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A’s, Oakland running out of time to strike binding deal in 2022

Updated September 22, 2022 - 3:31 pm

The clock is ticking for the city of Oakland and the Athletics to hammer out a deal to move forward with the team’s planned $12 billion waterfront ballpark development by year’s end.

Meanwhile, the A’s are still evaluating potential ballpark sites in Las Vegas should the Oakland plan fail and the team pursues relocation.

In order for the Oakland City Council to hold a binding vote on the A’s Howard Terminal project this year, negotiations between the two sides need to be wrapped up in the next week, according to City Administrator Ed Reiskin.

“If our goal is to have something for the council’s consideration this calendar year, the timeline is very, very tight to do that,” Reiskin said during Tuesday’s Oakland City Council meeting.

If negotiations are complete next week, the city’s planning commission could consider the project in October and the Community and Economic Council could review an independent financial analysis on the project in November, leading to a potential vote by the city council in late November or early December, Reiskin said.

Despite the tight schedule, Reiskin said the council is working toward getting a good deal for the city and its residents. But with so many lingering issues, council member Dan Kalb said officials are behind the eight ball.

“The community, the fans … should be concerned because this all should have been done by now,” Kalb said of the remaining work needed to be done to secure a binding vote. “If you really want this to happen, you better go talk to the A’s and get them to start making sure they’re willing to give us a good deal.”

Additional funding sought

Oakland officials also released a memorandum Tuesday that said they are in the process of securing over $321 million in grants needed to fund offsite infrastructure for the planned Howard Terminal project.

The memorandum also noted that rising costs have the city scrambling to secure nearly $183 million more by way of a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The memorandum noted the city wasn’t confident any portion of the USDOT grant would be awarded.

The city is also exploring the potential of issuing limited obligation bonds to raise additional funds for project-related needs. The memorandum noted those bonds would be backed by incremental tax revenues generated by the project itself and would be used in the case there are project overruns.

That risk has council member Carroll Fife, who has opposed the project, worried about how high those overruns might go.

“We have no idea in terms of dollars and cents what that risk would be,” Fife said.

The Howard Terminal plans include a privately financed $12 billion mixed-use project on 56 acres of land, centered around a $1 billion waterfront ballpark. Aside from the stadium, plans call for 18 acres of public parks and open space, housing, hotels and an amphitheater.

The A’s would be responsible for costs associated with constructing the stadium and surrounding development, while the city would be responsible for the needed offsite work.

The A’s and Major League Baseball officials have noted the need to have a deal in place by the end of the year in order for the project to come to fruition in the near future. That’s mainly tied to the fact that Mayor Libby Schaaf is restricted from serving after this year because of term limits, as well as the potential for other changes to the city council’s makeup next year.

The A’s have a lease at aging, sparsely attended RingCentral Coliseum through 2024, and MLB officials, who gave the Athletics the green light for their relocation search, have made it clear the team needs to have a new ballpark plan in motion by that time.

Neither A’s President Dave Kaval or MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred could be reached for comment.

Whether all the issues can be ironed out by the end of next week remains to be seen.

“Our negotiators remain hard at work trying to hammer out a final deal,” Reiskin said. “But it’s complex.”

Vegas update

While the saga plays out in Oakland, the A’s continue to look at sites for a potential ballpark in Las Vegas.

Sources indicated Thursday that both Tropicana and Las Vegas Festival Grounds sites remain in play for the A’s potential Las Vegas home and negotiations regarding both are ongoing.

Team officials met at least twice last month with casino magnate Phil Ruffin regarding the potential for a $1 billion ballpark on the land where the Las Vegas Festival Grounds currently sit.

Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom, whose district includes the festival grounds, said the talks between the A’s and Ruffin are real.

“It’s very high level,” Segerblom said. “I know there’s a lot of interest and it seems to be doable at the festival grounds.”

The site reemerged as a “dark horse contender” last month after the A’s expressed interest last year in the site. The 38 acres is located on the northeast corner of the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue and offers access to Interstate 15, the Strip, north Strip resorts and downtown. The site is also in the path of the Boring Co.’s Las Vegas Loop’s planned route.

Segerblom said he’s been kept abreast of the situation via Ruffin’s side, but noted he isn’t closely involved in the discussions. With the access the site provides, Sergerblom said it makes the site an ideal location for the A’s should they relocate to Las Vegas.

“To be honest it would be a great location,” Segerblom said. “It’s a big piece of property. The stadium is not that big, so it would fit there for sure.”

The Tropicana, owned by Bally’s Corp., has been among the favorites as a possible site for a MLB stadium for the better part of the last year. The site is accessible from Tropicana Avenue, with access to I-15 less than a mile away. The property is also near Harry Reid International Airport, is included in Boring’s loop route and is near T-Mobile Arena and Allegiant Stadium.

In an earnings call last month, Bally’s CEO Lee Fenton said the company was in a wait-and-see mode regarding the future of the property, noting it’s been highly publicized the company intends to develop the site in the future.

“We will run the property in an as-is basis at least for the next 12 months until we have identified the plan and partnerships that we want going forward,” Fenton said last month.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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