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Manfred, Oakland Still Hoping for New A’s Ballpark

Coliseum City, Oakland

Oakland officials are expressing confidence that they can keep the Oakland A’s in town, and they appear to have a key backer in commissioner Rob Manfred.  

In previous remarks, Manfred has made it known that his preference is to see the A’s remain in Oakland. During this summer’s All-Star Break, the commissioner went on the record and stated “I am committed to Oakland as a major league site. If we were to leave Oakland, I think 10 years from now we would more likely than not be looking backwards saying we made a mistake.”

Over the months since, Oakland and the A’s have engaged in some talks but, based on what has become public, most have revolved around building a new ballpark at Howard Terminal. While discussions for a ballpark at any site are still in their early phases, Manfred is expressing confident that, under mayor Libby Schaaf, Oakland and the A’s will finally break an impasse. More from SF Gate:

“I know that the one thing I will say to you is the mayor in Oakland has made clear to me that baseball is her first priority,” Manfred said during a pregame news conference. “She would like to keep both teams, but that baseball is her first priority. And I think that’s a good spot for baseball.”

Manfred said he has spent a lot of time working on the issue with owner John Fisher and confirmed that Fisher is taking a strong lead with the stadium push.

“We will stay engaged with the A’s,” Manfred said. “We will not have somebody here full-time on the ground. The A’s project is a project that will involve a very substantial commitment from local ownership. And as a result of that, it has to be a locally driven project. They need to find a project that they think works for them, and they need to push that project forward.

The status of the Oakland Raiders, which Manfred touched upon in his comments, is something that looms in the shadow of ballpark discussions. While the Raiders are pressing forward with their efforts to move to Las Vegas, the approval of $750 million in public funding for a stadium there is by no means guaranteed. In the event that the Raiders fail to come to terms in Las Vegas, the strongest alternative could be to remain in Oakland.

Since Oakland is commit significant public funds to a stadium for the Raiders–something that seems likely to hold true for an A’s ballpark–the plan there would call for the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum to be sold to private investors. That group, which includes football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, would then work with the Raiders to build a stadium and surrounding development on the Coliseum site.

That plan has not been expected to include the A’s meaning that, if the Raiders stay in town, the A’s will have to consider alternate sites. Though Howard Terminal is apparently still on the table, other sites are entering the fray, including one near Laney College and another at 66th avenue and Interstate-880. More from the East Bay Times:

The Laney College site is adjacent to the Lake Merritt BART station and is just off I-880. Another site, Howard Terminal north of Jack London Square, has been touted by the city, but toxic cleanup costs and lack of access to BART and to the East Bay freeway system have made it something of a tough sell.

The Laney site isn’t without its own issues. Space for parking would be at a premium and one plan at Laney would call for the college to tear down some of their relatively new athletics facilities.

Manfred, who said he is in frequent communication with team owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff, confirmed that the club was looking at options beyond the Coliseum and Howard Terminal. There is another site under some consideration, Brooklyn Basin, not far from Laney College, but on the other side of I-880 and on the Oakland Estuary.

In the broader picture, having the A’s ballpark situation resolved is clearly a key priority for Manfred and MLB. The statuses of the A’s and Tampa Bay Rays, along with negotiations concerning the collective bargaining agreement, are viewed as key factors in allowing MLB to move forward with plans for expansion. Manfred has expressed interest in expanding to 32 teams, with Montreal being one of the cities in the mix for a franchise.

Manfred did not offer much in the way of a time frame, only stating that he hopes something can come to fruition within the next year. Given the pieces involved, it is obviously going to take some time to sort out some of the details but, with MLB’s backing and a dialogue with the A’s in place, Oakland looks to be taking the necessary steps to keep the team.

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