Plenty Of Obstacles Remain In A's Pursuit Of New Waterfront Ballpark
The proposed plan for a new A's waterfront ballpark at the Howard Terminal site is "not a done deal and many hurdles remain, including all the challenges of fitting" a pro sports venue into an industrial port and "getting buy-in from community members and commercial neighbors," according to Kimberly Veklerov of the S.F. CHRONICLE. No agreements so far are "in place between the team and public agencies that are part of the negotiations." The A's and the city of Oakland "worked closely together in recent months to develop" the new ballpark plan, which "achieves their common goal of keeping the team in town -- and in the A's preferred location -- while allaying city concerns" about an abandoned Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum site. Oakland officials "projected optimism" as the A's unveiled their "vision for the two pieces of property, complete with glitzy renderings and a public campaign to get fans and residents on board." The A's tomorrow will "begin the yearlong review process of Howard Terminal under the California Environmental Quality Act." Hurdles that "likely will need to be addressed include traffic congestion, water issues, plus any toxicities on the land, which currently is used for long-term truck parking and container storage." The A's and Oakland City Council members have "held workshops for community members to give their opinions." A's President Dave Kaval said that 500 such workshops have "already done so and that their input helped to form the basis of the Coliseum site proposal." It is "unclear from whom the team would buy or lease the Coliseum land." It is "jointly owned and managed by Oakland and Alameda County, the latter of which has been trying to offload its ownership stake for years" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/29).
PROCESS JUST BEGINNING: Kaval said that the team is "committed to privately financing" the ballpark, but "did not specify how much it's expected to cost, adding it is too early to determine that." Kaval noted A's officials would have a "better idea of the cost after they finish" the environmental impact review of the Howard Terminal site. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf yesterday said that the city has "identified a financing structure -- possibly a bond -- to buy out the county's share of the Coliseum, which could create a simpler path to redevelopment." In San Jose, Peterson, Sciacca, Tadayon & Ruggiero in a front-page piece note Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley "didn't specify how much it would cost the city to buy its stake, but indicated the amount would be less" than $100M. That figure is "based on an appraisal made within the last four years." Miley said that another appraisal "may be done before an offer is made." The A's have an "exclusive negotiating agreement with the Port of Oakland, which owns the Howard Terminal site." Kaval said that the two parties are "negotiating, and that within the first quarter of next year, they plan to have an option agreement" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 11/29). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser called the proposed ballpark "gorgeous" and said, "It's going to seat 34,000 people and it's going to be filled every single night." But he asked, "Who exactly is going to pay for this stadium? Because the state of California isn't in the stadium business." Kornheiser added A's Exec VP/Baseball Operations Billy Beane "runs that team by picking change out of sofas." Kornheiser: "They got no money. Are they going (to) 'Go Fund Me' on it?" ("PTI," ESPN, 11/28).
TEMPER YOUR EXCITEMENT: In S.F., Scott Ostler writes it is a long way "from a deal ... let alone a ballpark." The A's may be excited about the Howard Terminal site, but they have to "buy or lease the terminal land, then they must buy or lease the Coliseum site so they can develop that area and use those profits to build the ballpark." The A's "seem to be saying to Oakland: If you make us a sweet deal on the Terminal and on the Coliseum, we will turn both major eyesores into civic treasures." For the A's it is "either two deals or none," and because it is a "double deal, everything is quadruply complicated" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/29). NBCSPORTSBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto noted talks between all the groups have "not yet reached the granular stage at which everyone finds out if this is financially doable, financially logical, or financially appealing." It is as if they "decided that being in the same room over and over is worthy of a press conference." Ratto: "Of course, since they have't even achieved that in the past, maybe it WAS worth a press conference" (NBCSPORTSBAYAREA.com, 11/28). In L.A., J.P. Hoornstra writes until any land is purchased, the A's "can only dream." Hoornstra: "What a dream, though." The worst facility in MLB, which the A's "share jointly with an NFL team and a persistent sewer leak, would be replaced by one of the most forward-thinking venues in any sport" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 11/29).
LONG TO-DO LIST FIRST: The ballpark is slated right now to open by '23, but NBC Sports Bay Area's Ratto said his optimism about hitting that date is "tempered by the amount of money we're talking about." A's Managing Partner John Fisher, "by billionaire standards, is not a deep pocket." Ratto: "He can't just walk in and just say he'll cover everything. He needs money from a lot of other places, and all those other places have to say yea or nay. ... 2023 might be optimistic, but Major League Baseball wants this solved, at least conceptually, by 2020, so they've got other things on their plate that they want to get done" ("The Happy Hour," NBC Sports Bay Area, 11/28).
GOOD FOR THE COMMUNITY: Kaval said the A's and Danish architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group want to keep the Coliseum's baseball diamond and field and create a new amphitheater around it. "Keeping the old baseball field intact to create something like an old Greek or Roman theater," said Kaval. The outdoor space would host a variety of events. Kaval said architect Bjarke Ingels is bringing European inspirations to the proposed redevelopment. "It's a bold and inspiring vision. He was inspired by the old Roman Coliseum," Kaval said. He added the redevelopment plans would then restore wetlands areas on the site and potentially bring in a number of different uses including affordable housing, retail and a grocery store, a college campus and other uses that produce jobs (Mike Sunnucks, THE DAILY). Kaval said what stands out about the Coliseum site is that the plan is "really iconic and bold." He said, "It allows us to have an adaptive re-use of the Coliseum site itself, people can still play games and we could do our free game there. There's a lot of cool ways to incorporate that in the future of east Oakland but also have job generating activities, have housing, have the arena stay around, so there's a lot of great things with that site and that's our second project that we're taking on as part of this, which I think is going to be a huge part of our success in Oakland" ("The Happy Hour," NBC Sports Bay Area, 11/28).