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Lew Wolff (L) speaks at a press conference with Bud Selig announcing the building of a new ballpark in Fremont. This was taken in 2006. A lot has changed since then, but not Wolff's plan to get the heck out of Oakland.
Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff reiterated Thursday that his team needs a new home in the Bay Area and, after looking at the options, he thinks the best choice is San Jose.
"The only site we could locate is downtown San Jose," Wolff said. "We need to be in a downtown area."
Wolff said the A's have turned a profit in Oakland each of his nine years as an owner by sticking to a rule of spending no more than 50 percent of revenue on player salaries, which reached $65 million last year. But he said the competing San Francisco Giants have built-in advantages over the A's, given the two teams' current territories.
"We are assigned 2.5 million people, the other is assigned 4.2 million people," Wolff said. "We have two counties assigned to us, there are six counties assigned to the other team."
Like Wolff, San Jose city officials have made no secret about wanting the A's to move south, and the city has a stadium site picked out near the Diridon Caltrain station west of San Jose's downtown core.
Any potential move by the A's to San Jose would have to overcome hurdles, starting with opposition from the Giants, who under the rules of Major League Baseball claim San Jose as part of their fan territory.
To have any hope of overriding the Giants' territorial claim, Wolff would have to convince at least 75 percent of Major League Baseball team owners and Commissioner Bud Selig to favor moving the A's to San Jose.
Wolff seemed to be laying out his case while speaking this morning at an economic outlook conference sponsored by Comerica Bank at the Fourth Street Summit Center in downtown San Jose. Wolff said the A's were serious in their ultimately unsuccessful effort to move to Fremont, and lost about $24 million on an investment of $80 million in real estate there. Of the 30 cities with MLB teams, 19 have a lesser population than San Jose, which has more than 1 million residents, he said.
"Just in terms of size, it works out for baseball," he said. He also said other Bay Area sports teams are in newer venues, including the Giants and the San Jose Sharks NHL hockey team, and pointed out that the San Francisco 49ers will soon be moving to a new $1.2 billion stadium in Santa Clara.
The University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University have also invested in new sports venues, and the San Jose Earthquakes pro soccer team -- which Wolff co-owns -- will move in 2014 to a new playing field near Mineta San Jose International Airport, Wolff said.
But the A's and the Oakland Raiders continue to play in the aging O.co Coliseum in Oakland, he said. "We are the only (MLB) team to share a venue with an NFL team," Wolff said.
"The entire Bay Area has (new) venues," Wolff said. "We're trying to do that with the A's and I think the Raiders will eventually do the same thing." "Hopefully we will have a better venue someday for the A's," he said.