With Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff saying his team could end up playing in a temporary facility after the team’s Coliseum lease ends in two years, speculation ensues as to an actual location.
For a threat to be taken seriously, it needs to be credible. And it doesn’t seem credible that the A’s ownership would play at a temporary facility after the O.co Coliseum lease ends. Still, an email sent to a business publication by Wolff seems pretty clear about what he envisions:
“I am hopeful of expanding our lease at the Oakland Coliseum for an extended term,” Wolff wrote. “If we cannot accomplish a lease extension, I hope to have an interim place to play in the Bay Area or in the area that reaches our television and radio fans — either in an existing venue or in the erection of a temporary venue that we have asked our soccer stadium architect (360 Architecture) to explore.”
Of course, there are other alternatives besides a temporary structure. We’re not quite sure whether Wolff was throwing something against the wall to see if it would stick or if he’s so against sharing AT&T Park with the Giants he’d cut off his nose to spite his face by playing at a mockery of a baseball park. But it’s sure led to a lot of speculation amongst baseball types and Bay Area politicos, so we’ll weigh in with some possibilities, some from us and some from the others.
Candlestick Park. In theory, it could be open for a tenant now that the San Francisco 49ers are destined for a new Santa Clara stadium. It also has the advantage of being relatively easy to reconfigure for baseball — its original use. We’re guessing the Giants would be less than thrilled with having another team so close, however.
San Jose. Mayor Chuck Reed and Wolff pitched both Municipal Stadium, home of the San Jose Giants (High Class A; California League), or a 50-acre site next to the new San Jose Earthquakes stadium — a team also owned by Wolff. Neither scenario is realistic. The Giants own the San Jose Giants and control the lease and, besides, it’s way too small for Major League Baseball at 4,200 capacity. Building a temporary (and we mean temporary) ballpark isn’t seen as a good business idea by anyone involved, and we’re guessing Wolff will blanch when he sees how much a temporary 15,000-seat ballpark, complete with concessions and player-union-approved clubhouses, would cost. (Yes, players can be persuaded to use temporary clubhouses. In fact, the temporary locker rooms used by the Green Bay Packers during Lambeau Field renovations are still in use in Rockford for Aviators players. Not quite sure they fall into the temporary category any longer.) Plus, to be blunt, the same territorial issues involved with a new San Jose A’s ballpark would apply to a temporary facility in San Jose, no matter what Reed argues.
Sacramento. This is actually the most realistic scenario out there, as Raley Field, home of the Sacramento River Cats (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), could be temporarily expanded beyond a current 11,000 capacity. There are no territorial issues, no clear roadblocks. It would also fulfill the requirement that a temporary home be located in the same media market.
The last time an MLB team played a season or more at a temporary facility: the Houston Colt .45s played at Colt Stadium between 1962 and 1965, when the Astrodome was completed. (Both facilities are shown above.) Colt Stadium was known for its rickety bleachers, mosquito infestations and a total lack of shade that sent folks to the hospital with sunstroke. Also, we have vague memories of the pre-Target Field Minnesota Twins braintrust pitching a temporary ballpark next to the Mall of America for a series or two. That wasn’t a good idea, which is why it was never executed.
Listen: no one thinks the Coliseum is the long-term home to pro baseball in Oakland. But Oakland has fulfilled every requirement set forth by MLB in an attempt to keep the A’s. Wolff may not be happy with his choices — and with the Oakland Raiders ownership negotiating for a new stadium as well, it’s a complicated landscape — but there are clear paths to a new Oakland ballpark, even if he finds them distasteful. And, realistically, there will be a new five-year O.co Coliseum lease at terms both sides can live with.
Speaking of San Jose: the city’s state lawsuit against MLB was moved to a new venue, Los Angeles Superior Court, from Santa Cruz. This is not the national lawsuit that seeks a federal overturn of MLB’s antitrust exemption — which San Jose lost in the first round — but a second state lawsuit claiming MLB is interfering with a business relationship between the A’s and San Jose. The more cynical among us would suggest jury-shopping of the highest order: hard to see the Giants getting a fair shake in Los Angeles given the Giants-Dodgers rivalry.
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