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Oakland A's Principal Owner Lew Wolff Continues To Chase Fremont Pipe Dream

Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff continues to chase a pipe-dream of a project to build a ball park in Fremont using a financing plan that I've told Don Fisher of the Gap is not workable. It's funny what ego can do, but even a large ego can go only so far. It's a waste of time what the A's are doing. What's even sillier is saying they're not going to stay in Oakland. Where the hell are they going, and with who's money? Baseball, both in TV ratings and franchise value, isn't the investment it used to be for an organization in a market this size. There's an answer, but I'm not going to give all of....Well, ok.

Part of the answer is that Lew needs to learn local politics. Right now, he's really screwing up. He would get a losing score playing my Oakland Baseball Simworld.

A's owner says there's no chance team will stay in Oakland
Carolyn Jones, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, October 22, 2007

(10-22) 22:13 PDT San Francisco -- The Oakland Athletics will leave Oakland regardless of whether Fremont approves plans for a new stadium, team co-owner Lew Wolff said tonight.
"We don't want to move. We don't want to start pitting cities against each other, but it's out of the question we'll stay in Oakland," he said after a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.
The A's cannot succeed while sharing a ballpark with a football team, he said. The torn-up outfield, awkward seating configuration and lack of space to build fan amenities including restaurants and shops make it impossible for the A's to remain in their home of the past 40 years, he said.
Other locations in Oakland, such as the former Army base, downtown and the Uptown neighborhood, have not panned out, said Wolff, a Los Angeles real estate developer who bought the A's three years ago with a group that also includes Gap founder Don Fisher.
Wolff's solution is to create a $1.8 billion "baseball village" near Auto Mall Parkway in Fremont, a 200-acre complex that would include a shopping mall, hotel, school, 3,000 housing units and a 32,000-seat ballpark , the smallest in Major League Baseball.
The A's announced their plans early this year but still have not submitted a formal development application to the City of Fremont, and some Fremont officials have questioned whether the plan would be a good fit for their city. The ballpark, to be called Cisco Field, would be several miles from the nearest BART station and near the environmentally sensitive Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge.
A's fans at the Commonwealth Club event questioned the Fremont move. They said they fear they'll be shut out of games due to nightmarish traffic, potentially higher ticket prices and fewer seats.
Wolff responded that those problems will be solved by the time the stadium would open in 2012. Fans should be happy the team would still be staying in the East Bay, he said.
"We're still here, folks," he said. "We're not moving to Timbuktu. We're just moving down the street."
But after his speech, he told reporters that anything is possible - except staying in Oakland.
If the Fremont stadium is built, the team would get a new name that would include "Fremont" - but the full name has not yet been decided, Wolff said. One possibility is the Athletics at Fremont.
Wolff blamed the Fremont plan delays on the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires environmental impact reports on most major development projects. He said the EIR process will push back construction at least a year, as the plans wind their way through the City of Fremont's planning process.
The EIR process also exposes the project to extensive public scrutiny and possible opposition, he said.
"If someone in California has a cure for cancer, you can be sure there'll be someone against it," he said. "But we'll follow the process we're stuck with."
The Athletics aren't alone in their stadium plight, he said. Professional and college teams throughout the country are struggling with outdated stadiums, and "we're all relying on public support to find modern venues," he said.
Unlike other businesses, sports teams rely strongly on the loyalty of local fans, whom the teams risk losing by relocating. The goal of moving to Fremont is to build a baseball-only ballpark but still retain local fans, he said.
And once they get used to the idea, they'll appreciate the shopping, dining and other amenities they would get at the new Cisco Field.
"We love our fans and wish we had a fan experience to bring even more supporters," he said.
E-mail Carolyn Jones at carolynjones@sfchronicle.com.
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