In a not-very-veiled threat via a statement from Major League Baseball, the Oakland A's are following a familiar playbook to coerce the Oakland City Council to approve an $855 million payment for new infrastructure around the Howard Terminal site where they plan to build a $12 billion stadium and mixed-use development.
We've heard this before, no? The A's have been threatening to move to Fremont or San Jose for many years, as various plans for new stadiums have been proposed, debated, and killed. The current stadium, now known as RingCentral Coliseum, is among the oldest still operating MLB venues in the country, and in their statement today, MLB says for the first time, "The Oakland Coliseum site is not a viable option for the future vision of baseball." And, they add, the A's should start looking at new cities to potentially move to, in case the Oakland City Council fails to approve their plans this summer.
In a reaction statement to ESPN, A's owner John Fisher says, "The future success of the A's depends on a new ballpark. Oakland is a great baseball town, and we will continue to pursue our waterfront ballpark project. We will also follow MLB's direction to explore other markets."
The Chronicle points out that Fisher is kind of deflecting with his statement, and saying, essentially, "Hey, we love Oakland, but MLB told us to start looking around, what can we do?"
But there are plenty of arguments for the A's staying put — at least in the Bay Area market. They're also Oakland's last major-league sports team after the recent departures of the Warriors to San Francisco, and the Raiders to Las Vegas. As the Chronicle explains, the Bay Area TV market is more lucrative for the A's than, say, Nashville's or Charlotte's — both cities rumored to want to court the team in the coming weeks. Vancouver, Montreal, Las Vegas, and Portland all want to throw money at the A's, but this all may turn out to be some silly theatrics.
The A's have been rooted in Oakland since 1968, and since 2013, they've been discussing a potential new stadium project closer to Jack London Square and downtown, along the waterfront at the Howard Terminal site.
That plan has been clearing various hurdles in the last two years, and a draft environmental impact report (EIR) was released in February. The plan includes 30,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, hotels with up to 400 rooms, and 540 units of housing, in addition to the stadium complex itself. The project comes with an affordable housing component, and $450 million in community benefits in total.
Two weeks ago, in a letter to the city council, the A's called on Oakland to take a vote on the proposed development, and this week we have this latest escalation in the negotiation.