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Move the A’s to Fresno

Given the dilapidated state of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the Oakland A’s are talking about building a new stadium. This is nothing new – the A’s have been talking about building a new stadium for decades with nothing to show for it.

The A’s management is pushing a marketing slogan, “Rooted in Oakland,”  with its stadium-site search. Three Oakland sites are in the running: a waterfront site at Howard Terminal near downtown, a site at Laney College east of Chinatown and the current site of the Coliseum.

According to oaklandballpark.com, which the A’s run, the organization will announce the new ballpark location and construction timeline by the end of the year.

The Raiders are leaving Oakland for Las Vegas. The Warriors are moving across the Bay. It’s not an unbelievable idea that the A’s could follow suit.

Here’s a novel idea: move the A’s to Fresno, and rename them the California A’s.

Obviously this would require A’s ownership to abandon its wish to stay in Oakland. But that is unlikely given the fact that ownership seems to be actually putting some effort into the stadium situation.

Considering that former managing partner Lew Wolff sold his share of the A’s in November, and owner John Fisher brought in new team president David Kaval, who immediately stated his priority to build a new stadium in Oakland, the chances of the A’s skipping town like their co-tenants, the Raiders, are very slim.

The A’s have tried before to build a new stadium to no avail. Don’t count on the team actually having a plan in place by the end of the year.

Baseball isn’t working in Oakland, and it’s not ridiculous to say it’s failing. Building a new stadium in the East Bay does not guarantee better fortunes for the franchise. As much as the Coliseum is a problem for the team, it is not the main problem. The problem is Oakland.

The A’s are second to last in per game attendance, which is under 19,000 people. They have often ranked near the bottom of the league in attendance per game over the past 20 years, never ranking in the top half.

There are better alternatives out there, one of which is Fresno.  

Fisher should move the team out of Oakland and the Bay Area entirely, or sell the team to someone who will actually get something done.

Possible relocation options include Montreal, San Antonio, Charlotte, Las Vegas and Portland, but none of those places has the established fan base already present in the Central Valley.

Fresno has a population of over half a million people, and over a million live in the metropolitan area. The Central Valley has over 7 million residents. Compared with other major league cities, the Fresno metropolitan area is a small market, but adding in the whole valley gives the market plenty of potential.

A’s ownership says it will privately finance the new stadium, which they estimate will cost close to $800 million. The organization could save money by cutting a deal with Fresno and renovating and refitting city-owned Chukchansi Park for a major league team.

Not only should the A’s consider moving to Fresno, the city itself should be pushing as hard as possible to bring a top-level professional sports franchise to town. There are many potential benefits of having a major team in town and hardly any conceivable downsides.

For years and years, the leaders of Fresno have talked about revitalizing downtown. There’s the project to open Fulton Mall to traffic, and developers have built apartments downtown, but there is not much of a difference so far. Having a major league team in downtown would do the job.

People would have a reason to be downtown after the work-day is over. Different bars and restaurants would most certainly open up around Chukchansi Park. The A’s would bring much business to downtown, and many apartments would have to be built to accommodate the new business, which would result in a lively nightlife downtown not unlike other major cities in the U.S. Downtown would no longer be dead.

Yes, Chukchansi Park would need serious renovations – the 12,500 seat stadium would have to expand to over 30,000 seats to compete with other stadiums across the country – but the time and effort from Fresno would be worth it.

Even if the A’s do stick to their word and complete a long-awaited new stadium in Oakland, it’s time for top-level professional sports to call the Central Valley home.