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Wolff: New A’s ballpark first, housing second

The economic slowdown is changing how the Oakland A’s approach a new ballpark.
Though Oakland A’s co-owner Lew Wolff says the economic crisis hasn’t affected how his team approaches a new ballpark in Fremont, we can’t help but note the financial structure of the deal has been flipped on its ear.

First. Wolff says the ballpark construction will come first, followed by the housing. He adds that the team has raised enough capital to begin construction in time for a 2012 opening (though he certainly seems to hedge that bet). That alone is newsworthy. The original structure of the deal was to develop the housing and use those proceeds to finance a ballpark.

Of course, there are a lot of horror stories out there these days of firms assuming they had financing lined up, only see to the lender wimp out at the last moment. And the A’s partner in this deal, ProLogis (the Denver-based real estate trust that actually owns the ballpark site), has seen its share price dive from $71.79 to $5.08. Wolff says ProLogis was never going to be a partner on the housing side.

So we’re openly wondering of all the financial pieces are truly in place. One telling detail: an environmental impact study first set to be released next spring has now been delayed into 2009. Detailed planning work on the site can’t proceed until the city signs off on the report, so its delay may be more ominous than A’s officials want to admit.