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Owner gives up on moving A's to S.J.


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http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews...cs/15405163.htm

 

Owner gives up on moving A's to S.J.

 

By Barry Witt

Mercury News

 

Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff delivered a sobering message Wednesday to boosters of professional sports in San Jose:

 

The A's aren't coming. What's more, Wolff doesn't want to subject the soccer stadium he has discussed building to a public vote, a condition that limits the prospects for a replacement Earthquakes team to move to the city.

 

"It is not an option,'' Wolff declared of the prospects of moving the A's to San Jose, using his most blunt public language to date in a city that has pursued Major League Baseball for more than two decades. He is exploring a home for the team in Fremont.

 

Speaking to a morning gathering of about 180 San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce members, Wolff ended speculation that he harbored hopes of altering baseball's territorial rules, which give the San Francisco Giants control of Santa Clara County. Wolff said he's tried to address the territorial rights issue for three years, both before and after he took control of the A's in 2005. But now he has given up.

 

"I can't tilt at this windmill anymore,'' he said, intimating that he had offered to buy out the Giants' interests but was rejected.

 

"It's not a matter of money with the Giants. I think it should be, but it isn't,'' he said.

 

Since the beginning of this year, Wolff has focused his search for a new baseball stadium on a parcel of land in Fremont controlled by Cisco Systems, although he's yet to reach an agreement with the company to acquire the property. Wolff announced in late March that he was "quite serious'' about Fremont, but city officials there say they are still waiting for him to present a proposal.

 

Wolff's statements are consistent with those that have been made by the Giants and baseball Commissioner Bud Selig for years regarding the dim prospects of an A's move to San Jose. Nonetheless, the San Jose City Council embarked last year on an effort to acquire land for a ballpark just south of the Diridon train station. To date, the council has authorized spending about $17.5 million to acquire the first three parcels in the area and another $700,000 on environmental and related studies.

 

Some council members who attended the breakfast said Wednesday after hearing from Wolff that it may be time to cut off the money for the studies. Nearly $600,000 has already been spent.

 

"I guess we have to take another look at whether or not we should continue with those,'' said Councilwoman Linda LeZotte, who attended the chamber session at Adobe Systems headquarters. "It appears to me that Lew Wolff has done everything possible with regard to the territorial rights issue and he's basically said it's not going to happen.''

 

LeZotte and other city officials say the land purchases remain worthwhile and should continue because the property can be developed for housing as an alternative to a baseball park.

 

Some of baseball's biggest boosters weren't ready to give up their dreams, however.

 

Admin Stone, the Santa Clara County assessor, sat through Wolff's discussion and acknowledged afterward that "it looks bleaker.'' But he maintained the Giants might be willing to accept a payoff for their territorial rights if a Fremont stadium becomes more of a possibility. Under that scenario, the Giants would not be entitled to any compensation because the A's would remain in Alameda County. The location -- just a few miles from the Santa Clara County border -- still would make the A's more attractive to the Silicon Valley businesses both franchises covet.

 

Regarding the Earthquakes, Wolff said he's had talks in San Jose, Santa Clara, Fremont and San Francisco in search of a location to build a new soccer stadium. Wolff acquired an option from Major League Soccer earlier this year to acquire an expansion franchise -- which would still be named the Earthquakes -- in the Bay Area if he can build a stadium.

 

He previously has said he wants a public agency to contribute land toward a stadium, and he would fund the stadium construction privately. San Jose could not contribute land for free without a public vote.

 

"I can tell you, though, we don't want to sit through a vote,'' Wolff said Wednesday. If he found another public agency to contribute the land, however, San Jose remains an option. Among the areas he said he would consider are San Jose State University's south campus and the Santa Clara County fairgrounds.

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