Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise the Oakland Athletics has taken an important step in its pursuit of a new ballpark at Howard Terminal after Oakland Port Commission yesterday (Monday) voted to approve a term sheet for the possible development of its property.

The Board of Port Commissioners voted 7-0 in favour of the agreement for the approximately 50 acres of land, culminating a year of talks between itself and the A’s. The exclusive negotiation agreement gives the A’s four years to finalise an environmental impact report, after which a land lease deal could be signed to develop the site.

In February, the A’s revealed revised design plans for its proposed new ballpark, along with initiatives designed to address environmental concerns surrounding the project. The A’s first revealed plans to develop a new stadium and revamp its existing Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum home in November, spelling out an intention to put the “park back in ballpark”.

The A’s had been mulling over two possible sites for a new ballpark – the Coliseum and a mooted location at the waterfront Howard Terminal. The latter site was chosen for the next-generation urban ballpark, which with a total capacity of 35,000 aims to create the most intimate experience in baseball.

The San Francisco Chronicle said yesterday’s deal was agreed after considerable debate at a three-hour meeting. The newspaper reported Commissioner Joan H. Story proposed an amendment to the term sheet after hearing the views of opponents and supporters of the project.

Maritime workers at the port fear the project will impact on their day-to-day work, while backers feel the ballpark is necessary to keep the A’s in Oakland. Story’s amendment is intended to ensure development of the new stadium will not interfere with the port’s use or operations.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the deal is envisioned to provide the city with a “world class ballpark” and a “world class seaport.” She added: “This deal is structured so Oakland gets both – expanding successful maritime industry, as well as an exciting mixed-use development at Jack London Square where people are truly excited about keeping our A’s rooted in Oakland at a privately financed ballpark.”

Responding to Monday’s vote, A’s president Dave Kaval said in a statement: “In November, we announced our vision to build a waterfront ballpark and provide a baseball experience for our fans like no other.

“However, this project is bigger than baseball. It will deliver real economic, civic, and cultural benefits, including job creation and training opportunities; an inclusive approach to economic and community development; and new civic, cultural, and recreational amenities. Today’s vote is an important step in the process and we look forward to continuing to work with the Port, the City of Oakland, and the greater community.”

The ballpark will anchor a new waterfront district that will feature housing, including affordable housing, restaurants, retail, hotel, business space, and public gathering spaces. No final actions or binding agreements will be reached until after an Environmental Impact Report is completed and the A’s secure regulatory and land use approvals from the City of Oakland, the Port and a variety of state and regional authorities.

Kaval is hoping that the environmental impact report is completed by the end of year, ready for presentation to Oakland City Council and the port commission in early 2020. The A’s are then targeting groundbreaking in 2021 so that the ballpark can open in time for the 2023 MLB season.

Alameda County last month agreed an $85m (£65.6m/€75.7m) deal to sell its share of the Coliseum complex to the A’s in a move that grants the franchise a fall-back option if its efforts to develop the new ballpark fail to come to fruition.

Image: Oakland A’s