Fight to land MLB’s A’s is tale of 3 cities
The Oakland A’s years-long quest for a new home is really a tale
of three cities.
Oakland is desperately trying to keep the team from moving out
of a city already struggling with crime, financial woes and blow
after blow to its public image. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has made
retention of the A’s a focal point of her re-election campaign.
To the south in the heart of booming Silicon Valley, San Jose is
seeking to bolster its profile and treasury with an aggressive
campaign to win the A’s, including a legal challenge to Major
League Baseball’s sacrosanct antitrust exemption that the mayor
vows to take to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
Standing in the way are San Francisco’s Giants, who claim the
lucrative Silicon Valley commercial market as their exclusive
territory. And so far, the Giants are winning.
On Nov. 25, the A’s announced the signing of a two-year lease to
play in O.co Coliseum through the 2015 season. And court documents
recently filed revealed that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig informed
the A’s this summer that the league had rejected the team’s
proposed move to San Jose.
In court on Dec. 13, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte in
San Jose asked MLB lawyer John Keker if the letter was an
”What the A’s asked the commissioner to approve was
unequivocally denied,” Keker replied.
Selig’s letter itself wasn’t included in the court filing and no
reason was disclosed for the rejection – though San Jose strongly
suspects the league is acquiescing to the Giants commercial
The commissioner’s letter does not preclude the A’s ownership
from resubmitting a new application for a move to San Jose. And the
A’s still want to move from the Coliseum because of its state of
disrepair and the fact that it shares the stadium – and revenues –
with the Oakland Raiders of the NFL.
In September, A’s players reported foul smells from the bathroom
end of their dugout. That came after a June incident in which a
clogged pipe caused a sewage backup and flooding on the bottom
floor of the ballpark that sent the Seattle Mariners and A’s
scrambling around in towels and heading for higher ground in the
Raiders’ locker room.
After a hazmat crew inspected the affected areas, new carpeting
was installed and other extensive repairs were made to the visiting
Calling the Coliseum ”a pit,” Selig has acknowledged the A’s
need a new stadium, but has stopped short of naming or advocating a
Historically, landing professional teams has done little to
improve the winning city’s bottom line, says Nathaniel Grow, a
University of Georgia law school professor and expert in the field
of sports business.
”The economics are usually overstated,” Grow said. ”But there
is an intangible civic pride element that national exposure brings
with professional sports teams.”
Nonetheless, San Jose and Oakland want the A’s.
”If it wasn’t for the Giants, the A’s would be playing in San
Jose,” said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, who figures the A’s will
generate $5 million in tax revenues annually while bolstering the
city’s civic pride. ”It certainly would have a dramatic impact on
The Giants have declined to discuss their role in the A’s
proposed move to San Jose. But MLB says that the city is part of
the Giants’ marketing territory which the league is able to protect
through an antitrust exemption granted in 1922 by Congress.
During San Jose’s five-year pursuit of the A’s, the team’s
owners have been receptive. A’s Managing Partner Lew Wolff has even
paid $100,000 for an option to buy six parcels of land in downtown
San Jose from the city for $7 million to build a stadium near the
home of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.
But frustrated with MLB’s apparent inaction on the A’s proposal
to move to Silicon Valley, San Jose filed a federal lawsuit on June
18 seeking to invalidate the antitrust exemption and pave the way
for the A’s to move there.
Meantime, Oakland’s mayor is not letting the A’s leave without a
fight. Quan says the city has at least two sites the A’s can use to
build a new stadium or the current stadium can be repaired and
remodeled to the A’s satisfaction. Quan said she believes the A’s
will have difficulty moving to San Jose because of the Giants’
”The odds of them leaving have never been particularly good,”