In the latest wrinkle in the Athletics’ quest to build a new ballpark, Oakland’s City Council decided in a “nearly unanimous” vote Thursday to start negotiations about selling the city’s half of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum site to the team, Phil Matier of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The A’s already own the other half of the site, having completed the purchase with Alameda County over the winter. The city of Oakland is looking for a similar version of that sale, which would see the A’s pay the city $85MM over an unspecified time frame. Those funds would greatly help a city that, like virtually everywhere else in the world, suddenly faces major financial issues in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After the coronavirus shutdown, we are looking at a very,very serious budget deficit, and they are saying it could cost us $6MM just to maintain the site,” city councilman Noel Gallo said prior to the closed session of council. “We don’t have that kind of money. This way we can get some badly needed help.”
The deal is based around the A’s ultimately staying in Oakland, and assuming that the Coliseum site deal goes through as planned, the club would now have multiple options towards that end. The Athletics’ first choice is still to build a new ballpark at the Howard Terminal site in downtown Oakland, and should that ballpark be completed, the A’s would then look to develop the Coliseum site themselves. As per Sports Illustrated’s John Hickey, the 155-acre property that currently houses both the Coliseum and the Oakland Arena (the former home of the Golden State Warriors) would become “a shopping, cultural and residential area…The Coliseum itself would be razed, although the baseball diamond would become a large park.”
The other possibility is that the site could be used as a backup plan for a new A’s ballpark. The Athletics would continue to play in the Coliseum until a new stadium was built in what is currently the site’s north parking area. As Hickey notes, however, that the pandemic could make this scenario more realistic if the A’s aren’t able to borrow the funding necessary to convert the Howard Terminal area.
Earlier this month, A’s president Dave Kaval said Howard Terminal was still the team’s priority, though “we’re just focused on taking it quarter by quarter and seeing how much progress we can make.” While some obstacles remain in the way of the Howard Terminal project getting a full green light, that endeavor looked to tentatively be on track, with the Athletics originally hoping for an opening by the 2023 season prior to the coronavirus shutdown.
This is purely my speculation, but if financing becomes enough of an issue, the Athletics could theoretically look to sell the 155 acres to another developer in order to generate the money necessary to finalize the Howard Terminal concept. Such a next step would add another major layer of complication to what has already been a drawn-out process, of course, and obviously the A’s would prefer both their new ballpark and the Coliseum residential area as dual revenue-generators.
It’s fair to say that some fans could be a little perturbed to hear about another potential multi-million-dollar development deal during a time when so many teams are claiming economic strife. The A’s have long been one of baseball’s lower-spending teams, and their cost-cutting measures have often drawn criticism — even just recently, owner John Fisher had to admit fault and reverse the team’s initial plan to eliminate the $400 weekly stipend given to Athletics minor leaguers. A’s ownership has insisted for years that a new ballpark is necessary for the team to remain in Oakland, and if nothing else, today’s news should deepen the ties between the club and the city.