SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – The Oakland Athletics unveiled grand plans Tuesday to move south and build a long-awaited, state-of-the-art stadium they hope will soon transform the small-market club into a big spender.

Not to mention elevate the A’s to a new status level comparable to the rival Giants across San Francisco Bay – and perhaps even tap into a Silicon Valley fan base that has largely belonged to San Francisco.

“This is, I say a dream because those who have followed sports for a long time know this has always been an issue,” said A’s general manager Billy Beane, whose team was swept in the AL championship series last month in Detroit. “It never seemed like a reality.”

The A’s, in partnership with Cisco Systems, Inc., agreed to purchase 143 acres of land from Cisco in suburban Fremont, about 30 miles south of the current stadium, with intentions of breaking ground in the coming years on a new ballpark – to be called Cisco Field – that could open in time for the 2011 season.

“We’re not moving to Timbuktu, we’re going down the road in our mind,” A’s owner Lew Wolff said. “We’re doing the best we can.”

The stadium will seat between 30,000 and 34,000 fans, an intimate venue with an impressive range of technological capabilities and surrounding features outside the fences.

“This will be a showcase in the world of sports,” said Cisco President and CEO John Chambers.

Commissioner Bud Selig was in attendance for the announcement after stressing for years that the A’s couldn’t survive for the long haul playing in the run-down Oakland Coliseum they currently share with the Oakland Raiders football team.

“Nobody loves old stadiums like I do … but if you’re playing in a stadium that can’t produce the revenue streams you need, you’re rendering the franchise uncompetitive,” Selig said. “This is a classic situation of a team that needs to take control of its own destiny, and they’ve done it and done it very very well. … They did what they had to do. It isn’t like they had an alternative. They had no alternative.”

The A’s had been trying unsuccessfully for years to find a suitable site in Oakland for a new stadium. This, Wolff said, was the only option to keep the A’s in the Bay Area and not force the franchise to move out of California.

“There’s no blame to place here unless it’s on me,” Wolff said. “I need to have a ballpark for my organization that works for everybody. Our only option other than this is to move outside the state of California. We made a great try (with the city of Oakland).”

The A’s have watched numerous star free agents leave town for big-spending teams elsewhere in recent years – and this move is expected to change that.

“I can’t wait to start cashing those checks to start signing some of those players,” Beane said.

AP-ES-11-14-06 1652EST



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