A day after Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff publicly stated he wasn't sure if he would succeed in building a new baseball stadium in Fremont, he told the Mercury News that he's frustrated at the lingering pace, but ultimately thinks "Ballpark Village" will rise in the Bay Area's fourth-largest city.
Wolff is troubled why it's taking so long to satisfy major property owners near the proposed 32,000-seat Cisco Field and to complete an environmental review.
"I still think it's going to happen," Wolff, a major South Bay developer, said Thursday from his office in Los Angeles. "Otherwise I wouldn't be doing this."
In November, Wolff formally pitched a 105-page proposal to the city of Fremont to create Ballpark Village on nearly 230 acres of land next to the Pacific Commons Shopping Center, west of the Auto Mall Parkway off Interstate 880. The plan calls for building a high-tech stadium as the centerpiece of a Santana Row-style housing and retail development.
But Wednesday, Wolff told a Bay Area News Group reporter that he was unsure whether the team's attempt to build the state-of-the-art ballpark would fly.
"I don't know. I honestly don't," Wolff told sports reporter Rick Hurd. "But say it doesn't. We're still under a lot of pressure to get a park that is our own. That isn't going to go away. So my hope is that we'll find a way to make it happen. It has not been as easy as I thought it would be."
Wolff said Thursday he's still waiting for an environmental impact report, which won't be finished until 2009. The A's had planned to open their Fremont park in 2011, but that date was pushed back to at least April 2012.
Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman said Wolff asked him at Tuesday's A's game to talk to nearby property owners ProLogis and Pacific Commons to appease them about various concerns. Wasserman wasn't clear on the details. But he thought the obstacles concerned ownership of some land and parking. Pacific Commons operates a large retail shopping center next to the A's ballpark site.
Three of the larger Pacific Commons retailers have expressed concerns with the A's parking plan, co-owner Keith Wolff said. Although the retailers can't block the project, the team wants to make sure they're satisfied. They want clarification and mitigation, Wolff said. One possible solution, he added, is a pedestrian bridge over Auto Mall Parkway that would link the ballpark to the largest parking lot.
Wasserman said he hadn't come up with a plan on how to approach the companies yet but would meet with Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty - another A's supporter - to figure out what to do.
"To Lew, I think it seems like they're delaying things," Wasserman said. "In Lew's mind, I think he thinks they're not being entirely reasonable. I'm not super-worried. But I'm concerned. I think it's important that we get the issues resolved so that we can move forward."
Representatives for ProLogis and Pacific Commons were not immediately available for comment.
Wolff denied he asked Wasserman to talk to the companies. He said he requested the mayor remind all interested parties that the ballpark would bring a much-needed economic boost to the city.
Wolff also said there was absolutely no similarity with parking concerns at his project and the 49ers' efforts to build a football stadium in Santa Clara. Ohio-based Cedar Fair, which owns the Great America amusement park in Santa Clara, holds a long-term lease on the parking lot where the 49ers want to build a stadium. Cedar Fair has argued the NFL games would hurt its business, and the theme park wants a cut of the 49ers' stadium parking revenue.
Daren Fields, Fremont's economic development director, said the issues that are arising over the A's deal seem to be par for the course, especially for such a large project.
"From the city perspective, we're moving forward," Fields said. "I don't see any issues that can't be resolved."
Wolff, who also owns the San Jose Earthquakes and is hoping to build a stadium for that team near San Jose's airport, acknowledged the Fremont ballpark is the largest development he's ever undertaken.
Then there are the two dozen entities affected by the project, including BART, Fremont schools, property owners and merchants.
"They're all asking for things they deserve," Wolff said Thursday. "But the problem is we can't give them exactly what they want."
Contact Lisa Fernandez at email@example.com or (408) 920-5002.
Bay Area News Group Staff Writer Matthew Artz contributed to this report.