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Oakland A’s: Time to move forward with new ballpark

New Oakland Athletics Ballpark Renderings May 2019

After years of study and planning, the Oakland Athletics are asking the City Council to make a decision on a proposed waterfront ballpark and development—a decision that may determine whether the team stays or moves.

The proposal, first unveiled three years ago, calls for a Howard Terminal waterfront development that, according to the team, will feature $12 billion in private investment, including a billion dollars for a new 35,000-capacity ballpark to replace the Coliseum. The development would also include 3,000 units of affordable housing, as well as 1.5 million square feet of office space, 270,000 square feet of retail space, a 400-room hotel, and an estimated $450 million in community benefits. The team is asking the city for $855 million in infrastructure improvements.

Interestingly, the rough outline of the Athletics proposal does not mention any revenue derived by the redevelopment of the Oakland Coliseum/Oakland Arena site. Previously the A’s had said that redevelopment of that site—by keeping the arena and tearing down the Coliseum to make way for a amphitheater and other development—would yield revenues used for the downtown waterfront development. 

What happens next remains unclear. The A’s are asking the City Council to take a vote before summer recess, and the city is still digesting in Environmental Impact Report, with public comments due tomorrow (April 27). The city has already granted the East Oakland Stadium Alliance an extension for comments, and the group is seeking a second extension, arguing that many details of the plan, such as the housing transit needs, are vague. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who has supported the project in recent weeks, hedged her bets a little (on the timing, anyway) in a statement released on Friday:

“The city is willing to bring to bear its resources to help make this vision a reality; however, today’s proposal from the A’s appears to request public investment at the high end for projects of this type nationwide. We remain fully committed to working collaboratively with the A’s, our City Council, and our community partners, to formulate a public-private partnership and project of which we can all be proud, and to bring forth a consensus plan to our City Council this year.”

Make no mistake: What the Athletics are proposing is audacious and transformative. It will convert a portion of the downtown waterfront from a purely industrial use to a mixed-use environment, it will surely put new stresses on the city’s infrastructure and transport systems, and there are plenty of details to be finalized. It’s no surprise an alliance of businesses opposing the move has a heavy component of shipping and industrial firms—firms with solid investments in the waterfront economy that also sport well-paying jobs. The decision is an important one and will shape the future of the downtown area for decades to come—as well as determine the lineup of Major League Baseball.

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