PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has given the Oakland Athletics permission to "discuss a ballpark with other communities" if officials in Fremont, Calif., don't quickly approve a proposed new stadium.
The A's plan to build a ballpark that would cost about $500 million, primarily from private funds, but they have yet to win approval by officials in Fremont, a Bay Area suburb about 20 miles south of the team's longtime home in the Coliseum.
"It is important that we get to some resolution in the near future," Selig wrote in a Dec. 3 letter to Oakland managing partner Lewis Wolff. "As a result, I have decided that in the event you are not able to promptly assure the implementation of the desired ballpark in Fremont, you may begin to discuss a ballpark with other communities."
Selig also said the A's need a new ballpark to remain competitive.
"I cannot stress enough that the need for the A's to have a viable and modern stadium is a paramount objective for your organization and for the game overall," Selig wrote. "The A's currently operate in one of the least desirable venues in Major League Baseball and it has placed your club at a serious disadvantage with respect to other clubs in the game."
Wolff said he remains optimistic that the A's will be able to build in Fremont.
"My priority really is Fremont," Wolff said as he arrived for major league owners meetings at a mountainside resort.
"I think all these things will fall into place and the city council will vote and say, 'Yes, you can go there,'" Wolff said. "It's just a matter of local constituencies delaying, and it's really not the city council. We feel pretty good where we're at today. I think by the middle of the year, we'll know whether we can do it or not."
In November 2006, the A's unveiled plans to move south and build the long-awaited ballpark they hope would transform the small-market club into a bigger spender and a more popular choice for fans in the Bay Area.
The A's, in partnership with Cisco Systems Inc., agreed to purchase 143 acres of land from Cisco in Fremont and is now looking at a site closer to a BART station. The team still hopes to break ground on a ballpark to be called Cisco Field, with the initial goal to open in time for the 2011 season.
"We should have been under construction a year ago," Wolff said. "We're still trying to get approved, and we're not asking for any public money. Zero."
The stadium would be an intimate venue with an impressive range of technological capabilities. The A's had been trying unsuccessfully for years to find a suitable site in Oakland for a new stadium, and they are tired of sharing a rundown space with the NFL's Oakland Raiders.