OAKLAND -- With just one season left in the Oakland A's O.co Coliseum lease and still no approval for their desired San Jose move, it was clear the scrappy team that just won the American League West had to make a deal to stay awhile longer at the aging ballpark it inhabits.
In a Friday letter to East Bay officials, A's owner Lew Wolff put a time-frame on the deal -- the team would stay for the next five seasons -- in a bid to spur talks that apparently haven't gone well.
"We need to know if we're on the way to doing something that's mutually agreeable," Wolff said in an interview Friday. "Otherwise, we're going to have to find a temporary relocation somewhere, which we prefer not to
The A's have played at the Coliseum since arriving from Kansas City in 1968 but have sought to leave for San Jose since 2009, a move now stymied by the San Francisco Giants' territorial claims. Oakland officials have been struggling to keep the A's and other sports teams from leaving.
But the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Authority is holding out for a better deal -- more time or money -- than what it gave the A's in their last extension, signed in 2006 when Wolff was in talks with Fremont to build a ballpark there by 2011. The A's resumed interest in San Jose in 2009 after the Fremont plans fell through.
Wolff said in an interview that five years is about what he'd need to complete a San Jose move if MLB approves
"If baseball had given us permission to relocate, we'd still need this period of time," Wolff said.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, who has sought to help San Jose secure the team but also meets regularly with East Bay officials, said the lease talks will be "a real cat-and-mouse game."
"The Coliseum Authority is saying, 'Why should we be lenient at all? We've been told we'll be abandoned some time soon for greener pastures,'" Cortese said.
One thing Wolff's letter Friday didn't suggest is diminished hope of moving the Athletics to San Jose, a city with twice Oakland's population. Wolff would not comment on that. The San Francisco Giants, who have a controlling interest in San Jose's minor league team, did not answer requests for comment.
But the short term of the requested lease renewal and Wolff's explicit statements in the letter about the viability of remaining in Oakland gave no indication his interest in San Jose has cooled.
"Yes, we need a new baseball venue," Wolff wrote, "and sadly, we have not found any path to one in the city of Oakland or in the city of Fremont."
But Wolff went on in the letter to say that "regardless of the outcome of our efforts to obtain a new
If Wolff's letter was discouraging to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, she didn't let on, saying in a statement that she was "pleased to receive Mr. Wolff's letter stating his desire to stay in Oakland for five more years."
Quan added she's "confident and committed that in that time we'll continue working together to find a permanent ballpark for the A's here in Oakland."
Nor did the A's offer to remain in Oakland five more years seem to discourage San Jose baseball boosters.
Councilman Sam Liccardo said a five-year time frame is reasonable for moving the team given the hurdles that remain, which besides the Giants include land acquisition, a public vote and at least a year and a half for construction.
"We continue talking to the A's ownership, and they continue to express strong desire to see the A's playing in San Jose," Liccardo said. "The San Francisco Giants' efforts to block this move in the courts and the commissioner's office we expect will ultimately be defeated, but it's stalling everything."
The A's and the Coliseum Authority have been skirting around the lease renewal since at least June 2011, when A's President Mike Crowley sent over a proposal. He said in January the authority's response was "convoluted."
Wolff sent back the last counterproposal about two weeks ago, said authority Commissioner Chris Dobbins.
Wolff's letter didn't offer anything new, Dobbins said, except the statement to stay in Oakland for five years.
The Coliseum Authority wants something more permanent, and also is wary of the A's temporary presence posing an obstacle to building a new stadium for the Raiders by 2017-18. Raiders owner Mark Davis has said he prefers to keep his team in Oakland and replace the aging Coliseum with a new facility. Officials don't want to jeopardize the Raiders commitment with a deal that would upset the one team that actively wants to stay in Oakland, Dobbins said.
The A's rejected an offer by MLB to facilitate negotiations, Coliseum Authority Commissioner Scott Haggerty said. The A's last contract renewal gave the team control over concessions during all events, as well as parking and pouring rights, a fee beverage companies pay for access to fans at facilities, he said. It's worth as much as $4.5 million at the Coliseum. The A's also keep all revenue from their games and about 60 percent of money from concessions.
Haggerty said the next deal will not be as generous. The A's will 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, he said.
But Wolff's Friday letter threatened the team could leave for another "temporary home venue" if it can't land a "mutually beneficial lease." That, he said, would cost "130 full-time jobs and the almost 800 union jobs that encompass a full baseball season, the fun of the A's, and Major League Baseball in Oakland for five more years."
"I think the impression was given that this was a done deal," Wolff said in an interview.
Contact John Woolfolk at 408-975-9346. Follow him at Twitter.com/johnwoolfolk1.