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MLB's Exec Council yesterday at the owners' meetings in Arizona heard a report from members of the league's select committee studying the A's ballpark situation. Consultants Corey Busch and Bob Starkey, and Foley & Lardner attorney Irwin Raij suggested a resolution to the long-running problem could soon be at hand. A's Owner Lew Wolff, who has long desired a franchise move to San Jose, declined comment on the matter. The Giants, whose defined market territory includes San Jose, remain firmly opposed to an A's move there. The Giants in part are represented in Arizona this week by Chair Emeritus Bill Neukom, who no longer has a day-to-day role with the club but helped craft the team's legal stance with regard to its territorial rights (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). Wolff said yesterday of his team's ballpark situation, "I am hopeful there was some discussion about this, but I don't have a date for any decision and I don't know the outcome." He added that he believes the select committee yesterday "simply updated the council on its activities, something he believes has happened at other owners' meetings" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/12). In San Jose, Mark Purdy notes the topic of the A's relocation "is not on the official agenda" for the owners' meetings, but it is "absolutely on the unofficial agenda." Purdy: "The vibe you get as you observe the process is that there is something ... percolating." Sources said that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has "reached out to speak with" Giants CEO Larry Baer and BOD Chair Charles Johnson. Baer said, "We believe there should be a resolution to this. But you've got to have a resolution that's the right solution, a resolution that works" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/12). YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan noted March "will mark the three-year anniversary of MLB forming a committee to explore the A’s relocation prospects." Three years "to figure out something that long ago was evident: baseball has no future in Oakland, not with MLB’s commitment to publicly funded stadiums and the city’s unwillingness to bend." It is "long past due for Bud Selig to negotiate a compensation package for the San Francisco Giants to give up the territorial rights to San Jose, where the A’s can move and prosper. Baseball is better with thriving multi-team markets." Passan: "The A's are in Selig's hands. He needs to stop fumbling them" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/11).
SIGNS OF SPRING: Wolff said yesterday he is nearing a deal to move the club's Spring Training home from Phoenix Municipal Stadium to HoHoKam Park in Mesa, Ariz., beginning in '15. Long the Spring Training site for the Cubs, HoHoKam Park will be vacated following the '14 Spring Training season as that club is building a new training facility in Mesa. Wolff, who met yesterday with Mesa City Manager Christopher Brady, said he intends to complete a pact with city officials there that would inject about $15M for renovations of HoHoKam Park, roughly 60% of which would be paid for by public dollars and the rest from the team. "We're preparing a draft lease for them, and they're going to look at it," Wolff said. "We're going to do a lot of remodeling of the ballpark." Prior negotiations with the city of Phoenix to renovate the club's current Spring Training facility did not generate a deal, largely due to fiscal concerns (Fisher).
New Orleans city officials Tuesday unveiled a new turf football field at Joe Brown Park, the "sprawling eastern New Orleans facility that was trashed by Hurricane Katrina,” according to Frank Donze of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. The field is part of a partnership “that will bring more than $23 million in enhancements" to the park. Other recent upgrades “include the $3.8 million Victory Field football complex, renovations to the park’s recreation center and a new, eight-lane running track -- all built with the help" of Nike, the Allstate Sugar Bowl and Saints QB Drew Brees' Brees Dream Foundation. The Nike swoosh will appear on the field "as part of the agreement with the city,” and the “trademarks of such rivals as Reebok and Adidas will be banned.” The city will operate and maintain the field. Officials with Nike, the Sugar Bowl and Brees' foundation "declined to say exactly how much each entity is committing to the project, though a Nike spokesman said the corporation’s portions will be in the ‘millions.’” Nike North American VP Elliott Hill said that the company “has given the city a long-term commitment, agreeing to market the football field as a venue for national events, to sponsor youth and community events there and to solicit additional corporate sponsorships.” Hill added that it is "likely that star athletes under contract with Nike will take part in some of those events.” Initial improvements to the Joe Brown Center are “scheduled to be done by March -- in time for Nike to host Final-Four related youth events there.” Officials hope to “finish the work by the summer” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/11).