11 August 2005

CoCo Times: A preview of the Friday meeting

More details are leaking out about the nature of the presentation that Wolff will give to the JPA tomorrow.
The project would reportedly involve up to 90 acres of industrial land between 66th Avenue and High Street, and will be pitched as one requiring no up-front investment of public funds from a community still reeling from sour deals with professional sports teams, including the disastrous 1995 pact that returned the Raiders to Oakland.
These officials say they have not been told about project costs or other specifics related to Wolff's plan, including the exact site eyed for a ballpark. One official said it is assumed the project would include the former drive-in property, because it consists of about 20 acres of open land and is only blocks down Coliseum Way from the existing stadium.
It'll be interesting to see how expansive the plan really is. If it ends up being 90 acres, then it would come all the way down from the Drive-In/Swap Meet to 66th Ave. The bigger the size of the project, the greater the possibilities. There's certainly an opportunity for the creation of an "Athletics Village" or "A's Town" (someone else has already copyrighted the term "Athletics Nation") with the ballpark as the anchor for a large swath of development. Could it cause an influx of A's fans moving into the area, with residents eating, sleeping, and living baseball all year long? Statues of Billy Beane, Sandy Alderson, Wally Haas, Dave Stewart, and Rickey Henderson lining the streets? A Ricky's location just outside the ballpark? Bruce Bochte running a marine educational center/museum down the street? MC Hammer preaching at a church inside the village? Well, maybe not. It certainly would be a bold step, and if successful, would go a long way towards countering that California and Bay Area fans are fairweather or bandwagonesque.

It's good for A's fans to dream and hope about such things, but those hopes should be tempered with the fact that big urban renewal projects often have to get scaled back for any number of reasons: investor willingness, feasibility, government cooperation.

Trib: Details, please

In an editorial, the Trib implores Wolff to publicize the ballpark plans and stop teasing everyone with little details:
If Wolff has something specific in mind, this would be a good time to throw out the old trial balloon. The A's are the hottest team in baseball right now and could be in first place by this weekend after dwelling near the cellar a good part of the early season. Fans are streaming to the stadium, bringing with them converts from the other side of the Bay who could be hooked for good by a combination of consistent winning ball and the promise of a cozy ballpark.
While putting out information while the team is winning is no guarantee of widespread approval, it can't hurt. It's hard to conceive of a situation that's better suited, especially with the Giants' current plight.

Ratto: The A's can do better

The Chron's Ray Ratto weighs in with his opinion of the latest ballpark site:
Anyway, when you get right down to it, the A's aren't being held down by their ballpark much at all. Fact is (and who doesn't enjoy a good fact now and then?), they're probably better off staying where they are than sinking nine figures into a site that makes sense only to the editors of Redeveloped Flea Market Quarterly.
Thus, the idea behind putting the ballpark further away from a BART stop, between two freeway off-ramps, and with a lovely view of San Leandro Boulevard seems odd, and bordering on the downright misguided.
Once Friday's presentation is made and the subsequent press conference is held, it should get the public debate going. Some questions to consider:
  • Are the existing owners of the targeted properties willing to play ball (read: sell and relocate)?
  • If not, what measures will the JPA/City of Oakland explore to make this get done (read: eminent domain)?
  • What options are available to bridge the 1.2 mile gap between the Drive-In/Swap Meet and the Coliseum BART station? Shuttles? Trolleys? Another BART station?
  • Why would the JPA be involved if the site under consideration is not under JPA control?
  • There are large trucking/warehousing companies along Coliseum Way. How would they react to a mixed-use development next door, especially one that could significantly alter the existing street grid?
  • How are the existing train tracks going to be negotiated? Pedestrian or vehicle bridges? Gates at crossings?
  • Is this the best site? The easiest to acquire? The best compromise among all factors? Are other sites under consideration?