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Oakland approves new ballpark terms, A’s query amendments

Oakland City Council has kept alive the prospect of the Oakland Athletics staying in the city at a proposed $12bn (£8.8bn/€10.2bn) ballpark, albeit by approving a term sheet including amendments which the Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise holds significant issues with.

The vote yesterday (Tuesday) received the backing of six of the eight council members, with rejection likely to have killed off the Howard Terminal project entirely. In May, the City of Oakland came under renewed pressure to advance the A’s plans for a new ballpark after MLB stated it had permitted the team to explore relocation options.

The A’s have faced long-running challenges in its bid to leave RingCentral Coliseum and move to a new stadium. In April, the club revealed details of the financial offer it had made to Oakland City Council for a new ballpark at Howard Terminal, with the total costs set to reach at least $12bn when incorporating a nearby mixed-use development.

The stadium itself, which will sit on the waterfront at Howard Terminal, would cost at least $1bn and will be privately financed by the team. The A’s had asked the Council to take a vote on the project before the summer and while this came yesterday, there were several strings attached.

Amendments included affordable housing, tenant and anti-displacement protections and environmental protection measures. The term sheet also includes a 25-year non-relocation agreement with the A’s that would take effect from when the team debuts at the new stadium.

The City and the A’s are said to be at particular odds over who would be liable for an estimated $352m for offsite infrastructure and transportation upgrades, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, along with the amount of affordable housing included in the overall project.

A’s president, Dave Kaval, said the team will analyse the Council’s amendments with a hope that final terms can be voted on by the end of October. “We are taking time to really digest what was presented to us for the first time in the meeting and become more knowledgeable about what it means for the project, its future and the A’s,” said Kaval. “We are talking to the League on that.”

Speaking at yesterday’s meeting, Kaval is said to have stated: “The current term sheet as it’s constructed and its current language is not a business partnership that works for us.” Carroll Fife, a council member who abstained in yesterday’s vote, said the City has done “somersaults” and “bent over backwards” to reach an agreement.

“It’s not a negotiation, it’s really a ‘do what we say or we will leave,’” Fife said, adding that the council is voting on “something that the A’s are going to turn down.”

In a joint statement, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Council President Nikki Fortunato and Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, said: “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 today. 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.”

Oakland is seeking to avoid the A’s becoming the third major league team to leave the city in recent years. Following the departure of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors to the new Chase Center arena in San Francisco for the 2019-20 season, and the Raiders’ exit to Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas for the 2020 NFL campaign, the A’s represent Oakland’s sole remaining major league franchise.

The A’s have been strongly linked with following the Raiders, who also used to play at the Coliseum, to Vegas with three trips having been made by team officials to the city this year.

Following yesterday’s vote, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said: “For the last four years, at my request and urging, the Athletics have invested significant resources and have made a major commitment to their community in the hopes of remaining Oakland’s only major professional sports franchise.

“We are disappointed the City Council chose to vote on a proposal to which the A’s had not agreed. We will immediately begin conversations with the A’s to chart a path forward for the club.”

Image: Oakland A’s