A's scrap Fremont stadium plans
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Oakland Athletics scrapped their plans to move to Fremont, capping months of speculation that the team would pull out over procedural holdups.
A's owner Lew Wolff told city officials in a letter released Tuesday that the team has stopped all plans to build a state-of-the art stadium in the San Francisco Bay area suburb, 20 miles south of its current home at the Oakland Coliseum. He cited expected delays to the project as a reason for his decision.
"Delays that are both real and threatened have made it impossible for me to assure my organization of an implementation date consistent with our needs and the requirements of Major League Baseball," Wolff wrote in the letter. He noted that the team had already committed more than $80 million to the project, $24 million of which is not recoverable.
Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman was disappointed by the decision.
"I think it's an opportunity we may never have again," he said. "It [would have] generated revenues for a city that badly needs revenue."
The project had encountered opposition from some Fremont residents, who questioned its economic benefits, and said it would create traffic problems and drive down property values. It appeared doomed last week when the A's asked Fremont to stop the planning process for the stadium, saying they wanted to reconsider their options.
In his letter to city officials, Wolff said he had not expected local resistance to the project.
"I thought the overwhelming plusses of having our A's in your community for the next 40 years and longer would have resonated in a more positive manner even with those who might perceive some negatives," he said.
But Kathy McDonald, head of a Fremont citizens group opposed to the project, said a stadium would saddle Fremont with additional infrastructure and police costs and stifle other businesses.
"We're too small a city to have such a luxury item," she said. "The bottom line is economically this [would have been] a disastrous decision for Fremont."
The team, tired of sharing a rundown space with the NFL's Oakland Raiders, unveiled plans to move south in November 2006, after trying unsuccessfully for years to find a suitable site in Oakland.
The $1.8 billion ballpark village plan called for a 32,000-seat stadium, townhouses and retail space on more than 200 acres of land near Interstate 880 in Fremont. In 2007, the A's purchased land for the project from Cisco Systems Inc., which agreed to a 30-year naming rights deal for the stadium.
The A's hoped a new ballpark would help them become a bigger spender and a more popular choice for fans in the Bay Area.
Wasserman said the A's also considered a site near Interstate 680 in the city's Warm Springs neighborhood but encountered opposition from residents concerned about traffic and parking in the area.
In a statement Tuesday, Wolff said he's still looking for a way to keep the team in Northern California but didn't specify where.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has given the A's permission to discuss ballpark plans with other communities.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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