A’s waterfront stadium re-proposed, this time with pictures

Don’t look now, but there’s another proposed Oakland A’s stadium site in Oakland. Okay, not really “another” — it’s the same Howard Terminal site that’s been kicking around for years — but at least it’s not the Coliseum City complex that would require the A’s current home to be torn down before a new one could be built. And now the Howard Terminal site (near the outdoor mall area at Jack London Square, if you know Oakland geography at all) has prominent proponents, like Clorox CEO Don Knauss and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s son! Plus artist’s renderings:

And a capsule description — “imagine AT&T Park flanked by giant shipping cranes” — that, um, okay, maybe that one needs a little work.

A’s owner Lew Wolff continues to hate the Howard Terminal site, calling it “as close to impossible as anything” and saying it “would be easier to build on Treasure Island.” But then, he would say that, as he’s angling to prove to MLB that he has no choice but to move his team to San Jose, where the people with money just happen to live. A bigger objection would be that there’s still no idea of how the $500 million construction cost would be paid for (pretty sure that doesn’t include land and environmental cleanup), but that still doesn’t make it any more implausible than Coliseum City. Maybe somebody will actually get serious about crunching numbers once the San Jose territorial rights issue is resolved, which should be any century now.

33 comments on “A’s waterfront stadium re-proposed, this time with pictures

  1. No fireworks? I thought all stadium renderings were required to have an in-progress fireworks show to demonstrate how much activity and life it would breath into the area around it.

  2. Neil, interestingly Wolff responded regarding this latest Howard Terminal plan reiterrating that it’s impossible. And frankly who thought it was viable with an $800 million dollar price tag minimum due to site remediation to say nothing of infrastructure costs like overpasses over the neighboring rail line and an infill BART station which would push the project to well over $1 billion.

    No the more interesting thing was that while dismissing Howard Terminal Wolff actually seems to have shown some interest in the until now scoffed at Coliseum City project. While Coliseum City was asinine and pie in the sky without the A’s participation, if they were to get on board… it might have the slightest chance of being possible. Don’t know what changed Wolff’s opinion, maybe San Jose is in worse shape than originally thought, maybe he’s just keeping his options open, maybe he’s using it as leverage against Oakland or San Jose… Regardless of why, it’s a big change in direction to have Wolff even acknowledge Coliseum City as a possible solution when you consider it could undermine his San Jose dreams.


  3. I admit it, I laughed when I read $500M. If they can do it for that price, they should start on it tomorrow. But that estimate is a joke.

  4. Mike, actually as an estimate for the ballpark that’s probably accurate. What Knauss isn’t mentioning is how much the infrastructure, site clean up, infill BART station, etc… would cost and who would be paying for all of that. Those costs are anywhere from $200 to $400 million dollars on top of the ballpark. And unlike in San Jose the land and corporate situation leaves Wolff with no way to make any of his money back leaving Wolff holding the bill. And if Knauss’ group themselves buy the team that’s another $500+ million on top of the $700-$900 million to make the ballpark happen.

  5. Don Knauss group have no intentions of buying the A’s, they are not ready to invest 1billion+ of their private money where every one knows that an ROI on that kind of investment for a baseball team in a small market will not materialize.

    Knauss is fronting this “group” to win back good will from the citizens of Oakland for moving almost all Colorox corporate jobs out of downtown Oakland to Pleasanton.

    Even he does not want his employees in Oakland!

    Unless… Oakland provides a significant amount of public money.

  6. It really feels icky speculating on ways that a sports owner could or should extort even more money from a city… but what they hell, it’s almost Christmas…

    As noted in some detail before, if the city and MLB want the HT site (or any of the proposed/more expensive sites) then Wolff’s negotiating position just gets stronger (which is good for him, because it’s pretty damn weak right now even if he can’t see it).

    So you invite your two prospective partners in a new Oakland stadium in for a meeting, you don’t refuse to talk to either of them about it. Then you say, “well, I’m pleased you’ve both come to the table to discuss this, and of course, we’ll have to find a way to bridge the difference in cost between the sites you’ve chosen and the one I’m prepared to build on… and that funding is your responsibility”.

    I have no problem agreeing he’ll do worse business in a new stadium in Oakland than in San Jose. Just like even the new stadium in San Jose would leave him far behind the Yankees in local revenue. But since he owns neither NY or SJ, that problem apparently isn’t going to be solved for him. And he’s shown no willingness to address that himself through negotiation over SJ.

    If both his partners want him at HT or CC or wherever, he’d be a fool to not use that fact as leverage on both. If he feels refusing to talk to them about either is a hardline negotiating tactic, he clearly is a fool.

    Oakland may not have the money to make Jack London Square or CC work. But refusing to discuss it with them to see if an acceptable agreement can be reached is just idiotic.

  7. It’s not idiotic if your strategy is “try to convince Bud Selig that there’s not other option than to force the Giants to give us San Jose for free.” I mean, you can argue that that strategy is idiotic, but Wolff’s current behavior re: Oakland flows naturally from there.

  8. Mark: Care to show me your math on that? I remain unconvinced that (A’s revenue increase from move to San Jose) – (Giants’ revenue decrease from losing South Bay territory) – (cost of building new stadium in San Jose) > 0.

  9. Neil, how does his behaviour vis-a-vis Oakland flow naturally from wanting to be in San Jose? I would think acknowledging that any Oakland plan might be feasible, as he appears to have done regarding Coliseum City, would completely undermine his long held stance that he HAS to be in San Jose.

  10. Okay, just saw Wolff’s comments to the Trib:


    You’re right, now I have no idea what his strategy is.

  11. “… convince Bud Selig that there is no other option…”

    Well, surely even Wolff realizes that that ship has sailed? I mean, he can go to SJ tomorrow if he reaches a settlement with the current “owner” of the territory. But he doesn’t want to do that.

    Dan: To follow on, he may have a long held stance that he has to be in SJ. But if that is the only market he believes he can survive in, surely he should be more motivated to make a deal with Baer?

    To the best of my knowledge, Wolff has made no offer to the Giants regarding their territorial claim in SJ beyond suggesting that MLB award it to him for free. It doesn’t sound like he’s fully committed to being there to me….

  12. Neil/Dan:

    Is it possible that people are reading too much into every Wolff comment? I mean, when Selig says something on this topic, it’s a safe bet that it’s been vetted by MLB and their lawyers to the nth degree. However, repeated interviews with Wolff in which he mostly remains on point but occasionally offers a (perhaps poorly considered) thought that some might attach fantastic importance to may not be all that revealing.

    For example, when he said “we need to be downtown” he may have been talking about SJ and have assumed that people would realize that (since that’s all he’s talked about since Fremont, umm, well…). Or he may have been suggesting Oakland bulldoze a large swath of it’s downtown to build him a stadium. Or he may have been making a general comment that would be applicable to any potential destination city.

    I’m reminded of the old joke about Alan Greenspan leaving a meeting and saying “Good bye (or was it Good Buy)?”

  13. We still owe TWO HUNDRED MILLION dollars on the crappy Coliseum “upgrade” from the mid 90’s. I helped fleece the taxpayers. I should be in jail.

  14. Sure, Neil. On very basic terms, I believe MLB would love to move a team from the 3rd largest city in the Bay Area to the 1st largest city in the Bay Area.

    Obviously, it’s a lot more complicated than that. But the ‘price’ of the territorial rights is simply a flow between MLB teams and assuming neither city hands over a free ballpark to the A’s (and I don’t think they will), a ballpark in San Jose is much closer to reality than in Oakland.

  15. AND, if I may say, there’s an outstanding blog about all things A’s Ballpark at www.newballpark.org. I am not affiliated in any way, shape or form. I just think he’s doing a great service to the community.

  16. Agreed, Marine Layer does an outstanding job with newballpark.org. If I still had the time and patience to keep a links page updated, it would be at the top of it.

    On the San Jose issue, though, you said “MLB will make the most money” from having a team in San Jose. That implies that the total revenues to MLB (via the Giants and A’s) would go up if the A’s were moved, even after accounting for debt payments on a new stadium. Is that what you’re saying? Because the last time I tried to do the math on that, I had a hard time getting it to come out positive.

  17. Without going into deep research on the subject, yes, I’m saying MLB will make more money by sending the A’s to San Jose.
    With these assumptions:
    1. the cost of building a ballpark is the same between the two cities (I believe the cost is lower in San Jose, but I’ll call it a wash)
    2. the Raiders remain in Oakland
    I think:
    a. There’s greater population within 5/10/20 miles of the ballpark
    b. Per capita, these people have more money (probably a fact, but don’t want to dig for proof)
    c. There are more corporate dollars (see b)
    ci. While in theory, any South Bay company could still sponsor the team in Oakland, they haven’t. I think they’d be more inclined to support a team 5 miles away instead of 40 miles away.
    d. The South Bay is underserved for professional sports relative to population
    e. I’m sure the Giants would love to stake a claim to pockets of the East Bay.

    If you’re referring to MLB looking outside of the Bay Area for the A’s, that’s a separate argument. Between the two cities though, I believe San Jose is far and away the better option and I think it would’ve already been done if not for the territorial rights issue.

  18. I’m not talking about the A’s building a new stadium on their own dime in San Jose vs. building one on their own dime in Oakland. I’m talking about building in San Jose vs. staying where they are now.

  19. Isn’t that like saying the Giants should have stayed at Candlestick to avoid the mortgage payment at AT&T Park?
    As much as I’ve enjoyed the Coliseum over the years, its time has come and gone. The A’s need a new place to play. It’s just a matter of where and when and who gets the bill. As a taxpayer, I hope the effect on me, in San Jose/Santa Clara County, is minimal. But I want them here.

  20. “Isn’t that like saying the Giants should have stayed at Candlestick to avoid the mortgage payment at AT&T Park?”

    No, because AT&T Park cost half what a San Jose one would, and they were able to pay for it by selling PSLs at the peak of the tech bubble. (To, in many cases, people from the South Bay and peninsula.) And outcompeting the A’s for fans. That’s not a business plan that can be followed by both teams at once.

    Again, it’s conceivable that the net increase in baseball revenue from swapping Oakland for San Jose would be more than the annual cost of the stadium. But when I’ve tried to add it up, I’ve found that it’s hard to do much better than break-even, even if you bend over backwards to assume that the San Jose A’s would be a smashing success and the Giants wouldn’t want much in tribute. See, for example:


    (Ignore the splashy headline, which was Slate’s doing, not mine.)

  21. John, we could be reading too much into Wolff’s quote, but I don’t think so. As someone who has been following this saga since ’95 and Wolff’s efforts since the beginning, he’s been very careful to not say anything overly positive about any Oakland site (other than in the past tense) since he moved his efforts to Fremont (and now San Jose). Being “down” on any “plan” in Oakland has been his MO since he switched locations as a fundamental tenent of his position (that he HAS to be in Fremont, and then even more that he HAS to be in San Jose). And in the last 6 years he hasn’t budged from that contention being very consistent in not painting anything Oakland does as plausible or worth comment.

    For him to suddenly say something remotely positive about an Oakland plan is a big change of direction. Even if it’s not for the reasons anyone has mentioned, something has changed or he wouldn’t have changed his tune in such a fundamental way.

  22. Will gassed pitchers be removed from the mound by giant shipping cranes? If so, no amount of money is too much. Mint a trillion dollar coin if you need to.

  23. Neil,
    Well moving to New York makes sense from a theoretical, macro-view standpoint, but that’s not happening. Anyway, I enjoy the site and appreciate the work done by people like you and Marine Layer.

  24. @Mark – San Jose is a bigger city than Oakland, but that does not mean more people live 5/10/20 miles to a stadium location. Even if you don’t count SF, you can add up Oakland and its adjacent towns and get to a similarly-sized and populated metropolis.

  25. Just when you thought the situation in Oakland couldn’t get any more muddled… the Golden State Warriors go and show you that it can always get murkier.


    Apparently the Warriors might be one of the big money groups backing the renewed pushed to build a ballpark at Howard Terminal near downtown Oakland. Potentially interested in buying the A’s even. All while still trying to build their new pleasure palace basketball arena across the bay.

  26. Lew-Lew’s playing Oak. as the ultimate sucker in his pr shell game, at least the Mausoleum location is near both a (clogged and/or shut down by thugs as a drag strip) highway and bart.
    The waterfront fantasy is 0-2 in that league, typical Oak. trying to match what ‘Frisco did with embarrassing results – no sale.
    As if the typical NorCal morass wasn’t enough, SJ and the Gi-ants have extended and enhanced the lease for the Cali. League park allowing the area’s dominant franchise (SJ Gi-ants owner) to increase revenue generating schemes and therefore make it more difficult for that franchise to be moved anywhere else in the state if Lew-Lew finally gets into SJ.
    Poor Lew-Lew, stuck where he is and nowhere to go – just like the Rayz!

  27. @paul- poor poor Lewis- stuck in Oakland and getting $40M welfare from his baseball partners until MLB figures out what to do- not to mention that his franchise is now worth about $700M. Yes- smiling all the way to the bank while Oakland and MLB fumble around in their strange dance

  28. Dan: It is definitely muddled… but hasn’t it always been?

    I’d put down the sudden emergence of groups interested in buying and keeping the A’s in Oakland more to Wolff’s insistence that no Oakland plan could ever work than anything else.

    He may be the greatest negotiator in history (not sure there, but I’ll concede it’s not impossible), but there has been little evidence of it in this game he’s playing. The obvious next step was for either Oakland or MLB to beat the bushes for potential new Oakland owners if Wolff won’t even talk about Oakland options (no matter how much tax money might find it’s way to him in such a plan).

    And happily enough, selling the A’s would free up capital for him to apply for what he actually appears to want… A San Jose MLB franchise.

    Of course, he has basically no chance of ever getting one… but owners who express the view that it is a major inconvenience for them to own the franchise in the market they bought do tend to get squeezed out by their partners at MLB… as in “We’re paying you $40m annually in revenue sharing (as well as their MLBAM/distributed revenue share) and you are bitching about how tough it is… as you beat us to playoff spots?”

    It might work out for him, but Wolff has to know he’s playing a dangerous game here… he is a pal of Selig’s, but he could still end up a wealthy ex-MLB owner if he isn’t careful.

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