Dave Newhouse: Oakland gets back on track...
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Oakland gets back on track talkin' baseball
AT TUESDAY'S Oakland City Council meeting, Dick Spees didn't have Ignacio De La Fuente in a half nelson, Robert Bobb didn't lower the pile driver on Danny Wan, and Jane Brunner didn't lay a full-body slam on Jerry Brown.
Amazingly, there was no eye-gouging, hair-pulling or name-calling. What a change from the past steel cage matches involving council members over the Oakland A's and their future in politically combative Oaktown.
Two weeks ago, few could have predicted that the council still would be talking about an A's lease extension, which must happen before a ballpark can be built in Oakland.
That's what the council decided Tuesday to do -- talk -- when De La Fuente had the votes to kill lease negotiations right then. Perhaps the argumentative De La Fuente had a happy meal before the meeting, because he backed off and allowed the lease discussions to continue.
Thus it's now looking as if the A's current lease at Network Associates Coliseum, which ends in 2004, could be extended until 2007.
At least, there's a new conciliatory air that wasn't there before.
"I'm optimistic," A's president Mike Crowley said Wednesday. "I don't think I could have said that 12 months ago."
Or 12 days ago. Scott Haggerty, president of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, worked out a lease extension with the A's that both he and Crowley felt was "a good deal." But local politicians were irate that Haggerty acted on his own, and they leveled him, and the deal, with the force of a Hulk Hogan iron leg drop.
Even after all that, the extension talks are alive. To all those critics who say the A's are gone and the ballpark is dead, don't be so sure.
"From my standpoint, the lines of communication are better than they've been since I came (to the A's) in 1997," said Crowley. "I don't think any of us will hesitate to pick up the phone and make a call, whether it's positive, negative, whatever."
When local politicos toured other major league retro ballparks this spring, according to Crowley, they called the A's on what to look for, and the A's advised them.
"Let's see if it can be massaged," an open-minded Crowley said of the killed Hag- gerty lease deal. That's a better alternative than De La Fuente hitting Steve Schott over the head with a folding chair. Or vice-versa.
The council's principal gripe against a longer lease is that the A's have played rent-free at The Net since 1997 and now are offering to pay only $450,000 per year with a new agreement. The council feels that's too low.
"It's difficult to compare our lease to other ballparks," Crowley pointed out. "It's different from other parks. We pay all the electrical, janitorial, grounds keeping. You have to look at all the components and the age of the stadium."
But at least the A's, the city and county are talking, and that improves the odds of a lease extension. And if that lease is agreed upon, what then are the odds of an downtown ballpark occurring?
To Roger Noll and other economists who fix a Rock-like glare to such a notion, David J. Fike would like to get them in a reverse leg hold.
Fike, an academician at Holy Names College in Oakland, is an economist specializing in capital markets and urban economic development. Strictly on his own as a "diehard baseball fan," he looked into the pluses and minuses of a downtown ballpark. Here are his conclusions, which he sent off to Oakland City Manager Robert Bobb:
A new ballpark in Oakland has the potential to bring significant economic benefit to the city, but only if it's part of a larger plan for the economic revitalization of the area immediately surrounding the ballpark.
Out of all the sites for a new ballpark currently under consideration, only the uptown site has the ability to stimulate the type of ancillary development that would warrant the city participating in the project.
A new ballpark has the ability to attract significant numbers of visitors to the downtown area and, at the same time, to alter dramatically the perceptions about the area held by private developers and lenders.
"Done correctly," Fike said Wednesday of a downtown ballpark, "it can not only work economically, but it can excite the imagination."
So hold off, mayor, on that downtown housing project. Better yet, give it the ol' flying tackle.
Dave Newhouse can be reached at (510) 208-6466 or by e-mail at
| By eyleenn on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 10:16 am:|
Lil, as I mentioned to you, David Fike is my neighbor. I'm going to try to get in touch with him.
He was on both ballpark tours and collected a lot of information and data from the other cities with new ballparks.
He is the one who will give the presentation of the ballpark tours reports on June 11th at City Hall.
Mark down these very important dates on your calender and start making arrangements to free up some time:
June 11 - City Council Meeting - Lease Extension and ballpark tours debreafing presentation by David Fike
June 20 - HOK Master Plan Presentation to JPA
June 28 - Baseball Symposium (day one)
June 29 - Baseball Symposium (day two)
July 23 - Council Meeting and vote on the ballpark Master Plan and Housing Delelopment.
This is just a preliminary reminder for the purpose of planning and reserving some time on our schedules.
We will be promoting and giving times, more info on locations and on all of the above meetings etc...
WE NEED TO REPRESENT!!!!! ON ALL THE DATES!!!!
| By eyleenn on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 11:18 am:|
Lil, do you have more info on the Baseball Symposium? That's the weekend of the series against the Midgets.
I don't know who will be coming for the Symposium but I do know that there will be consultants, economists, politicians and business people who have participated in the other cities' ballpark projects. I remember Dick Spees invited a Mayor and one Senator from one of the cities to come give their testimony of how the process worked on their city. As we get more info we can post here.
I sure hope the Mayor sticks around and doesn't decide to take a trip to the Himalayas that weekend.
| By linusalf on Friday, May 31, 2002 - 12:12 pm:|
What is the HOK master plan?? Is that where they show off the desings???? Pleeese i hope it is. I want to know what this park might look like so the politicions can see what can be accomplished in oakland.
I'm not sure, but guess they might be showing the entire plan for the 20th and Telegraph area.
After all, the Board of Supervisors, Alameda County and JPA voted and approved the researching for the viable sites and HOK is doing what they asked for...
My guess it will be the final report, including the financing options and costs.