One step forward, two steps back for Port of Oakland as major terminal operator ends lease

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?

Credit: BANG

Ports America property near Bay Bridge to be vacated. Credit: BANG

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.

21 thoughts on “One step forward, two steps back for Port of Oakland as major terminal operator ends lease

  1. Ok, what’s the latest on the “Malibu” land that Mark Davis wants? Can the city deliver it to him? (Maybe I the cheap) is that enough space to make him happy?
    For the A’s here’s a downtown park pipedream (one of you smart people can tell me why it is a good/bad idea)
    What about that space behind the old Capewells/Sears building? There just seems to be a lot of closed down storefronts and what not – if your familiar with the area, you know what I’m talking about)
    It would revitalize that area sooo much. And bart is right there. That location Is crazy or just a foolish? Or I’m I naive? Or brilliant?

    • The Malibu/HomeBase lots are the unused 24 acres across the canal at the south end of the Coliseum. A third of what the city is currently offering the Raiders to lease (Literally. I believe it is actually part of the 69 acres in question).

  2. Way too narrow. The original site was across the street, the old Tire Center / Capwell’s Parking lot, adjacent to the Fox Oakland.

  3. 980 Park keeps looking better and better.

  4. Sacramento looks incredible right now. If they were to say Sacramento was an option the money would show up.

  5. I’ve noticed that the abandoned warehouse next to the Jack London Aquatic Center was leveled along with Estuaty Park. Fantastic site that could bridge Brooklyn Basin, Victory Court, and Jack London Square. Best part is that it is that much closer to Lake Merrit BART. (4 city blocks) down Oak St. Could that property with the Aquatic Center property squeeze in a small baseball stadium. There are some existing apartments between the property and Channel 2, but I really think it can work.

    • *glances at it in google earth pro, while they still have the US Parcel Data layer scheduled to be removed next weekend*

      That warehouse was on the same parcel as the Aquatic Center (24 acres). The shape and size of the lot makes putting a ball park in a very tight, maybe imposible squeeze. In an overhead view, you can compare the size of the lot to that Laney Colleges’ ballfield. Really only possible if the Aquatic Center is demolished. And then, where are people going to park?

      • It’s definitely a tight one, there would have to be creativity in positioning, and even then you’ll barely have room for just players and media parking. However, parking will be an issue at any of the proposed sites (HT, Laney, BB, VC.) Parking garages would have to be put in at any of those surrounding sites. There are existing garages in Jack London Square, and the city’s victory court fire training facility could fit a decent size garage. I don’t know… Basically hoping for anything but the Coliseum for baseball. It’s gotta be done near downtown.

      • i think most associated with the a’s be it the org and fans would love to see a park built in an urban area near the downtown or waterfront area of the city but feasibility wise it just doesn’t look like that can happen.

        but i do wonder which downtown or waterfront site that has been suggested over the years would be the cheapest? i’d guess laney?

  6. I know this blog is about finding a new home for the A’s in Oakland, but the merger of two ideas on this post is intriguing to me.

    First, I’m intrigued by Housewives Market’s idea of the Jack London Aquatic Center site. There would be great views If the ballpark faced south-southeast, like the Laney College ballpark. But yes, the site does look tight. It could possibly fit a smaller minor league AAA ballpark seating 12-14K. I wonder how many of you would accept an AAA team if that would mean having a waterfront stadium?

    Second, Joel’s idea of Sacramento could be merged with the above idea. Swap the A’s and the River Cats, and re-affiliate them back with the A’s. Sacramento has 3 potential stadium sites: Raley Field (demolish & rebuild), Sleep Train arena site, and the downtown Railyards. River Cats would have to relocate if a MLB team moved in. I know there’s much less corporate support there, but the land and building costs would be less, and attendance would higher. Not too farfetched?

    • @ Sam

      This blog has more to do with finding (hope), the A’s find a new ballpark in the Bay Area. (not just Oakland )

      I for one would not be interested in any ballpark, waterfront or otherwise that wasn’t for the Oakland (MLB not AAA) A’s.

    • I don’t think Sacramento can support MLB.

      The Raiders, on the other hand, I think would be a fantastic fit for Sacramento and yes, they have land to put a stadium on. Isn’t the infrastructure from the long-ago-abandoned Lukenbill stadium still out there in an empty field somewhere?

      For those who don’t know about that, way back when Lukenbill brought the Kings to Sacto, he actually started building the infrastructure for a baseball and/or football stadium next to the original Arco Arena in hopes of luring a team.

    • > Swap the A’s and the River Cats, and re-affiliate them back with the A’s.

      It was the choice of the Rivercats to switch affiliations during the 2014-2015 offseason, as they are a privately owned team.

    • : The A’s media rights deals would rake in much less cash playing at Sac. For example, the A’s make $45 mil. annually from their tv deal. If they played at Sacto – they would receive under $20 mil. annually.

      Also the A’s averaged 20K fans in 2015, playing at an old football facility, with a last place team. They would likely have difficulty drawing 20K per game at Sac with a playoff team and a new baseball-only stadium.

  7. Solution to the park-facing-west issue: Morning games. Lots and lots of morning games.

  8. A ballpark CAN face the West IF it is domed. I think we can all pretty much agree that a domed ML ballpark in the East Bay is unnecessary and a waste of money.

  9. The issue with Sacramento is TV rights. Right now the Giants/A’s share TV all over NorCal, Northern Nevada up into parts of Oregon.

    If the A’s go to Sacramento, the Giants would seal off the entire Bay Area (8M people) and the A’s would be stuck with Sacramento, Nor Cal and some of Northern Nevada.

    It would be a Warriors-Kings situation, where both teams are blacked out in each other’s markets.

    It would pummel the A’s TV value and team value as well. They are better off rotting in the Coliseum being televised to 10M+ people sharing with the Giants.

    As for these Oakland site, I was at Jack London Square two weeks ago and in Downtown Oakland twice in the past week for work.

    JLS, Brooklyn Basin, and anything around the terminal are a no go. It would be a traffic nightmare for 35k of people getting in and out of there. All the roads are 1 lane on each side and freeway access isn’t available on all exits on both sides of 880.

    it would be as bad as Candlestick or worse traffic wise leaving games.

    Unless Oakland is willing to pour 200M or so for infrastructure and freeway improvements I do not see anything happening in that general area.

    90M wouldn’t even cause a dent in what needs to be done

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