Carl Steward Backs New Oakland Ballpark
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| By chris_d on Thursday, March 28, 2002 - 10:26 am:|
Oakland needs new park
By Carl Steward
THE 2002 BASEBALL season marks the 35th year the Bay Area will boast two major league teams despite the procession of scholars, savants, skeptics and sorcerers who have yammered throughout that our little megalopolis can't support a double feature.
Unbelievable, huh? For 35 years one or the other of our allegedly fragile franchises has been destined for imminent doom, destruction or departure. In at least a couple of those 35 years, both were on the outs simultaneously. No question, we've tiptoed through some time bombs along the way.
Yet for today, tomorrow and apparently the foreseeable future, we're not only still a two-team market but a damned fine one. Either we were slow to acknowledge prevailing highbrow opinion or we were just plain stubborn or stupid or both.
Good for us. On the 35th anniversary of the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco begrudgingly but civilly sharing the region, it would seem time to bury the tired old hypothesis that we're just not up to it.
For now, the A's and Giants as a tandem are as solid as a stiff gin and tonic. In fact, while Steve Schott and Peter Magowan undoubtedly would rather hemorrhage Susan B. Anthony dollars through their toenails at the notion, you probably could drop the Montreal Expos in the middle of San Jose tomorrow, and we could get along just fine as a grand old trifecta.
As a twosome, the A's and Giants are looking increasingly bullish against their two-team counterparts in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. In drawing a record 5,444,477 fans to their ballparks last year, the A's and Giants combined to outdraw the Dodgers and Angels as well as the Cubs and White Sox, the latter by more than 1.3 mil. They were fewer than
500,000 fans behind the Yankees and Mets, who played each other in the World Series in 2000.
OK, can't continue, right? It's a fluke, an aberration, a burning but brief Bud Selig burp.
No, it won't continue. Long-term stability questions persist, but it actually could get better. Here's why: You could make a strong case that the A's and Giants -- in decidedly different ways -- are model franchises to which all of baseball should aspire.
Both have been in an upward growth curve economically and competitively since they were purchased in 1992 (Giants) and 1995 (A's). Both are fiscally responsible. Both turn profits. Both entertain legitimately high postseason hopes again this season.
Both have defied conventional thinking and succeeded against long odds. The Giants built a beautiful ballpark in one of the world's most expensive and land-scarce cities, and they did it almost entirely with private financing. During the off-season, they re-signed baseball's reigning best slugger, Barry Bonds, following a historic season.
The A's, meanwhile, have built a competitive franchise on a stringent budget through intensive scouting, commitment to the farm system and the astounding wheeling-and-dealing of general manager Billy Beane. Despite free-agent losses, including star Jason Giambi, they are pitching-rich and secure through at least 2004 in terms of contracts with several key players.
OK, neither club is perfect. The Giants still yearn for the ultimate prize, a World Series trophy, after 45 years in San Francisco without winning one. They're running out of time with an aging team and a farm system that lacks imminent replenishment.
As for Oakland, it needs to build a ballpark to help ensure its long-term future in the region. It's going to be a challenge, too. The ballpark layout and its location will be the easy part. Who pays for it will be the frustrating conundrum, and whatever financing plan is adopted -- if any -- will require an ultra-high level of creativity and cooperation.
If Oakland and Alameda County expect A's ownership to build as the Giants did -- completely on their own -- it's probably not going to happen. It needs to be a joint project, because as the Pacific Bell Park project has demonstrated, the city's downtown area could benefit beyond current comprehension. Hence, financial obligation must be shared.
Need proof? Look at south of Market in San Francisco today compared to what it was just three or four years ago. What once was a dark, dead, decayed area positively bristles with activity, excitement and entrepreneurial riches today, and it's still growing. To be frank, the Giants should be owed something for revitalizing an entire large section of the city. But of course, they'll never see anything remotely close to what they're due.
It can and must be accomplished more equitably in Oakland. Sharing the obligation will be tough, but it's the key to getting it done ... and everyone will share in the reward. After a period of mutual discord and disenchantment between A's ownership and city/county officials, progress is being made to that end. It's just dialogue at this point, but it's dialogue that was virtually nonexistent a year ago.
In short, things are looking up. If Oakland and the A's can get a ballpark project seriously under way in the next two years, the Bay Area can get on with another 35 years giving noogies to two-team market naysayers.
The very fact that we've made it this far, though, is worth some pause for applause.
Carl Steward can be reached at (510) 293-2451 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
| By bubba69 on Thursday, March 28, 2002 - 12:13 pm:|
That was good write!
| By eyleenn on Thursday, March 28, 2002 - 09:57 pm:|
"After a period of mutual discord and disenchantment between A's ownership and city/county officials, progress is being made to that end. It's just dialogue at this point, but it's dialogue that was virtually nonexistent a year ago."
I'd like to think that the OAFC has made a little bit of a contribution to that dialogue. Good for us!
Chris, you didn't pay Steward to write that column, did you? :-)