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County vote won’t stop Oakland A’s from making Las Vegas plans

Updated October 27, 2021 - 9:21 am

The prospect of the Oakland A’s remaining in the Bay Area instead of relocating to Southern Nevada got a boost Tuesday from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

The board voted 4-1 Tuesday to declare its intent to opt in to a proposed tax district aimed at paying for any infrastructure costs tied to the A’s waterfront ballpark project.

The vote is nonbinding, as the A’s, the city of Oakland and Alameda County officials will need to agree on binding terms at a later date. Tuesday’s vote allows for work to continue on the issues still at hand, with Alameda officials able to walk away from the deal down the line if the final plan isn’t to their liking.

The yes vote is a step toward possibly keeping the A’s in Oakland. However, because of the non-binding nature of the vote, the A’s still plan to continue pursuing their “parallel path” in the Las Vegas Valley.

The lone no vote came from board President Keith Carson, who said he the county had more important issues at hand.

“The fact that we oversee public hospitals, an analogy I wanted to use is that we’ve been in the surgery room almost every single day trying to keep patients alive and now we’re being asked to go to Las Vegas to play the one-armed bandit,” Carson said. “When our responsibility is to stay in the surgery room and try to keep and save as many people as possible.”

$12B project

The proposed development at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal includes plans for a $12 billion mixed-use project built around a $1 billion, 30,000-seat waterfront ballpark.

Tuesday’s board meeting lasted more than five hours, as the city, county and area stakeholders presented information related to the site and possible project, and the public chimed in both in opposition and support of the Howard Terminal plan.

County Supervisor Richard Valle said he hoped the A’s would pay for any third-party studies the county might need to be carried out to decide on the binding agreement. A’s President Dave Kaval said the team would do that, as it has for the city of Oakland previously.

“I would feel very comfortable moving forward, to explore the possibilities… I do support exploring further,” Valle said during the meeting. “We can now proceed in a way that is more informative and a little bit less emotional than the personal feelings by the way we got burned by the Oakland Raiders and the Golden State Warriors. I’d be willing to set those aside. I think, again in my heart, that the potential here is great for the city, that is begging for some economic development.”

A binding agreement would lock the city and the county into the tax district for 45 years, governed by a public finance board.

A proposal approved by the Oakland City Council in July — one the A’s didn’t agree with — would create a tax district to generate money to repay the team for infrastructure-related costs at the site of the planned waterfront ballpark site. In order for that to work, the county needs to opt-in.

The A’s and Oakland officials have been negotiating on the outstanding items in the plan, including affordable housing, infrastructure and community benefits, according to Kaval. All sides are also awaiting a finalized environmental impact study.

Alameda County officials initially hoped to vote on the tax district in September, but that was delayed in part due to the A’s disapproval of the city’s plan.

After MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said earlier this month that he wasn’t sure he saw a path to success in Oakland for the A’s, the county reconsidered, and in a letter to the city, cited the real possibility of losing another professional sports team from the area.

Kaval has been adamant the team is running out of time at its current home, RingCentral Coliseum, which was built in 1966 and renovated in 1996 but has been plagued by sewage issues over recent years, lighting problems and low attendance.

6 trips to Las Vegas

The A’s have made six trips to the Las Vegas Valley to explore possible relocation sites, after Major League Baseball gave them permission in May to do so.

A’s brass have reviewed more than 20 sites in Southern Nevada, with Kaval saying a list of the final three or four sites would be released following the conclusion of the 2021 World Series. The World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves began Tuesday night and could last through Nov. 3 if the series goes a full seven games.

The A’s are carrying out their due diligence toward identifying where a possible 30,000-seat, $1 billion stadium would work in the Las Vegas Valley and how that would be financed. No matter where the A’s end up, Kaval and the team are looking to figure that out soon.

“We’re supportive at the end of the day of getting the project done,” Kaval said. “We have already taken too long, at least in our mind. So, we’re just trying to find a feasible path forward.”

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

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