02 July 2006

Purdy puts Wolff at top of power player list

The Merc's newest edition of their "Bay Area's Most Powerful Sports Figures" is due, and columnist Mark Purdy has placed Lew Wolff at the very top. That's not surprising. Wolff currently controls the fates of two sports franchises - the A's and the future Quakes - and his deals may indirectly affect revenues for all other major pro sports teams in the region due to club/suite and ad revenues.

While A's ownership including Wolff (and family, I'm sure), President Michael Crowley, and GM Billy Beane have been living it up in Germany recently while attending the World Cup. Undoubtedly, they've gotten pointers looking at new and refurbished stadia, many of which hold a baseball-friendly capacity of 40,000. Before soccer fans get their hopes up, costs will prohibit a European-style fully-enclosed, mostly roofed stadium from being constructed here (unless someone other than the A's is willing to foot the bill). In the meantime, putting out a shingle for an Earthquakes office and retail store could help salve the wound created when the team Mayflowered its way to Houston.

Purdy takes a position that is a definite shift from what he has argued in the past. Instead of pitching Fremont as a diversionary tactic while the A's deal with San Jose, Fremont is meriting real consideration. As the greatest media flagwaver for the San Jose effort, this is almost downright earthshattering.

Back to the list. Bay Area sports history has had a huge range of personalities and styles among its power brokers, whether they were brilliant (Wally Haas, Peter Magowan, Eddie DeBartolo), inept (John York, Chris Cohan, Steve Schott), or somewhere in between (Al Davis, Bob Lurie). Superstar players and coaches also inhabit the list, as do some non-print media types. Wolff's ascent to the top of the list is a testament to how Wolff understands and plays the media game. Other than Trib columnist Art Spander, Wolff has Bay Area media eating out of his hand. He's skillfully given bits and pieces of his vision, never giving too much away and always leaving the curious (like me) wanting more.

Purdy ends the piece with could be interpreted as a bit of foreshadowing:

"A year from now,'' Wolff says, "I'd like to be deep into the process of getting environmental approvals for a baseball park. And for soccer, I'd like a place we can play for the following season, even if it is just temporary.''

To me that sounds like a Fremont ballpark and Spartan Stadium (temporarily for the Quakes). Even if Ron Dellums' staff starting work on a proposal the minute Ignacio De La Fuente conceded the mayoral election, an EIR/study couldn't get fast-tracked to start in Oakland before the end of 2007.