OWB terminates Howard Terminal ENA, then explains why Howard Terminal is great

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.

59 thoughts on “OWB terminates Howard Terminal ENA, then explains why Howard Terminal is great

  1. It is definitely very convenient for the group to get to sit there and tout Howard Terminal’s so-called viability without ever having to put up a single piece of legitimate information to prove it. The added shot at current A’s ownership is just par for the course. This group never had any real intention of coordinating anything with the A’s. They just wanted to position themselves for a chance to buy the A’s. That isn’t happening, so they’re bowing out and throwing another stone in the process.

    Certain people will eat it up and continue to buy the unproven, unrealistic (at present) fantasy of Howard Terminal being the perfect spot for a baseball stadium, and how it’s all on the A’s for not taking advantage of such a grand opportunity (to spend even more just to clean it up in the first place).

  2. Re PR reorganization to deal with local government and public officials: for the Coliseum AND/OR San Jose or anywhere else in the Bay Area.

    RIP Howard Terminal…

  3. so the oakland only folks will now put howard terminal right below victory court as a “prime location” the a’s owners sabotaged right? never mind financially it never made since but lets not make cold hard facts and reality ruin the narrative from that deranged side that wolff keeps screwing oakland and the numerous sites they’ve presented over the years.

    even though i think most knew about a dozen years ago when HOK in their report basically said the howard terminal site was by far the most expensive and had faced the biggest obstacles to build a park there both logistically and with again with the cost of not only building at the site but prepping it.

    look as a resident of oakland for over 3 decades now i’d love to have seen a park built at howard terminal. it’d by far being the most visually pleasing especially when those recent renderings that showed up online in the last year with the cranes in the backdrop but realistically it had no shot of happening.

    really is coliseum city or bust at this point.

  4. Some of the comments from the OWB group, toward the A’s organization are down right foolish.

  5. Lew Wolff, who’s gotten rich as a real estate developer and is also greedy and cheap, is turning his back on a can’t-miss real estate development opportunity that even exceeds what SF did. Because…wait, because why? A grocer and a CPG guy say “trust us, we studied it and we know” but the developer doesn’t?

    • @Kevin – To be fair one of those guys got a nice cover for him taking high-paying professional jobs out of Oakland.

      • Mike Ghielmetti has to be their real estate guy, right? He’s the one with acumen to run these studies and look into financing, and he’s in the process of developing Brooklyn Basin right here in Oakland…so why won’t he sign his name to these letters? Wouldn’t that give anything they say about real estate instant credibility?

  6. Does Knauss think this type of public whining and bashing of the A’s owners is going to make MLB excited about trying to get a new ballpark in Oakland or maybe say, “How much more of this do we have to put up with?”

  7. Man, this is not a good situation. If Wolff ever did build at the coliseum site, you would expect some of the same people that are part of the OWB group, to be part of a corporate partnership that would help make building at the coliseum site possible.

  8. Have to wonder if this just more frustration that the A’s rejection of Howard Terminal throws a wrench in plans to give the Raiders the Coliseum site all to themselves.

    • It’s not like the question hasn’t been asked (and ignored), before but if HT is such a wonderful opportunity, why hasn’t Mark Davis been asked about it, or demanded to consider it?

      • That area can’t handle 10k plus cars of traffic needed for the NFL. First Friday’s can cause havoc in the JLS parking garage. Plus development cost issues are the same. Never mind the fact Schnitzer Steel has no interest in moving locations. If they did move it would be on the developers to cover costs of that move. And also if current Mt Davis debt remained in full and the A’s infra costs are covered by the public sector at the Coliseum how could the public sector cover infra costs at HT? How many decades would it be before there was a financial return on infra costs? How are all these sports projects in Oakland’s best financial interest? Etc. etc.

        Howard Terminal provided the best looking renderings. But that’s it.

      • @ muppet151

        Thanks, I appreciate the answer. I was actually asking the question more in a sarcastic way, sorry if I did not convey that vary well.

      • Didn’t mean for there to be any snark in my response 🙂

        The Raiders to Howard Terminal idea is thrown out every so often on other mediums as a serious possibility. I just wanted to point out the traffic nightmare that it would be.

  9. And the decision comes full circle for Oakland: Choose the Raiders that started this mess or the A’s who could save the Town another embarassment…

  10. Agreed anon, as much as I am a raider fan I am a realist. The raiders ruined a great baseball stadium and now threaten to leave again after 17 of 20 losing seasons. The raiders should be thankful they have sellouts and work to fix this mess.

  11. The Raiders started this mess? The Raiders ruined a then great baseball stadium? Replace “Raiders” with “City of Oakland” and you’d then be correct…

  12. Knauss Lied he never tried, now show us your “binder” that’s says you even looked at HT. Am I doing this right?

    The least surprising thing about this is,.. well nothing. Everyone who has looked any of the available info knew this was a lost cause. What gets annoying is that years have been wasted by talk of HT and Victory court. Oh, the city also continues to not receive revenue from HT, which it could probably use. All of this is because Knauss and company thought MLB was going to force Lew to sell or force him into HT. The fact that MLB never backed HT tells you everything. Yet, all we ever heard was it was “viable”. Now that HT and VC aren’t viable, what will the new catch phrase be?

    Another talking point that has been annoying, is that somehow some are excited that HT died. I am not happy, because this was a known outcome, and time and money was wasted. More bad will between Lew and the city was created, for no reason. I wanted a study to come out that showed the hard numbers so we could actually discuss true costs to show this was fantasy land. Yet HT backers kept up the nonsense. The real question is, why aren’t people upset that the city hasn’t focused on one plan that is actually realistic? It’s ok as a city to say, “we are an up and coming city, we don’t have money for sports, but we hope one team will stay and we will focus all our attention on one site that is best for you.”
    That’s reality, deal with it.

    Now someone check to see if Elmano is ok.

  13. The fact that the OWB is dismissive of the Coliseum site says it all. It tells us they do not really believe that a Coliseum City ballpark/stadium development plan is economically feasible. Without sufficient backing from various private funding sources, Coliseum City will not come to be. Lew Wolff will not be able to build a Coliseum City ballpark entirely on his own. He will also need at least some degree of public funding assistance which at this point neither the city, county, or state are willing to provide. Lastly, MLB will have to continue providing the A’s with revenue sharing to offset the unfair disadvantage given to the A’s for the unequal division of the Bay Area market. IMO, without the contribution and cooperation from all relevant parties, Coliseum City will only continue to exist as a pipe dream.

    • Outstanding llpec! What you just stated has been the truth from the get go; Oakland not viable for A’s (even with “development rights” to all that wonderful land in East Oakland) UNLESS massive public funding surfaces or continued revenue sharing post 2016.

      San Jose is alive and well…

    • Except Wolff has made it clear he CAN build at the Coliseum alone. In fact they’d prefer it by all indications to any other options in Oakland including the currently doomed Coliseum City plan.

      • He has? Please give us numbers ($) that Wolff has provided that support the notion that he “CAN” at the Coliseum. Not just media sound bites; thank you.

      • @Tony D – He has already presented that to the JPA. Not public yet. In time.

      • Thanks RM. IMHO, just feel he’s buying time with all the “build at the Coliseum” talk. Think about it: $600 million + for ballpark, acquiring nearly $200 million in current debt, demolition of current Coliseum, infrastructure costs….could be close to a $1 billion private investment in a corporate/disposable income poor region when all is said and done. “Development rights” to the parking lots could put a small dent in the ballpark costs, but without continued revenue sharing and massive private investments coming in….really?

      • If Wolff can’t get a new ballpark deal that is in the best interests for his A’s franchise, whether in Oakland or San Jose, he would much rather remain indefinitely at the decrepit Coliseum. The new ten year Coliseum lease extension gives him both more time and wiggle room to hopefully gain more leverage to land a profitable A’s new Bay Area ballpark deal down the road. If by continuing to play at the Coliseum causes more embarrassing events, then Wolff can point the blame on both Oakland and MLB for perpetuating the status quo. Time is on the side of the A’s.

      • Don’t forget about revenue sharing though. Even though it’s not a slam dunk, if MLB still locks the A’s into Alameda and Contra Costa they should still receive revenue sharing even with a new stadium. The same can not be said if they are granted the rights to build in San Jose.

        As stand alone entities I totally agree that San Jose is a better site economically. Revenue sharing and additional development rights even the playing field a bit though.

  14. Oakland officials continue to prove Lew Wolff’s assertion that they are impossible to deal with. They are still discussing the HT site even though the A’s prohibited discussing it with the new lease terms. (Unless Oakland is willing to pay up to $400 mil. for infrastructure and toxic cleanup to prepare the site for the stadium – the A’ likely have 0% interest in the HT site, it appears to be a very unpractical site)

    They are also contributing to the ongoing stadium woes. They could have either A: cancelled the CC project (which the A’s have no interest in under its current terms) and offered the A’s land there instead to build the stadium and other developments (which the A’s prefer) or B: called MLB’s bluff, not approve the A’s lease (if which case the A’s would be now be constructing a new A’s temporary ballpark on Coleman Ave in SJ) and continue with the CC project – in the process appeasing the Raiders organization because the Raiders would then have a football only facility. Instead they continue this nonsense by both approving the A’s lease and continuing the the CC plan.

  15. Marine Layer,

    That opinion piece by these highly regarded business executives is the absolute truth. Knauss was involved in developing the new ballpark in Houston and knows exactly what is needed to build a ballpark.

    They are right about Howard Terminal being a great site and about Wolff and Fisher jerking Oakland around and having no interest in building a ballpark anywhere in Oakand.

    Once again you’re being a deceptive shill for this dishonest and under handed ownership. It’s par for the course. You’ve been doing this for many years. You take offense to these two highly repeatable individuals telling the truth about this dishonest and conniving ownership.

    I could care less if you censore your site like some sort of repressive third world dictator. This is strictly between you and me. You and the Lew Wolff San Jose shills on this site can’t stand to hear the truth.

    • Look, it’s the great Howard Terminal truther, Elmano! I’ll let this one in just to show off its absurdity.

    • LOL, why don’t you keep whining some more about local media not talking about the A’s and Giants equally. As much as an A’s fan as I am, the Giants deserve to be talked about more right now. They just won another World Series.

      You are a joke.

      • no way @ James V – this is an A’s blog – you are getting off topic. Besides, there are plenty of other sites you can visit if you care to make comments about the giants. Besides, the giants were plain lucky – there were several more talented teams in 2014 than the giants (including the A’s) The giants finished 88-74, in the worst division of the worst league (9 of the 15 2014 NL teams were under .500) 6 games behind the Dodgers. They simply were not a very good team and play boring baseball (each time they reach the WS – they set new all time lows in viewer ratings)

        In fact, the 2014 NBA finals achieved overall higher ratings than the 2014 WS did. (thanks likely to the boring giants and Royals small ball style) – which most MLB fans have no interest in. That fact must concern MLB – that the NBA has technically passed MLB in fan popularity due to the giants.

        The giants were just randomly lucky again (and didnt’ deserve another WS titile. Luck is getting to be too much o a factor in the MLB post season. A typical triple A team should win 50-55 games if they played a full MLB schedule. Even a good college to could win 35-40 games if playing an MLB schedule. – which demonstrates the randon luick of baseball. In no other sports league could the minor league affiliates be so equally matched to the big league clubs as the MLB/minor league teams are – bottom line the giants are just plain lucky and don’t deserve extra kudos.

      • @Duffer – I’m guessing you’re not aware of the bit Elmano wrote, whining about the Giants getting more attention after winning the World Series. The end of the story even states he frequently contacts local media to complain when he doesn’t feel Oakland is getting enough attention.

      • Your whining is annoying as hell duffer. You don’t luck into 3 WS titles in 5 years. PERIOD. You don’t have to be a Giants fan to acknowledge that.

      • I wish our A’s could get that lucky, I would be thrilled

      • @SMG – evidently only Giants fans like that team. There was an ESPN poll done on what team fans were pulling for at the 2014 WS – 81% were for the Royals, even 60% of Californians were rooting for KC. The giants evidently are well liked in SF -disliked elsewhere.

      • Dude, nobody fucking cares. Come off it. They have had more recent success. Ergo they get more media hype and coverage. Not that hard to figure out.

    • @ Elmano
      I think you meant to say, “You couldn’t care less”, unless you could actually care less, then what you presently do.

  16. maybe OT a bit but Frisco turned the corner when they hired a Dodger scout named John Barr. Sabean was almost fired after many years of failure to draft/produce everyday players. For years, Tidrow was Sabean’s trusted advisor. You can call it luck or whatever but Barr drafted Posey and Lincecum. IMHO, Billy “genius” Beane needs to revamp his staff. The A’s have not been to draft a star everyday player since when ?

    anyway, did you guys see Mark Davis quote yesterday about the LA market ? Per the cute haircut, he loved LA and that LA was great. Yeah. let the raiders go back to LA and save the CC for the A’s. Seriously, can you picture the NFL commish, Hollywood honchos, politicians etc…standing next to The cure haircut at a presser ?

    • Both Davis and Kroenke have been discussing a new NFL stadium with Inglewood city officials – there could be something to the Raiders-to-LA rumors.

  17. Great, more Elmano gibberish, full of value-laden adjectives substituting for facts or logic.

    Knauss and Co. are “highly regarded” and “respectable” (at least I assume that’s what he meant to write). Howard Terminal is “great.” ML is “deceptive” and a “shill” (in fact, anyone who disagrees with Elmano is a “shill”). Wolff is “dishonest” (twice in one post), “underhanded” and “conniving.” Reads like a politburo press release back during the cold war.

    Excessive use of adjectives correlates strongly with how full of it someone is. That stuff may pass when you’re preaching to the choir, but is extremely tedious for anyone else.

  18. Knauss has reached a new low. This guy touts HT like its a great site and all….If it truly is then put $$ where your mouth is and get an EIR done.

    An EIR is the most basic step in the ballpark process and he couldn’t get that far. Why? Because he knows what we all know, HT is not feasible for a ballpark period. It would take years just to prep the site and re-do the transportation infrastructure in the area.

    It is not like Knauss and his cohorts cannot afford it. If the EIR by some miracle proved HT was feasible then has full right to point the finger at Wolff/Fisher.

    Even Oakland didn’t push for an EIR cause they know it full well after the Victory Court debacle.

    Elmano doesn’t acknowledge Victory Court and how big of a failure it was by Oakland.

    More ineptitude by Oakland with the A’s once again.

    BTW….The Giants didn’t get lucky to win the WS, they won in Pittsburgh in a do or die game, went to Washington won 2 on the road there, handled the Cardinals (who beat Kershaw twice) in 5 and won Game 7 on the road!

    The last 9 teams on the road in Game 7 lost. The Giants are the 1st team since 1979 to do it. That is not luck…..That is what you call a “Dynasty”

    • Some think the Giants are a dynasty some don’t, I guess it’s debatable, since they did not even make the playoffs, in the years between their three WS, and they seemed to have pulled it off with a verity of different player each time, that is to say while some of their players were there for all three, it wasn’t what you would call a group or core of 15-20 guys.
      I suppose no team wins, in any sport without some amount of luck, or good fortune, but to say the Giants are lucky is ridicules, they should total team work and dedication, as a matter of fact if they had only won one WS, you might have an argument that they were lucky (to a degree), but no team lucks up on three WS titles in five years.

      • Disagree about that point – the giants are an unexplained anomaly. Looking over that roster – it’s hard to explain how that team can even make the playoffs, how they can dominate in the post season is bizzare. They do have an excellent bullpen – other than that – they are a sub-par, .500 or below team. In 2014, all the other playoff teams (with the exception of the Royals) had better rosters. The 2012 giants team was very similiar to this one, and and no business winning the WS.

        Keep in mind they do play in the worst division of the worst league in MLB. In 2014 the AL beat the NL at interleague play again, and 9 of the 15 NL teams were under .500.

      • @ duffer

        For whatever reason they win, that’s the object of playing the game, weather you, me, or anyone else, understands exactly how they do it, luck or otherwise.

    • Sid,
      When you score 11 runs WITHOUT a single hit (Nationals series) and your starting pitching (save for one guy) has a 9.00+ ERA in the WS….that’s called LUCK pal. And NO, it’s not a “Dynasty” Despite what the kiss ass traditional Bay Area media says. Got 3 in a row?

      • It’s not luck. Do you fundamentally misunderstand how TEAM sports work?

      • I can’t believe some of you guys, are they Giants a dynasty? I think most people would say no, for a verity of reasons.
        Are they Giants lucky? To a certainty degree, you would have to say yes, but every team that wins anything has a certain amount of things go their way (luck), but I don’t see how anyone can consider what the Giants have accomplished over the last 5 years as mostly luck.
        I hate the Giants, not the fans, players, but as a lot that post here I have a big problem with the ownership group freezing the A’s out of San Jose, that being said if the Giants are lucky, in winning three WS, in 5 years, I pay to the baseball gods that the A’s may encounter such luck, please, please, please…

      • Sorry; “I pray”

      • OK,
        Just for you SMG, it’s not “luck.” We’ll just call it being VERY FORTUNATE. Howz that? Peace.

      • OK,
        Just for you Tony
        I pray to the baseball gods that the A’s may encounter such FORTUNE.
        Howz that?

  19. I agree the Giants were very lucky and position by position before the A’s traded Cespedes away, the A’s were the better team. The A’s went 3-1 vs the Giants during the regular season. This Wild Card stuff makes winning the division and having the better records pretty meaningless.

    As far as Howard Terminal being better for a football stadium with 10 dates per year vs a baseball park with 81 home dates, I don’t agree. Both Victory Court and Howard Terminal are great sites which suffered from an anti-Oakland ownership who refuses to see any redeeming qualities in the city. You can’t build anything without a willing partner.

    • When the fifth-best team in the regular season wins the World Series while the top teams all are eliminated earlier, it reduces the significance of the regular season to NHL levels. It’s not about being the best team over a 162-game regular season and one month of playoffs. It’s about winning just enough to squeak into the playoffs and then getting hot for a few weeks….Both VC and HT are DOA sites, Elmano. You’re flogging dead horses. (The city of Oakland said it was doing an EIR on VC and then never did it. And how is that the A’s fault? Had an EIR come back that VC was feasible, Selig’s nightmare would have been over)

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