Time is running out for the A's.
The team's contract at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland expires at the end of the 2013 season. Even if Major League Baseball decides to grant the wish of A's co-owner Lew Wolff to move the team to San Jose, they won't have a ballpark to play in for several years.
That means the A's will be in Oakland until at least 2015 -- if not much longer -- giving the city and county a bargaining chip when they start talking about extending the Coliseum contract.
The situation has "always been part of the discussion," Mayor Jean Quan said.
The question is whether Quan and other elected officials will leverage their advantage to get a better contract or do whatever they can to keep the team in Oakland.
Wolff said the A's will seek an extension that is "fair to Oakland and works for us -- if possible."
Negotiations could begin as soon as both sides wish, but haven't.
A's President Mike Crowley said he sent what he considered a fair lease extension proposal in June that was met with a "convoluted" response from the Coliseum Joint Powers Authority, which oversees the municipally owned complex.
"So that ended that conversation pretty quickly," he said. "If we can't work something out here, we'll have to find somewhere else to play.
"There are not many options. But we have time. We're here in 2012, and we're here in 2013."
The current contract lease extension was signed in 2006 when Wolff was in talks with Fremont to build a ballpark there by 2011. The A's have control over concessions during all events, as well as parking and pouring rights, a fee beverage companies play for access to fans at facilities. It's worth as much as $4.5 million at the O.co Coliseum.
The team also keeps all revenue from their games and about 60 percent of money from concessions.
But the next deal may not be so generous.
Everything will be on the table, from concessions to maintenance, JPA member and District 1 Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty said. He was also involved in the 2006 talks about the A's possible move to Fremont.
Haggerty declined to discuss any specific negotiating plans regarding 2013. But, he said, "We don't want to be used as a bargaining chip for a team to get a better deal (from a competing city) when they leave. Teams have a responsibility to say, 'We want to be in this community.' "
Instead, said JPA Chairman and Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, "the A's have made it absolutely clear the last place they want to be is in Oakland." The city has bent over backward to persuade them to stay, he said. "Sometimes, enough is enough." The A's either have to pay more rent or share more revenues with the city and county, whose taxpayers subsidize the Coliseum complex each year by about $20 million.
The A's have deducted more than $1 million from their rent since 2009 because their contract allows them not to pay a city-imposed, Oakland-wide parking tax.
Going forward, they are supposed to pay $1 million in rent on June 30, 2012, and $800,000 on June 30, 2013.
"The reality is they're the ones who have a timeline, not us," said De La Fuente, referring to the 2013 deadline and the lack of alternatives to the O.co Coliseum in the Bay Area.
The A's minor league River Cats ballpark in Sacramento doesn't meet MLB standards and likely couldn't accommodate scheduling two teams although Crowley would not rule it out.
The A's are not welcome at AT&T Park or Candlestick Park, said Peter Magowan, the Giants' former managing general partner. The team can keep the A's out because it has territorial rights to San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig could try to broker a deal between the two teams to make room for the A's in San Jose. But Magowan said there is no reason to doubt that Selig would not honor the Giants territorial rights in Santa Clara County.
The A's might be forced to pay more rent or play outside the Bay Area until they have a ballpark, sports analyst Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College said. But the best Oakland can expect is a short-term lease extension, he added. "Oakland does not have a lot of bargaining power."
The city will have even less if the A's move to San Jose and the Raiders head south, leaving the Coliseum without a permanent tenant, although it could be used for soccer and more concerts.
"This is a unique situation when neither side has any options," Stanford sports economist Roger Noll said.
But the amount of money the city and county could squeeze out of a new A's lease is "pretty trivial," Noll added -- a few million at most. "The stakes are low," he said.
The political stakes are higher, and timing could work against Oakland. De La Fuente and Haggerty said they want to protect taxpayers. Both face re-election: Haggerty in June for his supervisor's seat and De La Fuente in November 2013 if he chooses to defend his City Council seat.
"The pressure is already mounting," De La Fuente said, meaning emails from fans with demands to keep the A's in Oakland at any cost. Three other council members will have to defend their City Council seats in November 2013 as well. And Quan faces a possible recall effort.
She was unwilling to talk about bargaining specifics. It's unclear if she will want the JPA to push the A's harder during negotiations or try to sweeten the deal. She said she has gone to great lengths so far to induce the A's to stay here.
Oakland Councilwoman Jane Brunner, who is running for city attorney in 2013, said she preferred a nonconfrontational approach. Eventually the team will realize their options are limited and decide to negotiate an extension, she predicted.