers drew only 1.3 million fans a mere three years after their new stadium was built. Likewise, the Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres have yet to see any sort of sustained success after moving into new digs.
I believe only two things are certain regarding the A's situation: 1) Owners will make millions of dollars no matter where the new park is located. 2) However, an Oakland stadium would be successful because I believe A's fans all over Northern California are most excited to support a ballpark built at Oakland's Jack London Square waterfront over any other location. What's less certain is whether or not the current A's owners would be willing to spend this new revenue stream on keeping their players. If Mussina, Thome and Manny couldn't be kept at their successful new parks, and if Safeco Field didn't allow Seattle to keep Griffey Jr. and A-Rod, then there are no guarantees anywhere, no matter how popular the stadium.
A myth, regardless of how many times it's repeated, is still a myth.