De la Fuente & Brunner speak
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| By chris_d on Monday, November 17, 2003 - 01:40 pm:|
Brown urged to step up to the plate
Role of mayor critical in garnering favor with city to develop new A's stadium
By Paul T. Rosynsky and Robert Gammon, STAFF WRITERS
OAKLAND -- Stopping the Oakland A's from leaving town may come down to whether Mayor Jerry Brown makes building a new ballpark a priority during his final three years in office, top city leaders said Friday.
Without Brown's strong support, any effort by the city to develop a plan for a new stadium will lack the foundation necessary to win the A's backing, they said.
And because the A's new point man on venue development has close ties to San Jose, building a solid proposal is essential for Oakland to keep the team, leaders and sports marketing experts said.
"The role of the mayor is critical for the A's to stay in Oakland," said Councilmember Jane Brunner. "It looks to me that if Oakland wants to keep (the A's), Oakland would have to come to the plate."
But Brown has expressed minimal interest in professional sports during his five-year tenure as mayor. An example of that was Brown's public dismissal of an idea by former City Manager Robert Bobb to build a baseball park in downtown Oakland.
In fact, many said, it was Bobb's adamant support of the plan that in part led to Brown's decision to oust the city manager. It was a dismissal that has now left Oakland without a point person of its own to work with the A's on a new stadium deal, said Councilmember Larry Reid.
"Mr. Bobb was the largest champion for the Oakland A's, but he and Mayor Brown had some disagreements about it, so Robert is no longer here," Reid said. "Whether or not other folks on the council ... and certainly the mayor, will now stand up, is unknown." For the second consecutive day Brown did not return phone calls seeking comment on the A's hiring of Lewis Wolff, a prominent luxury hotel and real estate developer, who will lead the team's effort for a new ballpark. For now, Wolff is vice president of venue development, but he is also negotiating to buy an interest in the ball club.
Despite the city's current lack of leadership on the issue, Wolff continued to insist Friday that Oakland is the organization's top choice for a new stadium.
Wolff said the team's first talks would be with Oakland, and he denied his longtime relationships with San Jose officials and the properties he owns in that city give it an advantage.
"Right now, our focus really is what the team needs financially, and how we might be able to do that in Oakland," he said.
He said his first step will be to determine how much the team can spend on a new facility while also maintaining a profit and increasing the payroll for players.
The next step, he said, would be to identify private funding sources. Then he said the team will look for the best location for a new stadium and what Oakland or other Bay Area cities may have to offer.
Sports marketing experts, however, said the team will go wherever it can get the best deal.
"Who is going to give them the best deal ... that is going to be the deal breaker," said Dennis Howard, a professor at University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. "I'm sure there may be some loyalty to the Oakland market, but ultimately they are going to look at who gives them the best deal."
City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, who also chairs the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, said the city has a lot to offer the A's and is ready to begin discussions whenever the team step forward.
"The problem has always been that the A's themselves, with all due respect, have not made public any decision on whether they want to be here, there or anywhere," De La Fuente said. "When the A's are ready, we will be ready."
But De La Fuente said he will not be ready to see the city fully fund a stadium or compete financially with other cities to host the team.
"Let me be absolutely clear, we are not going to get into a bidding war with San Jose or anybody," he said. "And if keeping them means that the city has to put up $300 million, my answer is no."