Oakland A’s not OK with ballpark plan approved by city council

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Las Vegas Review-Journal 20 July, 2021 - 03:01pm 4 views

Are the A's leaving Oakland?

The A's are the last professional franchise remaining in Oakland after the NBA's Golden State Warriors relocated to San Francisco and the NFL's Raiders to Las Vegas. WJXT News4JAXOakland OKs terms for $12B ballpark but A's aren't happy

The Oakland Athletics’ possible path to Las Vegas got a bit clearer Tuesday as the team’s proposal for a Bay Area waterfront ballpark was not approved by the Oakland City Council.

The Oakland Athletics’ possible path to Las Vegas got a bit clearer Tuesday as the team’s proposal for a Bay Area waterfront ballpark was not approved by the Oakland City Council.

The city council instead voted 6-1, with Councilwoman Carroll Fife abstaining, to approve its amended counter proposal, which team President Dave Kaval said essentially amounts to a no vote.

“The current term sheet, even with these amendments is not something the A’s have consensus around,” Kaval said during the meeting. “I just really want to stress that voting yes on something that we don’t agree with… is not an effective path forward.”

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement Tuesday citing his dismay with the vote.

“For the last four years at my request and urging, the Athletics have invested significant resources and have made a major commitment to their community in the hopes of remaining as Oakland’s only major professional sports franchise,” Manfred said. “We are disappointed the city council chose to vote on a proposal to which the A’s had not agreed. We will immediately begin conversations with the A’s to chart a path forward for the Club.”

The two plans going into the meeting — one from the A’s, one from the city — differed in several ways but the main sticking points were offsite infrastructure, community benefits and the length of a non-relocation agreement tied to the project site at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal.

The city amended several points on its proposal, including not holding the A’s responsible for $352 million in offsite infrastructure costs, which the team cited as a major issue. Even with that, the A’s weren’t satisfied.

Without approval of the A’s proposed term sheet for a $12 billion mixed-use project that included a $1 billion stadium, Kaval said previously it would be challenging to see a path forward toward a new ballpark in Oakland, making relocation more of a possibility.

After Kaval expressed his concerns about the city’s amended term sheet, Fife questioned what the point of the meeting was if the A’s weren’t on board.

“I question why we’re even here today,” Fife said. “I don’t know where we go from here after doing somersaults, after receiving insults, after being disrespected.”

Kaval noted the team would entertain further negotiating over the next weeks before the council goes on break, but Fife didn’t see the point of doing so.

“It’s not a negotiation, it’s really do what we say or we will leave,” Fife said. “That is not respectful. I don’t even see the necessity of my comments if that’s the space they’re working.”

Kaval said Tuesday was the first time the team saw the city’s amendments. He said the A’s real estate team will review it to see what it entails and team officials will talk with league representatives.

“We’re a little in the dark and all of that language is stuff we’ve never seen before,” he said. “It was a surprise to us.”

The A’s will continue their exploration of the Southern Nevada market this week, as Kaval, team owner John Fisher and a team architect will be in the Las Vegas Valley on Wednesday and Thursday to look at potential sites for a $1 billion ballpark.

The trip will mark the A’s fourth visit to Southern Nevada and Kaval said to expect members of the organization to make return trips every few weeks, as they continue to try to whittle a site list of 20 down to a handful of locations.

Kaval said they plan to meet with casino owner Phill Ruffin, who owns the Las Vegas Festival Grounds on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip, a site the team has looked at in previous visits. The group will also utilize their architect to get a better feel of how a stadium would work on the various sites of interest.

“It’s critically important that we continue to engage Las Vegas and Southern Nevada, learn more about what opportunities exist, continue the really positive dialogue we’ve had to date with all the key players and see what’s in store for a potential future ballpark there,” Kaval said.

Kaval’s previous trips to Las Vegas and some of the social media posts he’s made during those visits didn’t sit well with Councilman Loren Taylor. He voted yes on the city’s proposal, but said if it were based off the A’s actions during the process he would not have.

“I do take issue to how the A’s have shown up through this process,” Taylor said. “The bullying tactics, the sleight of hand, the tweets from Vegas meant to taunt and sort of provoke. If we were voting on the A’s and how they behaved… it would certainly be a no vote.”

The unfavorable vote could lead Manfred to give the A’s permission to explore other cities for possible relocation. Reportedly there are six additional cities that could be considered.

Despite the A’s lack of enthusiasm for the proposal voted on, a joint statement from Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Councilwomen Rebecca Kapaln and Nikki Fortunato Bas called the vote a “milestone” in their work to keep the team in the Bay Area, saying they believe the A’s should agree to those terms.

“Based on our extensive negotiation, shared values and shared vision, we believe the A’s can and should agree to the terms approved by the city council today,” the statement read. “This is the path to keeping the A’s rooted in Oakland in a way that protects our port and taxpayers and will produce the benefits our community demands and deserves.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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'Billionaire looting the city': Locals turn ire toward Athletics as Oakland lays out terms for new ballpark

USA TODAY 20 July, 2021 - 04:08pm

Tuesday's city council meeting allowed Oakland residents to speak up about the strong-arm tactics of the franchise and MLB.

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Oakland’s City Council on Tuesday approved a non-binding term sheet that on paper represents the next step in a $12 billion project proposed by the Oakland Athletics for a new ballpark on the city’s waterfront.

Yet the council vote, by a 6-1 tally with one abstention, came with the strong understanding that the A’s would reject many of the terms that were revised from their April proposal to the city.

So rather than a step forward, Tuesday’s action – which included several hours of public comment that came out strongly against the club's original terms – instead was a chance for the council and citizens to push back against the strong-arm tactics of the franchise and Major League Baseball, which insisted the A’s will relocate if its terms are not met.

MLB in April signaled its approval for the A’s to seek relocation options if the Howard Terminal project is not approved, and club president Dave Kaval has since made multiple trips to Las Vegas, with another scheduled for Wednesday. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters on July 13 that “thinking about Las Vegas as a bluff is a mistake.”

Tuesday, the wounds from those actions – which included Kaval gleefully tweeting from a Vegas Golden Knights Stanley Cup playoff game – surfaced from the council and its constituents.

“The bullying factor, the sleights of hand, the tweets from Vegas – if we were voting on how the A’s have behaved, it would be a no vote,” council member Loren Taylor said before the vote. “But we’re voting on the future of Oakland.”

And the council’s version of a term sheet included one significant concession to the club – absolving the A's of $352 million in infrastructure costs, which the council hoped it could generate by applying for federal and state development funds. But it asked the club to provide 35% affordable housing units among its planned development that actually dwarfs the ballpark itself in the scope of the deal.

The council’s term sheet said the A’s would set aside 15% of onsite housing as affordable, while also requiring the club to establish a displacement prevention strategies fund and provide anti-displacement tenant services in the four neighborhoods affected by the project.

The A’s did not cite any direct affordable-housing set-asides in their April term sheet, instead noting that housing could be funded through tax districts created by the project. While council members hoped to view their term sheet approval as a movement toward further negotiations, Kaval indicated the terms were not acceptable and said the club had not seen the terms until Tuesday.

“We hoped it’d be a vote on something we brought in April, or a derivative of it. It’s hard to understand how that’s a path forward,” he said after reviewing the council’s term sheet.

A resounding number of citizens felt the same way, but for a multitude of different reasons.

Hundreds of Oakland residents virtually queued to make one-minute comments before and after the session, almost all of them rejecting the parameters of the A’s original term sheet. While many were protecting personal interests – such as Port of Oakland workers who may be affected by the project, or East Oakland residents who’d prefer the team stay at the Coliseum site – many were disgusted at the gall displayed by Kaval on behalf of owner John Fisher, who has an estimated net worth of $3.2 billion.

Fisher and his father Donald were part of a group that purchased the A’s for $180 million in 2005, after which the current odyssey for a new ballpark to replace the aging Coliseum began. The team’s value is now estimated by Forbes at $1.125 billion and likely would appreciate further with a new stadium.

The city’s lack of affordable housing and its multitudes of unhoused residents would hardly be addressed by a $12 billion project for a ballclub.

“West Oakland has been devastated,” resident William Chorneau said before the vote. “All my neighbors have been pushed out. The stadium will bring about more traffic, more gentrification and more pollution.”

A Port employee identified as A. Wright said, “This is a billionaire looting the city. Put this on the ballot, and it would lose.”

While Kaval and MLB insisted on action before the council recesses next month, it’s clear the process will not move forward without further negotiation. Other potholes await, including finalization of an environmental impact report, expected in October, as well as Alameda County’s approval.

Council members repeatedly tossed back the A’s since-deactivated hashtag – “Rooted In Oakland” – during their deliberations, a theme that rang hollow once Kaval began canoodling with Las Vegas. With one public commenter urging the club “not to let the Golden Gate hit you on the way out,” the council on Tuesday showed its willingness to negotiate – and also call MLB’s bluff if needed.

"If the A’s are not happy with what was produced today and still talking about leaving after the city bent over backward and provided some of its best work in the interest of Oakland residents – and how these wealthy owners don’t’ have to pay for infrastructure – then I don’t know where we go from here,” says council member Carroll Fife, who abstained from the vote because she felt the A’s would reject it anyway.

“After doing all the somersaults and all the insults…it’s not a negotiation. It’s, ‘Do what we say or we will leave.’ That is not rooted. That is not respectful.”

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