NEWS-LEDGER — JULY 11, 2012 —
By Steve Marschke, News-Ledger Editor
With talks between the City of Sacramento and the Kings owners at a standstill, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has let it be known that he wants Sacramento to get a new major league baseball team. Sacramento is a “major league city,” he said, and a stadium in the right spot could help jumpstart the city’s downtown railyards project.
A major league team across would presumably “trump” the minor league River Cats baseball team and their relatively new stadium in West Sacramento.
But West Sacramento’s mayor isn’t worried.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Mayor Christopher Cabaldon told the News-Ledger. “The Oakland A’s aren’t interested, Major League Baseball and minor league baseball aren’t interested. . . There’s no impact (on West Sacramento and the River Cats) because it’s not going to happen.”
The A’s want to go to San Jose — which is within the territory designated as under control by the San Francisco Giants, but which offers a larger market and more potential corporate sponsors than Sacramento. The Giants are fighting the proposed A’s move. Meanwhile, Sacramento is in the A’s territory and the River Cats are affiliated with the A’s. The River Cats have some legal obligations to stick around until the bonds that helped build Raley Field are paid off — roughly another 20 years.
The teams’ wishes are balanced by their obligations to their leagues and by the power of their leagues, making “an extremely complicated set of procedures for how these things happen,” said Cabaldon.
And right now, neither Major League Baseball nor any of its teams is pushing to take a chance on the Sacramento market.
So, Cabaldon said, West Sacramento’s government is not spending a lot of time studying Johnson’s baseball dream.
The River Cats declined an interview request, but issued the following statement, with a reference to Mayor Johnson’s “Think Big Sacramento” task force:
“We have not discussed the proposal with ‘Think Big’ or City of Sacramento officials. We are obviously proud of the community support of Raley Field and the success of the River Cats. We are focused on providing the best experience to our fans in and around the ballpark and have been excited to see (West Sacramento’s) Bridge District prepared for future development.”
Raley Field opened in 2000 in a former warehouse district in West Sacramento amid regional cooperation, after a bout of competition for the stadium site between West Sacramento and Sacramento. A regional coalition helped put together a bond package that helped finance it.
River Cats spokesperson Zak Basch said the River Cats have drawn an average of 7,659 fans this year, and Cabaldon said the team was among the most successful in the minor leagues.
When the stadium was designed, its 11,000-seat capacity was intended to be expandable to host a possible future major league team. The league’s requirements for a stadium have since changed — stadiums and teams rely more heavily than ever on items like luxury boxes — and Basch said the expansion issue has not been studied lately.
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