California agency clears path for Oakland Athletics’ $12 billion plan

SAN FRANCISCO — A California agency on Thursday cleared the way for the Oakland Athletics to continue planning a $12 billion waterfront ballpark project.

The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission voted 23 to 2 to reclassify a 56-acre terminal in Port of Oakland as a mixed-use area where a new ballpark could be built. The vote is the first in a series of legal hurdles the team would need to clear before being allowed to begin laying the groundwork for the project.

The commission followed the recommendation of its staff, who noted that the team demonstrated that removing the terminal from port use “would not affect the region’s ability to handle projected cargo growth”.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the approval has brought the city closer to “translating that bold vision into a beautiful reality and keeping our A’s rooted in Oakland for generations to come.”

“Our city has historically been overlooked for its great economic development, but today that story about Oakland is changing,” she said in a statement.

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 in recent years. The defectors are taking a heavy toll on the Bay Area city of about 400,000 people, some of whom on Thursday begged the council to work harder to keep the team and associated jobs at the Coliseum.

Last year, the Oakland City Council approved tentative terms for the project, but A President Dave Kaval said the financial terms weren’t working for the team. Kaval said the team is proceeding with “parallel paths” and are planning new stadiums in Oakland and Las Vegas.

The A’s premier minor league team, the Las Vegas Aviators, have been playing since April 2019. Their stadium is several miles northwest of the Strip and has 8,196 seats and 22 air-conditioned suites, but is not considered suitable for long-term use by the A’s . The Triple-A team reported attracting an average of 6,590 fans during the 2021 season.

In comparison, the A’s drew noticeably fewer fans to Oakland’s RingCentral Coliseum, which seats more than 63,000.

In Las Vegas, local news outlets have followed visits by team leaders from A since 2021 and, sometimes citing unnamed sources, reported the team’s interest in several properties on or adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip.

Both T-Mobile Arena, home of the NHL Vegas Golden Knights since 2017, and Allegiant Stadium, a 65,000-seat dome, are within walking distance of the resorts on the Strip. The NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders relocated from Oakland in 2020 and are playing at Allegiant Stadium.

A’s executives have focused on two locations and met with the owners of the Tropicana Las Vegas, an aging 1957 icon and namesake of a key intersection on Las Vegas Boulevard, according to local media.

In Oakland, A’s proposal includes a $1 billion privately funded waterfront baseball field at Howard Terminal, currently used as an overflow parking lot for containers and trucks. The project would also include 3,000 residential units, office and retail space, hotel rooms and an indoor performance center.

The team’s lease at the aging RingCentral Coliseum runs through 2024. The league has said rebuilding at the current location is not a viable option. In May, Major League Baseball directed Oakland’s leadership to explore relocation options if an agreement could not be reached.