Purdy: A little clarity in Oakland stadium saga
The article is here.By Mark Purdy
Mercury News Columnist
Posted: 07/10/2014 06:19:56 PM PDT1 Comment | Updated: 3 days ago
Bob Melvin, who manages the Oakland A's, is a tactful and intelligent fellow. He puts out small ego fires daily. He juggles the quirky personalities of two dozen major league baseball players.
So I figured he would make the perfect diplomat.
"During next week's All-Star break," I asked him this week, "would you think about getting involved with the Oakland city council and their Coliseum lease negotiations?"
Melvin grinned slightly. I think he also suppressed a shudder.
"I just try to stay in my lane," Melvin said. "I do follow the story. But I have enough trouble doing my own job. So I stay in my lane. I appreciate the question, though."
Drat. Another path to global peace, thwarted.
"Chaos continues in A's ballpark situation." That's pretty much a consistent headline. Even so, this week, you would have to say the insanity reached new heights.
Thanks to the work of this newspaper's Matthew Artz, we have discovered that the Oakland city council is either clueless or delusional or both.
That's because, according to our reports, the council was negotiating with the Raiders on a stadium deal that would require demolition of the current Coliseum in two years . . . which would effectively sabotage the 10-year lease extension for the A's that was approved last week by several members of the exact same city council.
After this fact was reported, Oakland mayor Jean Quan stepped in to say that no, despite everything, all was well. Quan says the city council should vote to approve the A's lease because it can definitely find a way to keep the Raiders and A's both happy and . . . well, I think she threw in a promise of free unicorn rides for all East Bay residents, too.
Here's the odd thing, though. Amidst all this madness over the past few weeks, public documents and statements have helped us learn some important stuff. In small steps, we are reaching some form of clarity about several matters, following years of speculation and blather.
We have always known that the Raiders want to build a stadium on the same footprint as the current O.co Coliseum. What we didn't know was that the Raiders and the private development group working on the "Coliseum City" mixed-use project there wanted to demolish the existing stadium in the next three or four years, to get the project under way. Of course, we still don't know where the money is really coming from to do any of that. Remember, the city and county still owe $180 million on the 1995 Raiders' remodel.
We have always known the A's want, ahem, flexibility in their relationship with Joint Powers Authority that runs the Coliseum. But the exact terms of the new lease -- which was approved by the JPA but still needs city council approval -- spell out just how amazingly flexible the A's situation is. While the new lease technically is a 10-year "deal," it allows the A's to opt out with minimal financial penalties after 2018 -- or even 2017, if the Raiders decide to tear down the stadium and put a $10 million deposit on that tear-down by next year.
We have always wondered why the Coliseum property couldn't support two stadiums. But it turns out that there's no realistic way to finance and build both Raiders and A's venues on the 120-acre site, even if Oracle Arena goes away after the Warriors leave -- and even if you include the two big parking lots north and south of the stadium. One problem is that so many utility lines and major sewer lines run through the site that would cost a fortune to relocate. A bigger reason is that two stadiums would simply take up too much of that property -- which must be developed into those mixed-use buildings to help pay for any new stadium or stadiums.
Any thought that the downtown Howard Terminal site in Oakland would be feasible as a ballpark location for the A's was squashed when Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement that rejected the idea. Oakland is finally beginning to realize something that San Jose learned long ago. The cities don't get to decide their ballpark futures. Major League Baseball is in charge.
And speaking of San Jose, the city is still in play as a future home for the A's, although there are way too many moving parts to figure out percentages or possibilities. Besides the Oakland situation, those moving parts include San Jose's ongoing antitrust lawsuit (which has an August hearing in federal district court) and the identity of MLB's new commissioner (after Selig retires this winter) as well as the identity of San Jose's new mayor (after this fall's election between Sam Liccardo and Dave Cortese).
Meanwhile, in another weird twist, the most relaxed and comfortable human being amidst all this turmoil is none other than A's co-owner Lew Wolff. He shot down any of the wild threats spouted by Oakland council member Larry Reid that the team might be moving to San Antonio or Montreal ("I've never explored any of those places," Wolff said) and seems content to let the East Bay politicos decide his fate.
Wolff has not revealed his ultimate strategy. But here's a good guess: He is gambling that all of the Raiders stuff will fall apart, as will the "Coliseum City" plan. When that occurs, Wolff will be ready with his own proposal to Oakland and Alameda County: If the public bodies agree to pay off that $140 million in stadium debt and give Wolff the entire 120 acres of Coliseum property to develop profitably, the franchise will construct a new ballpark.
And if Oakland gives the Raiders preference to the Coliseum site instead? Or rejects Wolff's idea? Or finds another way to screw up things? Then he turns to the new MLB commissioner and demands to either share AT&T Park with the Giants or finally receive approval for a San Jose move.
That is, unless Bob Melvin works out a better solution.