Oakland real estate keeps heating up

December 16, 2014

If you want cold, hard numbers illustrating Oakland’s economic revival, look no further than the city’s sizzling real estate market.

Oakland has 11,000 housing units in the works, Mayor-Elect Libby Schaaf told Bloomberg News last week. Most of those proposed homes are in the early stages of City Hall’s permitting and approval process, but Schaaf said she expects they will be built and that Oakland has space for even more in the coming years.

Oakland also has more than $2.5 billion in commercial projects in the works, which are expected to add thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue, the Chronicle’s Carolyn Jones reports. As Jones reports, all the economic growth, coupled with San Francisco’s tech explosion have given Oakland some of the Bay Area’s steepest housing price increases. Since 2010, rents have risen 45 percent and home prices have soared 76 percent. Also, Oakland’s median housing sale price is up 121 percent from four years ago.

What parts of Oakland are set to enjoy all this future growth? Well, judging from recent media reports, the majority of it.

For instance, the Brooklyn Basin waterfront development, set to build south of Jack London Square, has broken ground on a 3,100 unit development that also will have about 30 acres of park space, and 200,000 square feet of retail outlets, 200 boat slips and related marina structures

Also in the works is the Lake Merritt Station Area plan, which would add nearly 5,000 housing units and more than a million square feet of office space over the next 25 years in the neighborhood next to Chinatown and Laney College.

Proposals to build in and near Jack London Square include two residential towers.

Meanwhile, Shorenstein Partners wants to build a housing tower downtown, next to the Ask.com building. Other hi-rise developments are being discussed, including one on the empty lot between the Fox Theater and the Uptown apartments. Also, another residential tower has been proposed next to Lake Merritt and the Kaiser Convention Center.

A developer next year will begin building 235 apartments on Wood Street in West Oakland. It’s one of several projects planned in West Oakland, as developer City Ventures plans to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the area, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

In the grand scheme of things, there are potential down sides to a hot real estate market, as first-time home buyers and struggling artists probably aren’t too enthused that experts say that Oakland is now among the nation’s least affordable cities to rent or buy housing.

But for the fight to keep Oakland’s sports teams in town, these countless articles and statistics show that the city’s doubters are wrong. The real estate market is further proof that Oakland’s economy is more than strong enough to be a viable, 21st-century sports town. It’s pretty simple: If there are hundreds of thousands of East Bay residents who can afford a $1 million home, they very likely can afford A’s season tickets. And many of them would buy A’s tickets now if they were properly courted and marketed to by the A’s ownership.

In spite of what you may have heard, Oakland has always had the economic strength of a major league city. But Oakland’s fast-rising real estate market and its plans to add more than 10,000 new units in coming years remove all doubt.


A’s Marketing Advice

December 11, 2014

A’s co-owners John Fisher Lew Wolff could do a million things to market the franchise better. Even ex-A’s hurler Dallas Braden agrees, saying in a recent radio interview, “They’re (A’s owners) not interested in paying players. They’re not interested in building a fan base.”

That’s all too true. Fisher and Wolff (and Billy Beane, too) have a bad habit of whining about “the challenge of competing in this market.” Yet, they do so little and hardly spend any resources to, you know, actually compete in this market.

Beane tried a variation on that recurring complaint this week, when he told the Oakland Tribune’s John Hickey, “We have a small fan base, but it’s an extremely passionate one.”

Beane got it only half right. First, the A’s drew 2 million fans last year for a franchise that constantly rips its own stadium and has been threatening to move for 20 years. Hardly small. Second, the fan base would show up in much larger numbers if the A’s owners actually tried to market to the team properly.

In reality, “this market” is the nation’s 5th largest. Also, population studies predict that, in about a decade, the Bay Area will leapfrog Chicago and Philly and become the 3rd biggest media market, behind only New York and L.A. There are no small markets in the Bay Area — only small owners.

In other words, there are millions of potential baseball fans in the East Bay and all around Nor-Cal, waiting to be wooed to the ballpark. Most Bay Area pro sports franchises do just that by marketing their team and fan-favorite players to the region’s rabid sports fans. But instead of working hard to market the A’s at the Coliseum, Fisher and Wolff play dead, spending little money and having almost zero advertising presence in Oakland and the East Bay. And as soon as the fans grow attached to a favorite player, Beane trades them — often long before it makes sense to. (See “Donaldson, Josh” and “Cespedes, Yoenis”.)

Fisher and Wolff have been content to play the role of a slumlord, lazily doing very little to attract fans because, regardless, they know each year they’ll collect a yearly $30 million welfare check from MLB owners.

The poor marketing goes back to 1995, when Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann bought the Athletics. That means A’s owners have been failing at marketing the team for nearly 20 years. The problem with that? The hated Giants work very hard at marketing their product to all nine Bay Area counties, so they have begun to fill the void left open by Wolff and Fisher.

[NOTE: In no way is this a knock on the rank-and-file A’s marketing employees, who work hard with the meager resources given them by their billionaire bosses.]

It doesn’t have to be like this, of course. The A’s owners could do a million things to market the franchise better. They could open a restaurant/sports bar that could be a veritable A’s ad with menus — like McCovey’s Restaurant is for the Giants in Walnut Creek. Fisher and Wolff could re-open A’s Dugout stores throughout the East Bay. [Schott closed them in the ’90s.] They also could blanket the Bay Area with billboard ads once spring training starts, getting fans excited about the upcoming season. Unfortunately, Wolff and Fisher do none of these things. Which means they (and Beane) forfeit the right to complain about their “market” or their fan base — because they do so little to cultivate fan interest or boost ticket sales and TV ratings.

In short, Wolff/Fisher/Beane are complaining about problems they alone have created. Even worse, every penny-pinching decision they make makes their problem worse, not better.

Given all of this, it’s a small miracle that the A’s draw as well as they do in Oakland. Just think what attendance will be if we ever have a real owner with a real marketing plan and a sincere interest in staying in Oakland. We can dream.


Andy Dolich

November 18, 2014

Sunday’s Matier & Ross article on candidates for the Coliseum executive director job mentioned an ex-A’s executive remembered fondly by Oakland fans. The exec’s name? Andy Dolich, the A’s marketing guru during the Haas era. That’s great news for A’s fans because few sports business figures can match Dolich’s strengths — decades of successful business and marketing experience, a passion for the Coliseum site and its rich history, and an almost innate feel for what makes Oakland/Bay Area sports fans tick.

When we saw the article Monday morning, we reached out to Dolich to see if the report was true. Dolich said in a phone conversation that he believes the Coliseum would be in very capable hands if the job went to Scott McKibben, the other executive director candidate mentioned by Matier & Ross. We agree.

But after speaking briefly with Dolich, we couldn’t help but think that he would be the best person for the job. Why? First, Dolich is an established marketing whiz who would join the Coliseum at a time when the venue’s reputation could use a makeover.

More important, Dolich’s presence would add a healthy dose of credibility and professionalism to the Coliseum’s daily operations. Business teams are no different from sports teams. The more talent your team has, the better its chances to win. In the Coliseum’s case, the “team’s” players include the JPA, the city, the county, Oakland’s mayor, and the Coliseum executive director, among others. The “talent” in this case refers to those entities’ competence, business acumen, people skills, street smarts, and basic institutional knowledge. Dolich has all of those traits and more. Also, Robert Bobb reportedly will be hired as a consultant for the Coliseum’s new stadium talks. Think of Dolich and Bobb as the sports biz version of the Bash Brothers — two heavy hitters with different personalities but also possessing the skills to help the team win for long stretches.

Knowing the history of the 48-year-old Coliseum complex is invaluable. And you won’t find an active sports executive as familiar with the Oakland Coliseum as Dolich, who spent nearly 15 years working there in the A’s front office. As Tony La Russa and Sandy Alderson guided the A’s to winning seasons on the field, Dolich was a key leader for the A’s business success. Dolich used all of his marketing guile to make “BillyBall” — sportswriter Ralph Wiley’s description of early ’80s A’s teams — a household phrase nationwide. Dolich’s marketing work re-established the Green and Gold’s Bay Area media presence and also set the table for the great box-office success achieved when the A’s won the ’89 World Series, as well as four AL West titles and three AL pennants from 1988 to 1992. Those A’s teams not only won games, Dolich’s marketing know-how helped them kick the Giants off the front page of the Sporting Green, and Oakland baseball — for a time — was king of Bay Area sports.

If Dolich could help the A’s reach those heights then, he could certainly help the Coliseum now with its fight to keep the A’s and Raiders.

Dolich certainly didn’t do it alone in the Haas years, he said repeatedly during our phone conversation. He was but one member of a talented team that included Walter Haas Jr., Roy Eisenhardt, Wally Haas, Carl Finley, Tony La Russa, Dave Duncan, Sandy Alderson, Bill King, Lon Simmons and all those talented players, working toward the same goal. So to be clear, Dolich was a very talented member of a very talented team that accomplished a lot of great things in Oakland.

But that’s exactly the point. To keep both franchises, it’s going to take a strong, talented city-county team with a deep bench. If hired, Dolich would join a Coliseum team that already has some talented players — the JPA members and Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf, to name a few.

Dolich strongly believes that Oakland can keep both the A’s and the Raiders, and that the Coliseum is the best site for both teams to have their own stadium.

We certainly agree that both teams should stay in Oakland. And, with Howard Terminal off the table for now, we would be happy to see the city-county work with the A’s and Raiders owners to keep the teams at the Coliseum site. If the city-county assembles its best, most qualified team, we’re confident that those goals will be reached. Hiring Andy Dolich as the Coliseum’s executive director, in our opinion, would be a great and important next step.

Andy Dolich at Grizzlies Charitable Fund PC

Thank You

November 17, 2014

We want to publicly thank T. Gary Rogers, Don Knauss, Doug Boxer, Mike Ghielmetti and everyone else at Oakland Waterfront Ballpark for their efforts to keep the A’s in Oakland at the Howard Terminal site.

By now, you’ve probably heard that Rogers and Knauss authored an op-ed in the Nov. 16 Oakland Tribune, saying that because “the current (A’s) ownership has no intention of seeking a new ballpark at Howard Terminal, or anywhere else in Oakland for that matter,” they are reluctantly releasing “the Port of Oakland from our Exclusive Negotiating Agreement on Howard Terminal.”

Rogers and Knauss also urged Lew Wolff and John Fisher “to sell the team, so that they won’t spend the next 10 years as they’ve spent the last eight — doing nothing to get a new ballpark in Oakland.”

We hope that Oakland Waterfront Ballpark’s recent announcement is a re-boot on their efforts to keep the team, rather than some type of conclusion. Either way, we again thank them for spending time and money on keeping the A’s in Oakland.

Lastly, we want to echo their parting thought. Wolff and Fisher should either commit to building in Oakland or sell the team. Anything short of that means they will keep A’s fans in limbo for the next 10 years. And that’s unacceptable, considering that A’s fans have already been going through this nonsense since 1995.

To all Oakland A’s fans who are understandably weary of this fight, please keep the faith and stay united and focused.

To Rogers, Knauss and everyone else with Oakland Waterfront Ballpark, thank you again. Please know that your work has been much appreciated, and we have a feeling we’ll be seeing you guys down the road.

Let’s go, Oakland.


Why We Fight

November 16, 2014

We have fought to keep the A’s in Oakland for years because we believe in the city of Oakland, which has all of the required economic indicators, fan support and political will to keep all of its sports teams.

We believe in Oakland. At the same time, we criticize billionaire A’s owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher because they don’t believe in Oakland, and they really don’t have a good reason why. Wolff and Fisher have never worked sincerely with Oakland and Alameda County officials on building a new stadium and solidifying the team’s future.

A decade ago, Wolff’s and Fisher’s negative view of Oakland was merely elitist and inaccurate. Today, their view of Oakland remains elitist and inaccurate and, sadly, becomes more fictional and outdated with each new day.

Fact is, Oakland has begun an economic and social renaissance, becoming one of the nation’s hottest real estate markets. Oakland’s current median housing sale price is twice that of Houston’s, for example. Oakland also has added more than 200 new restaurants and many more bars and cafes within the past few years. In Oakland alone, the city’s corporate stable includes thriving big-time companies such as Clorox, Pandora, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream and Sungevity. And, next door in Emeryville, corporations like Pixar and Peet’s Coffee also are headquartered. Neighboring East Bay cities offer plenty of potential corporate support, too, with companies like Chevron and Safeway, to name a few among many.

We’re not exactly sure why Wolff/Fisher and their apologists continue to knock Oakland and the East Bay, when the reality shows that Oakland is a perfectly viable sports city. One day, maybe they’ll sincerely explain where their wild miscalculations about the city stem from. Until then, A’s baseball fans are held hostage by Wolff’s and Fisher’s misperceptions about Oakland, and by their unhealthy obsession for a South Bay dream that will never come true.

So, we fans wait. And wait. And wait. And that’s been damaging to the A’s franchise. Why? Because as Wolff and Fisher have dawdled — while collecting $30 million MLB welfare checks and turning big yearly profits in Oakland — they could have started working with city-county officials on building an A’s stadium in Oakland, within their long-assigned East Bay territory. Who knows how many titles the A’s could have won if Wolff and Fisher had done this? Or if they ever stopped swirling ballpark-related distractions around the franchise each summer? Or if the billionaire owners simply valued winning over money?

A few weeks ago, it was the 19th anniversary of when Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann officially replaced the Haas family as A’s owners. All these years later, unfortunately, more questions than answers continue to plague the Athletics’ future. So, we continue to fight for our team and our city. We fight to continue the 46-year marriage between the A’s and the great, underrated city of Oakland. We fight for loyal and passionate Oakland baseball fans everywhere, who deserve better. A’s fans’ loyalty should be rewarded, not met with the shabby treatment that A’s owners have given them since 1995. We fight because many of us remember how the Oakland Raiders badly damaged their own franchise when they moved to L.A. in 1982, and we don’t want the same greedy, error-filled history to repeat itself with the Oakland Athletics.

We fight for these and so many other reasons. And we’re not going to rest until the future of the Oakland A’s is made certain with a new ballpark in the great city of Oakland.


Lease Extensions and Land Options

October 26, 2014

If A’s owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher began working sincerely with Oakland and Alameda County, we’d be the first to praise them. After about a decade, sadly, we’re still waiting for Wolff and Fisher to do so.

Four months ago, as Wolff pressured city and county officials to approve his Coliseum lease extension, he assured them that he was ready to “re-look at Oakland” stadium options.

But as soon as Wolff got his lease deal approved, he stopped “re-looking.” In fact, Wolff last week agreed to a seven-year land-option extension with San Jose’s officials – not Oakland’s. The South Bay land deal continues Wolff’s option to buy downtown San Jose properties for what he hopes is a new A’s stadium site. “The A’s are still interested in San Jose, and we’re still interested in pursuing it,” San Jose City Attorney Rick Doyle said.

Well, well.

So much for “re-looking at Oakland.” After the San Jose option story went online Thursday, the anger that many A’s fans expressed toward Wolff surprised even us. But we shouldn’t be surprised.

For A’s fans, the news was yet more proof that the Wolff era always be remembered as a Groundhog’s Day-like experience. We wake up expecting a new day; instead, Wolff puts us through the same old tired doomed plan. As Wolff pursues the San Jose pipe dream, he keeps A’s fans stuck in his self-made limbo, in which fans suffer, while Wolff and other billionaire A’s owners get richer from collecting annual $30 million welfare checks. That’s not a typo. A’s owners — recently ranked as baseball’s 4th-richest ownership group — play in a Top 5-size market yet receive $30 million each year from fellow MLB owners. In fact, Forbes magazine says that A’s owners average about $20 million profit annually.

Wolff spent the summer hammering the lease extension in the press, intruding on what at the time looked like a dream A’s season. He said Oakland leaders should approve the lease deal because it might translate into a new A’s stadium in Oakland. Some fans, weary of the 19-year ballpark search saga, allowed themselves a little hope and supported the deal. Instead, the San Jose land option last week, along with Doyle’s quote, made it clear again that Wolff wants to keep partying like it’s 1998 – the first year he publicly pined to move the A’s to San Jose, where Wolff owns hotels and other land investments.

So, where does that all leave us now?

It’s been more than three months since the Coliseum JPA agreed to the lease deal, including Wolff’s & Fisher’s demands to keep the $5 million the owners owed taxpayers. The deal also included a 4-year Coliseum extension – falsely billed as a “10-year lease” — with several options that might keep the A’s at the stadium until 2024.

Before skeptical Oakland city leaders agreed to the deal, Wolff went on an aggressive PR blitz , telling city administrator Henry Gardner in a July 15 letter that he just wanted “a lease extension designed to stabilize the futures of both the A’s and Raiders in Oakland.”

Or as the S.F. Chronicle’s Matier & Ross wrote that same week:

With their dream of moving to San Jose on hold seemingly forever, the A’s are looking into the financials of a new ballpark that would be built on the Coliseum complex site. “And when I do something, I don’t do it on one cylinder,: Wolff said. “I do it on all eight.”

Unfortunately, ever since Wolff got his $5 million and his lease extension, he has shown zero cylinders, let alone eight. In fact, Wolff has given radio silence to Oakland for months now, while offering another warm embrace to San Jose last week.

Maybe Oakland fans shouldn’t be surprised at Wolff’s bait-and-switch. After all, a day after he wrote Gardner that letter, during the height of his “woo-the-East-Bay-politicians” blitz, the Mercury News reported that Wolff met with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed at Wolff’s Fairmont hotel.

In Wolff’s letter to Gardner, he complained that he’d been the victim of a smear campaign of “fabrications and outright lies.”

Looking back, the irony of that complaint is nearly as rich as Wolff and Fisher.


Summary of Terms for Lew Wolff’s Coliseum Lease Extension

July 2, 2014

The terms of Lew Wolff’s Coliseum Lease Extension have been released. We know most people don’t have the time to read the staff report (six pages) or the actual contract (59 pages). So, we read it so you don’t have to. In short, the deal is still terrible for everyone but Lew Wolff and John Fisher. Here’s a summary:

* The deal would start as soon as it’s approved by the Coliseum JPA, the city and the county, taking the place of the current lease which expires next year. If the A’s don’t exercise any outs, this new deal would run through Dec. 31, 2024.

*  The A’s can terminate the deal and the earliest they can leave is Dec. 31, 2018. That makes it a four-year lease with year-to-year outs after that.

* If the A’s choose to terminate the deal early and move to San Jose, their maximum exit fee would be $7.75 million, according to the Oakland Tribune.

* If the Coliseum JPA and the Raiders strike a deal to build a new Raiders stadium at the Coliseum site, the A’s can terminate the lease and leave two years later.

* The Coliseum JPA will allow Wolff and Fisher to keep $5 million in parking revenue that they owe taxpayers. The A’s and the Coliseum JPA agree to release all claims against each other, including claims that are in arbitration (that includes the parking revenue dispute).

* The A’s agree to spend at least $10 million to install a new scoreboard by the 2015 baseball season, but the A’s also would keep all advertising revenue generated from the scoreboard for A’s games and A’s-related events.

* The Coliseum JPA would pay to maintain and operate the scoreboard and retain all revenue from scoreboard advertising at all non-A’s events, including Raiders games.

* Wolff, Fisher & the rest of A’s ownership will pay the following in rent for use of the Coliseum: $1.75 million in 2014; $1.25 million in 2015; $1.5 million each year from 2016-2019; $1.25 million each year from 2020-2024.

* The Coliseum JPA will spend a maximum of $1.5 million to enhance lighting in the parking lot and certain areas of the Coliseum.

* The Coliseum JPA will pay $1 million each year for maintenance and repair of the Coliseum.

* Lastly, a very important term is buried in the contract on p. 53, and is titled “Continued Stadium Discussions.” Part of it states:

Licensee and Licensor (or Licensor’s designee) shall continue to engage in good faith discussions concerning the development of a new baseball stadium for use by the Licensee that would be a permanent home for the Oakland Athletics, provided that such discussions shall solely focus on the development of a new baseball stadium that would be located on land within or immediately adjacent to current Complex property.”

That term clearly is designed by Wolff and Fisher to remove the Howard Terminal option. By Wolff demanding that “good faith discussions” must “solely focus … on a new baseball stadium … on land within or immediately adjacent” to the Coliseum, he is giving no guarantees on anything while demandng that the Coliseum JPA guarantee him that they’ll take Howard Terminal or any other non-Coliseum site off the table. We know why Wolff wants that: he doesn’t want to be in Oakland and he knows Howard Terminal is the best Oakland site backed by powerful Oakland business interests. But, why would the Coliseum JPA agree to such an unnecessary and bad term?

In short, if news reports are true that the Oakland City Council will not agree to these terms, then we applaud them because these terms are bad for Oakland, Alameda County and fans’ hopes of keeping the A’s or the Raiders or both in Oakland. The Coliseum JPA is scheduled to vote Thursday on this deal.

Stay tuned.


Wolff’s Coliseum lease extension would be bad for everybody but Wolff

June 13, 2014

Details are emerging in bits and pieces about Lew Wolff’s new lease extension at the Coliseum, which the Coliseum Joint Powers Authority (JPA) will vote on next Friday, June 20.

Wolff and Mark Purdy have discussed the deal terms on KCBS radio, and in Purdy’s newspaper column. Also, our sources have shared with use some key, yet unconfirmed, lease details. We have heard that some of the deal’s unconfirmed terms are:

* Wolff and John Fisher reportedly would pay around $1.5 million or $1.6 million in annual rent.

* The lease is really a year-to-year deal because Wolff and Fisher reportedly can sever the lease ANYTIME, as long as they give a year’s notice and pay off the remaining money left on the deal. Meaning, the deal is not a true “10 year-lease.” If they sever the lease with 9 years left, for example, they owe more than $13 million and if they sever the lease with one year left, they owe roughly $1.5 million or $1.6 million.

* The deal reportedly allows Wolff and Fisher keep at least $5 million in parking revenue that they still owe taxpayers, but but never paid. This clause essentially takes $5 million from taxpayers and gives it to Wolff and Fisher, who reportedly have averaged about $20 million in profit each year from the A’s.

* In return, Wolff and Fisher give one thing to the JPA and one thing only: they reportedly will pay for a new scoreboard.

* Wolff told Purdy that one of the conditions is that Oakland/Alameda County must drop Howard Terminal as a ballpark site. We have to ask, why? If the site is so unviable, won’t it die a natural death? Wolff’s requirement doesn’t add up, unless he fears Howard Terminal’s viability.

* Also, Wolff and Fisher reportedly have made no solid commitment to Oakland in the new deal. They instead agree to unenforceable contract language saying they will make a “good faith effort” to find an Oakland site for the A’s. But, we have learned that that condition reportedly is non-binding: in other words, it’s lip service and there’s no measure for enforcing it.

* For many years, Wolff and Fisher reportedly have received more money than the Raiders in Coliseum signage revenue and from in-game concession sales. Wolff and Fisher even get a percentage of concession sales sold at Raiders games. This lease extension reportedly continues that imbalance of sharing splits, skewing it again in favor of Wolff and Fisher.

* According to Mark Purdy, if the Raiders and Oakland/Alameda County strike a deal for a football stadium at the Coliseum site, then Wolff and Fisher can break the 10 year lease, presumably with no buyout fee.

* The city/county elected officials seem to hope that this extension will lure Lew Wolff to commit to Oakland. Sorry, he’s had 12 years to do that and he never has. At this point, we don’t think he ever will and bending over backwards for him with this bad lease extension won’t do the trick, either.

Wolff’s and Fisher’s sweetheart lease might get even sweeter if this contract passes.

We believe it will be a raw deal for Oakland/Alameda County fans and taxpayers because it gives away millions of taxpayer dollars to billionaires, Lew Wolff and John Fisher. The extension’s current terms also would provide more of a threat to Oakland’s chances of keeping both the A’s and Raiders than assistance toward that goal.

In other words, this would be a bad deal for everybody. That’s why we strongly urge the JPA and all other elected city and county officials to revise the proposed lease extension terms before approval. If the deal can’t be revised, then they should reject the extension altogether.


Fisher and Wolff Trade Parking $$ for Trust

May 28, 2014

Every once in a while, someone will ask us why we don’t like A’s owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff.

Well, it’s not as much about ‘like’ as it is about trust. As in, we don’t trust Fisher and Wolff, and with good reason. Here’s the latest example:

In 2009, the Coliseum JPA began taxing parking revenue – a tax that the A’s owners have simply never paid. Instead, Fisher and Wolff immediately raised parking prices at A’s games, passing the cost of the parking fees onto the customer.

Here’s how cheap Fisher and Wolff are: They have a sweetheart lease at the Coliseum and have averaged more than $20 million in annual profit for years. Despite that, when the JPA asked Fisher and Wolff to simply honor their contract and pay what they owed, the owners just made the customer pay more to offset the difference.

But that’s not all. After raising prices on customers, Fisher and Wolff then just kept the money and NEVER PAID the JPA after all, according to a KTVU story last year. The KTVU story, which said the parking money issue was hurting talks to extend the A’s lease last year, then reported:

“The Coliseum Authority has alleged the team has withheld millions of dollars in taxes … The A’s are supposed to pay a portion of it in taxes, but insiders are saying the team is simply pocketing the money as a negotiation tactic … the Coliseum has been asking the team to pay back taxes for money the team collected for parking. Sources tell KTVU the A’s owe the city of Oakland more than $7 million. According to an Oct. 2012 email, the team flatly rejected paying back taxes, but said it would pay taxes going forward.”  

About six months after that KTVU story, Fisher/Wolff and the JPA agreed to a two-year lease extension that ensures the A’s will play at the Coliseum through 2015. At that point (about six months ago), Fisher and Wolff reportedly STILL had not paid the parking revenue, and both sides agreed to let an arbitrator to decide the issue sometime later this year.

Let’s emphasize something here.

For years, Wolff has said that the city “has other priorities” more important than baseball to worry about. The statement is not only insulting to Oakland, it conveniently ignores the fact that EVERY city has more important considerations than sports.

But if those news reports are correct that the A’s have been pocketing money that they owed to the city and county, then here’s the punch line to Wolff’s unfunny joke: All the while Wolff was saying Oakland should worry about “other priorities,” Wolff and Fisher were pocketing millions of dollars that actually belonged to Oakland and Alameda County, not to two billionaires who receive $30 million in corporate welfare each year from fellow owners. Those millions of dollars that Fisher and Wolff got their hands on by raising parking prices on their customers is money that could have helped address those “other priorities” that every city has. Instead, Fisher and Wolff just kept it for themselves.

What informed A’s fans are keeping in the deal is the mistrust that Fisher and Wolff have earned yet again.


Oakland Fans’ Spirit Can’t Be Beat — or Bought

May 28, 2014

Seeing A’s fans having fun with the Josh Reddick “Careless Whisper” walkup song recently reminded us that, 1) Oakland’s fans are one of a kind and, 2) they resemble the citizens of Whoville after they’ve been robbed by “The Grinch.”

“What the …,” you are probably responding. Let us explain.

Reddick’s use of Wham’s “Careless Whisper” gave fans and sportswriters a good laugh two weeks ago, reminding us all that the game shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Featured prominently in the MLB videos that went viral were the Coliseum’s right-field fans, who immediately seized on the goofy irony Reddick was delivering. Almost from the second they heard the song, A’s fans were swaying in their seats, waving their arms and dancing. Reddick’s song and Oakland fans’ tongue-in-cheek response instantly became the talk of the nation, getting ink from ESPN to USA Today to Rolling Stone.

In the HBO documentary, “Rebels of Oakland: The A’s, the Raiders in the 1970s,” a biker describes the city of Oakland’s open-minded, rebellious spirit: “They let ya’ breathe out here.”
Those pithy six words perfectly capture the city’s eccentric, free-spirited charm, which has fueled Oakland’s great sports teams, from “The Hairs” on Charlie Finley’s Mustache Gang dynasty, to the wild BillyBall years, to the Giambi-led frathouse in the Moneyball era to these Bernie Lean/Stay for the Pie/Careless Whisper A’s led by Bob Melvin.

Here’s what inspired us about the fans’ response to Reddick’s kitschy walkup song: No matter how much negativity gets heaped on the Coliseum and the A’s faithful, the fans just shrug it off and keep coming. Wait, more accurately: A’s fans keep coming AND keep displaying a fun-loving, unpretentious vibe that Reddick and other players have fed off of since the late 1960s.

Their stadium gets mocked almost daily? Whatevs. Oakland baseball fans are going to have a good time at the Coliseum, and there’s nothing you can do to stop them.

A’s fans aren’t treated fairly, but they won’t whine about it. Sure, it’s not fair that the A’s front office and a some sports radio hosts constantly insult Oakland fans, chiding them and their stadium for what they do not have, rather than all the great things they bring to the table. But those loyal Green-and-Gold-loving fanatics never got that memo. And if they did, they’d likely just tear it up and keep cheering, chanting and — on those nights when Wham’s cheesy saxophone pierces the cool Coliseum air — dancing.

Which brings us back to Whoville. “Really? ” … we can hear you asking again. “Whoville? Really?!”

Yes, really, and here’s why: In the classic TV show, the residents of Whoville awake to find all their gifts and decorations have been stolen. Completely gone.

Their response?

Singing, dancing and celebrating together, like every year — the communal party will continue no matter what. In fact, a type of defiance is buried beneath those cheery cartoon smiles, as if to say: “Didja really think this thing’s just about gifts and an evergreen tree?”

Which sounds an awful lot like A’s fans hanging together — with their team and their city — through thick and thin. As if to say to obnoxious A’s fan critics: Do you really think this A’s baseball thing’s about scoreboards? Or how new and shiny your ballpark is? Nah, it’s about community and family and tradition. It’s about the things that REALLY matter in life; the things you simply cannot buy. 

Oakland sports’ longstanding rebel spirit can be found in unusual places and unpredictable Coliseum moments: like, in a rousing 5-minute standing ovation for the losing playoff team. Or in the unlikely bond forged between players and fans from a rap song about an ’80s B-movie and the goofy dance move it spawned. Or in the cheesy saxophone solo in “Careless Whisper,” as player and fans share an unspoken wink and a nod.
That Oakland baseball spirit — as unpredictable and joyous as a late-inning rally – remains in unexpected places, wrapped in the strange magic that has defined A’s baseball of any era.

One of MLB’s better kept secrets is that, after almost 47 seasons at the Coliseum, that spirit has become part of the DNA of the city of Oakland, and of A’s baseball itself.



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