Facts are stubborn things. So are Oakland baseball fans. Anyone saying that Oakland hasn’t done enough to keep the A’s are simply, factually wrong. Here’s to hoping that A’s owners soon start working with Oakland officials who are offering a helping hand. It would be the first time since 1995 that an A’s owners did that.
A History of Oakland Officials Working Hard to Keep the A’s
For the past 17 years, the city of Oakland has tried time and again to reach out to A’s owners to build a new Oakland ballpark. And time and again, A’s owners like Steve Schott and then Lew Wolff have refused to work with city officials as they chased their South Bay pipe dream. If you want the facts, check out this list of Oakland’s repeated efforts in trying to please A’s owners.
1995 – Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann buy the A’s from Walter Haas Sr. Wally Haas said his family made “substantial sacrifices” in the sale to ensure the new A’s owners keep the A’s in Oakland. But almost immediately, Schott and Hofmann threaten to move and renegotiate their lease with Oakland, Alameda County and the Oakland Coliseum due to changes made to the stadium for the returning Raiders. Oakland and county officials try to please the new owners by agreeing to pay $11 million to Schott and Hofmann, and up to $20 million in baseball-related stadium improvements over the life of the lease.
1998 – Schott and Hoffman put the team up for sale. The Oakland city council and Alameda County officials start working with Schott and Hoffman and MLB to choose a suitable buyer.
1999 – Oakland/Alameda County officials spend a year working with A’s owners and the office of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig on finding a new local owner for the A’s. Oakland officials select a group led by ex-A’s marketing guru Andy Dolich and produce store magnate Robert Piccinini. In September 1999, Mayor Jerry Brown and other city officials fly to Cooperstown, N.Y., to support the local ownership group that would keep the team in Oakland. Instead of finalizing the deal, the MLB owners table the vote and make no decision. Needless to say, Oakland officials are surprised and A’s fans are furious. After getting nowhere for a few months after that, Dolich and Piccinini finally give up and the ownership group dissolves.
2001 – After Steve Schott attends a Santa Clara City Council meeting saying he wants to move the A’s there, Oakland and Alameda County officials respond, saying again that they want to work with the A’s on building a new ballpark in Oakland. Schott does not publicly respond.
2001 – A report that Schott and Hofmann are on the verge of selling the A’s to Hollywood producers with Las Vegas ties shocks Oakland city officials like such as City Manager Robert Bobb, who had met with A’s owners just a week before about extending their Oakland lease.
2001 – City Manager Robert Bobb hires HOK Architects to study ballpark sites in Oakland and other parts of the East Bay with the goal of keeping the A’s in Oakland.
2002 – Robert Bobb tries to interest the A’s in the Uptown site, located in downtown Oakland. A’s owners Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann never publicly support the site and never show up at an Oakland City Council meeting. Since then, A’s owners and officials have appeared at city council meetings in Santa Clara, Fremont and San Jose in support of ballpark plans in those cities.
2002 – A’s fans hold a rally outside Oakland City Hall before a City Council meeting where HOK Architects gave a presentation on ballpark sites. No one from the A’s front office attends either the rally or the meeting. When asked about building a new ballpark in Oakland a few weeks later, Schott insults the city by saying, “Basically, they’re for 0 for 2” on stadium plans.
2005 – Ex-Oakland Councilman Dick Spees approaches Lew Wolff and offers to lead a booster group comprised of Oakland business leaders to help get a ballpark built in Oakland. Wolff rejects Spees’ efforts, telling him that he wants to do it alone. (Oakland Tribune 2/7/05)
2005 – Oakland Councilmen Larry Reid and Ignacio De La Fuente react favorably and enthusiastically to Lew Wolff’s presentation to redevelop hundreds of acres near the Oakland Coliseum. Yet, according to later news reports, Wolff almost immediately started negotiating with the city of Fremont for a new ballpark.
2006 – Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums meets with Lew Wolff to discuss keeping the A’s in Oakland. Wolff also rebuffs Dellums, telling him that he is focusing on Fremont and that Dellums shouldn’t “break his pick on this one.”
March 2009 – Dellums again reaches out to Wolff after the Fremont ballpark plan falls apart. But Wolff again rejects Dellums and makes it clear that the A’s now want to move to San Jose. Dellums and Oakland City Council President Jane Brunner respond by sending a letter to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, as does U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, who is an Oakland resident.
December 2009 – Oakland announces two new proposed ballpark sites (and an additional site that was previously examined) near the Jack London Square waterfront.
April 2010 – Oakland City Council President Jane Brunner and Let’s Go Oakland leader Doug Boxer release an economic report touting the benefits that a new Jack London Square ballpark would have on Oakland. Brunner and Boxer also hold a public meeting at an Oakland school to discuss and promote the proposed Jack London Square ballpark sites.
July 2011 – New Oakland Mayor Jean Quan reaches out to Lew Wolff and invites him to a meeting to discuss Oakland ballpark sites. Wolff accepts but reveals his negative attitude shortly before the meeting when he tells the Chronicle, “Don’t read too much into it.”
July 2011 – Quan meets with Wolff and spends an hour discussing the city’s ballpark plans. But Wolff refuses to talk seriously about specific plans and, when the meeting ends, he abruptly tells her she has nothing to offer him.
December 2011 – Undaunted by Wolff’s disrespect of Oakland, Quan touts both the Coliseum and Victory Court sites as viable spots for an A’s ballpark.
May 2012 – Clorox CEO Don Knauss is joined by Oakland politicians and leaders of the Oakland and East Bay business community, saying publicly that A’s owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff should negotiate with Oakland on a new ballpark or sell the team to someone who will. A few weeks later, Knauss privately meets with Wolff.————————————-