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Oakland A’s hail key decision for ballpark project

The Oakland City Council has voted to approve the environmental impact report for a new ballpark for Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics, as the team’s ambitious waterfront project moves closer to fruition.

The council voted 6-2 in favour of certifying the 3,500-page report, which lays out the environmental impacts of the proposed $12bn (£8.8bn/€10.6bn) ballpark complex. The development will also include affordable housing, public parks, office space, a 3,500-seat performance venue, hotel rooms and 8,900 parking spaces.

The certification of the environmental report represents a big step forward for the project, with A’s president Dave Kaval stating that the team is “thrilled” with the council’s decision.

“We’ve never been this far in terms of making our vision for the waterfront ballpark for the A’s a reality,” Kaval said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. “There is still a lot of work to be done. This is an … important milestone to reach.”

The city council will now continue discussions with the A’s on the final terms of the development, which will be anchored by the 35,000-seat ballpark.

In October, the City of Oakland’s long-running battle to keep the A’s, its last remaining major league sports franchise, were boosted after the Alameda County Board of Supervisors agreed to opt into a plan that would clear the path for the new ballpark.

The Board’s 4-1 non-binding vote signalled 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 as other components of the development.

The team has openly admitted that it does not intend to stay at RingCentral Coliseum, its current home, when its lease expires in 2024. The A’s have been threatening to move to another location if they are not reimbursed for project infrastructure costs.

In July last year, the council kept alive the prospect of the A’s staying in the city at the proposed 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.

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.

Image: Oakland A’s