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Advocates for keeping the A’s in Oakland release findings of economic report

on April 29, 2010

Members of the Let’s Go Oakland organization said Wednesday that building a new ballpark in the city would create more than 1,500 local jobs in the initial three-year construction phase, and bring ample revenue to Oakland and the county of Alameda.

The estimates come from a new economic study commissioned by Let’s Go Oakland as part of the effort to keep the A’s from decamping to San Jose.  In addition to new jobs, the study projected property values around the new stadium would increase by $4.7 billion and $2.6 billion in total economic activity would be created in the next 30 years.

“The investment that the city ultimately is going to make — the report demonstrates that the city will receive a return on that investment,” said Doug Boxer, co-founder of the Let’s Go Oakland campaign.

Mayor Ron Dellums, who also spoke at the press conference where the study was released, voiced his support for the continued efforts to keep the A’s in Oakland. “Baseball is synonymous with Oakland,” Dellums said. “For that reason, we have reached out in a very diligent way to keep the Oakland A’s.”

Dellums spokesman Paul Rose said the city has been in constant contact with Major League Baseball about the three proposed stadium sites the city has come up with. The three sites are all waterfront locations in the Jack London Square area, which is an ideal area for a stadium said Claude Gruen, lead author of the study by Gruen, Gruen + Associates. “We’ve got BART in… we have the roads in, we have the freeway, we have access parking capacity on the waterfront,” Gruen said.

The study also examined the potential economic impact of the A’s leaving Oakland, projecting that Alameda County would lose 953 jobs and $32 million in total income. “I think (the A’s departing) leaves a void there that’s very difficult to measure,” Dellums said.

But according to Roger Noll, professor of economics at Stanford and author of the book Sports, Jobs and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums, the economic impacts either way are greatly exaggerated. “Professional sports teams are not something that generate any business, particularly in the local area,” Noll said. “There’s virtually no spillover benefit to the rest of the community.”

Noll says losing the A’s wouldn’t have a significant impact on the finances of the local government or the local economy. “The reality is, the A’s have almost no financial impact one way or the other on Oakland, in the local area,” Noll said.

Supporters argue that a stadium would revitalize the Jack London Square area, and will stimulate the local economy in much the same way that ballparks in Denver, Baltimore and San Francisco did. Boxer cited a recent experience at a Colorado Rockies’ game as proof positive of what a new stadium could do for Oakland. “After the game, 31,000 people filled into lower downtown (Denver)… It’s just a tremendous atmosphere,” Boxer said. “This is what we can do for Oakland, if we can get baseball to agree that the A’s belong in Oakland.”

Despite Major League Baseball’s cooperation with Oakland, the A’s are not actively negotiating with the city. Owner Lew Wolff has said many times that the team exhausted every possibility with Oakland, and relocation is the best option for the A’s. Wolff favors building a new stadium in San Jose, where the A’s could solicit sponsorship deals from Silicon Valley companies.

San Jose’s local government has been favorable to a stadium, and Mayor Chuck Reed has met multiple times with Wolff. The city has purchased most of the 14 acres where the ballpark would be built, and John Weis, assistant executive director of the San Jose Redevelopment Agency, said the city is currently negotiating to buy the final two parcels of land needed.

However, one key roadblock remains in San Jose: Major League Baseball granted the San Francisco Giants territorial rights to Santa Clara County in the 1990s. Those rights would have to be rescinded in order for the A’s to move to San Jose, and the Giants have already stated they will not let them go easily.

But both San Jose and Oakland must bide their time until a special “blue ribbon” panel, set up by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to investigate new ballpark locations for the A’s, issues its ruling. The three-person panel was formed more than a year ago, but no timetable has been set for its decision.

Dellums believes the stadium saga will be resolved soon. “We’re at a level of seriousness at this point, that makes me feel very good that over the next few months, we ought to be able to resolve this one way or another,” he said.

Although many signs point to the A’s departure from Oakland, including Wolff’s  close relationship with Selig (the two were fraternity brothers at the University of Wisconsin), Dellums said he is cautiously optimistic that the city will keep its team. “I don’t think it’s too late at all… we’re still in the game,” Dellums said. “I believe these proposals are superior (to San Jose’s).”

Boxer agrees. “If the A’s were on their way to San Jose, if it was that done of a deal, then baseball would have said it a long time ago,” he said. “That’s why I’m optimistic.”

The Oakland A’s declined to comment on the report.

Text by Fernando Gallo.

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