A’s team president Dave Kaval called the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission’s Thursday vote an “elimination game” in his team’s quest to build a new ballpark on the Oakland waterfront.
Well, the A’s have survived and advanced.
In a vote that was anything but a foregone conclusion, the Commission elected to effectively remove Howard Terminal — the site the A’s want to build their new ballpark upon — from the Port of Oakland. The tally was 23-2 in support.
The threat of Oakland’s last major professional sports team relocating remains high, but Thursday’s vote was a significant checkpoint in a process that began in 2018.
A vote against removing the “port priority use designation” from Howard Terminal would have ended the A’s tenure in Oakland, guaranteeing the team’s move to Las Vegas, where Kaval, with Major League Baseball’s support, has been scouting sites to build a ballpark.
Instead, the A’s now appear more likely than not to build their new ballpark on the shores of the Oakland Estuary.
Now, as evidenced by the BCDC’s Thursday meeting, which took nearly the full business day to complete, this building process will not suddenly become easy for the A’s in the weeks, months or years to come. There will be lawsuits, other state committees and issues with local governments. The A’s will even have to go back to the BCDC for building permits, too.
But there’s now some serious momentum behind the A’s effort and a good number of key steps remaining will be made alongside advocates with the city of Oakland and Alameda County.
The A’s will be swimming with the current for the first time in a long time.
And while the actual baseball team — stripped for parts before this season — will be in last place for a while yet, Oakland will remain a major-league market in the meantime.
There were dozens of public comments before Thursday’s vote, and the commission heard both impassioned pleas for and against the stadium.
But technically, the scope of the commission was limited. They were not being asked if Howard Terminal was a viable part of the port and if a ballpark should be built on that land, only the former.
Still, the A’s received more than the two-thirds vote needed for the resolution to pass. That’s no small feat.
We’ll see if they’re so fortunate the next time they have business with that commission.
Because so much public comment at Thursday’s meeting failed to recognize this fundamental fact in the process, it’s worth reiterating that if the A’s do not build a new ballpark at Howard Terminal, their time in Oakland is over.
Yes, the Coliseum site — or any other land in East Oakland — can be deemed viable by you and me, but the A’s disagree with that assessment.
So, right or wrong, the situation is binary: The A’s build at Howard Terminal or they’re moving to Nevada.
It took some serious effort, but the A’s threats — as uncouth as they might be — are working.
But there’s another truth: The A’s don’t really want to leave. They will if they cannot build at Howard Terminal, but leaving is not Plan A.
Thursday’s vote keeps the A’s in the Bay at least a bit longer. And, for the moment, it’s not ridiculous to imagine that stay will be extended for decades to come.