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A’s: Maybe we can work with Oakland on new ballpark terms

New Oakland Athletics Ballpark Renderings May 2019

After flatly rejecting the terms offered and approved by Oakland officials yesterday, Oakland Athletics president Dave Kaval struck a more conciliatory note upon further reflection, saying they were worth further review.

Yesterday the Oakland City Council, on a nonbinding 6-1-1 vote, approved a term sheet for a new $12-billion Howard Terminal waterfront development plan that would include a billion dollars for a new 35,000-capacity ballpark to replace the Coliseum. The development would also include 3,000 units of housing, as well as 1.5 million square feet of office space, 270,000 square feet of retail space, a 400-room hotel, 18 acres of parkland and an estimated $450 million in community benefits. Also, the team would buy the remaining half interest in the Coliseum site it does not own and redevelop that area as well–but that’s not a done deal, either.

The term sheet did not contain two features pushed by A’s ownership. First, it did not include a second tax district beyond the development site that would fund infrastructure upgrades in the area. Second, it would put the team on the hook for city- and state-mandated affordable housing and community benefits, money that the A’s say should be paid by the city. Based on those terms, Kaval initially rejected the sheet yesterday, telling the Oakland City Council “the current term sheet as its constructed is not a business partnership that works for us.” Similarly, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement slamming the deal:

“For the last four years at my request and urging, the Athletics have invested significant resources and have made a major commitment to their community in the hopes of remaining as Oakland’s only major professional sports franchise,” Manfred said in the statement. “We are disappointed the city council chose to vote on a proposal to which the A’s had not agreed. We will immediately begin conversations with the A’s to chart a path forward for the Club.”

But after further review, Kaval softened his stance, saying that the term sheet was worthy of further review and discussion. First, the city did include some new terms designed to sweeten the deal for the Athletics ownership. That includes a city guarantee to find $350 million to fund infrastructure updates and not passing that cost along to the Athletics. That, as well as some other team-friendly changes to the term sheet, led to a reevaluation from Kaval, per the Mercury News:

“We’re disappointed that the city did not vote on our proposal that we’ve been asking for some time, but we’re going to take some time and really dig in and understand what they did pass and what all the amendments mean,” Kaval told this news organization.

“There are things we had never seen before. … We’re going to spend some time with the league unpacking that and make sure we have all the information.”…

Although the council remained steadfast that the team must pay for part of the affordable housing and community benefits out of its own pocket, Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan and some of her council colleagues amended the city’s own proposed terms sheet by offering the A’s a major concession and some amendments.

There is considerable public pressure for the A’s to conform to existing state and local laws regarding affordable housing and community benefits, so this may not be the time for the A’s to be casting absolutes. And, honestly, once things cooled down, everyone may be realizing that this is just the beginning of the process: the term sheet is nonbinding and must be approved again after further negotiations, Alameda County must still sign off on any plan (which won’t happen until September at the earliest), and everyone must wait for an environmental-impact study before moving forward. And while the A’s continue to explore a Las Vegas move, Kaval’s new stance seems to be lessening that likelihood for the moment.

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