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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the A’s Ballpark Situation

| January 31, 2012
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Rendering of Oakland's proposed sports complex on the current Coliseum site

The city of Oakland has taken its proposal for a waterfront ballpark at Victory Court, a key part of its effort to keep the A’s in Oakland, off the table. Why? The termination of funding coming through its defunct-as-of-tomorrow redevelopment agency.

KQED’s Nina Thorsen talked today about this latest development — or lack of it — with Oakland Tribune reporter Angela Woodall. She has a wealth of info on the Oakland ballpark sitch, so we present to you an edited transcript of the entire conversation…

Nina Thorsen

What does the elimination of Victory Court mean in terms of the A’s ballpark situation?

Angela Woodall

The first thing that the redevelopment agency going away means for the ballpark in Oakland is that it will not be at Victory Court. It’s been talked about here and there that Victory Court would no longer be an option, but yesterday was the first official confirmation of that. It wasn’t an announcement to the public, it wasn’t a press conference, it was just said in the meeting at an Alameda County Supervisors’ retreat by the head of the redevelopment agency, Gregory Hunter, who will soon no longer have a redevelopment agency to preside over.

The second thing it means is that they’re going to have to find ways to fund the environmental impact report (EIR) for the Coliseum. The focus has shifted to the  redevelopment of the Coliseum: building two or three new sports facilities for the Raiders, the Warriors, and if the A’s stay in Oakland, that would include a separate ballpark for them. And it would also include retail, restaurants, entertainment, maybe an arcade, a convention center, at least one hotel. The development would extend all the way to the airport.

That’s the vision they have. So they have to find a way to pay for the EIR, which they were going to use redevelopment money for.  what they’ve done is shift the money — $4 million — from redevelopment into a city fund, I’m not sure if that’s a general fund or not.

Nina Thorsen

Now at that meeting a few months ago where Mayor Quan introduced the idea of Coliseum City, she said this wouldn’t need as much of a review process because there’s already a ballpark on that site.

Angela Woodall

That is correct, that’s what she was saying. And Coliseum City is something that was in the air for a while before that; I think the first time I reported on it was eight months ago.

The EIR process is less involved, less extensive, because there would be fewer surprises. In terms of the environment, there’s a creek, but all of the things that might come up are already in place. The people that live around there, the impact to them, the noise — they already have a handle on what it’s going to be like to have a very large sports and entertainment facility in that space.

Nina Thorsen

So it’ll be hard for people to say this is going to create a lot of new noise and traffic problems in the neighborhood because there’s already a ballpark and stadium there…

Angela Woodall

That’s right. And there’s only a handful of land parcels that have private owners in an area — I think it’s outside of the primary area, in what they call Area 2. But that’s the last land they have to buy.

Victory Court had several private owners, including Peerless Coffee. If you know the history of Peerless Coffee, George Vukasin Sr. was very involved in the Coliseum in prior years, especially during the Raiders’ return. He wasn’t very interested in selling the land his business sits on and moving it. So they were looking at a pretty big fight costing a lot of money at Victory Court.

It seems like people have shifted fairly easily to the Coliseum idea, even though there were people who really loved the waterfront ballpark idea.

Nina Thorsen

Major League Baseball had indicated that in general, they really like the idea of waterfront ballparks.

Angela Woodall

They’ve indicated that by their choice of ballpark sites elsewhere in the country. But I’ve never heard a confirmation or denial from the three-member Major League Baseball committee that they liked the Victory Court site. I’ve heard from others that it was actually the developers in that area who really liked that site, so I’m not really sure.

What I did hear yesterday was that the city has been in contact with MLB — I think that means they’ve communicated that Victory Court’s not going to happen — but that they have not communicated with the A’s.

Nina Thorsen

And the A’s ownership, Lew Wolff and the other partners, have indicated that they are interested in the San Jose option — which requires the approval of Major League Baseball to change the territorial rights, and there’s also some issues with that site as well.

Angela Woodall

That’s correct, there are some unresolved issues with the San Jose site. Lew Wolff has been on record for many years that he wants to move to San Jose.

Nina Thorsen

So what do you see as being the next steps in what Oakland will do to move forward with Coliseum City?

Angela Woodall

The first thing they’re going to be doing is working with Alameda County a little closer. And that might not be a good thing because it’s another bureaucracy.

On the other hand, they could leverage that very, very large bureaucracy. That’s the first thing the county supervisors are going to be discussing in the next month or so, how they want to proceed, and all the options are on the table. They could get out of “the sports business” as they say, altogether, or they could support this project wholeheartedly.

Number two, in March, there’s going to be an NFL meeting, and it’s my understanding that at that time they’re going to be talking about the money that’s going to be available for a shared or single stadium for the 49ers and Raiders.

The third thing — and probably the one that’ll happen soonest – is that the EIR has to be voted on by the City Council. They have to finish negotiations with the three-member EIR team that includes architects and environmental consultants and so forth. They expect that to be 15 to 30 days to come before the council, then the council will have to vote, and after that they expect 14 to 15 months to roll out the EIR. That goes back to what you were asking about the conditions — that’s not an unusual amount of time, 14-15 months, but they are trying to expedite it as soon as possible. That should be easier, given that there are fewer surprises out there.

Nina Thorsen

And fairly soon, we hear, Major League Baseball may finally make its recommendation from its blue-ribbon committee that’s been studying these sites for the better part of three years –

Angela Woodall

Yes, but we’ve heard that over and over again. We first heard that almost three years ago, “it’s going to be soon” — so I don’t know if their sense of time is different from ours…

Nina Thorsen

It’s on the front burner now, Bud Selig said!

Angela Woodall

On the front burner — yeah. There must be some very tricky negotiations going on among all the people involved. I wouldn’t expect anything very soon, personally. It may be just a game of waiting until Lew Wolff gets tired enough — or they’ll find something else for him, he’ll go to a different team, and Bud Selig will facilitate that, give him a nice bow-out.

There’s ownership that’s interested in buying the team and keeping it in Oakland. That’s an option. It could be that they somehow get the territorial rights to go to San Jose; the Giants think that’s not an option, and don’t seem to be interested in any kind of financial arrangement to smooth that deal either. I just don’t know if I expect anything anytime soon. I have tried to contact the main member of the three-member committee, but I haven’t gotten through to him. We’ll see.

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  • aq

    The city of Oakland says it isn’t in the “sports business” but it should be in the economic development business. Good luck Oakland, you probably just killed your last chance at keeping the A’s in the city. Say good bye to 1000+ jobs and millions in tax revenue/Coliseum rent.

  • Cw5394

    There will be no sports teams in Oakland after 2017. A’s to SJ, Raiders to LA, and Warriors to SF or Santa Clara. Congratulations mayor of Oakland, you just killed thousands of jobs, and will lose billions of dollars in revenue to your city. Oakland is now its final stages of becoming a complete wasteland. 

  • Jacobson07

    Oakland has always been a complete wasteland