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A’s ballpark to have $7.3bn benefit – report

The proposal by Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise the Oakland Athletics to build a privately financed waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal would generate $7.3bn (£5.8bn/€6.5bn) in economic benefits over 10 years for Oakland and Alameda County and create more than 6,100 permanent jobs, according to a new report.

The analysis by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, which has been commissioned by the A’s, tallies the economic and jobs benefits from the ballpark and proposed development that would surround the stadium, including 3.3 million square feet of housing, 1.5 million square feet of commercial and office space, a hotel, a performance centre and a variety of retail, cultural and civic uses.

The $7.3bn in economic benefits translates to $902m a year. The ballpark alone would generate $3bn of the overall economic benefits, largely from increased spending. In addition to the ongoing benefits from a new waterfront ballpark and development, the report states there would be considerable one-time jobs and economic impacts from construction.

The analysis also does not include the economic and jobs benefits from a proposed gondola system to connect the ballpark with downtown Oakland. A separate Economic Institute analysis found that a gondola would generate $685m in economic benefits and serve more than one million riders per year at full capacity.

“The Oakland A’s plan represents a transformational investment for the city,” said Jeff Bellisario, director of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. “The economic benefits of a project this size will ripple throughout the Oakland community for many years.”

Earlier this month, the A’s took an important step in their pursuit of a new ballpark at Howard Terminal after Oakland Port Commission 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”.

However, the findings of the new report have been questioned by experts. The A’s have remained consistent in their stance that the project will be privately financed, but some have outlined that the number of economic benefits seem unreasonable and could be an early indication that the team may approach the city for funding.

“I don’t think I have ever seen a case where a report like this has not been followed by some sort of big ask for public financing,” Victor Matheson, a professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, who studies the economics of stadiums, sports and major events, told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.

“Even if it’s not public financing, they will say things like, ‘We don’t want any public financing at all, we just want a few years of tax breaks.’ If you add the few years of tax breaks, it will turn out to be hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Image: Oakland A’s