The Oakland Athletics think they’ve finally found their site for a new ballpark after nearly two decades of road blocks. But before they can build on the downtown waterfront near Jack London Square, they need some big help from the California Legislature — for the second straight year.
The A’s already got a law signed last year to streamline the project’s environmental review process, and they’re backing two more bills this year. One would ease land use restrictions on the proposed stadium site, Howard Terminal. Another would allow the team and city to borrow against future tax revenues expected to be spurred by the stadium and surrounding development.
That lobbying battle brought A’s President Dave Kaval to the state Capitol this week. On Monday, an Assembly committee approved the land use measure. The team also plans to build housing and retail at Howard Terminal and at the current Oakland Coliseum site to pay for the park.
“We think that this project can be something that actually transforms that part of the town,” Kaval told CapRadio in an interview Monday, “and do it in a way that doesn’t impede the maritime activities of the port.”
But Mike Jacob with the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association worries the project would harm business at the Port of Oakland, stunt the port’s growth and threaten union longshore workers’ jobs.
“This is a horrible site for a stadium,” he said. “It compromises our ability to turn ships, move cargo and grow the Port of Oakland.”
Jacob said the state has long tried to protect ports from nearby waterfront developments.
“Local governments will always try to put housing on their waterfront,” he said. “Is that in the state’s best interest? Usually not, if it’s a place where you can have deep water port.”
Meanwhile, the A’s confirmed Monday that they’ve reached agreement with Alameda County to buy the county’s share of the Oakland Coliseum site.
CapRadio’s Ben Adler spoke with A’s President Dave Kaval on Monday. Here are highlights from their conversation.
On the new stadium:
In terms of the waterfront, you know waterfront locations are very dynamic, they're exciting, and obviously in Oakland you have a situation with Jack London Square where it's never really reached its potential as a location for people to gather, and we think that this project can be something that actually transforms that part of the town, ensures that people can gather there from a lot of different areas and do it in a way that doesn't impede the maritime activities of the port. These things can coexist. You can have a thriving industrial port, which is an economic lifeline for the East Bay, and you can also have a beautiful privately financed ballpark.
On the importance of the Sacramento market to the A’s:
We see folks coming down from Sacramento or Elk Grove or Granite Bay and all these different places, Roseville, to attend games at the Coliseum. And it's a real part of the experience at our current venue and we want to continue to emphasize that fan base, to cultivate it, to make sure they're connected to our product. And that's a very important part of who we are as the A's.
On the Sacramento River Cats switching their Triple-A team’s affiliation from the A’s to the San Francisco Giants in 2014:
I think we've always loved the experience that the River Cats put forward at their stadium. They have one of the best facilities in Raley Field, great fan base, we won a lot of championships there — Triple A, when we had our players there, and we wish them continued success with whatever affiliate they have, and we're just happy that people are going out and watching baseball and having a great time on a summer night.
On Sacramento’s bid for a Major League Soccer team:
Well I think soccer and baseball can all be supported by a community, so I think you can have a variety of different sports playing at different times. And I used to be the president of the San Jose Earthquakes, so I'm very familiar with MLS. I think Sacramento is a great market. I think it will be very successful here. And so I think the Railyards program is also just a beautiful ... stadium that they decided to build. And so I think there's a lot of positives, but I think they can coexist and I think you can have fans of both sports and kids growing up liking baseball and soccer. There's nothing wrong with that.