Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf confirmed on Tuesday that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has threatened relocation of the Athletics if the city fails to drop a lawsuit filed to prevent Alameda County from selling its stake in the land on which the Oakland Coliseum sits to the team; the city wants the county’s fifty-percent share, but lacks the funding necessary to make the purchase. A’s owner John Fisher intends on redeveloping the 155-acre site to help pay for a new $850 million ‘privately financed’ waterfront ballpark (along with residences, retail, remediation and transportation). Manfred has made it clear that construction of the Howard Terminal ballpark and the Coliseum redevelopment project (which does not include construction of a new sports venue) are a package deal and unless the lawsuit goes away, the city risks losing the team to Las Vegas.
Howie Long-Short: Alameda County wants out of its investment in the Coliseum property (owns 50%) and is inclined to accept the A’s $85 million offer. The problem is California law requires that “publicly owned surplus lands be considered for affordable housing before they are leased or sold” and the city claims that the county failed to act ‘in good faith’ by privately negotiating with the team before it was given the chance to discuss assuming ownership. Until the lawsuit is settled, the A’s seemingly never-ending search for a long-term home is on hold.
The 49ers, Warriors, Kings and Raiders (in Las Vegas) have all broken ground on new venues during the Fisher-Wolff era, so one could understand MLB’s frustrations. Manfred certainly doesn’t want to move a franchise with a storied history in the Bay Area, but Andy Dolich (president of the sports consultancy Dolich Consulting) reminds “it’s the commissioner’s job to increase the net value of every team in the league and the A’s have been playing in an older ballpark while looking for a new venue since Fisher took over thirteen years ago. The league is saying it’s time to do something [in Oakland] or we’ll look at other markets.”
Fisher needs the revenues from a redeveloped Coliseum site to fund his Howard Terminal vision. Dolich says there is a real opportunity to build a “retail, residences and transportation hub” where two outdated venues (Oracle Arena is adjacent to the Coliseum) and a vast amount of concrete currently reside.
It must be noted that “many people believe the most logical solution is to build a new ballpark – much less expensively – on the Coliseum site. It could become what the Giants have seen develop in Mission Bay; research, businesses and homes all moving in because it sits in the middle of a transportation hub that already exists.” That isn’t the case at Howard Terminal, far and away the most problematic site the team has looked at. As Dolich explained, “the complexity and costs associated with building right on the water (it’s the 5th most active port on the west coast) are prohibitive.”
Dolich doesn’t believe Manfred’s relocation threats are serious. “The club has proven over time, across various ownership groups, that the market is more than spacious enough for two successful baseball teams and there’s no available market better than the one they are in.” That said, he does see Las Vegas as a viable baseball market. That’s not the case with Nashville, where a group recently issued stadium renderings. “In Oakland, the team draws from all of Northern California; Sacramento to Salinas and east to the Nevada border. Nashville lacks the next realm of fans outside the immediate city. It’s too small of a market.”
There is no connection between the Raiders pending move to Sin City and Manfred’s threat. Remember, Henderson, NV was among several cities outside of Arizona that obtained an RFP from the Diamondbacks in the wake of their settlement with Maricopa County. It’s no secret that the Las Vegas suburb would like to bring a third pro sports franchise to the market.
Fan Marino: Did you know? The A’s-Rays wildcard game set an all-time attendance record (54,004) for the round.
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