Although the ballpark status of the Oakland A’s was not part of the official Winter Meetings agenda for MLB officials, the topic was a hot one during the 2022 Winter Meetings—in the Hyatt lobby, anyway.
We’ll have more on our Winter Meetings experience shortly, but with plenty of folks in the media mesmerized by what’s going on with the A’s, it bears some discussion. At speaking gigs, offsite meetings and casual chats with old friends at the Hyatt, the status of a new Oakland ballpark was a hot topic during our time on the MLB side of the meetings, despite not being on the Winter Meetings agenda. Indeed, there’s precious little new on the ballpark front. Oakland has a new mayor, but Oakland and the A’s are still negotiating the terms of a new ballpark and development deal–talks that probably will be quiet until a new mayor is in place after the fall elections. There’s nothing new in Las Vegas, either: local politicos have stressed there’s little appetite for public funding of a new ballpark, and Gov.-elect Joe Lombardo has not weighed in on funding for any new ballpark–probably because there’s no specific proposal before him.
But the baseball press and baseball Twitter abhors a vacuum and is absolutely trigger happy to generate clickbait (Arson Judge to the Giants! Carlos Correa to the Padres!), so the topic came up once again before MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. Manfred’s response was pretty much the same it’s been for the past few years: yup, we’d love to see a new home for the A’s; yup, we’d like to resolve the issue sooner than later; and yup, there is a new drop-dead deadline of sorts: Jan. 15, 2024. (And no, despite what’s been reported elsewhere on a paywalled site, the A’s are not mandated to move to Las Vegas should a new ballpark not happen in Oakland. Indeed, even the A’s ownership has discussed alternative markets if the team were to move.)
We are at this point because the A’s have totally botched its approach to the Howard Terminal development–at its core, the Oakland ballpark situation really isn’t a ballpark story, but a development story. Instead of stressing that team owners pitching an $12 billion investment in Oakland in exchange for a very modest public investment in infrastructure–oh, and by the way, fans are getting a new ballpark free of charge!–the team decided to let the tail wag the dog. Discussing the new ballpark while downplaying a once-in-a-lifetime transformation of a waterfront storage facility gave development opponents a chance to bash the entire project based solely on the ballpark. But big development takes big time, a fact that seems to get lost quite often in these discussions.
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