Athletics Coliseum lease: Selig bluffs all-in, JPA caves

Rich Schultz

The A's finalized a 10-year lease Thursday to remain at the Coliseum through 2024.

Stories as ridiculous as the Oakland ballpark saga and Coliseum lease disputes deserve ridiculous resolutions, and it seems we've gotten one. Late last night, Lew Wolff sent a note to officials from Oakland and Alameda County letting them know that Bud Selig had granted him the right to leave Oakland immediately, an option he would pursue if the Coliseum Joint Powers Authority didn't approve a lease that has been in the negotiation pipeline for 14 months.

Where would the A's have moved, you ask? Apparently, that's a question that requires no answer. Note that Selig, by all indications, didn't give Wolff permission to move to Santa Clara County (thereby impinging on the Giants' territorial rights), only out of Oakland. There's really only one city out there that can argue it's MLB ready, and that could conceivably be ready to host a Major League team for Opening Day 2015, and it's Montreal.

But rather than question whether the A's were practically able to leave for Montreal (or Portland, or Sacramento, or San Antonio, or any other city with little present ability to host Major League baseball) upon the conclusion of the 2014 season, the JPA folded quickly.

The Coliseum lease includes a provision that the involved parties fund the installation of new scoreboards, both video boards to replace the identical endzone screens at the Coliseum and LCD ribbon boards to be installed between on the short façade at the bottom of the 2nd deck. The A's will foot the roughly $10 million cost of the scoreboards, while the Coliseum Authority is on the hook for any structural improvements necessary to the installation of those scoreboards. That cost should be minor.

Oakland City councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, a frontrunner in the 2014 mayoral race who also sits on the Coliseum Board, voted no on the lease, a curious decision given that she was one of said lease's primary negotiators.

Larry Reid, Oakland's Vice Mayor and another member of the Coliseum Board, voted yes, debunking Kaplan's claim that the City Council's order that she and Reid vote no was legally binding.

All in all, this is a very good thing, despite the extremes that fraternity brothers extraordinaire Bud Selig and Lew Wolff went to in order to make the deal happen in the end.  The A's are staying in Oakland for the next decade, barring a reversal of MLB's long-held territorial rights position regarding Santa Clara County.

This deal has long been cited by Wolff as the first step to negotiating a new ballpark in Oakland. At this point, that ballpark will have to be at the Coliseum site, and the City seems to be in a crunch between the A's and Raiders, who don't seem interested in cooperating with one another on a new sports complex.

This deal is a sign that Oakland politicians are beginning to favor the A's, and doing so more openly. It doesn't necessarily shut the door on the Raiders and their ability to build on the site, but it doesn't bode well for Mark Davis, who has said that he wants the A's off the site by the end of the 2015 baseball season.

In general, 81-plus events are better for revenue and development prospects than 10-plus, and Oakland has chosen wisely if the A's are indeed the single direction the city chooses to go.

Here's a tiny, unrelated and somewhat ironic tidbit, a piece of positive Oakland news in the midst of a sea of disheartening items: The City of Oakland is hosting an open house one week from today to discuss the build out of the Broadway Transit Circulator, the official name for what could become a streetcar running the length of Broadway from the Macarthur or Rockridge BART stations, through downtown, and terminating at Jack London Square. The route could have been modified in a very minor way (a few blocks of track along Embarcadero West) to form the missing public transportation link to Howard Terminal, a ballpark site that was effectively killed by recent statements from the City of Oakland, the A's, and Major League Baseball. Perfect timing. But progress is afoot in Oakland, in more ways than one.

Edit: The Oakland City Council still has to ratify this lease, which seemed like a slam dunk before Oakland mayor Jean Quan made these comments:

It would still be shocking if the City Council rejects the lease; their approval seemed like a formality before this point. But in the world of election-year Oakland politics, anything is possible, even though the City Council's hypothetical decision to reject this lease after such drawn out, intense negotiations could have devastating consequences.


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