21 June 2005

The Trib is uneasy

Reflecting some fans' growing sense of unease about the Wolff's stadium efforts, the Oakland Tribune printed a new op-ed piece wondering if Wolff is really serious about keeping the A's in Oakland.

There is a question of whether this "paranoia" (their term, not mine) is grounded in reality. Frankly, a little "skepticism" (my term, not theirs) is healthy, since it tends to lead to a more realistic view of the situation. Unfortunately, there are some issues that can't be avoided, and they are contributing to this unease:

  • Oakland is running out of sites. Counting Wolff's dismissal of the Coliseum south lot, there are now only two sites left from the original seven in the HOK study. Those are the Oak-to-9th site (issues detailed in last night's post), and perhaps Fremont (which has had no public discussion recently).
  • Sites along BART corridors are disappearing quickly, as large mixed-use transit village developments are being constructed and planned near existing BART stations.
  • The sites that have been discussed have high acquisition and remediation (cleanup) costs associated with them, which can drive up the cost of a ballpark tens of millions of dollars.
  • There has been little discussion of the financing issue, which promises to be the most divisive and difficult of all.
  • There has been no effort to raise awareness among the voting public. The closed manner in which Wolff and his development team is proceeding is partly to blame for this.
  • Mayoral support is non-existent.

Wolff still has several months left to complete his local search, after which he'll make some sort of announcement. I personally feel that it is still possible to get some sort of plan moving forward, but the A's really need to involve the public more - and that doesn't just mean politicians, I'm talking citizens and fans.

There are, of course, the inevitable questions that I get daily about the A's moving to Vegas. Las Vegas has plenty of issues of its own, with the small TV market, the casino industry's influence (they aren't willing to take MLB games off the wagering boards, and they are opposed to a publicly-financed ballpark), and the lack of a good tentative ballpark situation (Cashman Field only holds 9,300 people and is not a good expansion candidate). Portland? Maybe, if they can get the financing details right (I have doubts about Portland's ability to contain costs, and the mayor is anti-ballpark).