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A slow death in Oakland

The Oakland A’s latest radio misstep is indicative of what I feel is the impending slow death of professional sports in the East Bay.

That the A’s are still searching for a flagship radio station two days before the start of what many feel is going to be a promising season is embarrassing for both fans and ownership.

All things seemed promising in the offseason at word that the A’s would be buying 50,000-watt radio station KTRB and changing the format into all sports, anti-KNBR (my words) and East Bay-heavy. Finally, a place the A’s could call home and an important, much-needed marketing tool.

But now it appears the deal is falling through, and the A’s could be back on 10,000-watt KFRC. (In Modesto, the A’s will still be broadcast on AM-970 regardless of its flagship station).

Regardless of the outcome, which one way or another will be resolved before Trevor Cahill’s first pitch on Friday night, it’s just one more head-scratcher for fans of East Bay sports.

It’s another in a long line of issues tied to facilities and marketing that will accelerate the Bay Area departures of the A’s and Raiders and the move by the Warriors into a new arena next to AT&T Park.

It also illustrates the pull and intelligence of KNBR, which broadcasts and markets the Giants, 49ers and Warriors. They are shameless in ignoring their slogan as “The Sports Leader” to simply pound their above brands. As a blogger somewhere pointed out: Look at their Web site. Under “team links” on their home page, they have the Giants, 49ers, Warriors and … the Sharks, a team they don’t even carry. Raiders, A’s anyone?

It’s smart of the station and it’s smart of those organizations to tie their brand to the most powerful marketing company in the Bay Area.

It all signals a demise of East Bay Sports. Here’s why:

Raiders: Mark my word that if Al Davis steps aside as Raiders boss, and the new stadium project in Los Angeles is still in search of a team, the Silver and Black will be back in LA.

It makes sense. LA will embrace the Raiders, but not Al Davis. The Raiders will embrace a new stadium, especially one they can call their own. I just don’t see the Vikings or Jaguars moving to LA. The city of San Diego will get a stadium built for the Chargers if push comes to shove.

As much sense as it makes for the Raiders and 49ers to share a stadium in the Bay Area, I just don’t see those two organizations working things out. The Raiders don’t play second fiddle to anyone, and that’s what they’d be in the 49ers-driven stadium in Santa Clara. The folks in Alameda are trying to sell the NFL on the Oakland Coliseum as a place to house both NFL teams. JaMarcus Russell will return to quarterback the Raiders before the NFL signs off on football in Oakland.

Mark my word. In 10 years, some way or another, the Raiders will be back in LA and the 49ers will own the Bay Area once and for all.

A’s: Given the economic climate in the Bay Area, the Giants ownership of the San Jose market, and the somewhat recent laissez-faire approach to ownership by Lew Wolff, it appears the A’s are on their way out.

There was an intriguing column by the Bay Area News Group’s Monte Poole about baseball actually wanting to contract the Devil Rays and the A’s and letting Wolff by the Los Angeles Dodgers. It wouldn’t be the first time in recent months Wolff’s name has been tied to potential ownership of the Southland team.

If the A’s can’t get a stadium built — and the longer it goes, the more likely that appears — I could see Wolff selling to an ownership group in a different city or state. You just can’t generate enough revenue at the Coliseum to remain competitive, Wolff complains.

I think San Jose would be great. But I just don’t see it happening. That Bud Selig’s so-called “Blue Ribbon Committee” is in Year 3 of making its decision about the rights to San Jose shows there is a real struggle in going against the Giants.

The A’s simply can’t stay at the Coliseum that much longer and given San Jose doesn’t seem to be an option, I can see Wolff simply throwing in the towel.

Warriors: This is only speculation on my part. But when the Warriors were for sale last year, there was some talk that the Giants might seek a piece of the Warriors.

The theory went that San Francisco wants an arena venue near downtown where the city could bring in musical acts for concerts. Said venue would be built in one of the Giants’ parking lots and the Warriors would eventually move in.

It make sense, although I was at Oracle Arena earlier this month for the first time in years and found it to be a wonderful facility.

Still, a new arena will always be better than an old one. Just ask the Sacramento Kings.

So, there’s my dire prediction of sports in the East Bay.

My hope would be for the Raiders and 49ers to share a stadium in Santa Clara and the Coliseum be demolished for a new baseball-only stadium.

Problem with that is Wolff clearly wants a stadium to be surrounded by other forms of revenue like condos, apartments and retail. Can’t picture that at the current site.

What are your thoughts? How would you solve the stadium problems for the A’s and Raiders? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Posted by on March 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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