The Oakland City Council voted Tuesday to proceed with a non-binding term sheet aimed at keeping the A’s in Oakland at a proposed new ballpark on waterfront property known as the Howard Terminal.
The vote was 6-1 with one abstention, although it was accomplished without the full-throated approval of club president Dave Kaval, who was not happy with amendments to the project made by council staff.
“We’re very excited to get to a yes vote on this,” Kaval said during the special zoom session, “to continue to move forward in a positive way to bring a new home to the A’s on the waterfront.”
Kaval followed his comments with criticism that Tuesday marked the first time club officials had seen the new amendments, which address the amount of affordable housing the A’s must subsidize as part of the privately-funded $12 billion ballpark and village concept that will be constructed over several years.
Oakland is also determining how to secure almost $400 million in infrastructure costs the A’s have requested through tax increment financing in the district around the ballpark village, which will be located on the waterfront west of the downtown city center.
“We’re still digesting some of those things,” Kaval said. “We’ve moved and made concessions. The city has made concessions. But it’s important to remember that the current term sheet even with these amendments is not something the A’s have consensus around.
“I just really want to suggest that voting yes on something that we don’t agree with or have consensus around is not an effective path forward.”
The path itself remains long and arduous.
The A’s have already been given permission by Major League Baseball to explore relocation and one City Council member, Carrol Fife, when hearing Kaval’s remarks, noted the A’s were scheduled to be in Vegas again Wednesday.
With the vote, the council reserves the right for Oakland to keep negotiating. Whether the A’s want to continue is purely up to them, said City Council president Nikki Fortunato Bass. Council members were unanimous in wanting the A’s to remain “rooted in Oakland,” after losing the NBA Warriors to San Francisco and the NFL Raiders to Las Vegas.
“We’re in the eighth inning,” she said.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said last week Oakland is in the ninth inning, during an All-Star Game interview session with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
The A’s have been working on the Howard Terminal project for more than two years after three failed attempts to move elsewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area. They presented a term sheet to the City Council in April.
“The Oakland process is at the end,” Manfred said. “That proposal is in front of the relevant government authorities. There are really crucial votes, and that’s going to determine the fate of baseball in Oakland. If they can’t get a ballpark, then the relocation process is going to take on more pace.”
Even if the A’s do continue to negotiate, an acceptable agreement with Oakland is only a segment of the complex pending process. The A’s must come to terms with the Port of Oakland, with which they also have a non-binding agreement. Alameda County must determine whether it will take part in the project, a vote that was tabled until the fall.
And a full environmental impact report on the land must clear public comment and be approved by all parties before the A’s can break ground on the proposed 35,000-seat ballpark at the heart of the project. The stadium alone is a $1 billion privately-funded entity that must be started within four years and is the center of the entire multi-use complex.
Sentiment among at least one council member and some constituents to rebuild at the current Coliseum site where the A’s have played since they moved from Kansas City in 1968 is now considered to be a non-starter.
The A’s own half the Coliseum property and have a lease to continue playing at that stadium through the 2024 season.
Manfred said Oakland officials better take the prospect of relocation seriously.
“Las Vegas is a viable alternative for a Major League club,” Manfred said. “And there are other viable alternatives I haven’t even turned the A’s loose to explore at this point. Thinking about this as a bluff is mistake. This is the decision point for Oakland whether they want to have MLB moving forward.
“The Coliseum is just not viable at this point.”