MESA, Ariz. (AP) — New baseball commissioner Rob Manfred says addressing the Oakland Athletics’ desire for a new ballpark is a top priority, though he’s unsure what influence his office can have on the matter.
Manfred, who replaced Bud Selig in January, met with A’s players Monday as part of his spring training tour. He later spoke with reporters and said that he has had talks with A’s owner Lew Wolff and Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf.
“When I think about the five longer-term issues that I feel need to be resolved, the stadium situation for the A’s is right at the top of that list,” Manfred said, echoing comments he made earlier this year. “It’s one that does need to get handled. I’ve talked to Lew extensively. I’ve had conversations with the new mayor in Oakland and (I’m) really focused on finding a solution for what has been a long-term issue.”
The A’s have been seeking a new stadium for several years. The Oakland Coliseum was built in 1966 and is the only facility shared by Major League Baseball and NFL teams. The visiting locker room was flooded in 2013, and sewage backed up into the A’s assistant coaches bathroom in 2014.
Selig formed a panel in March 2009 to examine the stadium issue in Oakland, but the panel never issued a public report.
Manfred says MLB will continue to be involved but prefers to let the A’s and city of Oakland try to find a solution.
“Stadium issues are fundamentally local issues because it is the owner who has the feel, pulse of the local market and knows what’s necessary in that market,” the commissioner said. “Major League Baseball’s role is to provide support, information to the owners to move them along in that process.”
The Giants have prevented the A’s from building a ballpark in San Jose, which is part of San Francisco’s territory. San Jose’s antitrust claims in a lawsuit against MLB were dismissed, and the city says it intends to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
Manfred declined to discuss the San Jose issue with the media, citing ongoing litigation.
The Oakland Raiders have been playing in the Coliseum since moving back from Los Angeles in 1995. They are also seeking a new home and have joined with the San Diego Chargers to develop plans to build a stadium in Carson, California, though team owner Mark Davis has stated his preference to remain in Oakland.
Whether the city of Oakland can afford two new stadiums is uncertain. Schaaf asked both the A’s and Raiders to develop their own plans while the city comes up with one.
The A’s signed a 10-year lease agreement with the Coliseum this year but can get out of the deal as early as December 2017, provided they give two years’ notice.
Some minor upgrades have been made, chief among them two new scoreboards that were paid for by the A’s at a cost of $10 million.
“My preference is to move in lockstep with the A’s, support them, guide them, give them our best views so that we’re working together to getting a resolution to the stadium situation,” Manfred said.