Lowell Cohn: A’s stadium deal spurs uncertainty


Today, the Alameda Board of Supervisors meets to vote on the proposed 10-year lease for the Oakland A’s at the O.co Coliseum. Everyone expects the vote to be a slam-dunk approval — and pardon the mixing of sports metaphors. There are no slam dunks in baseball, but there will be a slam dunk on this vote.

But in sports, as in life, things never are entirely clear. The A’s have agreed to play in the Coliseum for the coming decade with certain contingencies. They must stay a minimum of two years, which kind of leaves an eight-year gap if you do the actual math. It’s funny how 10 years easily morphs into two. If the A’s take the two-year option (Door No. 2) and leave Oakland early, they would owe an annual penalty of $1.6 million. That is known as an escape clause.

Funny thing the A’s have nowhere to escape to. This is where the two guaranteed years appear to stretch way into the future. Lew Wolff, the A’s managing partner, has made it clear until he’s blue in the face, until he gets laryngitis he wants to stay in the Bay Area. He has no interest in Vegas or San Antonio or Jasper, Wyoming.

He tried and failed to move locally, tried and failed at Fremont and San Jose, and now he’s back to where he started, that stretch of land next to Highway 880, that stretch of land abutting the BART Station. And that’s where he’s likely to stay

Wolff used to be adamant about wanting out. Not anymore. Remember that old Stones’ lyric, full of wisdom: You can’t always get what you want/But if you try sometimes well you might find/You get what you need.

They wrote that for you, Lew. The Coliseum may be just what you need.

Old Lew is so Stones-wise he’s lately allowed the possibility of building a new park at the current site. This is nothing less than a seismic shift in his thinking. His attitude about that part of Oakland used to be, in a word, “Feh!” Even commissioner Bud Selig, who used to dump on Oakland, says the new agreement is an important step in keeping the A’s in Oakland.

Imagine that, keeping the A’s in Oakland with a fancy new retro yard.

The whole concept seems simple, except it isn’t. You must factor in the A’s co-tenant, the Oakland Raiders. The teams share the one facility, the Coliseum being the only dual major-league baseball/football stadium in America. Outdated to the max.

Raiders’ owner Mark Davis, son of Al, also wants to remain in Oakland at the current site. His heart’s desire is to knock down the current monstrosity and build a state-of-the-art football venue. He would prefer to have this site for himself — see you later, Lew. But he can live with the A’s nearby. He’s said that.

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