City Council proposes, ‘A’ disposes



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Oakland Athletics new stadium update July 2021 Image: Oakland Athletics

The Oakland City Council (US) voted on July 20th to approve a non-binding term sheet for the Major League Baseball (MLB) team Oakland Athletics’ ballpark project at Howard Terminal.

The ‘CBS Sports’ stated that the ‘A’s’ President, Dave Kaval, minced no words while stating that the team would not accept the term sheet as presented, potentially paving the way for the Athletics to leave Oakland.

The ‘A’s’ new venue plans included creating a 35,000-seat ballpark and mixed-use development with up to 3,000 residential units, up to 1.5 million square feet of offices and up to 270,000 square feet of retail uses.

Dave Kaval, President, Oakland Athletics, US, will speak at the Coliseum Online Week US Worldwide, October 4-8, 2021.

The Oakland Athletics, often referred to as the ‘A’s’, are an American professional baseball team based in Oakland, California. The Athletics compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League West division. The team plays its home games at the 63,132-capacity Oakland Coliseum.

Major League Baseball is an American professional baseball organization and the oldest of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. A total of 30 teams play in Major League Baseball: 15 teams in the National League and 15 in the American League.

The franchise, with the blessing of Major League Baseball (MLB), is exploring leaving the Bay Area after years of failing to secure a new ballpark. And Las Vegas is at the top of the list as far as relocation plans are concerned.

The Oakland City Council statement read, “Based on our extensive negotiations, shared values and shared vision, we believe the ‘A’s’ can and should agree to the terms approved by the City Council.”

The term sheet was approved 6-1. The team is seeking $855 million in public funds for infrastructure, a sum the Oakland City Council considers untenable for many reasons the primary one being public funds are still needed to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic what with the Delta variant cases registering a rise in the United States.

The ‘CBS Sports’ quoted Kaval as stating, “If they don’t approve (our term sheet), it’s over. Because basically they’ve had an opportunity to look at all the different facts and understand, ‘Does this make sense?’ We’re hopeful that it’s a yes, but with these things, it’s hard to say. We remain apart.”

The team’s proposal includes a $1 billion privately-financed ballpark at the Howard Terminal site just north of RingCentral Coliseum. The proposal also includes $12 billion in private investment for a residential and commercial waterfront neighborhood. The $855 million the ‘A’s’ are seeking in public funds would be used to develop land around the new ballpark, similar to the 41,000-capacity Truist Park in Atlanta (US).

The ‘A’s’ proposed Howard Terminal has been gathering dust for years and has undergone three major redesigns in the past four years. The club first unveiled their plans in 2018. Even before Howard Terminal, the team had multiple sites for a new ballpark in Oakland, Fremont and San Jose, though everything turned out to be in vain at the end.

Earlier this year, Kaval made trips to Las Vegas and Portland to explore relocation options and he was very public about it, tweeting photos of his trips.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said during the All-Star break on July 13th, 2021, “Las Vegas is a viable alternative for a Major League club and there are other viable alternatives I have not turned the A’s loose to explore. This is not a bluff. This is the decision point for Oakland whether they want to have Major League Baseball moving forward.”

Because the term sheet is non-binding, the two sides can continue to negotiate, though all indications are the two sides are unlikely to reach an agreement. Kaval and the ‘A’s’ have been steadfast in saying they will not accept anything less than the term sheet they’ve put forward.

The National Football League’s (NFL’s) Oakland Raiders relocated to Las Vegas last year and the National Basketball Association’s (NBA’s) Golden State Warriors moved from Oakland to a new area in San Francisco in 2019. The ‘A’s’ are the only pro sports team left in town.

‘ABC7 News’ stated the ‘A’s’ termed the above decision of the City Council as a “swing and a miss”.

Kaval said the proposal the ‘A’s’ brought to the Council wasn’t even voted on – “We were disappointed that the City did not actually vote on our proposal or the one we agreed on.”

However, the Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf came out swinging in support of the approved term sheet.

Stated Schaaf, “We are doing everything we can to meet their deadlines,” and she who went on to say that she and others have been working hard behind the scenes as late as July 19th, on a stadium and development deal.

She added, “We are very close, in full agreement with the A’s.”

But as the Mayor said that, Kaval said that the ‘A’s’ aren’t even fully aware of everything within the approved City plan.

‘ABC7 News’ quoted Kaval as stating, “We’re very focused on understanding and unpacking what was voted ‘yes’ on today because it was something we had never seen, and so that could be a good thing or bad thing, we need to dig in and really analyze all aspects of that.”

Council Member Rebecca Kaplan said the City Council’s amendments addressed the ‘A’s’ biggest concern, which was having to pay for offsite transportation infrastructure improvements.

Six Council Members voted ‘aye’ for the City’s proposal while Council Member Noel Gallo voted ‘no’ and Council Member Carroll Fife abstained.

Added Fife, “I don’t know where we go from here after doing somersaults, after receiving insults, after being disrespected.”

Mayor Libby Schaaf stated that as per the approved agreement, the City assumes responsibility for the off-site transportation and infrastructure improvements, but says the primary issue that is still in negotiations is funding for the community benefits fund.

The City also increased the ‘A’s’ affordable housing commitment requirement from 30 to 35 percent, with 15 percent, or nearly 450 affordable housing units, required on site. The Mayor even taking aim at Vegas, saying Oakland can’t be rivaled.

Drawing a comparison, Schaaf asserted, “Oakland offers something that no other City in the world can offer. The views from Howard Terminal are equal to none. And yes it is true, it is 104 degrees in Las Vegas today and it is a nice 72 degrees here in Oakland.”

As the ‘A’s’ have indicated they will possibly visit a site for a ballpark in Las Vegas this week, Council Member Gallo responded by saying, “We are looking for a waterfront ballpark in Las Vegas? There ain’t no waterfront.”

The anger was reflected in some of those who spoke out at the public hearing.

“The ‘A’s’ are like an abusive boyfriend and you need to stand up to them,” said one woman.

Another Oakland resident added, “This is a billionaire looting the City.”

Others, however, clung to hope saying, “The ‘A’s’ are part of Oakland’s identity.”

Mayor Libby Schaaf, Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas and Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan released a joint statement following the Council’s vote, “The vote by the City Council marks a milestone in our mission to keep the ‘A’s’ rooted in Oakland and build a world-class waterfront ballpark district that will benefit the community for generations to come. Based on our extensive negotiations, shared values and shared vision, we believe the ‘A’s’ can and should agree to the terms approved by the City Council. This is the path to keeping the ‘A’s’ rooted in Oakland in a way that protects our port and taxpayers and will produce the benefits our community demands and deserves.”

The statement further read, “We look forward to continue working with the ‘A’s’ to address their remaining concerns and to focus now on developing a final Environmental Report and binding Development Agreement that address the complex details of this visionary project.”

If the Athletics were to depart the City of Oakland, it would leave the town as a professional sports desert, once a thriving symbol of passionate neighborhood fandom.

Lamented longtime ‘A’s’ fan Rhonda Morris “I grew up, I have gone to games at this stadium since I was a little girl. It hurts my heart deeply. I was in high school when the Raiders left and I was here when they came back. Envisioning Oakland without a sports team is not even something I can imagine.”

Another proposed idea is to rebuild at the current site of the Oakland Coliseum. It would be a cheaper alternative and would help avoid using taxpayer money, which the City has said it does not want to do. Conversely, the Oakland ‘A’s’ leadership has said that option is not on the table.

Going by the development, it seems the ‘A’s are in no mood to stay back at Oakland.

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