Is the grand plan in Fremont dead for the A's?
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In 2007, with the club saying all their options were exhausted in Oakland, the Athletics embarked on an ambitious plan to build a “ballpark village” to the south in Fremont. Now, it appears, that plan has dried up, as well.
The A’s told the City of Fremont to halt the planning process for the $1.8 billion project that would include a ballpark, housing and other mixed use development next to the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge after running into a steady stream of opposition citing traffic, noise, and light pollution from the proposed ballpark. The A’s said they wish to reassess their options.
"I think this means the A's aren't going to build this here, at least not at that site," said Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman to the San Francisco Chronicle. "I think it's terrible. Fremont's lost the best opportunity we've ever had."
In December of last year, Commissioner Selig sent a letter to the A’s that signaled the league’s willingness to explore other options, should Fremont fall through.
"It is important that we get to some resolution in the near future," Selig wrote in a Dec. 3 letter to the A’s managing partner Lewis Wolff (read The Biz of Baseball interview with Lewis Wolff). "As a result, I have decided that in the event you are not able to promptly assure the implementation of the desired ballpark in Fremont, you may begin to discuss a ballpark with other communities."
There have long been discussions about relocating the A’s just south of Fremont in San Jose. The problem with this plan is that the San Francisco Giants claim Santa Clara County, where San Jose is located, as their territory.
In October of 2004, San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales introduced a resolution to San Jose's City Council, officially requesting that Major League Baseball release the city from the Giants' territorial rights, freeing the A's to relocate there. At the time, the Giants ownership stuck to their guns saying that the territory was not up for negotiation.
In an odd twist, the A’s once controlled the territory.
When Bob Lurie was looking to get out of Candlestick Park in the late 80’s, baseball expanded the Giants territory to include Santa Clara County where there were efforts to pass funding to build a new ballpark in San Jose. The voters in Santa Clara County rejected tax hikes to fund the stadium in both 1990 and 1992, yet baseball reaffirmed those rights when Peter Magowan purchased the team in 1995 and built PacBell Park.
With the recession squeezing the bottom line for MLB clubs, the Giants could consider loosening their position on the territory if some form of compensation were to come into play. Other relocation markets outside of the Bay Area could be Sacramento, Las Vegas, or Portland, OR., although there are exceptional difficulties in gaining the needed public support to build an MLB stadium in these locations.
See renderings of the proposed Athletics ballpark in Fremont.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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