In a letter to Commissioner Selig, City Attorney Dennis Herrera said that the City of San Francisco would consider suing Major League Baseball should they allow the Athletics to relocate to San Jose. The story was first reported in the San Francisco Chronicle.
"I need to make sure the interests of the city and its taxpayers are protected," Herrera said in the letter. "The city and county of San Francisco has a vital interest in making sure the Giants are successful and viable so they can make good on their obligations to the city."
As reported by the Chronicle:
Beyond the roughly $3.6 million in rent the city collects annually from China Basin Ballpark Co., the Giants affiliate also pays taxes to pay down $16.5 million in bonds the city issued for public improvements around the park, Herrera said. The city also gets tax revenue on everything from tickets to parking for games.
"Our waterfront ballpark is a model for folks across the country and has done a tremendous service to Major League Baseball," Herrera said. "I hope they would not do anything that would disrupt that successful relationship."
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 then Giants owner Peter Magowan purchased the team in 1995 and built PacBell Park in the China Basin area (for more details, read the 2004 article Expos Relocation: No A's to San Jose)
As noted in the Chronicle article, due to MLB’s federal anti-trust exemption, territorial alignment is controlled by the league. Any threat of legal action would largely be symbolic.
The league could argue that the A’s were damaged when the league awarded Santa Clara Co. to the Giants in the first place. If not for that move, the revenues that San Francisco has collected to date since the China Basin project occurred would have been lost. The team very nearly relocated to Tampa Bay.
The A’s attempts to build a new stadium in Fremont collapsed in February (see renderings and details of that proposed ballpark – Cisco Field – that fell through) due to the economy, concerns about transportation, and environmental concerns.
Lew Wolff, owner of the A’s, had deep ties as a developer in the San Jose market.
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 available for hire or freelance. 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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