Athletics have deal with Cisco for Fremont site

Updated: November 9, 2006, 9:29 PM ET
Associated Press

FREMONT, Calif. -- The Oakland Athletics have reached a deal with Cisco Systems Inc. to build a new high-tech ballpark in southern Fremont, city officials said on Thursday after meeting with the team's owner.

The agreement would create a 32,000- to 35,000-seat ballpark, dubbed Cisco Field, on a 143-acre parcel held by the company. If the plan is approved by the city, the A's could begin playing there as soon as 2011.

If Cisco has its way, the new ballpark in Fremont will be the stadium of the future.

Fans will swipe electronic tickets stored on cell phones. Bleacher bums will view instant replays at their seats with laptop computers. And digital advertising displays will be able to switch images based on the buying habits of the people walking by through data embedded in their cell phones.

That was the vision that A's owner Lew Wolff laid out to Fremont City Council members this week in a pitch for Cisco Field, a planned ballpark featuring the company's technology, Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman said Thursday.

"It's fabulous -- the technology is something else," Wasserman said. "It went over my head. It only takes about 10 seconds to go beyond me when you're talking about technology. I can't say I understand it all, but it's going to be quite a ballpark."

Wasserman said the city has not determined how much money it will ask for from the A's.

"We have to get enough to make it feasible for us," he said. "It's going to require a lot of services, it's going to require a lot of things from the city ... I don't have a dollar figure, but it's the kind of thing I'll know when I see a good deal."

A formal announcement of the deal was planned for Tuesday at Cisco's San Jose headquarters.

Wolff declined to speak to reporters Wednesday as he left the meetings. Team spokesman Jim Young has said the A's won't comment until an announcement is made. Cisco officials also declined to comment.

The deal is contingent on the city approving a large-scale development plan for the ballpark, which will be surrounded by homes and shops on the parcel west of Interstate 880. Cisco holds a 34-year lease on the land, and has the option to buy the property in the next three years.

The A's, who share the Oakland Coliseum with the NFL's Oakland Raiders, have been searching for a suitable location and funding for a new stadium for several years, branching out into the surrounding area after locating no suitable sites in Oakland.

Last March, Wolff confirmed the A's interest in exploring a move to Fremont, about 25 miles south of Oakland on the east side of San Francisco Bay.

Wolff did not indicate when he planned to submit an application to the city for development -- which would prompt a review process that could take two years -- although council members said they expected to receive one shortly after next week's planned announcement.

Some major issues facing the ballpark include traffic, parking and accessible public transportation.

The question of whether to rename the team also is in the air, although Wolff offered "Fremont A's" and "Silicon Valley A's" as possibilities.

As for the technology, wireless access is becoming an increasingly common feature at ballparks, but analysts said a park built with the reported features would be a big step forward.

However, while the ballpark could be the ultimate consumer showcase for a company that derives most of its sales from corporate customers, the strategy also could backfire if the entire system doesn't work properly or fans don't warm to the idea, said Sam Wilson, a communications equipment analyst with JMP Securities.

"These things work both ways," he said. "If everything works flawlessly, it's a great showcase. But if everything doesn't work flawlessly, it's the exact opposite. It's a laughingstock."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press