On Nov. 7, Dave Newhouse penned a column in which he candidly called Lew Wolff a liar. Just two days later, Wolff gave an interview and promptly proved Newhouse right. There are several outright lies and factual inaccuracies that Wolff told in his Nov. 9 interview with Athletics Nation.
Let's just dive right in and list them. Wolff said:
"No public money"
Wolff keeps saying that he'll ask a city to spend "no public money" and that a new A's ballpark will be "privately financed." But he's just playing with semantics. What Wolff really means is he won't use a city's general fund. But, he definitely plans to take a city's other sources of tax revenue, including redevelopment agency money. If Wolff really doesn't plan to use any public funds, then why are the financial woes of the San Jose Redevelopment Agency threatening to torpedo Wolff's ballpark deal, as the San Jose Mercury News reported? "Privately financed" should mean that millions of dollars of a city's money won't come into play, but Wolff is trying to have it both ways here. Instead, he's banking on San Jose's Redevelopment Agency to purchase land parcels for him and then to give that valuable land to him for free. As an alternative to that, he's also proposing that San Jose city officials sell the city's precious remaining land parcels in order to pay for HIS ballclub's stadium deal. Does that sound like "privately financed" to you? Nah, we don't think so, either.
"We explored every possible opportunity to remain in Oakland … then and only then did we alter our focus to Fremont."
This is Wolff's biggest lie and his most oft-repeated one. But in fact, Wolff's one and only attempt at an Oakland site was his impossibly complex plan north of the Oakland Coliseum in August 2005, which called for buying out and moving dozens and dozens of East Oakland business owners. If Wolff was sincere about that plan, then why did he spend just as much time chatting with Fremont officials about their proposal at that public Oakland meeting than he did with Oakland officials? Read this excerpt from a 2006 East Bay Express story:
According to a column by Mark Purdy in the San Jose Mercury News, Wolff was introduced to Cisco CEO John Chambers in the fall of 2005 by former A's co-owner Ken Hofmann. Wolff and Chambers quickly began discussing a deal for the 143-acre Cisco-Catellus property, to which Cisco still held the rights.
Yep, you read that right. The article says that Wolff was in talks with Fremont and Cisco in the FALL OF 2005 (emphasis mine) — that's just weeks after Wolff first proposed his hopelessly complex East Oakland plan. Then, he said that the East Oakland plan "must" include a new BART station, a requirement he never demanded from Fremont or San Jose. Also, when former Oakland Councilman Dick Spees offered to head a business-booster committee to help Wolff build community support for his East Oakland plan, Wolff stiff-armed Spees and said he didn’t need any help. Hmmmm. Lastly, look at this Wolff quote from 1998 — yes, from 12 years ago:
If I was going to pursue a ballpark, I would certainly do it in San Jose, not depend on a vote outside of San Jose, and I would work through the mayor and the Redevelopment Agency. It's the difference between a big-league city and a nonbig-league city. I wouldn't spend five minutes on any other city besides San Jose.
Given all of this, do you still believe Wolff made an "exhaustive" effort in Oakland? We sure don't.
"When I arrived in Oakland ... the number one location for the new ballpark was … the 'uptown site' ... which was designated for residential ... thus the best opportunity was not available to us or the Hofmann-Schott ownership."
Also not true, Lew. The Uptown site was on the table for the A's throughout part of 2001 and nearly all of 2002. Unfortunately, the A's showed zero public support for the Uptown site. A's co-owner Steve Schott and team president Mike Crowley appeared at City Council meetings in Santa Clara in 2001 to publicly ask Santa Clara officials about moving the A's there. But neither Schott nor Crowley — or any A's employee, for that matter — ever appeared at an Oakland City Council meeting for the Uptown site. Even when Oakland leaders invited HOK Architects and ballpark consultant Rick Horrow to a City Council meeting in 2002, Schott and the A's were a total no-show. If the A's had shown even the slightest interest in the Uptown site, they might already be playing there at 20th St. and Telegraph Ave., right next to the Fox Theater, for decades to come. Just weeks after that public city meeting, which included a standing-room-only crowd of A's fans, Schott told the S.F. Chronicle that he still wanted to move to the A's to the South Bay and then he insulted Oakland officials by saying "they're 0 for 2" on stadium construction. With Uptown still on the table at that point, Schott didn't do anything to go after it. His apathy is right there in this Chronicle article.
“Every redevelopment agency, every city is having financial trouble.”
A classic Lew Wolff double-standard. A few years ago Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums approached Wolff, offering help on a new Oakland ballpark, Wolff shrugged him off and said that Oakland "has other priorities" besides baseball. But when other cities he wants to move to have similar financial problems, suddenly it’s no big deal for Wolff.
“And we are, I believe, the only team in baseball to share our ballpark with another professional sports team.”
Not true, Lew. The Miami Dolphins and the Florida Marlins currently share Sun Life Stadium (formerly Joe Robbie Stadium and Pro Player Park). The Marlins are slated to move into a park in two years, so for the next 24 months, Lew, you remain wildly inaccurate.
We could go on and dissect other Wolff inaccuracies, but we’ll stop here for now. We'll get to them later in the week. As for now, we can’t wait to read Part II of the interview.