Timeline Slips For Me, Not For Thee

New timeline (8/1)
Howard Terminal Development Timeline from Summer 2020

A good percentage of the A’s fanbase loved the team’s #RootedInOakland campaign and saw it as a movement. In the most optimistic of terms, it would build a new ballpark which would act as a catalyst for a downtown renaissance, which happened across the Bay 20+ years ago when the Giants moved to SoMa. It would establish Oakland’s waterfront as a major tourist attraction, more than merely Jack London Square. Most importantly, it would keep the green and gold in Oakland. The term sheet submitted by the A’s even has a non-relocation agreement, the better to calm that nervous fanbase. (Many recent stadium deals have standard non-relocation clauses.)

MLB’s “good cop” routine is out the window now that it gave the A’s its blessing to explore markets outside of Oakland. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Commissioner Rob Manfred set the price for new expansion teams at around $2.2 Billion. In doing so, he also set the price for relocating teams to new cities, which won’t have the luxury of having a newly relocated team play in an old multipurpose stadium or a souped up AAA park for a few years while they work out a MLB ballpark plan.

I’m not going to tell you not to worry about the A’s leaving. Some hypothetical mega-billionaire not named Fisher could swoop in, drop a couple of those billions on the A’s, spend even more on a ballpark plan and MLB will wave the team’s exodus through like a traffic cop. That person could also do the same for Oakland, though that’s like hoping that climate change doesn’t really exist. I am going to tell you that road to make that happen is long, steep, and not for the faint of heart. Sure, the A’s current lease at the Coliseum runs out in 2024. Can you think of a market that will have a brand-new, MLB-ready ballpark for 2025? I can’t. Maury Brown covers this in some detail at Forbes, which is worth reading because as he points out, the A’s are effectively limited to candidate cities in Western North America (Las Vegas, Portland, Vancouver, maybe Sacramento). The Eastern cities are effectively reserved for the Rays if they relocate (Charlotte, Nashville, Montreal). This prevents the two economically-challenged franchises from competing against each other for stadium deals. It also prevents most potentially awkward realignment scenarios.

A man (or team) is only as faithful as his options

Yesterday, Dave Kaval admitted that the ballpark plan’s timeline has extended to the point that an Opening Day couldn’t happen before 2027. Little explanation was given as to why. We can piece together the usual problems that we’ve identified from the beginning: cleanup, a lack of infrastructure to support it, and now, the eye-watering $12 Billion total price tag on the project. Simply put, it’s incredibly hard. There are still plenty of supporters who say it’s worth it. Maybe it is. Not surprisingly, I remain unconvinced. It was going to be hard 4 years ago, it was going to be hard 8 years ago. The A’s made some procedural progress, lacking major deal points. The Athletic’s Alex Coffey reported last night that MLB is stepping up as the muscle behind the A’s demands, which Manfred also offered to do in 2017 when the site focus was Laney/Peralta.

Despite another timeline setback, the A’s continue to push for a City Council vote on Howard Terminal before the August recess. Why would they do that, despite the proposal existing as a 6,000-page napkin sketch? The explanation is actually quite simple. Mayor Libby Schaaf made news earlier this week by unveiling her budget for 2021-23. It’s Schaaf’s last budget before she’s termed out. I won’t get into the particulars of the budget as that’s not my beat, but I will say that the A’s being urged to look elsewhere by MLB is an unwanted distraction to put it mildly. For her part, Schaaf continues to promote HT.

With the timeline extended, Howard Terminal suddenly becomes the one of the last major non-policy proposals of Schaaf’s tenure. Does she stick it out through the probably bitter end? And what of the 2022 mayoral race, whose candidates are only starting to announce their campaigns? Does Howard Terminal become a major campaign tentpole, which Schaaf hands off to her successor? What about the Coliseum as an alternative? Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan ran for mayor twice and is likely to be a candidate again. For years Kaplan has been the strongest proponent of building at the Coliseum, which the A’s ruled out in short order yesterday. There will surely be at least one candidate who will champion Howard Terminal as much as Schaaf. How much traction will that provide in what will surely be a contentious race? From a 50,000-foot view, it looks like the A’s are aware that there’s no champion waiting in the wings. Their rush to lock in the deal this summer reflects that uncertainty.

15 thoughts on “Timeline Slips For Me, Not For Thee

  1. Can you give an explanation (or point me to one if it’s already out there) for why the A’s and MLB both insist that rebuilding on the current lot is not a viable option/alternative? I get that they prefer HT, but preference is different from viability. Thanks!

    • I know you asked ML, but really it’s not viable simply because they say it’s not viable.

      They can point to the expected ROI, but if the city of Oakland kicked in 500 million (which it isn’t), then all of a sudden it would be viable.

      I believe they are saying it isn’t simply to remove it from consideration as apse to HT.

      It must be viable for something, since the A’s already own half of the land.

    • Years ago the A’s projected attendance at Oakland sites (Coliseum And Howard Terminal/Victory Court). The waterfront site definitely provided a boost to attendance. Enough to pay for double the cost and quadruple the headaches to get there? Again, I’m not convinced. The projected attendance difference was 20-25%.

  2. The A’s must believe they have the votes on the city council at the moment, and don’t want to have to work with newly appointed members to try to get this passed.

    This, a long with a mayoral race not long after the council members races could be it. Kaval first said he wanted a vote before the end of the year, then (I believe), said by fall, now its before August?🤔

    • LOL! If the A’s currently believe they have the votes on the city council, then why bring up relocation/exploring other markets? 🤔

      • LOL!! Because they would like a margin to be more comfortable then 5-4 with the mayor being the tiebreaker, its called lavage.

        The A’s probable want to stay in Oakland (Fremont and San Jose not withstanding), but that doesn’t mean they will. Its business, and in business as in life it is about options.

      • “5-4 margin”? Do you have proof of this? Or are you simply reaching to prove your point? The A’s have been given permission to explore relocation/other markets; that’s a negative development, no matter how hard you try to spin it.

      • Do I have proof?

        This is a comment board on a blog, you have no more proof then I do.
        I am not spinning anything (as you say), the A’s will leave or they wont, bottom line.

        They are pushing for a city council vote by the end of July, that is a fact.
        They are doing that for a reason. It could be because they believe they have a slim margin for passage and want to get it out of the way before passage gets more difficult, they could also be pushing the vote (if no) so they can show MLB they tried, so they can move to another market.

        There may even be other reasons I am not thinking of, either of these could be reasons for pushing a vote, regardless of whatever your views.

  3. ML,

    I hope that MLB and the A’s are bluffing. However, I am inclined to agree with Mayor Libby Schaff and take MLB at its word, the A’s move to HT or the A’s move out of Oakland. This is the timeline the A’s have been looking at:

    1. 2001 Steve Schott era: Uptown Oakland = canceled by Jerry Brown.
    2. 2005 Lew Wolff era: 66th Ave = Oakland fails to obtain land
    3. 2006 Victory Court/Cisco Field Fremont = Outcry by residents of Fremont
    4. 2012 Cisco Field San Jose = canceled by Giants/MLB
    5. 2017 John Fisher era: Peralta Admin = canceled by Peralta
    6. 2018 Howard Terminal = last chance?

    It has been twenty years and no stadium. Compare that timeline to:

    1. Raiders: Dec 2017 the NFL approve relocation, Jul 2020 Raiders move in
    2. Warriors: 2014 Warriors buy Mission Bay land, 2019 Warriors move in

    Retention of the Raiders would only have been possible with a shared 49ers and Raiders facility. The Warriors had their hearts set on building a new arena in San Francisco. However, while I believe Mark Davis’ recent statements to be a bit harsh, I could see why the A’s might be having doubts about the Oakland’s ability to get things done.

    Oakland’s history of procrastination:

    1. 2019 Alameda County sells Coliseum share to A’s and Oakland hesitates
    2. Oakland Walmart has remained vacant since Jan 2016.
    3. Pak N Save Hegenberger Rd. has remained vacant since 2014
    4. Henry Kaiser Convention Center has remained vacant since 2006

    I hope the the A’s know what they are doing. They are putting an enormous amount of their own money into the HT proposal. The A’s must have a reason why the Coliseum site is not a good location for a new ballpark (#1, #2, and #3 of Oakland’s history of procrastination?) I am sure there are plenty of cities who would be willing to match the infrastructure requests of Oakland and provide construction subsidies similar to what LV made for the Raiders.

    I am still hoping that the A’s remain in Oakland well into the 22nd century. I just hope that the Oakland City Council doesn’t cut off their nose to spite their face.

  4. @ML.

    I know the CBA is expiring do you think that may have a hand in the A’s requiring a vote this year?

    I was thinking it could, but even if they got the vote by the city council (this year), they still would have a few more regulatory approvals before they could even get started.

    • Not anymore than usual. The ultimate economic driver is the valuation of each franchise and recurring revenue so stadium deals are always related to some degree. Big picture and CBA? Drop in the bucket.

  5. Neil deMause rightly points out over at Field of Schemes that back in 2015 Schaaf was adamantly against “public funds for sports stadiums” because those funds could be used for “police, parks or libraries.” Considering Oakland’s current fiscal situation, especially post-pandemic, do we really believe that Schaaf/Oakland City Council will approve $855 million in public funds for infrastructure related to a sports stadium? And I used to think that the “$200 million” figure once thrown around for infrastructure improvements was a jaw dropping number..

  6. I can’t recall, is there an estimate for an amount of money the City would have to kick in for a rebuild at the Coliseum site?

  7. @ ML

    There is a lot of speculation in this question. We know the A’s are really going hard for full ownership/control of the coliseum site. (last big swath of publicly owned land around, bla, bla, bla)

    I realize they want to develop it, or more like sale the development rights, but do you believe that one of the reasons they may want it could be to prevent future sports expansion in Oakland if they did build at HT?

    I mean after all eve other sports league is a competitor.

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