Ten More Years in Oakland Likely for the A’s After Latest Lease Approval

Fans stand in line to buy A's tickets at the Oakland Coliseum. (Nina Thorsen/KQED)
Fans stand in line to buy A’s tickets at the Oakland Coliseum. (Nina Thorsen/KQED)

It’s looking more certain that the A’s are staying in Oakland — and at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum — for the foreseeable future.

The team and the Coliseum’s Joint Powers Authority agreed on Tuesday to a 10-year extension of their current lease, approved by the Oakland City Council last week. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors still needs to green-light the deal, but that’s expected to happen at their July 29 meeting.

The announcement puts an end to weeks of dueling in the media, as negotiations were carried out in fits and starts between A’s ownership, the two elected bodies, and the JPA with representatives from each. Amicable press releases were issued by the team — “We appreciate the cooperation and efforts of Oakland city officials in this process and are optimistic that our negotiations have led to a fair and mutually-beneficial relationship” — and by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and City Council President Pat Kernighan — “We want to thank the team’s ownership, our colleagues at the County of Alameda, our negotiators and everyone at the City of Oakland who has worked tirelessly on our shared priority of keeping the A’s here at home.”

“A’s fans should be happy about the lease extension being signed,” said Bryan Cauwels, president of the grassroots group Save Oakland Sports. “The A’s ownership is committed to putting in new scoreboards at the facility before the beginning of next season — larger, easier to read, bigger video boards, along with ribbon boards. But the long-term importance of this agreement is that we feel it’s the first step in the process of getting the A’s a new baseball stadium in Oakland.”

“Good-faith efforts” towards a new facility are part of the lease agreement, and A’s co-owner Lew Wolff told Oakland city administrator Henry Gardner in a letter last week that as soon as the deal was signed, he would “immediately re-evaluate the possibility of a new, modern ballpark to be located on JPA property here in Oakland.”

In fact, Wolff went on to say, he was considering whether the A’s could buy out one or both of the public entities, so that the team would “control our own destiny.”

The A’s action also affects the destiny of the Oakland Raiders, who share the Coliseum now. Both teams would like to end that relationship, which in August, September and frequently October results in football stripes on the baseball grass, or infield dirt in the middle of the football field, depending on your perspective. The Raiders’ lease is up at the end of the 2014 season, and some of their fans fear the A’s long lease will prompt them to leave — perhaps to Los Angeles, perhaps to share the 49ers new Levi’s Stadium — because Raiders owner Mark Davis’ preference is to demolish the old coliseum and build a new one.

Cauwels, whose group represents fans of both teams, says it’s not an either/or situation.

“The A’s lease doesn’t impede the Raiders at all,” he said. “The Coliseum site is a large enough site, there’s plenty of land there, enough availability for both teams to have new stadiums.”

As for the A’s one-time hopes to move to San Jose:  While Wolff hasn’t ruled it out, MLB’s current territorial rights won’t permit it. The city of San Jose’s appeal of their dismissed lawsuit against MLB will be heard next month, but few legal observers give it much of a chance. In fact, some think the lease extension, by showing that the A’s think Oakland is a viable long-term home, undermines San Jose’s case. But if the team did get permission to move to San Jose before they break ground on an Oakland ballpark, their new lease allows them to leave the Coliseum — as long as they pay the full ten years’ worth of rent.

Author

Nina Thorsen

Nina Thorsen is a radio producer and director, and frequently reports on sports issues.  Previously, she produced and co-created KQED's "Pacific Time" and was the deputy foreign editor for "Marketplace". Thorsen began her public radio career while a student at the University of Minnesota, as a ticket taker for "A Prairie Home Companion".

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