That's because the process of moving the Oakland Athletics to Fremont is now beyond the conceptual stage and entering the tougher, trickier reality phase — getting all the preliminary ducks in a row under the slow crush of governmental approval at both the state and local levels before a shovel can ever move a single pebble.
On top of all that, the Oakland A's owner must continue to answer questions about why the A's really have to move out of Oakland and why the proposed Fremont site, with all of its potential access and traffic issues, ultimately will be much better. It's the ultimate test of a gentle man's patience, and the cracks are showing.
Quite frankly, it's tough to understand why Wolff, a man in his 70s, wants to do this. OK, sure, he and his son Keith and billionaire partner John Fisher will make a nice profit on the business venture itself. There will be altruistic rewards as well, even though many A's fans are skeptical these businessmen are doing this for an improved quality of life in the Bay Area.
But, Wolff readily admitted in a wide-ranging address and Q&A session at the Commonwealth Club on Monday night that realizing the vision of Cisco Field is at least four years away and probably five, and that he may be too old and exhausted by the pursuit to actually enjoy much of it himself if it ever gets built by 2012 or 2013.
And it may not. Wolff said he hopes he'll be able to pronounce this venture a done deal within the next 12-18 months,but the A's aren't there yet, either. Things are moving slowly, and if that isn't enough of a headache for Wolff, he and his partners are trying to juggle the approval and construction of a San Jose soccer venue in concert with the baseball extravaganza.
Wolff is about as optimistic and humorous a businessman as you're ever going to meet, but some of his comments in this informal session hinted at his level of frustration right now. The next step in the process, for example.
"Within a couple of weeks, we will be submitting a development application which initiates the environmental impact report, which initiates a lot of spiral-down reports and paper," he said. "More trees have been knocked down by environmental impact studies than developers. There are steps within steps. But we're going to follow them. We have no choice."
That particular process could take a year to 18 months. Wolff clearly isn't looking forward to the snail pace of it.
"We're going to do everything on our end to move it as fast as we can, but the process to a lot of people is the end process," he said. "A lot of people live on the process. It gripes the heck out of me."
Does that sound just a little short to you? His tone was a little more curt on this evening than I've ever heard him. Host Marty Lurie tossed him questions from the audience of approximately 100, and near the end of the session, he received one of the familiar ones about how the move to Fremont could destroy the 40-year tradition that's been built in Oakland.
His answer sounded like a man getting real tired of the question.
"We're still here, folks," he said. "We're not moving to Timbuktu. We're going to be down the street in a beautiful new facility. Anybody in this room that came out to the Coliseum, please try me one day, and I'll show you how lovely it may have been in Oakland once. But it's not really great for us right now. I wish it were."
Wolff is getting very touchy about the Fremont venue's transportation and access issues as well. When Lurie phrased a question about the A's moving to one of the Bay Area's worst traffic bottlenecks, he shot back, "We think we're moving from one of the worst bottlenecks. I just don't accept it as one of the worst bottlenecks. It's one of the many bottlenecks, but the improvement of that area is under way right now."
Regarding possible ticket pricing at the new park, Wolff offered a funny but not very satisfying answer for the average A's fan: "Very easy question. It'll be a little bit less than the Giants."
In another uncomfortable moment, Wolff uttered what might be interpreted as an ethnic putdown when discussing why the A's haven't done much exploration and development in the Asian player market.
"First of all, Asian players, probably if you asked them — and could understand them — they would like to stay on the West Coast," he said. "But the money that's being spent by the Yankees and Boston, they're having to make the extra five-hour flight."
Understand them? Wolff might be hearing about that one, since his address was broadcast over radio. A statement like that doesn't play well orally or in print.
Alas, that's the tough part of trying to sell such a grand vision. Anything you say can be dissected. Fact is, you can slip and say the wrong thing easily.
Undaunted, Wolff forges ahead with the selling of this grand ballpark, even as the push starts to get tougher. Tough to envy his challenge.