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In baseball terms, the Oakland Athletics’ efforts to build a stadium and billion-dollar real estate development at the Port of Oakland is in the bottom of the ninth inning and the home team is behind several runs.
“It’s going to be very difficult,” Sportscorp President Marc Ganis, a sports and stadium finance expert, told Transport Topics. “There are some real challenges here. It’s not that the A’s are not a competitive team. But getting anything done in Oakland, even with the team paying most of the bill, it’s still a very difficult place.”
The latest snag in the process occurred Aug. 29, when the Alameda County Board of Supervisors decided it would not vote on the stadium proposal in September, causing what the team said is a “potentially insurmountable” financial gap in getting the project done in Oakland.
In May, the Oakland City Council asked the county to opt into a tax district to help with infrastructure costs for the project. In June, the county supervisors said the earliest they could get those items on their calendar was September, and the city said without the county’s help, it’s not likely the stadium project can move forward.
The A’s have said they had hoped to have a final vote from the city council on the terms of the project by the end of the baseball season in early October, and the city said it planned to have the final documents ready by the end of the year. The tax district is a critical component of the ongoing negotiations among the team and various government agencies. By agreeing to become part of the tax district, the county would have given up a portion of its property taxes on the stadium site to help fund the infrastructure costs.
In a series of letters to the city, the county said it has questions about the terms and the ongoing negotiations.
“The current status is too speculative and uncertain for the county to move forward now and commit limited staff and financial resources on a costly independent analysis,” Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi wrote.
The current status is too speculative and uncertain for the county to move forward now.
Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi
The team and city officials, including Oakland’s Mayor Libby Schaaf, continue negotiations. Still, the team’s leadership has made several visits to Las Vegas, Portland, Ore., and other cities recently, and government officials and business leaders in those communities have said they would welcome a Major League Baseball team, including financial assistance on a new stadium.
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MLB has given the team permission to explore moving once its lease at RingCentral Coliseum expires in 2024. The stadium, home to the A’s since 1968, generally is considered to be the worst facility in baseball, for players and fans.
The trucking and transportation industry has weighed in because the proposed ballpark would sit inside the Port of Oakland footprint at the abandoned Howard Terminal, which now is used for container parking and other storage. California Trucking Association and the Harbor Trucking Association are opposed to the location because they say it will significantly interfere with port operations and harm trucking and freight.
In July, the city council approved a nonbinding term sheet with the A’s for the stadium. Still, some items of the agreement, primarily related to the nearby infrastructure, are different from what the team wanted, including language that Alameda County be involved in the process.
My statement regarding the Term Sheet for the Waterfront Ballpark Project at Howard Terminal pic.twitter.com/KlB5Z2hpnw— Libby Schaaf (@LibbySchaaf) July 16, 2021
Sportscorp’s Ganis said it is not uncommon for multimillion-dollar projects to rely on infrastructure districts to help cover some of the costs related to the construction and ongoing operations.
“Getting anything done in Oakland is very difficult,” Ganis said. “The Raiders demonstrated that even when the team is paying most of the freight and Las Vegas and the entire Clark County area is being receptive. It’s a very different thing when you go from where you are almost dismissed and considered a bother, to where they are very warm and welcome and want to help. The A’s, after years of trying to get a new stadium in Oakland, are realizing there are communities much more receptive to them.”
If the A’s were to leave Oakland, they would be the third major professional sports team to depart the city. The NFL’s Oakland Raiders moved to Las Vegas at the beginning of the 2020 season after years of attempting to get a new stadium and move out of the Coliseum. The NBA’s Golden State Warriors departed in 2019 and moved to Chase Center in downtown San Francisco.
Should the A’s relocate, they will be the first MLB team to have called four cities home. Originally they were in Philadelphia. The franchise moved to Kansas City, Mo., in the mid-1950s and in 1968 began playing in Oakland. Now, Las Vegas is calling.
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