Finger pointing fallout stemms from A's silence
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Thursday, July 25, 2002 - 3:06:28 AM MST
A's roasted for absence at City Council
Team pins blame on Oakland
By Robert Gammon,STAFF WRITER
OAKLAND -- It was the Oakland A's silence when it mattered most that helped seal the City Council's decision to eliminate the best stadium site in the East Bay, ballpark supporters inside City Hall said Wednesday.
"It would have gone a long way (Tuesday) night for the A's to come before the council and express some urgency," said City Manager Robert Bobb, one of the primary backers of a new ballpark for the A's on the so-called uptown site. "We were waiting for that magical signal from the A's that 'Yes, we want to be in downtown and at that particular site.'"
Councilmembers Dick Spees, Jane Brunner and Larry Reid -- who had all voted previously to keep the ballpark plan alive for uptown -- cited the A's glaring absence from the meeting as a major reason why they joined the council majority late Tuesday night to support a housing project deal in uptown.
But A's President Mike Crowley shifted the blame Wednesday right back onto the city.
The team, he said, was not going to publicly back a downtown stadium proposal before it had a chance to analyze a city-sponsored plan for how the ballpark would be financed.
"It was our understanding there was a financing plan and both sides were going to sit down and see if it made sense -- that hasn't happened yet," Crowley said. "The financing is the critical component. It's the first question everybody asks, 'How are we going to pay for that?'"
Wednesday's finger pointing
from both sides illustrates the myriad flaws behind the ill-fated downtown ballpark proposal and the web of challenges proponents face if it is to be resurrected in the future.
To spring back to life, the downtown ballpark plan must first survive the near death-blow delivered by the City Council on Tuesday night. The council voted unanimously to enter into an exclusive 12-month negotiating agreement for a large housing development in uptown between 18th and 20th streets, rejecting an alternative plan to keep the ballpark proposal on the table.
The council's decision brought an end to a one-sided process that began last August when the downtown-ballpark plan first started gathering momentum.
During the ensuing 11 months, Bobb and other city leaders commissioned site studies, assembled plans for a ballpark-entertainment district in uptown and visited other cities with downtown stadiums.
Throughout, however, the A's stood on the sidelines, expressing support for the fledgling stadium effort but not actually taking part.
"The city has done a great job, spending money, doing reports, going on ballpark tours, funding plans. We have gone the extra miles," Brunner said Wednesday. "At some point the A's have to decide whether they really want (a stadium) and where they want it."
The downtown ballpark proposal also came up short because stadium proponents failed to get the backing of Mayor Jerry Brown and City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente.
The mayor and the City Council president pushed hard for the housing project and capitalized on the A's apparent ambivalence, saying it was proof the stadium plan was just a pipe dream.
Crowley responded Wednesday that while the A's are disappointed in the council's decision to go with the housing deal, the team does not believe it spells the end for a new ballpark in the East Bay.
"It's a shame that site might not be available, but there are other sites and maybe some sites that we're not aware of yet," he said.
Crowley also downplayed concerns that a possible players' strike this year has affected the team's desire for a new ballpark, although he acknowledged that "the labor situation is on everybody's mind."
When asked why the A's have not put together their own stadium financing plan, Crowley said the team believes it wouldn't make sense until it learns how much public funds would be involved and where the money would come from.
Bobb said the financing plan his staff forged in recent weeks was still being reviewed by outside consultants. City staffers, meanwhile, have expressed similar frustrations to the A's, only they want to know how much money the A's will spend.
The result is a stalemate. Ballpark supporters know it will be a tough sell to convince voters to spend hundreds of millions of public dollars on a ballpark. Two recent polls, one by the city and one by The Oakland Tribune, both revealed that fewer than half of city and county residents surveyed support the idea of a publicly-funded stadium.
Some city officials, meanwhile, also are scratching their heads over the team's previous statements that it didn't want to talk about ballpark plans until it received a lease extension. Those officials note the A's did nothing to try and derail the uptown housing project in the weeks after the team got its five-year lease deal.
As a result, some inside City Hall are now wondering whether the team was ever interested in a new ballpark or whether the lease extension was a stepping stone to another goal.
Having a five-year lease adds value to the team, thereby upping the amount of money A's owners would receive if they were to sell the franchise. The lease also comes with a buy-out clause that would allow new owners to move the A's elsewhere.
But Crowley said Wednesday the A's owners have no plans to sell the team or leave. "We're committed to the area," he said, "and we're committed to putting a good team on the field."
| By bubba69 on Thursday, July 25, 2002 - 09:13 am:|
This such BS. They could go in mass to the Santa Clara meeting which was about the same thing as The Oakland meeting. There was no Money talked about in the SC meeting and I have the agenda(autographed by Steve Schott) to prove it!
What would it have hurt to say we are interested...thats all...there is no commitment in that...just show some damn interest!
| By eyleenn on Thursday, July 25, 2002 - 09:40 am:|
I could just scream.
"As a result, some inside City Hall are now wondering whether the team was ever interested in a new ballpark or whether the lease extension was a stepping stone to another goal."
Inquiring minds want to know.
Bubba, you are so right. At the Santa Clara meetings, there was no financial package and there was just a picture of a parking lot where the team might be built in the middle of a bunch of freeways. Yet, they even came up with a statement they were willing to put in 80 million in payments in the form of rent. All because it was Schott's pipe dream and hometown boy obsession.
And the Mayor of Santa Clara was right there on their face telling them there would be no public funds for the ballpark unless it would go to a vote.
In Oakland they had a bunch of people, officials and consultants, spending money and time, working on plans and bending themselves backwards to make things work and the A's kept playing hard to get and turning up their noses.
It is very simple. Give and take the A's would have had to come up with 150 million and the rest would have had to come from naming rights/user/sin/visitor taxes and redevelopemnt.
You don't have to be a detective, an economist nor an accountant to see that the A's must know that very well and are just not interested in spending that kind of money right now...or ever...
at least not in Oakland.
I say...you want a ballpark Mr. Schott? Then you have to spend and if you don't want to spend, then sell to who is willing to spend or be quiet.
Put up or shut up!
I'd like to point a "finger" at the A's ownership/managment....