Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson held a press conference Monday to tout his city’s potential as a home for the A’s or another Major League Baseball team. Johnson was the major force behind a plan to build a new arena for the Sacramento Kings, a deal that collapsed in April when the team’s owners, the Maloof family, balked at the terms. On Monday, Johnson said he had instructed the task force that was working on an NBA arena project to explore the possibility of a downtown baseball stadium instead.
“We had $250 million of public investment that we were willing to put toward a $400 million project,” Johnson said at the press conference, speaking of the basketball arena. “As I go around the country and talk to other owners, they’re just in disbelief with what our community was able to put forward as an investment. We know that we could support not just one, but two teams, given the opportunity.”
All well and good. But later in the day, A’s managing partner Lew Wolff and other team officials said they’re not interested, even as a backup plan. Susan Slusser, the San Francisco Chronicle’s A’s beat reporter, tweeted:
Wolff tells me: “We are not leaving the Bay Area and that’s the end of it. Sacramento is a very nice city, but not for Major League Baseball as far as our ownership is concerned.”
Fan support wold not seem to be a problem. Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate, the River Cats, are located in West Sacramento and are considered one of the country’s most successful minor league franchises. Their stadium, however, holds just under 15,000 instead of the 35,000 or so that a new MLB park would be expected to serve. Most analysts point to Sacramento’s relative lack of large corporations with the potential to buy luxury boxes and season tickets as the biggest obstacle.
A’s ownership wants to build a new stadium in San Jose, but they can’t do that without permission from Major League Baseball, which previously granted the San Francisco Giants territorial rights to Santa Clara County. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig created a “blue-ribbon panel” to study the issue 39 months ago. On Tuesday, at his pre-All-Star-Game press conference, Selig said they’re still working on it but didn’t provide much in the way of details. The Chronicle’s John Shea on Twitter:
I asked Selig what the main hangup is with A’s stadium issue and he said “The main hangup is we don’t have the answers yet.”
The city of Oakland is working on its own plans: an ambitious project known as Coliseum City that would include new homes for the A’s, the Raiders, and possibly the Golden State Warriors, although that team hopes to move to San Francisco when its Oakland lease is up in 2017.
The A’s own lease at the Oakland Coliseum expires at the end of the 2013 season. But whether a new stadium is built in Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento or some other place, it’s virtually impossible for it to be ready by opening day, 2014.