Committee to explore A's ballpark
Selig says Oakland cannot continue indefinitely in Coliseum
PHOENIX -- Commissioner Bud Selig announced Monday that he has appointed a committee to thoroughly analyze all of the ballpark proposals that have been made for the Oakland A's, the current situation in Oakland and the prospects of obtaining a ballpark in any of the communities located in Oakland's territory.The announcement came in the wake of meetings on Saturday in Phoenix with ownership and management from the club, according to the release from Selig's office. "Lew Wolff and the Oakland ownership group and management have worked very hard to obtain a facility that will allow them to compete into the 21st century," Selig said. "To date, they, like the two ownership groups in Oakland before them, have been unsuccessful in those efforts. The time has come for a thorough analysis of why a stadium deal has not been reached." The meeting came only days after Wolff told a group of reporters meeting with him in San Francisco that he hoped to move the team to San Jose, Calif., which is firmly ensconced in what is now considered to be Giants territory. Wolff said he needed help from the Commissioner's Office and Major League Baseball to make that move. "We are really saying that we'd love to stay in Northern California, and go to San Jose," Wolff said. "If [the Giants'] position is this is something they want to defend, they will -- but we have to appeal to baseball. We will be asking for direction from Major League Baseball." San Jose, which is located in Santa Clara County, was once neutral territory. But it was ceded to the Giants by the A's decades ago because the Giants were attempting to build a ballpark with public approval in that area. The referendum failed, but the territorial rights carried over when the Giants were sold in 1992 by Bob Lurie to the current group, which is now headed by Bill Neukom. The Giants have continued to maintain those territorial rights, although there's now precedence to indemnify owners so that they will relinquish those rights. That happened in 2004 when MLB brokered the deal that allowed the Expos to move from Montreal to Washington, D.C. At the time, the Orioles claimed the nation's capital as part of their territory, but O's owner Peter Angelos was indemnified by the Nationals to relinquish those rights. "I think the [Commissioner's] statement was very clear," Neukom said. "It says that Major League Baseball wants to help them find a home in their territory -- Alameda and Contra Costa counties. We support that. We hope it's successful and hope the committee can do it. "I think it's a very sensible position by the Commissioner. They have territorial rights. We have territorial rights. They need a better home. That's fine. We agree with that. We support them with that and the Commissioner is saying, 'Let's find them a home in their territory.'" Wolff, though, pointed out last week that San Jose was the best possible spot for the A's. He said that San Jose officials have selected a site and completed environmental studies necessary to build a ballpark, and that a business group is preparing to start a campaign in support of an A's move to San Jose. "I think they probably are in as good a position as anyone in California," said Wolff, who is co-owner of the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer and is in the process of building a stadium in San Jose for that team. "They are the 10th-largest city in the country." When the A's announced in late February that they were no longer pursuing the construction of a "ballpark village" in Fremont, Calif., Wolff, the A's managing partner, said he wanted to table all stadium talk for the time being and focus on baseball.
Wolff, who made finding a new stadium his top priority upon taking control of the team in April 2005, declined comment through a team spokesman on Monday.
Shortly after the abandonment of the Fremont plan, which was in the works for two-plus years, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums wrote a letter asking Selig for his help in keeping the A's in the city they've represented since 1968.
Wolff issued a strongly worded statement in response to Dellums' letter, noting that his ownership group -- and previous owners -- had aggressively explored potential stadium sites in Oakland and found city officials uncooperative.
"We have no interest in covering old ground again," Wolff said at the time. "We need to move forward in finding a future home for our team."
Wolff's statement drew criticism in the Bay Area media, and shortly thereafter, he clarified his comments.
"My real intent wasn't to insult Oakland. It was so we wouldn't open up the door we couldn't close," Wolff told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I was mostly trying to make sure we didn't raise expectations. There was nothing different than what we spent so much effort on. I wouldn't have said anything had they had a site."
The A's have a lease through 2010 with the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, a 43-year-old multipurpose stadium that doubles as the home of the NFL's Oakland Raiders. The deal includes three one-year club options.The committee appointed by Selig will be chaired by Bob Starkey, a stadium expert and financial consultant for Major League Baseball. It also will consist of Corey Busch, a former baseball executive, and Irwin Raij, a lawyer with Foley and Lardner who worked extensively on both the Washington and Miami ballpark proposals. According to the statement, they will work with MLB President and COO Bob DuPuy and will provide a written report to the Commissioner at the conclusion of their analysis. "The A's," Selig said, "cannot and will not continue indefinitely in their current situation."