When Oakland and Alameda County officials announced they are studying the idea of building a new football stadium next to the Coliseum to house the Raiders and, perhaps the 49ers, a question emerged: How might this affect the A's and their ballpark search? Across the blogosphere, some even asked:
A) Does this mean the city of Oakland is ignoring the A's? and
B) Why is the city buying land near the Coliseum when it hasn't bought land at Jack London Square for an A's ballpark?
The answers: A) No, the city of Oakland is not ignoring the A's. In fact, it's been trying hard to work with the A's on a new Oakland ballpark for the past 15 years. Unfortunately, A's owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher (and Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann before them) have stiff-armed Oakland officials for years due to their wandering eye for the South Bay
Two factors need to be present for the city to proceed on a project like this: 1) A Willing Partner and 2) Alternate Use. The A's owners have not been willing partners at all with Oakland since 1995, when the Haas family sold the A's. A willing partner is important because no city in this current economic climate can afford a massive public subsidy for a new stadium. You need to have a positive relationship and good dialogue with a team so that you can be assured the city's efforts and resources will not be wasted. Meanwhile, alternate use means that if no stadium were to be built on that piece of land, then you can find other development uses for the Redevelopment Agency (RDA) funds a city intends to spend. How do these factors play into the locations for the A's? Let’s look at the Oakland sites to illustrate what I'm talking about.
Willing Partners: Both the Raiders and the 49ers have expressed interest in pursuing a shared stadium in Oakland at the Coliseum site. Raiders executive Amy Trask has enthusiastically praised the Coliseum and the city of Oakland as the best stadium spot in the Bay Area because of its easy auto and public transit access and its central location in the region. In fact, Jed York of the 49ers has shown far more public interest in Oakland than Wolff.
-Alternate Use: The Hegenberger corridor adjacent to the Coliseum has seen several positive developments and new additional business in recent years, including a new Toyota dealership, a shopping plaza featuring Wal-Mart and In-and-Out Burger and an on-again-off-again Airport Connector project. And there are plenty of other plans in the works. Oakland has purchased land around the area for redevelopment. If a stadium plan does not work out, the city would still be holding on to valuable properties that they can use for redevelopment tie-ins for what is already a zone on the verge of blossoming.
JACK LONDON SQUARE
Willing Partners: Lew Wolff's stubborness regarding "being done with Oakland" has been well-documented. Why would Oakland start buying up land when Wolff refuses to do more than meet Mayor Dellums for coffee and tell the mayor "don’t break your pick on this one?"
-Alternate use: As the East Bay Express noted, there are active businesses there. While Oakland has the RDA resources and other locations available for these businesses to relocate, it makes no sense to start that process until some dialogue begins with the A's. Hence, the need to wait for Bud Selig's decision once MLB's committee submits their report
In short, if MLB gives Oakland the sign, and the A's finally come to the negotiating table, then A’s ballpark plans will match the progress the city’s made with the area's football teams. The good news for A's fans is that recent progress made on the football stadium plans illustrates that Oakland has the resources and political will to proceed with such projects, provided some cooperation from the ball club is there.