The Fremont Athletics 

How the deal went down, and why it was inevitable

Page 5 of 7


A tremendous opportunity

Oakland's glorious baseball history — a story of four World Series titles, of Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin, Dennis Eckersley and Mark McGwire — is now destined to end in about three seasons. It's easy to fault politicians like De La Fuente. But in retrospect, he can't be blamed for what happened the past two years. It was politically untenable for him to put public dollars in play for a new sports stadium, especially after the Raiders' fiasco. If De La Fuente is to be blamed, blame him for that.

For his part, the council president believes Wolff set up a series of straw men that could easily be knocked down, allowing him to leave town, say he gave Oakland plenty of chances, and still save face. "There was never a real effort to park someplace and really make it work," De La Fuente said.

There's evidence to support this theory. After all, Wolff is no sports neophyte. He had to know that East Bay politicians could not help the A's finance a new stadium on the Coliseum parking lot. He also must have known that relocating a hundred businesses would render his ballpark village plan dead on arrival.

But De La Fuente also is guilty of throwing up at least one straw man of his own. Over the past year, he kept saying that Wolff should look at the so-called Oak to Ninth property along the Oakland Estuary. But the Port of Oakland had already sold that land to another condo developer. Thus it would never work for Wolff, because he needs to sell condos himself to finance a new ballpark.

In the end, Fremont was the A's destiny. It's near Oakland, as close as the team can get to Santa Clara County, has a ton of vacant land, and it's only a few miles from the Bay Area's economic engine. The A's should be able to finally start selling corporate ads and luxury suites. Billy Beane was right: The infusion of new cash should allow him to keep some of his no-name-turned-superstar players, building fan loyalty and increasing season ticket sales.

For Fremont, the A's will put the city on the map. Wolff promised the team's new name will at least include "of Fremont," which ensures that each summer, the city will be mentioned in the sports pages of every newspaper in the country. It also means that all the time, money, and effort Fremont spent on the Cisco-Catellus development in the late '90s was not a complete waste of time.

Pundits have warned that it's not yet a done deal. There are transportation issues to be resolved — the Nimitz is a nightmare, Fremont city streets are choked at rush hour, and the stadium will be about two miles from the still-unbuilt Warm Springs BART station. There's also the question of who will pay for infrastructure — new roads, electrical lines, and sewer pipes. Wasserman said the A's would have to foot the bill just like any other developer, but he expects the team will request a tax break on its mega-project.

All communities face these types of issues when negotiating with major developers. And at this moment, it's hard to imagine this deal unraveling. Unlike Oakland, Fremont has plenty of political will. Haggerty and Wasserman are not about to let the A's slip through their fingers. "This is a tremendous opportunity," the mayor explained. "It will be a ballpark village that will be known around the world."

By contrast, Oakland finds itself staring at a bleak sports future and years of debt. The bonds sold to build Mount Davis won't be paid off until 2025. But when the Raiders' lease expires in 2011, they'll likely attempt to leave town. Al Davis has been unhappy at the Coliseum since 1995, too, and it's a given that he will scour the nation for a city that will build him a new stadium. When the Raiders leave, Oakland, a town that identified itself for decades through its professional sports franchises, will be left with an empty 60,000-seat stadium, a mountain of unpaid bills, and one final pro sports team that won't even take its name.



SALTY GOLD
Garlic fries, hot dogs, embroidered team jackets, and the other sources of modern sports revenue.

By Kara Platoni Can a new Fremont stadium finance a winning future for the A's? Let's do some baseball math. Everyone knows the big money pit for baseball teams is salaries. But with all of the revenue sources at a team's disposal — ticket sales, naming rights, advertising, luxury boxes, media contracts — it might surprise you that the one everyone's banking on is ... the mighty garlic fry.

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