Oakland A’s Waterfront Ballpark Faces Renewed Uncertainty
After a nearly five-year process of planning for a new baseball stadium and mixed-use project at Howard Terminal, the Oakland A's future in the city is in jeopardy, putting the East Bay at risk of losing yet another professional sports team.
After publicly presenting a development agreement term sheet on April 23, Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval said that he had hoped to see a city council hearing on the project put on an agenda before the body’s summer recess in July. Kaval said delayed action by the city prompted Major League Baseball to get involved, with the league eyeing a potential new home for the A’s in Las Vegas or another undetermined city.
The move got the attention of architect Barry Smith, who has composed plans for a ballpark in East Multnomah County, Oregon, to lure a potential MLB team such as the A's, according to The Outlook.
Amid the threat of relocation, an Oakland City Council hearing has been scheduled for July 20 to determine if the project will proceed at the proposed Howard Terminal site, but contention continues to swirl around the proposal.
“We're really focused on trying to get the approval in Oakland,” said Kaval, whose tweet this week from a Stanley Cup game in Las Vegas drew A's fans' ire. “The other markets are something we're working with Major League Baseball on to determine which markets they would be, how we would engage them and the best process for getting that started. There's already been inbound interest from five markets.”
The A’s spent eight months negotiating with city staff to complete the term sheet, including an outlined financial plan for the project involving a total cost of $12B, $450M in community benefits and $1B in tax revenue for the city’s general fund, Kaval said. But the A’s plans to use some of the tax revenue to fund site infrastructure work surprised some city officials, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The mixed-use stadium plan outlined in the term sheet calls for the development of a 35,000-person stadium, 3,000 housing units, up to 1.5M SF of office and life sciences uses, and 270K SF of retail. There would also be a 50K SF performance venue for up to 3,500 people, a 400-room hotel and 18.3 acres of publicly accessible open space. A draft of the community benefits agreement calls for at least 1,000 units of designated affordable housing.
Kaval said he is hoping for a green light for the project in July, in part because the A’s lease at the Oakland Coliseum is set to terminate in 2024.
The Howard Terminal plan has faced years of criticism. Some members of the community, including those belonging to the East Oakland Stadium Alliance, want the A’s to rebuild a new stadium at the site of the Coliseum.
“If they were really, truly supportive of providing a stadium and staying rooted in Oakland, why leave East Oakland, take those jobs away from East Oakland and transfer them to West Oakland and disrupt our port operations?” Oakland District 7 resident, community organizer and EOSA member Sheryl Walton said.
According to a statement from the EOSA, the Howard Terminal stadium would undermine Oakland’s blue-collar workforce and 90,000 union jobs at the port. Walton said that the proposed ballpark site and surrounding industrial uses are incompatible and would lead to noise and safety issues and hamper maritime activities.
Kaval said that as part of an agreement with the Port of Oakland, concessions were made to the maritime industry to ensure that there would be a buffer zone around the stadium.
He said that Major League Baseball has been clear that the existing Coliseum location isn't suitable for professional sports, as downtown, urban locations have been shown to be the most successful and draw the most people. Oakland’s waterfront area is viewed as being particularly desirable, with the presence of nearby Jack London Square, a vibrant mixed-use commercial district.
A 2019 study by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute found that the project would yield $7.3B for Oakland’s economy over 10 years and add 6,119 permanent jobs.
“The Oakland A’s are deeply rooted in Oakland, but the question is whether Oakland is rooting for the A’s to stay,” Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, said in a statement.
“Oakland, the East Bay and the Bay Area have already lost two professional sports teams and a third strike is not acceptable,” Wunderman added.
For some, support for the Howard Terminal site is contingent upon results from the community benefits agreement being devised by members of the CBA Steering Committee. The committee released a draft in May detailing recommendations for community benefits delivered by the project, including neighborhood beautification and cleanup activities, sponsoring of a Little League franchise and the funding of trade apprenticeship programs.
“We want to see the people that would benefit the most from Howard Terminal — the people who have been displaced, primarily Black people, people of color and low-income people," East Bay Housing Organizations lead organizer Dolores Tejada said. "This should really be as equitable of a project as it can be. The community worked hard on the community benefits agreement through the city-led process, and we hope to get as much affordable housing as possible for the benefit of the people of Oakland.”