News is spreading about a renewed attempt by Fremont to lure the A’s out of Oakland. They’re proposing a site on the property behind the New United Motors Manufacturing, Inc. plant. This site could be called the anti-walking site. It’s surrounded by industrial buildings and located at the far southern tip of the East Bay. This proposed site is as remote from the center of the community as it could be.
According to the Oakland Tribune article, the A’s are not directly engaged in negotiations with Fremont. Major League Baseball has to give its blessing first to any alternate site for the team. I hope MLB has the good sense to see that this Fremont site would not be beneficial to the A’s chances of drawing a crowd. It’s not a site that serves the best interests of fans or the league.
The beauty of the proposed downtown Oakland locations is that they would put the stadium within walking distance of a large, urban population, like Wrigley Field in Chicago or AT&T Park in the West Bay. The businesses and restaurants in China Basin and Wrigleyville have a good chance of surviving because there is a community that lives nearby and can support those businesses even when the Cubs or Giants aren’t playing. Fremont thinks that putting a baseball stadium in the middle of an industrial neighborhood will help them redevelop that area more quickly than allowing growth to happen organically. But that’s false hope. If I’m thinking about opening a business to cater to people going to a baseball game, I need to think about how I’m going to attract people on the other 240 days of the year when there’s no game in the stadium. I’d be smarter to choose a location where there’s a pool of potential customers 365 days a year.
MLB should be thinking about the stadium location in terms of how it would benefit the A’s, the league, and the community. Those interests dovetail nicely when the stadium is located in an area like downtown Oakland. It’s like planting a seed — you want to drop your seed in fertile soil, in good light, with steady access to water. You don’t plant your seed on rocky soil and say “hopefully we can attract some sunlight and water to this desolate wasteland.”