After walking away on an option to develop a new Howard Terminal ballpark, local business leaders are calling for Athletics ownership to either commit to a new Oakland ballpark or sell the team.
Gary Rogers and Don Knauss penned an op-ed for Inside Bay Area announcing that their group, Oakland Waterfront Ballpark, LLC, was ending efforts with the Port of Oakland to develop a new waterfront ballpark for the A’s at the Howard Terminal site. You should recognize the names: the pair have been pitching alternative A’s ballpark sites for a few years and have offered to buy the team from John Fisher and Lew Wolff. While they have the money to buy the team — Rogers is founder of Dreyer’s and chairman of Safeway, while Knauss is chairman of Clorox Corp. — the A’s owners have never shown a scintilla of interest in selling the American League franchise.
And, indeed, the A’s ownership has been giving some mixed signals about the team’s future, talking with Oakland officials about a new ballpark at the current Coliseum site while also extending the team’s option on a downtown San Jose site for seven more years. Many MLB insiders still see San Jose as a nonstarter: it’s a territory controlled by the San Francisco Giants, and it’s not clear whether Rob Manfred will be any more able to work out a ballpark deal there.
Interestingly, while the whole ballpark debate has been taking place, we’ve seen a shift in the economics of the Bay Area: Oakland is now the up-and-coming region in the area, thanks to low rents and cheap land. That’s one of the arguments used by Rogers and Knauss:
The current ownership group of the Oakland A’s prefers to leave the team and its dedicated and patient-beyond-belief fan base in limbo in hopes that a “Hail-Mary” legal strategy successfully enables them to claim the San Jose market from the San Francisco Giants and move the team there.
The great irony is that while the Oakland A’s organization is trying to move the team south, the Bay Area economy has shifted north, with Oakland and San Francisco rapidly emerging as the center of Bay Area economic growth.
The Oakland A’s view of the Bay Area is 15 years out of date, and they are missing the enormous opportunity represented by the North and East Bay.
Whether or not Rogers and Knauss can force a sale via public opinion is debatable. But we’re guessing 2015 will be the year when something is resolved: a new MLB commissioner means there could be somewhat of a fresh start, but there’s one constant here: MLB owners take territorial rights very, very seriously.
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