Oakland A's Stadium Update: Time Running Out for Both Oakland and San Jose
In early February I wrote about the A's stadium frustration and that the time for MLB to make its recommendation is now.
Unfortunately, I do not have an update on any progress Lew Wolfe and company may or may not have made in persuading Bud Selig to release the findings of the blue-ribbon committee that he commissioned to make a recommendation on the Oakland Athletics stadium issue.
I do, however, have some updates on the impact that Governor Jerry Brown's proposal to end redevelopment funding will have on both stadium proposals in Oakland and San Jose.
Meant as one of many steps to attack the $25 billion deficit facing the state of California, Governor Brown has eliminated redevelopment funds and the agencies that control them throughout the state of California. All existing projects, bonds and deals will be honored.
The elimination of redevelopment only effects future projects. This means a sprint to the finish for both Oakland and San Jose to complete all steps necessary to secure the redevelopment bond before the programs are eliminated.
In neither case does this obstacle mean the end of a quest for a new baseball only stadium; however, it does put a deadline on completing key tasks in the preliminary process of building the A's new home.
The city of Oakland is dependent on the redevelopment fund to complete studies, land purchases and infrastructure improvements. It is unlikely that all of these steps can be completed before the new budget goes into effect on July 1, leaving Oakland without the time necessary to get the bond issue on the ballot for voter approval.
Oakland needs approximately $100 million in redevelopment money to finish these tasks before the $450 million stadium could even begin to be built.
Meanwhile, San Jose is now in a rush to complete the land sales necessary to fund the purchase of the land where they have proposed the A's build their stadium near downtown. Wolfe has offered to loan the San Jose redevelopment agency the money that it needs to complete the process in an attempt to keep things moving.
San Jose has an advantage over Oakland however in that their practice of land banking allows them to utilize money that has been raised over the past few years or even decades to help fund new projects or keep them going. This is exactly what San Jose is doing now by selling city assets to complete the land acquisition they need for the A's stadium project.
Oakland is not quite willing to admit that Brown's plan to eliminate redevelopment agencies and funding would kill their hope of building a new stadium in Oakland.
"I'm not saying we couldn't overcome it, but it makes those projects a little more difficult and challenging," City Council President Larry Reid said recently.
When combined with Wolfe's repeated insistence that the A's have exhausted all options of building a stadium in Oakland, it seems unlikely that Oakland would be able to overcome this obstacle. It would require Wolfe extending the same favor he offered to San Jose in loaning the city the money it needs to complete the project.
Wolfe recently had this to say about the Victory Court Location:
"With the same kind of detail the committee is going into, we don’t think we have any options available there. It has nothing to do with the fanbase or the City of Oakland. It’s just that our exploration is perhaps deeper than soundbites in the newspaper."
It would seem unlikely that Wolfe would extend a loan to the city of Oakland to build a ballpark on a site he does not wish to occupy.
San Jose is now just $19.5 million short of completing the land acquisition of the two remaining parcels of land it needs to build the stadium. This is a much smaller amount than the reported $100 million that Oakland would need.
San Jose Redevelopment Executive Director Harry Mavrogenes says he expects Major League Baseball to approve the A's request to move San Jose in time for the matter to be approved by San Jose voters before the July 1 budget goes into effect.
The Athletics plan to build a privately funded stadium which will not be affected by the redevelopment elimination once the land acquisition, all studies and voter approval are secured by the eventual winning city.
In the event that both current proposed locations, Victory Court in Oakland and the downtown San Jose site, fall through due to the elimination of the redevelopment agencies, where would the A's wind up? Would they be forced to look for a new home outside of the Bay Area? Outside the state of California?
A's fans can take solace in Wolfe's words on this matter. In a recent interview with Rick Tittle, Wolfe had this to say regarding the possibility of an out of state move:
"I think what we’ve tried to do is to be one of the few teams in the history of baseball not to leverage by 'you know we’re gonna move if you don’t do this for us'…So we have not sat around and thought about what our options are. We want to stay in the Bay Area. Our ownership doesn’t want to own a team in Omaha or someplace. We’re gonna make every effort to stay in the Bay Area and truthfully do not measure these other options."
One thing is for certain though: the A's can not continue for the next decade or two to share and play in the rundown Oakland Coliseum.
To repeat the theme from my first article on the matter, the time for MLB to decide the fate of the A's future home is now. There simply is no more time to procrastinate.
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