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Oakland A's News: Potential Wolff Firing? Coliseum Plan. Wolff Calls Dellums. Boxer Sends Letter To MLB

UPDATE: Oakland Tribune online poll "Should Oakland build new stadium for the A's" has "yes" leading 52 to 48 as of this writing but just 235 votes, which means it's too small a sample not to be "gamed".  (I did not link to the front page because the Oakland Tribune will not have the poll up long enough for many to respond and the poll is poorly positioned on the site.) I took this screen shot of the poll:

To say that this was an important week in the matter of keeping The Oakland Athletics in Oakland is an understatement.  To illustrate this I combined three blog posts from our Oakland Focus, San Francisco Focus, and Zennie62.com blogs on this matter containing "breaking news" -- all from this week. 

Developer Reveals  Oakland Athletics Stadium Plan For Coliseum 

The Commissioner of Baseball on Monday March 30th announced a new committee devoted to determining the viability of baseball in the East Bay. In his statements Commissioner Bud Selig said that the A's owners have exhausted their efforts in Oakland.

But really, they have not.

Here's an example in this plan for a new Coliseum baseball stadium on the parking lot land of the facility.

The plan, created by architect Frank Dobson and Retail Leasing expert Bob Leste with Oaklander Steve Lowe was first introduced in 2004 and while it was presented to the then-new ownership group and A's Managing Partner Lew Wolff, it went largely ignored by them. Wolff was known to be in love with a concept called a baseball village and needed a lot of land to make that work, hence the Fremont land chase.

But the idea called for hundreds of acres of land, more than the A's organization could afford given the economy and so needing public money turned to Fremont, which turned a deaf ear to their request.

Wolff has not wanted to be in Oakland, but the Mayor's Sports and Entertainment Task Force wants to maintain the A's here in Oakland. To that end, it supports the plan you're about to see in this video.

The plan needs to be upgraded for 2009 and a financing plan developed. It also lacks an economic impact analysis and a job development report. But just eyeballing the plan I can say it can generate about 10,000 construction jobs and 4,000 permanent jobs. It calls for a new stadium, a parking structure, and a retail structure at the Coliseum as well as an enlarged BART bridge. The total cost is about $440 million but we at the task force understand that was a 2004 estimate.

The video shows much of Bob Leste's presentation to the task force last Thursday and the discussion as well as the plan itself.

Oakland A's Owner Lew Wolff Calls Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums

The next day after the MLB committee news, I got a tip from a very good source that Oakland Athletics Owner and Managing Partner Lew Wolff called Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums today to request a meeting to "explore options to keep the A's in Oakland".

That's great news and it comes on the heels of Monday's report that Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig formed a committee to determine why a baseball stadium deal was not struck in Oakland, and Selig did so with wording that could have been read as a forecast of a move to take the A's out of Oakland. 

But Wolff's phone call to Dellums on Tuesday signals a new start to a committment to Oakland by the A's owner.  Just a few moments later, I got an email regarding our Senator Barbara Boxer.

Senator Barbara Boxer Sent "Keep A's In Oakland" Letter To Baseball Commissioner Selig

I received this letter copy below via email.  As I wrote, It comes on the heels of the news that Oakland A's Owner Lew Wolff called Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums to request a meeting to discuss ways to keep the A's in Oakland.  


Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today sent the following letter to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig:

March 31, 2009

Allan H. (Bud) Selig, Commissioner
Major League Baseball
245 Park Avenue, 31st Floor
New York, NY 10167

Dear Commissioner Selig:

            I appreciate the announcement you made yesterday that you are forming a committee to review the various proposals regarding the future of the Oakland Athletics.  As your committee does its work, I urge you to do everything possible to keep the team in Oakland.

            As you may know, Oakland has recently gone through some difficult times and families there deserve some good news. As someone who splits her time between Washington, DC, southern California and Oakland’s Jack London Square neighborhood, I have seen first hand that Oakland is teeming with new young families and major developments that present endless possibilities. My children learned to love baseball through the Oakland A's and our family was so fortunate to develop that common bond.  We must give a new generation of families that same chance.

Oakland is witnessing a downtown renaissance, with new residences, restaurants, art galleries and entertainment venues opening weekly.  Two new office towers are in development and the Port of Oakland recently announced a private investment of close to $1 billion. Major League Baseball can play a key role in continuing this momentum by working to keep the A's in Oakland.

            Through their rich history and shared experiences, the identities of the City of Oakland and the Athletics are forever linked.  For more than 40 years, the people of Oakland have backed the Athletics during good times and bad. In the 1970s, Oakland celebrated the Athletics' glorious run of three consecutive World Series victories. And, together, the city of Oakland and the Athletics mourned the devastation caused by the Loma Prieta earthquake that took place during the team's 1989 championship run.

            Now that the team has ended its consideration of Fremont as a possible home, the time is right to renew the focus on keeping the Athletics in Oakland.
Just when I thought my flow of spontaneous Oakland A's tips had stopped, I got another one the same night of the Tuesday I wrote the Senator Boxer and Wolff news, and it was about Mr. Wolff.  

Oakland A's Ownership Rumored To Consider Firing Lew Wolff - Oakland Focus

The above headline will catch you by surprise, but the wind is blowing in that way.  The point is that several people behind the scenes, in touch with the ownership group, and around the Bay Area are talking about how Oakland Athletics Managing Partner Lew Wolff has, as one person put it "blown $20 million" on the effort to find a new home for the Oakland Athletics. Another contact told me one would be "fired" if they lost even $8 million on such a development project so early into the process. 

But the concensus for now is to let Wolff continue to do his work, but he's on a short leach.  The main problem is Wolff fell in love with the "baseball village" concept, where the ownership has to buy a lot of land not just for a baseball stadium but for residential development in the hope that the improved land sells for more than the group bought it for.  That works in a credit-health, prosperous economy, but in today's recessionary and deflationary world its a terrible strategy.  

And there's where a lot of the money was lost; in land acquisition.  As has been reported, Wolff was not-so-quietly buying land in Fremont with the idea of implementing the village strategy.  But now, with the credit crunch that blew up in his face.  I explained to the other member of the A's  ownership team Don Fisher not too long ago (at a party) that such a move was risky because of the economic bet, but hey, no one listens to me except Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley.

Maybe that will change.

Perhaps in calling Mayor Dellums for a meeting, Wolff has seen the light of a possible new approach involving redevelopment funds and whatever stimulus money can be gotten from the federal government.  It's a better gambit now than it was even a year ago, when the word "stimulus" wasn't in the American lexicon.

When I use the term "rumor" in this case, it's not to be taken as something I "overheard"; this possible letting go of Wolff was told to me by two different sources, which I will not reveal, but frankly do want the news out there.  So am I saying "the knifes are out"?  Yes.  They are.  And they're sharp ones.

People in the A's organization will wonder who the person's are, but the unfortunate fact is I talk to a lot of people, even folks there."Zeroing in on who it is?" Impossible.

Wolff's on notice.  "Perform and stop losing money. Or else."  Of course, now that Major League Baseball's committee on the need for a new A's stadium is in place, it could be said that Wolff's college buddy Commissioner Bud Selig saved him from almost certain doom.


The last entry got a bit of criticism from some who wrote "Wolff can't be fired; he owns part of the team".  Well, that's not true.  Many company CEO's can be fired by their board of directors, even though they own part of the company.  Such is the case with the Oakland A's. 
I continue to receive news about this matter, much of it not important enough to install in a blog post, but the way this news matter is going that's going to change.

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