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Oakland approves new ballpark plan, A’s balk

The ball is now in the A’s waterfront court.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Voting 6-1, Oakland City Council approved a non-binding term sheet for a new Athletics stadium and development project at Howard Terminal, the team’s supposed dream site. This term sheet includes among other things 3,000 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space, and 270,000 square feet of retail space, but it wasn’t approved by the A’s. Before Tuesday’s session, A’s president Dave Kaval told ESPN that a “yes” vote on the council’s term sheet was “akin to a ‘no’ vote.”

A “yes” vote obviously means the city wants to keep the A’s rooted in Oakland. They agreed to a $12 billion project, and they’ve taken the time to construct the project’s terms while also dealing with schools reopening and COVID-19 resurging. The A’s are just unhappy that the terms aren’t their own. A “yes” doesn’t mean the city is saying “no,” it means the team is more likely to say “no.”

In the A’s original term sheet, they agreed to front money to add housing and retail to the Jack London Square area in addition to the infrastructure required to support the stadium. This was contingent upon them getting reimbursed through two Infrastructure Financing Districts (IFD). The council’s term sheet removed the off-site IFD, leaving $352 million unaccounted for.

It first appeared that the A’s would be responsible for this $352 million, but Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan assured the team the city would find the money in the form of state and federal funding. Still, the A’s object to helping pay for the affordable housing and other community benefits included in the city’s plan.

The A’s didn’t outright reject the council’s terms. After the session, Kaval told the Mercury News “We’re disappointed that the city did not vote on our proposal that we’ve been asking for some time, but we’re going to take some time and really dig in and understand what they did pass and what all the amendments mean.” The A’s staying in Oakland is still possible, perhaps even likely.

That isn’t going to stop the A’s from trying to strongarm the council. Rob Manfred issued a vaguely threatening statement reminding the city the A’s are “Oakland’s only major professional sports franchise. Manfred also said that “We will immediately begin conversations with the A’s to chart a path forward for the club.”

On Wednesday, Kaval, owner John Fisher, and a team architect plan to meet with a landowner in Las Vegas. According to Mick Akers, the A’s have around 20 possible sites in Las Vegas.

If the A’s do wind up moving to Las Vegas, it will be because of their own choice. They’ve never had a clearer path to building a new ballpark in Oakland, but they are apparently balking at chipping in toward affordable housing. I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise given how the A’s feel about the subject. SFGate reported Monday that A’s minor leaguers spend more than 100 percent of their paychecks on hotel accommodations.

If the A’s leave, it will be because Oakland was never their first choice or simply that Las Vegas outbid the Athletics’ home. While the A’s market themselves with the #RootedinOakland hashtag, Kaval and Fisher are running a city agnostic business plan. Loyalty means less than money; fans mean less than real estate opportunities.

Kenny Kelly is the managing editor of Beyond the Box Score.