The City of Oakland’s long-running battle to keep the Athletics, its last remaining major league sports franchise, has been boosted after the Alameda County Board of Supervisors agreed to opt into a plan that would clear the path for a new ballpark for the Major League Baseball (MLB) team.
The Mercury News newspaper said the Board’s 4-1 non-binding vote late yesterday (Tuesday) signals the County’s intention to partner with the City in a financing district to contribute a significant part of property taxes generated by the project to pay for the infrastructure of the new stadium, as well affordable housing, public parks and other components of a planned village at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal site.
City officials have been calling on the County to join in the financing plan, which they believe is key to keeping the Oakland Athletics in the city as the team has openly admitted that it doesn’t intend to stay at RingCentral Coliseum, its current home, when its lease expires in three years. The A’s have been threatening to move to another location if they are not reimbursed for project infrastructure costs.
Following the Alameda County vote, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said: “Tonight’s vote by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors is a historic action that creates a clear path to keep the A’s rooted in Oakland and build a world-class waterfront ballpark district that will benefit Bay Area residents for generations to come.”
In July, Oakland City Council kept alive the prospect of the A’s staying in the city at the proposed $12bn (£8.73bn/€10.33bn) ballpark complex, albeit by approving a term sheet including amendments which the franchise holds significant issues with.
The vote 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 in July, there were several strings attached.
Amendments included affordable housing, tenant and anti-displacement protections and environmental protection measures. The term sheet also included a 25-year non-relocation agreement with the A’s that would take effect from when the team debuts at the new stadium.
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 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. The Mercury News reported that at yesterday’s meeting research was presented by the City and its hired consulting firm, Century Urban, detailing that the County would receive around $67m in new one-time revenue during the Howard Terminal construction phase and $5.4m in annual revenues after that.
However, County Administrator Susan Muranishi’s office is said to have estimated the County would gain a net of just over $2m per year from the project and end up contributing more for infrastructure than the City. The County is currently said to receive around $70,000 per year in tax revenue from the Howard Terminal site.
A’s president Dave Kaval was also present at the meeting. He has made multiple visits to Las Vegas in recent months and said “we are under a lot of pressure from Major League Baseball to get to an answer” about Howard Terminal.
Image: Oakland A’s