OAKLAND (AP) — The Oakland Athletics are staying put under new leadership and determined to find the right location for an intimate new ballpark that brings together the community with a great vibe for fans. One that will be privately funded and, in time, increase revenue and improve the on-field product.
It’s a big, bold plan. Committed new team President Dave Kaval just pulled off something similar in his other job: Building the San Jose Earthquakes’ second-year, state-of-the art Avaya Stadium, which just so happens to boast the largest outdoor bar in North America.
Kaval is eager to get started evaluating several sites, communicate with city and business leaders and even open his office for two hours a week to anyone who wants to chat about the plan for this low-budget franchise.
“I know they’re starving for a place to call home,” Kaval, also president of the MLS Earthquakes, said Thursday when he was formally introduced.
He envisions a unique venue that honors the A’s winning past with statues of Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Reggie Jackson.
Lew Wolff is selling all but a small stake in the A’s and giving up his managing partner role, turning it over to John Fisher.
Wolff will become chairman emeritus and Fisher the managing partner. In addition, prior team President Michael Crowley is stepping away from day-to-day operations after nearly 20 years in the role but will advise the A’s ownership group. Kaval fills Crowley’s position while also keeping his same position with the MLS team but focusing the majority of his time now on the A’s ballpark plan while restructuring his leadership team with the Quakes.
Baseball owners approved the leadership transition for Oakland during meetings Thursday in Chicago. Wolff and Fisher bought the A’s on April 1, 2005.
“I am pleased my dear friend of almost 25 years, John Fisher, will be even more involved,” Wolff wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “I will miss Mike Crowley, who has contributed so much to the A’s, and I welcome my ?somewhat newer friend, Dave Kaval, who will bring lots of talent and energy to the A’s. And, I will be able to watch games with a slight degree of less stress, not much but a little!”
Wolff had been committed to keeping the A’s in Oakland but previously wanted to move the team to San Jose and build a new ballpark. Former Commissioner Bud Selig never ruled on whether the A’s could move into the San Francisco Giants’ cherished territory in technology-rich Silicon Valley. New Commissioner Rob Manfred said last month he would like to see the club stay put.
“Look, I think that John has been really engaged for over a year on the stadium project,” Manfred said Thursday in Chicago. “He’s made it his project. He’s really focused on Oakland as a result of some direction I’ve given him with respect to my view of that market.”
While the NBA Golden State Warriors are planning for a new arena in San Francisco and the NFL Raiders are looking to relocate to Las Vegas, the A’s could be it for the East Bay.
“What’s critical is we need to find a place to bring this community together,” Kaval said. “The other teams look like they might be leaving. We might be the only team left.”
Manfred hinted at change when he spoke during the NL Division Series between the Cubs and Giants at San Francisco’s AT&T Park, saying more would be known about the A’s situation soon. Manfred noted that Fisher has become more heavily involved in the ballpark planning and has made multiple trips to New York to meet with Manfred and MLB.
In addition, Manfred said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf told him the city is committed to keeping the A’s in town — and Kaval will meet with her and other key leaders soon.
The small-budget A’s won consecutive AL West titles in 2012 and ‘13, losing in five games of the division series to the Detroit Tigers in both years. But they still consider a new ballpark the top priority to be a regular contender. Oakland’s payroll of $87 million, pending award bonuses and adjustments, is above only Tampa Bay and Milwaukee.
The run-down Coliseum, shared with the Raiders and the last venue with both Major League Baseball and football, had multiple sewage problems in 2013 that caused damage during games.
For now, Kaval wants to improve the fan experience at the Coliseum.
“I know it’s maybe lipstick on a pig,” he said.
AP Sports Writer Jay Cohen in Chicago contributed to this report.