Clock ticking on Oakland A’s $12B stadium project at Howard Terminal

Team and Oakland have made no headway in negotiations on a waterfront ballpark 

Councilwoman Carroll Fife and a rendering of the Howard Terminal Ballpark in Oakland (Getty, MLB)
Councilwoman Carroll Fife and a rendering of the Howard Terminal Ballpark in Oakland (Getty, MLB)

It’s the bottom of the ninth inning for the Oakland A’s $12 billion Howard Terminal ballpark and redevelopment project.

The MLB team must land another home before its Coliseum lease ends in December, with no deal pending over the proposed 35,000-seat ballpark in West Oakland, the East Bay Times reported.

The team scored a legal victory last week when it beat back an appeal of an environmental review filed by a coalition of port workers, truckers and cargo terminal operators who say waterfront ballpark development would disrupt port operations.

Oakland, the A’s and the Port Commission insist the port and ballpark can exist side-by-side.

Despite the win, there’s still a long way to go before Howard Terminal could save the last major professional sports franchise in Oakland. The team blew a self-imposed deadline last November to reach a deal with the city.

And no one has set a timeline for the team and city to strike a potential deal, according to the East Bay Times.

The Oakland Athletics, owned by billionaire John Fisher, proposed the 56-acre stadium project at Howard Terminal just west of Jack London Square, across from Alameda. 

In addition to a $1 billion stadium, an $11 billion development would include 3,000 homes, up to 1.5 million square feet of commercial space, up to 270,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, a 3,500-seat performance center, 400 hotel rooms and up to 18 acres of public open space.

Mayor Sheng Thao, sworn into office in January, said with the legal victory the city was “one step closer to reaching our goals.”

She said the city and the A’s were back to the negotiating table despite ongoing talks with Las Vegas about a potential move to Sin City. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred wants the team and Oakland to reach an agreement by the end of the year. 

The largest sticking points are the cost of infrastructure, the amount of affordable housing and the team’s relocation agreement. While the city already has secured $321.5 million in funding for the infrastructure improvements, the cost may reach $600 million.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

In January, Oakland struck out in obtaining a $182.9 million federal grant to help pay for off-site infrastructure. At the same time, the A’s lost an appeal to block Schnitzer Steel from dumping excess product into landfills next to the proposed stadium. 

“It really highlighted the absurdity of trying to build housing and a ballpark on a working port,” Nola Agha, a professor at the University of San Francisco who researches financing for sports stadiums, told the newspaper.

Last month, the A’s hired lobbyists to lean on the Nevada legislature to secure public financing for a Las Vegas stadium. A’s President Dave Kaval even registered with the state as a lobbyist to help campaign himself, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported.

“If the Nevada legislature somehow comes through with the money, every team owner has always shown that they’re going to go where they can get the most profit,” Agha said.

A’s fans often accuse the Oakland City Council of not doing enough to retain the team.

The city, without certainty of reaching a deal, has directed hundreds of millions of grant dollars toward infrastructure projects to allow people to reach the waterfront ballpark via public transit.

But despite a looming deadline for the $12 billion Howard Terminal project, the issue has hardly come up at recent council meetings.

Read more

Councilwoman Carroll Fife, whose district would contain the new ballpark, said her focus remains on public safety, housing and the health of local businesses. She said she plans to meet with staff next week for an update on ballpark negotiations.

“I haven’t seen a proposal that was serious from the A’s organization, one that would lead to me spending a lot of time thinking about what they’re going to do” in Nevada, Fife told the East Bay Times. 

“The ball is in  their court,” she said. “When they’re ready to step up to the plate and provide a proposal in Oakland, then I’ll spend time on it.”

— Dana Bartholomew