The battle for the Bay Area just took an interesting twist.
The Giants and high Class A San Jose are set to announce at a press conference on Thursday that the big league club is purchasing a 25 percent stake in its California League affiliate. The team will have an option to purchase another 30 percent in 2010.
The timing of the announcement with Oakland’s renewed interest in building a big league ballpark in the Giants’ territory of Santa Clara County is likely a little more than coincidental, however the sides first began discussing a possible sale in Oct. 2005. They signed a letter of intent on Dec. 24, 2008, and the Giants due diligence period expired on March 31.
San Jose’s motivations are obvious: partnering with the Giants provides San Jose with capital for ballpark improvements while also raising its profile to expand the fan and corporate bases. A merger will provide San Jose the opportunity to partner with San Francisco on events like fanfests, bringing the 40-man roster to Municipal Field and having games broadcast on Comcast Sportsnet–in which San Francisco has an ownership stake.
"Those types of things have tremendous benefits to us," Giants CEO Jim Weyermann said in an interview late Wednesday night. "They can help us develop more capital partnerships with the city. In this case the Giants bring some economic leverage with untraditional city funding."
The Giants have recently stepped up their marketing efforts in Santa Clara County and the deal is another sign of their interest in the territory while making an investment in player development–San Jose this season will host some of the organization’s top young players in Madison Bumgarner, Tim Alderson and Buster Posey. It also represents the Giants urgency to hold onto the region, particularly as attendance figures continue to sag in the post- Barry Bonds era that has extended into the economic recession.
"The South Bay is a major part of our operation and this reinforces that," San Francisco Giants president Larry Baer told the Mercury News. "We have fans, sponsors and baseball history there that runs deep. It was a logical extension of who we are and what we do."
It would certainly seem tougher for Bud Selig to pull the territory away from the Giants and hand it to the Athletics now that San Francisco has made clear its interest with a financial investment–even if the likely $2-3 million purchase is but a mere fraction of what a new Athletics’ ballpark would cost.
However Weyermann has no interest in speculating how his team’s merger with the Giants impacts the Athletics’ ballpark plans, afterall the team has been threatened with potential relocation since the city first began investigating building a big league facility in 2005. San Jose ownership has invested $2 million into Municipal Stadium and has seen attendance records fall in each of the past three seasons.
"The San Jose Giants have no say whatsoever in what Major League Baseball plans to do with the San Francisco Giants’ territorial rights," Weyermann said. "Not that we are competing with the city’s interest or what the city wants to pursue. People have to keep in mind this conversation has been going on for at least five or six years under the previous administration. If we would stop operating while waiting for an answer, we wouldn’t have set back-to-back-to-back attendance records. We don’t control what Major League Baseball decides to do, so we have to let that go and focus on what you can control and that is build our business."
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