The A's still can't decide...
A's explore new Fremont ballpark site near future Warm Springs BART station
By Matthew Artz
Bay Area News Group
Posted: 01/16/2009 08:23:03 PM PST
With their plans for a ballpark village facing major obstacles, the Oakland A's are shifting their focus for a new stadium to Fremont's Warm Springs area next to a planned BART station, team and city officials confirmed Friday.
The announcement comes weeks after A's owner Lew Wolff released a letter from Major League Baseball that invited the team to pursue other options if he can't move forward with a deal in Fremont. The A's hope the question will become clear by June.
For now, the team will amend its development application to move the ballpark closer to the future Warm Springs BART station, "most likely" the preferred location now, said A's co-owner Keith Wolff.
Both the Warm Springs location and the team's original site for a ballpark village west of Interstate 880 off Auto Mall Parkway will be included in a draft environmental report expected to be released this summer.
While the A's haven't completely given up on their original proposal to combine a stadium with housing and shops, they switched preferred sites primarily because they have been unable to reach an agreement with a major landholder in the Auto Mall Parkway area.
ProLogis, a real estate investment trust, owns the Pacific Commons shopping center and the ballpark site, and thus can block the project.
With their plans in serious jeopardy, the team has turned to the Warm Springs BART site, which regional transportation and environmental groups prefer.
But that location, just west of Interstate 680 near the intersection of Osgood Road and Grimmer Boulevard, presents its own hurdles. Many Warm Springs residents oppose the site, fearing the ballpark will cause gridlock and noise.
The team doesn't own any land near the BART site and would have to purchase several lots on which to build the stadium.
The A's hope to have a clear sense if either Fremont project is viable by June, Wolff said. He refused to speculate which city the team might turn to next if it appears the city council won't approve a stadium plan, but some leaders in San Jose see their city as an obvious candidate.
San Jose owns most of the land for a potential downtown ballpark near the Diridon rail station and has already prepared an environmental impact report. The big sticking point for San Jose is the Giants' territorial rights to Santa Clara County. However, last month's letter from baseball Commissioner Bud Selig could throw that into question. Major League Baseball officials have refused to elaborate on the letter, which didn't specifically address the Giants' territorial rights, and the Wolffs continue to insist the team is focused on Fremont.
If Fremont approves the environmental review, the team would have to return with a more specific plan showing exactly where the stadium would go, said Jill Keimach, the city's community development director.
The new proposal still would keep retail and housing, but not a ballpark, near Pacific Commons — something ProLogis would not oppose.
With the environmental study nearly completed for the Pacific Commons site, the next few months of traffic studies and other environmental analysis will focus on Warm Springs, Wolff said.
The team has been meeting with small groups of residents and proposing ideas to ease their concerns.
When the new application is submitted, the city will hold a second round of public meetings, allowing residents to comment on the plan.
The opposition in Warm Springs is a significant obstacle, Mayor Bob Wasserman said. "By volume, it's a lot of people."