Finding a home for the A's
- Oakland Athletics owner Lew Wolff said he'd like to move the Major League Baseball team to San Jose, California, which would get $130 million a year in economic benefits from a new stadium, according to a study released today.
The A's, who dropped plans to move to Fremont, California, this year, have the second-lowest home attendance in the major leagues this season and have been seeking a new stadium to help generate more revenue from suites, luxury seating, parking and concessions. The Athletics have played in Oakland's Coliseum -- now the McAfee Coliseum -- since 1968, and are committed through 2010 under their lease agreement.
Wolff said San Jose is now the best option for the team's new home. The city, which has a population of more than 1 million and is the 10th-largest in the U.S., is about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Oakland.
"We've explored the Bay Area for a long time now and I think our only real option is downtown San Jose,” Wolff, chairman of Los Angeles-based developer Wolff Urban Development LLC, said in a telephone interview.
Wolff, 73, said he's waiting to hear whether a move to San Jose would be allowed by Major League Baseball since the San Francisco Giants hold territorial rights to San Jose. Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney didn't immediately return telephone and e-mail messages.
"We probably should be sharing the entire Bay Area, just like the other two-team markets in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles/Anaheim,” Wolff said. "They're looking into it. A lot of things have changed. It's really up to Major League Baseball to give us a direction.”
I'm not saying the A's can't survive in Oakland, and I'd love to see them stay there and thrive there, just as I wish the Expose had stayed and thrived in Montreal. I have little trouble imagining how I'd have felt if the Royals had left Kansas City when I was younger, and I wouldn't wish that on anybody anywhere.
What's more, the A's poor attendance is due, in part, to Wolff's incessant bad-mouthing of the franchise's current location. Historically, when an owner runs down his stadium and his city, the fans respond by staying away. Naturally.
That said, the Bay Area is plenty big enough for two teams. There are roughly six million people there, which is just slightly more than Philadelphia and Houston, but twice as many as San Diego, St. Louis, and Tampa-St. Petersburg, and significantly more than twice as many as six other areas that currently host major league teams. And of course, the Bay Area has supported two teams for more than 40 years now.
Granted, there have been plenty of bumps along the way, particularly in the 1970s when the Giants almost moved to Toronto and the A's became the sport's biggest joke. But the Giants are doing quite well, now that they've found a suitable home, and I expect the A's to do the same, someday.
It's just not clear that they can find that home in Oakland. And they should be allowed to find it somewhere else, particularly if that somewhere else is 50 miles from the nearest other major league team.
Commissioner Selig has received a great deal of credit for accomplishing the things he's wanted to accomplish, and deservedly so. There's something to be said for making the trains run on time. But there's also something to be said for accomplishing the right things. And making some common-sense adjustments to ancient "territorial rights" is one of the rightest things the Commissioner could do.