06 November 2005

San Jose's Chicken-and-Egg Problem

The Merc's Barry Witt describes the problem facing San Jose: How exactly does it go about attracting the A's when the team hasn't wavered in it's position that it's not looking in San Jose? Witt lays out two options:
  • San Jose puts out a speculative ballpark plan based on the idea that a "Yes" vote will prove appealing to the A's - The egg.
  • San Jose waits for the all efforts in Oakland to be exhausted, which will force the A's to look south, preferably to San Jose - The chicken.
There are obvious problems with both strategies. No ballpark has been built on a speculative basis since the Florida Suncoast Dome in St. Petersburg, which waited eight years until it finally became the home of a MLB franchise. The first option above does not call for a ballpark to be built, only a plan. With today's skyrocketing costs, no public entity could actually build a new ballpark without it team; it would be tantamount to political suicide. Still, putting together a plan isn't too costly, and since San Jose has a fallback plan with the site land, the risk isn't too high. If approved, the next plan could set the bar high for any competing cities and give San Jose a leg up on them - territorial rights not withstanding.

The second strategy is the least risky, since it delays any action until it is abundantly clear that the A's have no future in Oakland. However, it puts San Jose on equal footing with other cities should the A's express interest in leaving, which would turn the pursuit of the A's into a bidding war. It is important to note that the A's have expressed the idea that if efforts in Oakland run their course without a suitable solution, they will first turn to greater Alameda County, which would presumably put Fremont in an enviable position. Fremont's strategy would no doubt be to position itself as the gateway to Silicon Valley's corporate customer base, while remaining beyond the reach of the Giants' territorial rights. Fremont may also have a large amount of land on which a ballpark could be built, though no site is without its issues (Warm Springs is still mostly owned by NUMMI, and Pacific Commons is not near BART). Portland, Las Vegas, and perhaps Sacramento could also get into the mix. Each of the three have distinct advantages and disadvantages.

The City Council will vote on Tuesday to approve the purchase of the Stephens Meat plant and a feasibility study to be undertaken by leading sports architecture firm HOK Sport + Venue + Event. HOK is no stranger to this type of study, since it did the same for Oakland in 2001, to no avail.