OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | To quote a famous line from the movie Moneyball, “What is happening in Oakland?”
Three weeks ago, Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid voiced reservations over the state of sports in his city. At a Coliseum Joint Powers Authority meeting in late November, his mood was dour. However, sometime between Thanksgiving and the onset of the Christmas shopping season, Reid is now in jolly spirits.
This week, the Oakland City Council followed the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in approving a two-year lease extension for the Oakland Athletics. Tuesday night’s discussion was highlighted by hints from Reid that A’s ownership finally sees Oakland as its long-term home.
“For the first time in a long time, I am optimistic this city has a chance to keep the A’s here in our city,” said Reid. “And I am really excited about the new way Mr. Wolff is thinking as it relates to his ball club staying in Oakland.” Reid would not elaborate on what Wolff’s new mindset entails, but it continues a series of tantalizing hints and queues A’s co-owner Lew Wolff is looking at keeping the team in Oakland. Reid added, “My conversations with the chief operating officer gives me hope that we have a chance to secure the A’s here in Oakland.”
Keep in mind, Wolff’s old thinking involved ignoring Oakland and Alameda County officials while seeking Major League Baseball’s blessing to move the team to San Jose. As a lawsuit filed by the city of San Jose urging Major League Baseball to make a determination on the San Francisco Giants territorial rights to the South Bay continues, it is conceivable San Jose, even if successful in its long-shot strategy, will even have a team available to entice.
In the meantime, officials in the East Bay are not letting much out of the bag, yet laying around a host of puzzle pieces. Last week, Oakland Mayor Jean noted Major League Baseball has long indicated a desire for a downtown ballpark. She then added, Oakland has no preference between a downtown ballpark or one planned for Coliseum City. In what appears to be a new talking point, both Quan and Blackwell boasted the city has not one, but two viable locations for the A’s.
If the A’s are, indeed, destined for downtown Oakland, what happens with Coliseum City? What happens to the Raiders and their own quest for a new stadium? The answer may be nothing, other than the sprawling Coliseum City project is significantly scaled down. If a smaller project is still amendable to its new well-financed investors, it might signal the groups interests lies in not only constructing a new stadium, but gaining some control of its future primary tenant–the Raiders. In fact, Oakland officials have always said the specifics of Coliseum City are not set in stone. In addition, there are also rumblings all the nagging questions and lack of specificity involving the entire stadium situations are currently being answered at a breakneck pace. In fact, nothing as we know it today regarding the A’s, Raiders or even the Warriors may ultimately look like any plans being proposed. At the same time, they may also make East Bay sports downright giddy with excitement.
Then, in the absence of politicians speaking on the record, as a reporter, I have only their body language to watch, the look on the face, the tell-tale darting of the eyes when the right question is asked. Watch the clip of Reid below and note the context of his words within the meeting. Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan set the stage when she alluded to comments made to her earlier by Reid. However, when Reid’s turn to speak came, he avoided her prompting and instead called for the question. The motion though did not yet occur. Councilmember Noel Gallo posed some questions and Councilmember Desley Brooks, still smarting from having her seat on the Coliseum JPA by Council President Pat Kernighan this year, then ripped the new lease extension as a bad deal for the public.
Appearing unwilling to allow Brooks to continue on her tirade, Reid then revealed prior council discussions held that night in closed session. Implicitly, that the lease deal, while not the best, will get the city what it wants in the end—keeping the A’s and Raiders in Oakland. So, now press record and watch the video like you’re viewing Abraham Zapruder’s film of President Kennedy’s assassination. Watch Reid re-delivers the key line. “And I am really excited about…” Witness Reid’s eyes dart as he turns his head to the City Council chamber’s expansive ceiling. Either he is searching for a heavenly assist or debating during those split seconds whether he should reveal exactly what the A’s are up to. The video continues: “…the new way Mr. Wolff is thinking as it relates to his ball club staying in Oakland.”
What is Wolff’s new thinking? After shunning the city for years, does it matter as long as he at least, willing to utter its name?