We’re having some dissonance here, folks. OWB leaders T. Gary Rogers and Don Knauss wrote a letter in today’s Tribune declaring that the group is terminating the ENA, effectively killing Howard Terminal on their end after A’s ownership and MLB removed the site from consideration earlier in the summer.
The relevant part of the letter is quoted below:
And, for a multitude of reasons, we had high hopes that the A’s ownership would seize on the opportunity to develop this prime 50-acre waterfront site into a ballpark and ancillary retail. It is now clear, however, that the current ownership has no intention of seeking a new ballpark at Howard Terminal, or anywhere else in Oakland for that matter.
Thus, it is with great frustration and sadness that our group has elected to release the Port of Oakland from our Exclusive Negotiating Agreement on Howard Terminal.
The rest of the letter reads like a long passive aggressive complaint against ownership, sour grapes more than anything else. Before I get into that, there’s a thoroughly unfounded allegation that “current ownership has no intention of seeking a new ballpark at Howard Terminal… or anywhere else in Oakland…”
Seriously? Lew Wolff presented a plan to redevelop the Coliseum to the JPA weeks ago. The front office is starting a reorganization with a PR hire meant to interface directly with public officials and local government. At the Coliseum, that is. Not at Howard Terminal. You’d think that a group that had publicly been happy with simply keeping the team in Oakland would’ve applauded this. Not so. In fact, they didn’t mention the Coliseum at all in the letter. Strange, right? It’s almost as if they only cared about Howard Terminal and getting their hooks into the team – but I wouldn’t want to cast aspersions on them. It’s all about keeping the team in Oakland. I’m sure that omission was purely unintentional.
Rogers and Knauss go on to mention how they’ve studied the site, they consider it viable, etc. And they can rest with that argument knowing that they never have to show any information to back them up. There’s no draft EIR published, no feasibility study, no economic impact report. Nothing public to back them up. Just their word, which some in Oakland were happy to swallow without question. Without any of that information we have little to go on but our own research and statements from the Port indicating that the ballpark would be difficult to pull off.
OWB and Howard Terminal’s backers had been in contact with MLB for the better part of two years. If they had a truly compelling case to press that could’ve allowed MLB to recommend the site, MLB would’ve been swayed at least a little. In this ongoing saga MLB’s constant indecision actually worked in Oakland’s and HT’s favor. A plan could’ve been presented that showed HT was superior to the Coliseum, San Jose, or any other site that could’ve been presented. Yet that didn’t happen. And now OWB wants to whine one more time about it. OWB referred to Wolff’s and San Jose’s court strategy as a Hail Mary when they could’ve said the same thing about their own strategy. They hoped that Wolff would get frustrated enough to sell or do something that would compel either John Fisher or MLB to consider an ownership change. Even now, they’re calling for the current ownership group to sell, a trademark attack of Quan-era combativeness. Absent a compelling story, they had their own desperate plan.
Pot. Kettle. Black.
The untold story is that the Port is losing $10 million a year for the next several years while they figure out what to do with the land. At the moment the Port is looking into providing shore power so that some types of operations can be carried out. Otherwise there are few ways to eat into that $10 million. Rogers and Knauss should consider figuring out ways to make Howard Terminal a revenue generator. 50 acres is a good start for a football stadium-cum-convention center. That suggestion’s on me, fellas.
If these businessmen truly want the A’s to stay in Oakland, they’d be best off offering assistance to the A’s than in publicly spitting in their faces at every turn. After all, they’re not spending money on the ballpark. They spent $50,000 on incomplete studies. The ballpark will cost $600 million to construct, of which they were going to pay practically nothing. The Coliseum’s not a sexy site. The plan is probably not going to look like a pie-in-the-sky fever dream that Coliseum City resembles. But if it’s offered by the A’s and has broad public support, it will be the best chance the A’s have EVER had to have their own ballpark in Oakland. Not everyone will be happy. OWB doesn’t like the Coliseum site. Wolff prefers San Jose. It’s a compromise, which is a lot better than a fantasy.
P.S. – I wrote a summary of Howard Terminal news on March 19. This was the conclusion:
That’s why I’m glad all this is happening. Someone’s gonna get to say I told you so at the end. As childish as that may sound, it’s better than not knowing.
I was wrong. We never even got to the point of knowing. Hey OWB, about your letter – Cool story bro.
P.P.S. – When the old Gas Plant at Howard Terminal had to be cleaned up, PG&E had three estimates for the project. Only one, Alternative 3, would’ve made the land developable. The other two were some form of asphalt cap to protect the land.
Alternative 3, a full cleanup with hauled away toxic dirt much like China Basin, cost $4.125 million – for 1.58 acres. Scale that to 50 acres (31.6x). Now you’re starting to get an idea how much Howard Terminal would cost.