The Oakland Athletics are expected to announce next week they will build a new stadium in suburban Fremont, Calif., the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News reported Tuesday, citing sources close to negotiations for the deal.
The newspapers reported the team wants to acquire a 143-acre site near the former Baylands Raceway Park and build a privately-funded 36,000-seat ballpark at an estimated cost of $300 million. The property is currently owned by the city of Fremont and is leased to high-tech firm Cisco Systems.
Athletics managing partner Lew Wolff and baseball commissioner Bud Selig -- who were fraternity brothers at the University of Wisconsin -- are expected to make the announcement at a news conference in the Bay Area next Tuesday, according to the reports.
A's spokesman Jim Young told the Chronicle he would not confirm the timing or content of the announcement. He did tell the newspaper "From an organizational standpoint, we are getting closer to announcing some concrete plans that will significantly impact the future of the A's in the Bay Area and plans that the owner has been working very hard on for more than two years."
Fremont is about 27 miles from Oakland and 18 miles from San Jose. Major League Baseball has always recognized San Jose as part of the San Francisco Giants' market under its territory rules, but the Fremont site is just short of the Santa Clara County line and would not trigger a territorial dispute.
During the American League Championship Series, Selig said he didn't have a problem with the A's moving to Fremont because "that's their territory."
The Athletics are in a year-to-year lease at McAfee Coliseum through 2010, with a team option to renew on a year-to-year basis through 2013, the newspaper reported. The team has called the Coliseum home since moving to Oakland in 1968, but has not been happy with the stadium since it was refurbished to accommodate the return of the NFL's Oakland Raiders from Los Angeles.
This past season, the A's didn't sell tickets for the Coliseum's upper deck and covered those seats with a green tarp.
Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente said he wasn't surprised by the development, and told the newspaper it was unlikely the city would get into a bidding war to keep the A's in the city limits.
"Teams and team owners look for the best deals for themselves, and that's understandable,'' he told the Chronicle. "There's nothing we can do about it.''
Outgoing Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown told the newspaper he had spoken with Wolff several times, but that Fremont had a crucial advantage on Oakland: "Fremont has the land."
Wolff has asked Fremont staff members about housing and land-use issues near the proposed site adjacent to Interstate-880, city officials told the Mercury News. But the A's have not yet filed a development application with the city, and Fremont will not negotiate terms of the deal until that happens.
"The city doesn't have a project yet," Councilmember Anu Natarajan told the Mercury News. "There cannot be one because we don't have an application yet."
Fremont Vice Mayor Steve Cho said he is open-minded to the idea, but warned that city taxpayers should not have to pay for any part of the new stadium.
"It sounds like something that should work out for the city," Cho told the Mercury News. "But the devil is in the details."