Monday, May 17, 2010

Wolff/Fisher to Blame for A's Attendance

We've said it before and we'll say it again. The A's owners are to blame for game attendance woes. Also, the city of Oakland for the past 15 years has tried time and again to reach out to A's owners to work with them on building a new Oakland ballpark. And time and again, A's owners like Steve Schott and now Lew Wolff have stiff-armed city officials and all but refused to work with Oakland's leaders.

In the past months, Wolff and co-owner John Fisher have been trying to craft a phony narrative in the press to shift blame on Oakland and A's fans for the team's game attendance. Again, this is false. If you want the facts, please check out this list of Oakland’s repeated efforts of trying to please A’s owners since 1995.

1995 - Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann buy the A’s from Walter Haas Sr. and, almost immediately, they renegotiate their lease of Oakland, Alameda County and the Oakland Coliseum due to changes made to the stadium for the returning Oakland Raiders. Oakland and county officials try to please the new owners by agreeing to pay $11 million to Schott and Hofmann, and up to $20 million in baseball-related stadium improvements over the life of the lease. (Chronicle 7/22/95)

1996 – San Francisco voters approve a measure for the Giants to build a new ballpark along the waterfront. It was San Francisco’s third time on the ballot to build a Giants ballpark. In 2010, A’s owners still have not given Oakland a real chance.

1998 - Schott and Hoffman put the team up for sale. The Oakland city council and Alameda County officials start working with Schott and Hoffman and MLB to choose a suitable buyer.

1999 - Oakland/Alameda County officials spend much of 1999 working with A’s owners and the office of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig on finding a new local owner for the A’s. Oakland officials select a group led by ex-A’s marketing guru Andy Dolich and produce store magnate Robert Piccinini. In September 1999, Mayor Jerry Brown and other city officials fly to Cooperstown, N.Y., to support the local ownership group that would keep the team in Oakland. Instead of finalizing the deal, the MLB owners tabled the vote and made no decision. Needless to say, Oakland officials were surprised and disappointed and A’s fans were furious. After getting nowhere for a few months after that, Dolich and Piccinini finally gave up and the ownership group dissolved. And:

2001 - After Steve Schott attends a Santa Clara City Council meeting saying he wants to move the A’s there, Oakland and Alameda County officials respond again that they want to work with the A’s on building a new ballpark in Oakland. Schott does not publicly respond. (S.F. Chronicle, 3/22/01)

2001 – A report that Schott and Hofmann are on the verge of selling the A’s to a Hollywood producers with Las Vegas ties shocks Oakland city officials like City Manager Robert Bobb, who had met with A’s owners just a week before about extending their Oakland lease. (S.F. Chronicle, 8/1/01)

2001 – City Manager Robert Bobb hires HOK Architects to study ballpark sites in Oakland and other parts of the East Bay with the goal of keeping the A’s in Oakland.

2002 - Robert Bobb tries to interest the A’s in the Uptown site, located in downtown Oakland. A’s owners Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann never publicly support the site and never show up at an Oakland City Council meeting. Since then, A’s owners and officials have appeared at city council meetings in Santa Clara, Fremont and San Jose in support of ballpark plans in those cities.

2002 - A’s fans held a rally outside Oakland City Hall before a City Council meeting where HOK Architects gave a presentation on ballpark sites. No one from the A’s front office attends either the rally or the meeting.

2005 - Ex-Oakland Councilman Dick Spees approaches Lew Wolff and offers to lead a booster group comprised of Oakland business leaders to help get a ballpark built in Oakland. Wolff rejects Spees’ efforts, telling him that he wants to do it alone. (Oakland Tribune 2/7/05)

2005 - Oakland Councilmen Larry Reid and Ignacio De La Fuente react favorably and enthusiastically to Lew Wolff’s presentation to redevelop hundreds of acres near the Oakland Coliseum. Yet, according to later news reports, Wolff almost immediately started negotiating with the city of Fremont for a ballpark in Fremont.

2006 - Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums meets with Lew Wolff to discuss keeping the A’s in Oakland. Wolff also rebuffs Dellums, telling him that he is focusing on Fremont and that Dellums shouldn’t “break his pick on this one.”

March 2009 - After the Fremont ballpark plan falls apart, Dellums again reaches out to Wolff. But Wolff again rejects Dellums and makes it clear that the A’s now want to move to San Jose. Dellums and Oakland City Council President Jane Brunner respond by sending a letter to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, as does U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, who is an Oakland resident.

December 2009 - Oakland announces two new proposed ballpark sites (and an additional site that was previously examined) near the Jack London Square waterfront.

April 2010 - Oakland City Council President Jane Brunner and Let’s Go Oakland leader Doug Boxer release an economic report touting the benefits that a new Jack London Square ballpark would have on Oakland. Brunner and Boxer also hold a public meeting at an Oakland school to discuss and promote the proposed Jack London Square ballpark sites.

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