As the hubbub surrounding Howard Terminal grew to include a major deal between the Port of Oakland and shipping giants Matson and SSA, I wrote about a piece about potential fallout from the deal. If Matson and SSA were to get a favorable deal from the Port, what would happen to Ports America, which operates an even larger terminal in the Outer Harbor, near the Bay Bridge?
In 2013, Ports America threatened to sue the Port over the SSA settlement because it threatened their own deal. This week the company decided to terminate its 50-year lease at the Port of Oakland, pulling out of the Port entirely. PA was only 6 years into that 50 year lease. The company chose to expand operations at other West Coast terminals at Tacoma, Los Angeles, and Long Beach.
At a State of the Port address, officials tried to spin the departure as a way to benefit the other remaining operators, who are below capacity and could use the business Ports America is vacating to improve profitability. TraPac, which runs a terminal adjacent to Ports America’s Outer Harbor facility, is nearing a deal with the Port to take over a 44-acre section from PA.
That would leave 166 acres vacant, potentially available for another operator, other types of cargo (bulk, cars), or as Commissioner Bryan Parker indicated, for a ballpark or stadium. That’s in addition to the 50-acre Howard Terminal, which has been targeted time and time again as potential ballpark location. On the other hand, the shipping of coal has been an idea vigorously debated for some time, even floated as an option for HT. I hope it never happens because of serious local environmental issues (West Oakland deals with enough now), but the revenue situation may eventually cause the Port and City to consider it. PA was expected to provide more than $35 million to the Port this year, a quarter of the Port’s projected revenues.
At first glance, 166 acres looks appealing because of its size. That would be plenty for a Raiders stadium and parking. The location at the foot of the Bay Bridge has its appeal. But it’s 2 miles from the West Oakland BART station, and although the BART tracks run next to the property, they’re always on an incline because that’s where the aerial section transitions to the Transbay Tube, so no infill station there. The location is also quite windy.
The Coliseum’s fate notwithstanding, Raiders and A’s fans might welcome the possibility of large, publicly owned parcels like this. However, “free” land isn’t really free. It comes with a price, measured in the number of jobs lost at the Port (up to 1,000 at PAOHT) and lost revenues. San Francisco endured the transition by going whole hog on giving up shipping completely, allowing Oakland to expand and consolidate. Despite efforts to modernize facilities and transform unused lands like the Oakland Army Base to better accommodate the shipping and logistics industry, Oakland finds itself having to make compromises and decisions that negatively affect operations at the Port. And if a Raiders stadium is proposed at the Outer Harbor, it will surely be challenged by the other shipping companies that surround the property.
Add this location to the list of options, I guess. I know this much: there’s no way in hell the Port is going to get $35 million a year from something sports related, even if they have three stadia on Port property.
P.S. – Before you ask – NO, A BALLPARK CANNOT FACE WEST. Unless you like bad shadows and batters not being able to pick up the ball properly.