The Trib’s Matt Artz wrote today that the Port of Oakland is “very interested” in converting Howard Terminal into a ballpark/commercial site. That’s a big step. Having the Port and Matson onboard is a good start. Now Oakland boosters have to get SSA Terminals onboard, which is suing the Port over contract terms. I wrote about that and other challenges two weeks ago. It’s worth a read if you hadn’t seen it it.
Artz also brilliantly sums up Oakland’s broader challenge at the moment.
With A’s owner Lew Wolff determined to move his team to downtown San Jose, Oakland needs to show baseball officials that it too has a viable site for the team that could persuade baseball owners against pursuing the very touchy subject of rescinding the San Francisco Giants’ territorial rights to San Jose.
Viable, unfortunately, is a term that is prone to subjectivity. Knowing that, let’s try to break it down into what MLB’s goals are in its neverending exploration:
- Can the site be acquired cheaply and quickly? That’s an unknown as long as the SSA issue remains in litigation. Otherwise, it’s a site that can be configured and prepped fairly quickly, as long as cleanup isn’t too lengthy or expensive.
- Overall, is it cheaper to pursue this site than to build in San Jose and compensate the Giants? Another unknown. The only thing we have a decent idea about right now is what it will cost to build in San Jose (including remaining land acquisitions). There’s still much to determine regarding Howard Terminal. Will infrastructure costs be borne by the club, the City, or some combination of the two? Will the cost be too expensive for either to bear, as was apparently the case with Victory Court? Plus we have no idea what proper compensation is for the Giants.
- Will the risk that comes with Howard Terminal be too great or manageable? It’s unfair to Oakland, but when you combine the lackluster attendance history with the poor corporate base compared to San Jose, it has to be asked. How can an individual team such as the A’s pull this off, especially if they are not expected to get significant monetary help from either MLB or the City, County, or other public entity?
In the end, it’s all a big cost-benefit analysis. And if it means Oakland, I’ve gotten accustomed to taking the Capitol Corridor train to day games. It’s no sweat off my back. This is when we find out if and how Oakland can put together a good deal for the A’s and for MLB. This is how we define viable.