The one thing on which virtually everyone fighting to keep the A's in Oakland agrees is the need for a gleaming new downtown stadium. The decrepit Coliseum has been home to four World Series champs, but no matter what city the A's play in during the coming decade, their current stadium's days are numbered.

When Lew Wolff, the team's managing partner, started squawking about the old dump -- and what he deemed a lack of support from local businesses to build a new park -- Oakland took its time responding. That let momentum build behind the notion that the A's were leaving town; it was just a question of where the team would end up.

Oakland didn't unveil its three potential sites for a new waterfront ballpark until December. By then, Wolff had already abandoned plans for a move to Fremont and set his sights on San Jose. And a Major League Baseball committee studying the A's options was nearly in its third trimester.

Oakland's effort appeared too late, especially in Silicon Valley, where fans were already dreaming of seats for season tickets.

But Doug Boxer, head of the civic group aimed at keeping the team in Oakland, insists that the A's hometown is a contender in baseball's beauty pageant, now in its 17th month.

"If we weren't in the game, if this was just a slam dunk, then why is it taking so long?" asked Boxer, who is also chairman of the city's planning commission and the son of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and City Council President Jane Brunner last month sought to ratchet up the volume in what had been a whisper-quiet campaign to keep the team. In a letter to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, they wrote that the city had "demonstrated that "... (it) has the financial capacity to uphold its end of any negotiated transaction."

Translation: Oakland's redevelopment agency has the resources to buy land for a new stadium and give or lease it to the A's. According to officials with knowledge of Oakland's bid, the land for any of the three proposed sites near the city's waterfront will cost about $80 million.

It's a similar plan to the one being proposed in San Jose, with one key difference: Unlike their counterparts down Interstate 880, the Oakland City Council has not yet voted to commit those resources to the team.

Nor has anyone yet explored whether a privately financed stadium would work in Oakland. Wolff, in fact, says he hasn't spoken to anyone from the pro-Oakland side in 17 months. "If they have this plan, they haven't presented it to me," he said, adding, "There's a hundred questions that San Jose has already answered."

But Oakland leaders contend it isn't the town that has turned its back on the A's, but the team's owners who have failed to aggressively court potential sponsors and luxury box tenants.

Clorox CEO Don Knauss says that during his four years at the helm of one of Oakland's last remaining Fortune 500 companies, no one from the A's has ever contacted him. He's now working to keep the A's in town.

Knauss previously spearheaded the effort to rename the Astros' field Minute Maid Park when he was CEO of the juice maker. "I understand the economic impact these parks can have on a town, and the civic pride that goes with it," he said.

Along with such East Bay corporations as Kaiser Permanente and Safeway -- 35 companies in all -- Clorox has contributed toward a $500,000 escrow account. If the A's commit to a new park in town, Boxer says, those companies promise to spend the money on sponsorships and luxury suites.

Other proposed ballpark sites in Oakland
Jack London Square North: At Jefferson and 2nd St., this 20-acre parcel would require relocation of the greatest number of independent land owners.
Howard Terminal: Located at the Port of Oakland, it's the biggest site at 50 acres and has the advantage of already being city-owned. But it is considered the least viable because it has the poorest access to transportation.
Source: Mercury News reporting and newballpark.org