For the Oakland A's to move to San Jose, the South Bay city's mayor says the city should remain firm on one point: Lew Wolff, the team's co-owner, "needs to pay for his own stadium."
Tuesday, for the first time, the San Jose City Council will vote on a handful of principles meant to shape any future negotiations with the A's. While those provisions hold the promise for some form of city contribution, they also make clear such an investment would require a citywide referendum and could not include San Jose's strapped operating funds.
In fact, at the top of the city's list is a requirement that any ballpark actually make the city money — "millions of dollars," Reed said — instead of merely not costing it any.
"We've seen it with" HP Pavilion, Reed said, "so we know it can be done." The San Jose Redevelopment Agency spent $135 million in the early 1990s to build the arena, which brings the city's general fund an estimated $5.8 million a year.
The council Tuesday also will take up its most comprehensive plans yet for ensuring that business owners and other residents remain part of the city's evolving ballpark conversation.
"We want to make sure we have community support and that this is good for all of San Jose," Councilman Ash Kalra said.
But whatever the council decides, it may be months — if ever — before the city puts its principles into practice at the bargaining table.
San Jose remains a strongly guarded piece of the San Francisco Giants' territory, and Wolff, a developer with deep South Bay ties who also owns the Earthquakes soccer team, would need Major League Baseball's permission to begin any negotiations in earnest. That issue has doomed other attempts to woo the A's south.
A special baseball panel, convened this past winter after the A's hopes for a Fremont ballpark collapsed, has been charged with exploring the team's prospects for a new stadium — but it is starting with a re-examination of the team's options in Oakland first. Any findings from the panel could be months away.
Wolff declined to comment last week.
That uncertainty hasn't stopped San Jose officials from moving forward in the event the A's do receive baseball's blessing to pursue a 32,000-seat, $500 million stadium in San Jose.
Baseball boosters in the private sector are preparing polls and working to line up the support of San Jose's corporate community. A city-commissioned economic analysis of a stadium is expected this summer. And the council has mounted what Kalra, for one, called "an unprecedented" effort to reach out to the community.
Reed and Councilmen Sam Liccardo and Pierluigi Oliverio have already met with several neighborhood leaders, beginning the process of winning over residents who have feared the city would dismiss their concerns about traffic, noise and parking woes.
Meanwhile, the San Jose Redevelopment Agency continues to negotiate for the remaining two parcels needed to complete the city's 14-acre site. The agency already has spent several years and more than $25 million assembling the land, hoping to lure another prominent development to the site in the event a stadium deal falls through.
Though the city has so far refused to assist with most stadium costs, including financing, construction, maintenance and any unexpected shortfalls, city officials appear willing to be flexible on land and infrastructure.
Those costs would be borne not by the general fund, which pays for most city services, but by the redevelopment agency, whose mission includes offering incentives to businesses in the name of economic development.
But giving the land to Wolff, or leasing or selling it below market value, still raises the specter of a referendum.
San Jose requires one any time a contribution to a stadium is proposed.
Even if redevelopment money is merely spent on fixing roads around a ballpark, Liccardo said, "I expect that we will go to the voters."
And if the city offers no money to Wolff at all? "I frankly think we should go to a vote anyway," Liccardo said.
Reach Denis C. Theriault at 408-275-2002 or email@example.com.