De La Fuente: “A's Belong in Oakland”

Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente said today that he hopes the announcement by Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff that the baseball team is halting its efforts to move to Fremont means it will stay in Oakland.

"I predicted a long time ago that Fremont wouldn't work out" for the A's, De La Fuente said.

"The A's belong in Oakland," he said.

Founded in Philadelphia as one of the American League's eight charter franchises, the A's have played at the Oakland Coliseum since they moved to Oakland from Kansas City in 1968.

The team's lease at the Coliseum expires at the end of the 2010 season but there are three one-year options that could keep the A's at the stadium through 2013.

Wolff and previous A's owners have explored the possibility of building a new stadium in Oakland but nothing ever got off the ground so Wolff in November 2006 announced plans to build a new stadium in Fremont.

Wolff said today that he is ceasing his efforts to move to Fremont in the face of strong opposition by neighborhood groups and regulatory and legal roadblocks.

De La Fuente, who has served for many years on the board that oversees the Coliseum's operations, said he and other city officials have directed Walter Cohen, the new director of Oakland's Community and Economic Development Agency, to meet with the A's to explore the possibility of building a new stadium in Oakland.

De La Fuente said he thinks building a new stadium on the Coliseum's grounds would be the best option but other possible sites also will be explored, although he declined to name them.

He admitted many questions remain, such as "Who will pay for it and how you do it."

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums' spokesman, Paul Rose, said, "The mayor is willing to do whatever it takes, within reason, to stay in Oakland."

Rose said the mayor's office has contacted Wolff "to continue our communications" about keeping the team in Oakland.

Rose said Wolff told the mayor's office that he will talk with city officials in April, after the end of the A's spring training in Arizona.

In a statement he issued today, Wolff said, "My focus now is on baseball with spring training and the opening of the 2009 season."

He said, "My goal and desire for the organization is to determine a way to keep the team in Northern California," but he didn't say whether he will consider keeping the team in Oakland or look at other cities in the area.

Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele, who also serves on the Coliseum's board, said, "I feel really bad" about the A's abandoning their plans for Fremont and "I don't have any immediate answers."

Steele, who represents Hayward and surrounding cities, said she would like to get more information from the team about its plans but doesn't expect to because she thinks the team doesn't want to stay in Oakland.

"We only know a piece of the story," she said.

Steele said even if the A's really want to remain in Oakland she thinks it will be difficult for them to build a new stadium in the city because of the difficult economic environment.

The A's first considered building a new 32,000-seat stadium, which was to be called Cisco Field, adjacent to the Pacific Commons shopping center, west of Interstate Highway 880 and south of Auto Mall Parkway.

More recently the team considered building a stadium on a 40-acre parcel of land across the street from the planned Warm Springs Bay Area Rapid Transit station, just north of the NUMMI automotive plant and east of Interstate 880.

But the second plan was strongly opposed by neighborhood groups and NUMMI officials.

In a letter to Fremont and Alameda County officials, Wolff said even if the City Council approved one of the sites, "the 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 said, "The process to achieve important projects in California can be even more of a challenge than perhaps betting to the World Series."

Wolff said he and other team officials will "evaluate the next steps for the A's" after the regular season starts in April.

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