The Fate of the Oakland A’s Continues to Hang in the Balance – Ben’s sports blog

The Fate of the Oakland A’s Continues to Hang in the Balance – Ben’s sports blog

For the past 10-15 years, the Oakland Athletics’ attempts to build a new stadium have been stunted by incompetent ownership, local officials, and rival teams. They are now down to their final strike with the project along the Oakland waterfront (Howard Terminal) representing the franchise’s last hope of remaining in the city that they have called home for more than 50 years. 

Howard Terminal Ballpark Design: Credit @mickakers twitter

Their current home, the Oakland Coliseum, is decrepit and full of leaky sewage and possums due to decades of deferred maintenance. From the stadium’s opening in 1966 until 1995, onlookers were able to see a view of the Oakland hills beyond the ballpark, and the team had a lot of success, most notably winning three straight championships from 1972-74. However, to accommodate the return of the Raiders to Oakland in 1995, city officials added to the stadium a 20,000-seat section known as Mount Davis, completely altering the Coliseum experience for baseball. 

Just a few years ago, three professional sports teams played in Oakland. Now, the A’s are the only ones left in the wake of the Warriors’ move to Chase Center in San Francisco and the Raiders now calling Las Vegas home. 

Like their former neighbors, the A’s have fiddled with the idea of relocation over the past decade. From 2012-14, the team was interested in moving to San Jose, but the San Francisco Giants blocked the move on the belief that they controlled the territorial rights to that city. So that plan died. Since then, the team’s leadership has pursued potential locations in Las Vegas as a parallel path alongside Howard Terminal. On June 29, 2022, Major League Baseball (MLB) made the potential move easier by announcing that the A’s would not have to pay a speculated relocation fee of as much as $1 billion. However, despite all the research the A’s have done, it seems abundantly clear that Las Vegas is plan B at the moment as the team has not even publicly revealed a chosen site. 

Meanwhile, Howard Terminal continues to inch closer toward becoming a reality. The A’s $12 billion proposal would radically transform and improve the Oakland waterfront. In addition to the main attraction of the privately financed $1 billion, 35,000-seat ballpark, the development would create more retail and commercial space, hotel rooms, and public access to the waterfront. The project received another key vote on June 30 as the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (SFBCDC) voted in an overwhelming majority (23-2)  that the A’s could build on Howard Terminal after determining that it is not needed for any other purpose.

While this is good news for the A’s organization, the divisive project still has hurdles to climb. Among the biggest is a final city council vote, which is expected to happen in the fall. Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Carroll Fife have been especially outspoken in opposition to Howard Terminal. They both voted against approving the project’s environmental impact report in February. Gallo held a rally before today’s vote calling for the A’s stadium project to be put on the ballot for voters in November to decide whether or not the city should commit public funding to this project. As of last year, the A’s were seeking $855 million in taxpayer money to support the infrastructure associated with this ballpark.

Even if the Howard Terminal project moves forward, it remains unclear if a shiny new stadium will be enough to bring fans back to games after the A’s hideous start to the season in this first year of yet another rebuild brought about by owner John Fisher’s unwillingness to invest and keep key players. The team enters today’s game with a 25-52 record, the worst in the major leagues. They are on-pace for the worst home record ever, and their anemic offense is putting up historically bad numbers. At least the A’s dwindling die-hard fan base can rest assured that the team’s Oakland ballpark plan is still alive for now.

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