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Vegas push continues as A’s get potential boost to build ballpark in Oakland

Updated May 3, 2022 - 5:26 pm

The Oakland Athletics’ efforts to get a new ballpark in the Bay Area received an informal boost as a key group recommended approval of a regulatory change needed to keep the ball rolling in Northern California.

The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) staff preliminarily recommended Monday that the port priority use designation on the 56-acre Howard Terminal site be removed. That’s the site where the A’s are looking to construct a $12 billion development, centered around a $1 billion waterfront ballpark, and the designation’s removal is needed to allow a mixed-use project on the site.

The recommendation paves the way for a potential June 30 vote by the commission that could formally remove the designation and allow the A’s efforts in the Bay Area to continue moving forward. Without the removal of the port use designation, the ballpark project would be all but dead in the water, clearing the way for the A’s to focus on finding a home ballpark in Las Vegas.

While pursuing a waterfront ballpark in Oakland, the A’s brass also have been scoping out potential ballpark sites in Las Vegas as part of a “parallel path” for finding a new home in either city.

If the commission votes in their favor next month, the A’s would still need other key votes to go their way, including a vote on a development agreement with the city of Oakland. The Oakland City Council approved its version of the agreement last July, though the A’s disagree with aspects of it. The two sides have been negotiating their differences ever since, with key issues regarding community benefits, infrastructure elements and affordable housing remaining.

A’s await city council vote

Last month A’s President Dave Kaval expressed concern about the potential BCDC decision, as well as a lack of action from the Oakland City Council. The favorable nod by BCDC staff potentially checks one item off Kaval’s Bay Area list.

“We were quite concerned about BCDC, that is a real tricky organization,” Kaval told the Review-Journal Tuesday. “We were kind of off track with them and so this is kind of a reversal. It positions the efforts in Oakland in a more favorable light. We still have to get the vote, but having the staff recommendation is very important to actually getting that approval.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf released a statement following the news of the BCDC’s staff recommendation, citing optimism for the long-talked about project.

“Today is great news for Oakland and our region,” Schaaf said in a statement. “I appreciate the BCDC staff’s due diligence and their preliminary recommendation to move this project forward and open Oakland’s waterfront to the public… The best use of a dormant Howard Terminal is to convert it into a thriving waterfront ballpark neighborhood, with 18 acres of new public parks, 3,000 desperately needed housing units and thousands of good union jobs for generations to come.”

Kaval said he’s still concerned about the lack of city council action.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t ask the city council members, the mayor, the city staff where the vote is and there’s still no vote (scheduled),” Kaval said. “Without that, there’s no project.”

Las Vegas sites

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, two sites have emerged as frontrunners for a potential A’s ballpark from a list of five finalists.

Kaval has yet to release where those sites are located, but the Tropicana appears to be among the contenders. Last week, a Gaming & Leisure Properties Inc. executive said during an earnings call that the group met with A’s officials on their most recent visit to Las Vegas regarding building a ballpark where the Tropicana sits.

“I think it’s safe for me to say that they have a very, very strong interest in our site if the transaction can work to their advantage,” said Peter Carlino, president and CEO of Gaming & Leisure Properties, which owns the real estate the Tropicana sits on.

Kaval said the A’s are having conversations with Las Vegas land owners “daily” but he said he would not comment on specific sites while negotiations are active.

“We continue to have conversations and really detailed negotiations with all those parties,” he said. “We have a policy to not discuss those real estate negotiations in public as they’re moving forward. But I can say the progress has been really positive and we’re moving forward on a daily basis.”

Kaval also said that he’d be back in the desert as soon as next week. “There’s some design work, some rendering work (to be done), so I might be out there next week,” he said.

Kaval previously said the team hoped to have a Las Vegas site chosen and revealed to the public this month. He said Tuesday it’s unclear if that would happen by the end of the month.

“It’s hard to say, but we want it as soon as possible,” Kaval said. “We want to make sure we line up all the necessary steps, things like renderings and getting all the partners to sign off and the land owners. There’s still some work left to be done, but it’s closing in and momentum is building to get to that announcement. That will be a big day. I think that will really demonstrate what it could be to have the A’s in Las Vegas. How it could work, I think people will be able to envision it in a more real sense.”

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

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