Rumours surfaced earlier this week that as many as three investors have offered to buy the Oakland Athletics and keep the baseball team in Oakland rather than moving it to San Jose.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Monday 12 March 2012 that two investment groups have expressed “serious interest” in purchasing the Oakland Athletics baseball team.
One of the investment groups is from Los Angeles and was hoping to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers but got involved in a bidding war, and the price simply got too high.
The other investment group is from – you'll never believe this! – Silicon Valley, of all places. Silicon Valley, or – more precisely – San Jose, is where the current owners of the Oakland A's want to move the the storied baseball franchise, which has brought the city of Oakland more division and league championships than practically any baseball team other than the New York Yankees.
And – as I already mentioned – this group also wants to keep the team in Oakland.
The following day, the Oakland Tribune followed up with suggestions that a third suitor is interested in acquiring the baseball team. Can we expect a bidding war?
Current owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher bought the Oakland Athletics in 2005 for a mere US$172 million. According to the Tribune, Forbes estimates that the Oakland A's are currently valued at US$307 million. Still, Lew and John insist that the storied baseball franchise isn't for sale.
Do They Know the Way to San Jose?
So why don't Lew and John just move the team to San Jose? There's a slight catch. The San Francisco Giants own territorial right to the South Bay, and – by definition – the South Bay includes San Jose. And Major League Baseball has yet to say whether it will respect that claim.
Rumour has it, however, that other teams in two team markets – New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington/Baltimore? – might not like the idea of tampering with the territorial rights of another team – lest they find themselves in a similar situation.
True, the A's don't lead the league in attendance. But whose idea was it to block off the third deck?
When the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox came to town, the Coliseum could easily sell more than 40,000 – sometimes more than 50,000 – tickets!
It's almost as if the current owners of the Oakland A's were deliberately trying to suppress attendance figures to justify moving the team from Oakland to either Fremont or San Jose.
But it wasn't always so.
2.9 Million Tickets Sold!
In 1990, the A's drew 2.9 million fans – against 1.9 million for the San Francisco Giants. (True, beating your arch rivals in the World Series does help you fill more seats.)
And in the final five years before the current owners took over (2001 – 2006), the A's were averaging 2.1 million tickets sold a year .
So what went wrong?
Admittedly, the Oakland Coliseum is a bit outdated. Also, the team not been competitive in recent years. More importantly, however, is all this talk about leaving town. It's also kind of hard to maintain a fan base when you are constantly talking about moving a team somewhere else. Civic pride does play a role in fan loyalty.
Build, Baby, Build!
Giants attendance figures have soared since the team moved into a new stadium, and the same thing would happen if Oakland built a new stadium (stadiums?), too!
Interestingly enough, this news broke just one week after the Oakland City Council led by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan unanimously approved spending US$3.5 million on plans to develop two new stadiums (one for football and one for baseball) and an arena (for basketball) as well as hotels, a conference centre, a shopping mall, and entertainment and related facilities in a 750 acre plot of land stretching from the Oakland Coliseum to Oakland International Airport.
And before you say anything about “spending the money more wisely”, this is not money that could be spent on schools or the police or housing. These are redevelopment funds, and – as the saying goes – use it or lose it.
The project itself would be privately financed.
I don't understand what has taken the city of Oakland this long to commission a study like this.
As soon as the city had its second sports franchise (and then its third, and its fourth, and its fifth, and its sixth – at one point in the 1970s, Oakland had more professional sports teams than any other city in the country except for New York and Chicago), I thought it should be looking at ways to develop the land across from the Nimitz Freeway in a way that would complement these teams.
When I first read about this proposal last week, I thought it was nothing more than a last ditch effort by Jean and other city officials to “save our teams” so that if any or all of them moved, they could say, “We tried.”
Now I'm feeling hopeful.
I want all three teams – the Oakland Raiders, the Oakland A's, and the Golden State Warriors – to stay in Oakland. Any maybe we should also starting thinking about ice hockey and soccer.
Copyright: Michael Taylor. Pictured: Oakland Coliseum, home of the four time World Series Championship Oakland Athletics. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
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