Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Oakland Picks Site for New A’s Ballpark

By Robert Gammon
Tue, Nov 16, 2010 at 2:44 PM

The City of Oakland has selected a waterfront site in the Jack London Square area for a new A’s ballpark. The so-called Victory Court site is near the Lake Merritt Channel, along the Oakland Estuary. It’s also the favored site of Mayor-elect Jean Quan. “I think it’s the best site,” Quan said. “It could really kick start the area.”

The city has decided to conduct an environmental impact report for the Victory Court site and has informed Major League Baseball of its decision. Quan said she called MLB the day after she won the election. “I wanted to let them know that I won, and that I would be fighting to keep the A’s,” Quan said. “And I wanted to make sure they knew that I would be doing everything possible to keep the negotiations going.”

The city has been negotiating with a blue ribbon committee appointed by Major League Baseball to determine whether the A’s should stay in Oakland or move to San Jose. The team’s owners, Lew Wolff and John Fisher, have been determined to move the team to San Jose. Last month, they donated $25,000 to a group that was backing Don Perata’s bid for mayor after the ex-state senator said he would not attempt to block the A’s planned move.

City Administrator Dan Lindheim, who has been leading the city’s negotiations with Major League Baseball, said the city decided to go ahead with the environmental impact report process, because the league wants to have a new stadium for the A’s in place by Opening Day 2015. Lindheim also said that the league clearly would prefer that the city pick a downtown-waterfront site like the San Francisco Giants did with their ballpark. “Baseball has this vision of downtown-waterfront ballpark, and this site is downtown and it’s on the waterfront,” he said, referring to the Victory Court site.

The Victory Court site was one of four that the city had been considering, and was one of two new sites that Oakland unveiled as possibilities earlier this year. There were two more sites in Jack London Square, plus the colisuem parking lot. The city will begin accepting public comment on the ballpark EIR at the December 1 Planning Commission meeting.

Update 2:57 p.m.: Quan said she believes a ballpark at the Victory Court site will jumpstart both Jack London Square and the planned Oak-to-Ninth housing development. The ballpark would be built between the two. Ironically, the newly built Jack London Square development and the Oak-to-Ninth project are owned by two of Perata's best donors, Jim Falaschi and Michael Ghielmetti. Both have expressed support for a new A's ballpark next to their developments.

Update 3:02 p.m.: The city will pay for the environmental impact report with redevelopment funds. Both Quan and outgoing Mayor Ron Dellums have said they would use redevelopment funds to try to keep the A's in Oakland — but not general fund money. City general funds are typically earmarked for police, fire, libraries, parks, and other basic city services. Redevelopment funds are used to revitalize blighted areas. San Jose plans to use redevelopment funds to attract the A's. San Francisco used redevelopment funds to help the Giants build AT&T Park.

Update 3:13 p.m.: Quan said she also believes a new ballpark at Victory Court will help businesses in closeby Chinatown and could provide the impetus for a new hotel/convention center.

Update 3:17 p.m.: Lindheim said he thinks a ballpark at the Victory Court site, coupled with the reworking of 12th Street and the renovation of the lakefront, could revitalize the city's waterfront.

Update 3:22 p.m.: Quan believes that the only way Major League Baseball would turn down Wolff and Fisher's request to move the team to San Jose is if the City of Oakland shows that it has a viable plan for a new A's ballpark and that city leadership is committed to making it happen.

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