A point of contention between Oakland and the Athletics has been who will pay for Port of Oakland infrastructure upgrades for a new ballpark. Now it looks like the state may step in and fund many of the changes.
While the A’s have proposed a $12 billion development at the downtown waterfront Howard Terminal, a point of contention between the city and A’s ownership has been payment for infrastructure upgraded needed for the city to accommodate the increased traffic, whether it be upgraded freeway access, revamped rail crossings and pedestrian walkways. The Athletics had proposed a tax district outside the development area, including the nearby Jack London Square, but that district was rejected by the city in the latest term sheet presented to the team. In a surprise, however, the city did agree to come up with $350 million to cover the cost off these upgrades, taking the team off the hook.
We may know why the city was willing to extend these new terms: the state may be coming through with the money. In a state budget bill signed last month, a provision covered $279.5 million in general fund money to the Port of Oakland for infrastructure spending. The money was not specifically tied to the Athletics ballpark effort, putting it below the radar of the statehouse wags who normally would flag such spending. From Politico:
A state budget bill Newsom signed late last month directs $279.5 million in general fund money to the Port of Oakland for a broad range of infrastructure projects. The port says it doesn’t have a specific plan for the money, which the budget dedicates to “improvements that facilitate enhanced freight and passenger access and to promote the efficient and safe movement of goods and people.”
Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval said in an interview Monday that he wasn’t familiar with the budget language but acknowledged that it “sounds pretty similar to what our project is.” The money has to be set aside by June 2024; the A’s current lease at the Oakland Coliseum expires after the 2024 season.
The Athletics have proposed a $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.
Meanwhile, Kaval and crew were once again in Las Vegas scouting ballpark sites, this time with architect Brad Schrock. The focus was on the northern end of the Strip, including the Las Vegas Festival Grounds site at the corner of Sahara and Las Vegas Boulevard, and suburban Summerlin, where Las Vegas Ballpark is located. Those two locations would offer widely differing experiences. Summerlin is already a mixed-use community controlled by the Howard Hughes Corp., while at the northern end of the Strip there’s the potential for the A’s ownership to invest in their own mixed-use development. From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
“Especially the ones in the north where you can turn the stadium and look down and see the entire Strip, that’s pretty compelling,” Kaval said. “We like the notion of some of the venues where people will get out of their car, or walking from a resort and they walk up and see in the stadium. When you can see into the stadium, it’s pretty incredible. It almost draws you in.
“Creating that type of environment and experience is something that we’re looking to create.”
It’s worth noting that the A’s are focusing on sites at the moment, and not engaging with any of the big players that could possibly fund a new ballpark. It’s interesting that in discussions of the Las Vegas Festival Grounds site, Kaval discussed the A’s investing in the development — something that’s not come up in previous visits to Vegas.
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