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Legal Fight Could Disrupt Oakland A’s Stadium Development

City and County at Odds Over Sale of Current Venue as Team Considers Move to Las Vegas

Oakland A's New Stadium

A dispute between the city of Oakland and Alameda County could affect plans for a new Oakland A's ballpark and surrounding commercial and residential district on the downtown waterfront. (Oakland A's)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation to help Oakland, California, try to keep its Major League Baseball team in town with a new stadium that would contribute to transforming the city’s downtown waterfront. But even with approvals in hand, the city and county are squaring off in court over the sale of the A’s current stadium as the team reportedly considers moving to Las Vegas.

Those events unfolded as Newsom last week signed into law two stadium-related bills sent to his office by the state Legislature, establishing financing districts and streamlining approvals for a new A’s stadium and surrounding commercial district with residences, offices and retail and entertainment space in an industrial area on the water.

The legal matters could decide the fate of a major project that's part of a growing national trend of sports teams and cities looking to turn sports venues into year-round economic generators with multiple adjacent commercial and residential elements.

The Oakland City Council has directed city administrators to reopen negotiations with Alameda County, after the city sued the county to block the county’s sale of its stake in the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, the A’s current home. The stadium is owned on a 50-50 basis by the city and county, and city officials are concerned the county’s plan to sell its share to the A’s for $85 million amounts to a sweetheart deal for the baseball team.

The city contends in its suit that the A’s approached the county about buying its stake without telling the city, which at that time was trying to work out its own deal with the county to take full ownership of the Coliseum. The A’s are looking to eventually buy the Coliseum site to spearhead its redevelopment, which would help finance the new waterfront stadium and surrounding housing, restaurants, retail and public gathering spaces. The downtown project is planned for a former industrial fuel distribution site, known as Howard Terminal, currently owned by the Port of Oakland.

The A’s are looking to build a 34,000-seat, "next-generation urban ballpark" that would open in 2023 as the centerpiece of a waterfront district. At full buildout, the waterfront district would include a total of 6.6 million square feet of new elements, including 3.3 million square feet of residential construction, 1.5 million square feet of offices, 270,000 square feet of retail and cultural spaces, plus about 280,000 square feet of hotel space and a 50,000-square-foot live performance center.

"The developments as proposed would be one of the largest projects ever completed in the East Bay, and certainly one of the largest developments ever planned in the entire Bay Area," said a recent report on the A’s plans from the think tank Bay Area Economic Institute. The A's didn't immediately comment.

Meanwhile, media reports in the San Francisco Bay Area said the A’s are now considering a move to Las Vegas if the legal dispute between the city and county is not resolved soon. The A’s currently share the Coliseum, which opened in 1966, with the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders team, which is moving to Las Vegas next year to start playing in a new football-centric stadium now under construction in Las Vegas.

Newsom on Oct. 11 signed into law Senate Bill 293, put forward by state Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, allowing the city of Oakland to establish infrastructure financing districts that are deemed key to development of the privately financed downtown stadium project.

Also signed was Assembly Bill 1191, from Assemblyman Rob Bonta of Oakland, intended to streamline ballpark permitting processes and give the State Lands Commission Authority to determine whether a stadium is an appropriate use of the proposed project site.

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