Oakland Tribune article on A's taking lead on ballpark
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| By ramjet1 on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 09:16 am:|
A's to spearhead park plans
Future owner acknowledges public funds scarce, tells local leaders he'll lead stadium drive
By Paul T. Rosynsky, STAFF WRITER
OAKLAND — Incoming Oakland Athletics owner Lewis Wolff said Thursday he will take full control over the planning for a new city ballpark, increasing the prospect that the project may be financed mostly with private money.
In a move lauded by local leaders, Wolff said the team understands the financial struggles of local governments, which is why his ownership group will pursue ballpark construction with that in mind.
"Since we need the venue, we are the ones planning it," Wolff said in an interview. "That does not mean we will not ask for assistance ... but we understand the priorities and the resources available. There are a lot of higher priorities for them than the venue."
Wolff's request to take control of the ballpark building process and his acknowledgment that public funding will be hard to secure comes just as the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority votes today to transfer its lease with the club to Wolff from current owners Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann.
It also comes about a month after Wolff introduced himself to the public and was greeted with a host of proposals and offers of help from current and former politicians.
While thanking both Oakland and Alameda County leaders for "the interest," Wolff said "it has become clear to me that the venue element of our activities must be the responsibility of our ownership and organization."
The letter was sent to the authority's chairman, Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, and vice chairwoman, Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele.
"I'm hoping that it is a sign that the stadium might be a private venture," Steele said. "I am not saying that there is nothing they will ask for, but it shows that they are trying to do this, at least the beginning, by themselves."
With the team willing to take a leading role in the planning process, any pressure placed on local politicians to get the deal done should subside.
It will no longer be up to the city and county to find someone to draft a plan, scout for potential investors or take a stand on whether a new ballpark is good for the community.
As a result, the ballpark issue may be removed from a bevy of election races taking place next year, including one for Oakland mayor.
"At least this way, they are really the accountable party," said De La Fuente, who is running for mayor. "It is the best way to go."
Wolff said he decided to take control of the process after he was "inundated with calls and meeting requests" regarding the team's quest for a new stadium.
Suspecting the same has occurred to local politicians, Wolff said he realized the only way to streamline the process was to take control of it.
"It is a highly visible thing, and we wanted to make sure that we focus," he said. "We don't want to run off in 22 different directions."
Wolff also singled out former Oakland City Councilmember Dick Spees for his "willingness to assist us," but said the team wants to do the work itself.
However, he wrote, "We plan to avail ourselves of their good offices as needed."
Spees has formed a group of Oakland businessmen who had hoped to help the Coliseum Authority come up with a financing plan for a new stadium.
"I think it is terrific," Spees said. "The A's want to take a lead and find a solution."
De La Fuente said he agrees with Wolff that leaving the planning in the public sector could have resulted in myriad plans and infighting.
Having Wolff and his partners take control also increases the chances that the ballpark will be built as part of a larger development, he said.
"What is clear, for them and for us, is the only way that a stadium could be built is if it is part of a massive development," De La Fuente said. "They know it ... and the only way that this could be coordinated is by them."
Wolff refused Thursday to discuss specifics.
He would not say whether he is planning a larger development or whether the team is willing to pour more of its own money into the project.
A report written by Wolff in 2003 for the outgoing ownership group said the team is willing to contribute $100 million toward a
$400 million ballpark in the Coliseum parking lot.
Wolff, however, said his group, which includes Donald Fisher, son of Gap founder John Fisher, continues to focus on Oakland for a new stadium and said the Coliseum parking lot remains the top choice for location.
Although the ownership would entertain proposals for other city locations, Wolff said "we don't want to start running around on sites that we can't get to for 10 years."
| By eyleenn on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 10:14 am:|
ramjet, what do you think about this? I suppose removing the politicians from the process is a good thing, but I'm suspicious of keeping the process completely in the private sector.
| By tekgraf on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 11:32 am:|
eyleen: Not me. I think the private sector, if anything, will get this project on the ball. How many times have we seen government put something together only to screw it up. No, I think this is a good thing. Wolff knows many people who are willing to invest. And with plenty of land in that area I would bet that part of the ball park will include a new shopping arcade and hotel. With these two projects included with the ball park construction, you know they'll make a fortune. And you, me and everyone here will enjoy the A's, and whatever new shopping oppurtunities are built near-by. I think this is going to work out for all of us.
| By simplefan on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 12:49 pm:|
Shopping opportunities are already being built. When the season opens most of you will enjoy your Starbuck's coffee, In and Out Burger, Shopping at Walmart, ETC.
Ok.. Wallymart or In and Out may not be open by opening day, but the work is happening and things are changing!
There are hotels near by that will reap the rewards from a new ballpark. Just think, the Airport Hilton will most likely renovate to accomodate!
Tek, I agree with your statement on the private sector moving this forward!
| By deajay on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 01:41 pm:|
I also look at Fisher (Gap owner) as a positive, since he does represent the Bay Area. It will be interesting to see the % of ownership between the group's individuals. Though Wolff's son has also emerged as one of the owners.
I think this is a step in the right direction, as long as the concentration is on Oakland, which it seems to be. Also, Wolff seems to like the parking site. Even so, DeLaFuente, et al need to keep a very close watch on the process/progress, IMO.
| By bfriend on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 02:17 pm:|
Walmart AND In and Out Burgers? Now I know Giambi is kicking himself for not staying!
| By eyleenn on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 02:36 pm:|
Good chuckle, bfriend.
I agree that the private sector is less likely to get bogged down in red tape and bureaucracy. I guess I'm just suspicious about this whole process and don't want to get my hopes up.
| By simplefan on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 03:09 pm:|
LOL @ Bfriend.. just think when he comes to visit.. Giambi Sightings @ In n Out!!!
| By ramjet1 on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 03:13 pm:|
Eyleen that's my sentiments the less we have to involve elected officials and the taxpayers the better and quicker we'll get results. The flip side is there is no public disclousure on the financing end, but if they are not using public funds why should there be? I have guarded optimism towards this latest development.
| By mroakland on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 08:50 pm:|
Hopefully Wolf is sincere about taking charge of this project. I think the private sector is begining to understand the great potential the city of Oakland offers.
Oaklanders have been extremely generous in approving various bond measures which will greatly improve the already fine city of Oakland.
Lake Merritt is about to undergo a 200 million dollar make over due to measure DD. The Oakland Zoo, The Oakland Museum, and the Chabot Science & Space Center are all being improved because of Oaklanders generosity and pride for their city.
Also, Jack London Square is undergoing a 300 million dollar investment from the private sector. Thousands of housing units are under construction in downtown and Jack London Square. Oakland is turning into a great city,
Think about it, Oakland currently has a better Zoo, a better Space & Science Center, a better Museum of California than San Francisco.
It's time the city of Oakland begin dealing with this ballpark issue from a position of strenght. Tell these guys, we're a great city, with a great climate, located in the geographic center of the Bay Area. Take it or leave it!
| By oakland_j on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 10:28 pm:|
When I read this article this morning, I thought it was an unusual statement for a mlb owner to make. The cynic in me thinks he may be trying to suppress the momentum of the ballpark group, although I hope that is not the case.
| By rono on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 11:24 pm:|
I am surprised that Wolff would even bother to make this statement. It would be easier to sit back for a year and say the city and county didn't do a good job so he is leaving. I think Fisher is the key here. Does anybody know anything about them other than they own the GAP. Could they be another Haas family? Maybe Steve Wynn's comments have killed the Las Vegas notion.
| By oaktownfan on Saturday, March 12, 2005 - 11:24 am:|
mroakland, I completly agree with you. Oakland will be a much improved place the next few decades.
You mentioned the Lake Merritt, JLS, and other improvements being made. Don't forget the uptown area and the Oak to 9th redevelopmenet.
Oakland hopefully soon gets a new mayor that pays more about the city of Oakland instead of his next office seat in the California state government. It'd be nice to have a mayor who was born here and takes pride in the city.
Oaklanders have taxed themsevles or passed bonds to improve the city's image and inner structure. From the visual improvement of the Measure DD to the school/police taxes they approved a while ago. That's why I honestly think if you gave them a proposal to help pass a tax on hotel/alcohol/cigarettes, I think it could pass.
Show them models of a new park and the what it could do to the surrounding area and how much positive feedback it would get from both inside and outside of the city and hopefully they would see that funding a new park with such taxes would be well worth it if they could get a new park like SBC which would help the city and improve the image the city nationally.
| By deajay on Saturday, March 12, 2005 - 04:05 pm:|
rono, see my thread on "third richest team in baseball". Fisher is worth $1.5bil, making him the third wealthiest owner in baseball. It is speculated he might own 75% of the team.
Sorry, didn't write down the url, but from an article on sfgate.
| By eyleenn on Saturday, March 12, 2005 - 06:51 pm:|
Here's the link, also posted on another thread:
| By kevink on Monday, March 14, 2005 - 01:06 am:|
So who's going to open up that first Oakland A's theme sports bar next to In N Out Burger???
| By orangeman on Monday, March 14, 2005 - 05:50 am:|
Hey, maybe I'll have to shop more at Banana Republic, to help the A's new owner!
| By rono on Sunday, March 20, 2005 - 08:30 pm:|
Another thread mentions that the city has a year to come up with a stadium. I don't think a private deal will take longer. We need to see the big pieces together by next March. There will need to be some public assistance or acquiesence just to get this thing built in a reasonable time frame. This issue should be addressed in this forum at least weekly. Our forum leaders , I hope,are in touch with the powers in charge to see if things are moving along. If they don't , then the other issues in the forum are meaningless.
Rono, I guess you missed the part a couple of weeks ago where Wolff sent a message to city leaders, i.e. Dick Spees, saying "thanks, but no thanks" and to their community effort to gather momentum for the ballpark effort.
As far as I know, Wolff was the one who stalled the process and there is not much the community can do to move things along when the owners of the team say they are not in any hurry to get things done.
We as fans and as a group can only try to stay informed to make sure the powers to be know and feel we will stay vigilant and ready to come into action as a united voice in support of keeping our team where it belongs.