Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A's move to Fremont might be delayed

The Oakland A's still plan to come to Fremont, but team officials no longer expect to arrive in 2011.

A's co-owner Keith Wolff said that opening day 2012 now is the team's target date, although that, too, could change.

"If everything goes perfectly, 2012," Wolff said at a community meeting Tuesday night when asked what year the team would arrive. "I think we need a little leeway."

After the meeting, Wolff said that the team could only arrive in 2011 if the city certified the team's environmental impact report by the end of this year - a target date both Wolff and city officials said almost surely would be missed.

"2012 was probably more realistic than (2011)," City Manager Fred Diaz said Wednesday. "It's a very complicated project, and because of its complexity, it's very slow."

The A's are proposing a 32,000-seat ballpark, along with up to 3,150 homes, an elementary school and a commercial center similar to San Jose's Santana Row on 226 acres west of Interstate 880 and south of Auto Mall Parkway.

Because the project is so massive, the team is continuing to fine-tune details with the city and other agencies.

"I think they're realizing that there's a lot of things that need to be addressed," Planning Director Jeff Schwob said.

Fremont and the A's still are discussing different plans for accessing parking lots and determining which entity will be responsible for paving a temporary parking lot west of Cushing Parkway, he said. The environmental report, which requires the team to respond to comments from public agencies and citizens, typically takes 14 to 18 months to complete.

The draft environmental impact report, which will include the city's much-anticipated traffic impact study, could be completed by the end of the year, Schwob said.

Given that schedule, it is unlikely that the report will be made public before the November mayoral election, in which former Mayor Gus Morrison, a critic of the A's plan, is running against two men supporting the team move to Fremont - incumbent Mayor Bob Wasserman and Councilman Steve Cho.

Wolff did not directly respond when asked if the team was concerned about Morrison entering the race. "We just want to present a project that makes sense for the city of Fremont."

Meanwhile, the team is continuing to try to strengthen local support.

Last week, it sent out mailers to Fremont residents that had a picture of co-owner Lew Wolff, Keith's father, on the front reading to a group of schoolchildren.

And at Tuesday's meeting, attended by about 45 people at St. Joseph's Parish, stadium backers distributed a different flier touting the development and its benefits for Fremont.

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