A’s propose crazy-looking Howard Terminal stadium, financial details still uncertain

The Oakland A’s owners have leaked their long-awaited stadium plans to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier & Ross, and I think we can all agree that whatever you want to say about them, they’re not anticlimactic. I mean, holy crap, just look at this thing:

Yes, that’s a diamond-shaped stadium seemingly with vertically stacked decks surrounded by hyper-modern apartment towers and some kind of roof garden running around the perimeter so as to protect it from the wind. This is definitely the kind of weird-ass architecture one would expect from Bjarke Ingels, maybe with an assist from California’s recent marijuana legalization. And that’s before we even get to the plans for the existing Oakland Coliseum, which would apparently be turned into some kind of baseball-themed public park with lots of steps?

But let’s not get too distracted by the renderings, as distracting as they may be. (Why did that picnicker bring a giant yellow finger to the site of a former stadium?) The important thing all along here has been how the A’s owners would pay for a new stadium, and while there were few details released today, there are some hints:

[A’s president Dave Kaval said the A’s call for control of both the 55-acre Howard Terminal waterfront site and 111-acre Coliseum site in East Oakland is essential if the team is to deliver on its promise of a “100 percent privately built ballpark.”

That’s kind of a weird way of putting it, since control of more property doesn’t inherently make it more profitable. Control of property at a discounted cost would, obviously; the A’s have previously offered to buy the Coliseum site for $135 million, which seems about right in terms of market value, but Kaval indicated that that’s still subject to negotiation.

How much public money would be involved for infrastructure at the two sites has yet to be worked out, but Kaval said the plan was to use taxes generated from the projects to cover the major costs.

That is worrisome, given that “taxes generated by the projects” has traditionally been used to mean “instead of paying our taxes to the public treasury, we’ll keep them and use them to pay our own costs.” Of course, it might not mean that in this case, but it’s a definite red flag.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf called the plan for the Howard Terminal ballpark “truly visionary.”

“This is the right project, in the right neighborhood and at the right price to our taxpayers,” Schaaf said Tuesday.

Schaaf has been one of the better mayors at holding the line on stadium subsidies, so this is promising that she likes it. Unless it means she’s no longer one of the better mayors at holding the line on stadium subsidies. It’s so hard to know which self-interested elected officials to trust these days!

Anyway, we at least know what main questions to be asking now: 1) Will the A’s owners pay the public what it could get on the open market for the Coliseum land? 2) How much will the public pay for infrastructure, and would that be real public infrastructure like roads and sewer lines or, you know, “infrastructure” that really means parts of the stadium itself? 3) Are the A’s owners looking for a pay-your-taxes-and-keep-them-too TIF-like plan?

Finally, will there be a gondola to get A’s fans to the games, as rumored? Hell yeah:

The plan also includes an aerial gondola to shuttle 6,000 fans an hour from downtown Oakland over Interstate 880 and the railroad tracks to Jack London Square.

Six thousand fans an hour! Definitely marijuana legalization played a role here.


17 comments on “A’s propose crazy-looking Howard Terminal stadium, financial details still uncertain

  1. To make this work it seems the A’s would need to extract a lot of value from the 111 acre coliseum site. Which makes me think the size of that public park is going to shrink drastically. But at least the public will get its foamy fingers.

  2. I know you always caution to not to get excited about renderings, but I think that design looks pretty cool.

    • I love the compactness. I am not sure it actually works geometrically in space and provides room for things like concessions kitchens, but it’s certainly a more intriguing start than, oh, the new Rangers stadium.

  3. As far as gimmicks go I’m kind of curious if they’ll open the roof garden to picnics and watching the game from there or something. Gimmicky nosebleeds.

  4. The Howard Terminal site is a logistics nightmare with no current lots large enough to park cars, BART is at least 12 blocks away (12th ST), and the Part of Oakland on the north side of the site is the 4th busiest port on the West coast. Numerous roads in the area are one way, 880 is often full with traffic, It can take 10-15 minutes most nights to go 8 blocks from 880 off-ramp to the Alameda tube (Broadway) My prediction is that they will end up at the Coliseum site, follow the Braves model for surrounding development.
    There will too may hurdles to overcome
    I live in the local area and this will be interesting to follow over the next 6-9 months.

    • I wholeheartedly agree. I’m all for getting out of that literal shithole known as the Coliseum (stadium, not the site), but there’s a lot of wish-casting going on with this plan and the Howard Terminal site in general.

  5. Isn’t this the same team management that recently announced they were going to build a stadium on a site that was far too small for even a modest MLB facility without even talking to the people who actually owned the land (and worked in the building on that land…) that the alleged stadium would sit on?

    So they want BOTH the coliseum site and HT… big surprise.

  6. This is a very positive development for a city that has been kicked to the curb by the Warriors and Raiders. Let the A’s have the Coliseum site for $135M – they’ll do more with it than the current flea market at the adjacent lot. Maybe not every aspect of the renderings will come to fruition but it is a much-needed shot in the arm for Oakland and the A’s.

  7. Roof gardens are a way for building owners to get valuable pollution credits. It seems more and more proposals in California are now including them, not just for stadiums/arenas.

  8. I’ll bet any amount of money that this doesn’t break ground by 2021 and open by 2023, and that it doesn’t look like what was revealed today. Also willing to bet a good chunk of change that is doesn’t get built at Howard Terminal at all.

    The A’s have announced and failed with: a downtown stadium killed by then-mayor Jerry Brown, Victory Court, Fremont, Downtown San Jose, and Laney College. And that’s not even counting the musings on sites and designs associated with the Coliseum site over the years.

    • I understand your skepticism Anonymous but would should the A’s do, give up? I agree that the final product will not resemble the current renderings but they have to start with something, make revisions, and then put shovels in the dirt. I believe this will get done in 5 years though. I really cannot stomach the A’s even considering a town like Portland…

      • “but would should the A’s do, give up”
        No, the A’s should build at the Coliseum site, or rather in the adjacent north parking lot. The site is already entitled for a stadium and has direct mass transit access. The rest of the site should be developed fairly densely into a mixed use development. I have no doubt, unfortunately, that some space would end up being saved for parking, which could be achieved with garages (something the Giants are going to do as Mission Rock develops). The site objectively offers better access and subjectively a better range of possibilities for the stadium. If the A’s also want to buy and develop the HT site for non-ballpark purposes, cool. Let them pursue that outside effort. But the Coliseum site gets this thing done faster and with I think a better result for fans, the team, and the city.

        And as a last aside, even if this plan fails, they aren’t going to move. There’s way too many obstacles preventing it. They’ll build at the Coliseum site, which is still where my bets are placed until ground breaks at HT.

  9. Funny how “one of the better mayors at holding the line on stadium subsidies” keeps losing teams.

    100% Schaaf is going to give the A’s the type of property control, tax exemption, and TIF that would’ve kept the team people actually care about (the Raiders) in Oakland. But at least she got praise from Deadspin for a few years!

    • People actually care about the Raiders? Their consistently near the league-bottom attendance figures would tend to disagree.

      • There is no point in giving away the farm for a team given they have no economic impact especially when nobody cares about them.

        If I were a voter, I’d consider a mayor letting a sports team leave a positive.