MLB

Howard Terminal ballpark proposal keeps moving forward

Back on January 19th, the Oakland Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend that the City Council certify the environmental impact report on the proposed Howard Terminal ballpark and development.

While this is only a step in moving forward the project, it is a monumental step as Seattleites saw with Hansen and the Oakview Group arena proposals (in 2012 and 2018 respectively). It is highly improbable that the City Council will go against the planning commission’s recommendation on the nearly 3500 page EIR — or EIS as its known in Washington. This means that there shouldn’t be any major environment hurdles to the nearly $12 billion development project; which includes housing and commercial development as well as the ballpark.

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What’s next is that the city Council will meet to discuss the EIR and the recommendation the commission made. Once that’s completed the Planning Commission will then meet on rezoning and a development agreement to keep moving the project forward. And, to top this all off, the City and the Athletics need to get together to hammer out the final financial details; as well as iron out the concerns that have been brought up over the term sheet — again, for Seattleites, this process should feel familiar.

The EIR process started back in 2018 and continued through the Covid-19 shut down that slowed the project down. In February, 2021 the draft EIR was released which was followed up by an approval of the term sheet with the franchise in July of that same year.

For the Athletics, and their fanbase, if the City Council signs off on the EIR — and they should — this is a big step forward. It removes one of the potential roadblocks for replacing the 55-year-old Coliseum. As for the financing, the City website states that the project will be privately financed.

The City and the Oakland A’s are in agreement that the Ballpark and all of the new residential and commercial development in the Waterfront Ballpark District at Howard Terminal will be 100% privately financed by the A’s.

City of Oakland
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There is a blurb on the website stating that grants and project-generated tax revenue will be used to back infrastructure and safety improvements around the site. The primary tax that will be used to finance these improvements is the property tax within the project; Oakland is considering creating an Infrastructure Financing District (IFD) to finance the improvements for the area. Oakland is looking at using a limited obligation bond to cover their investment in the area. Unlike the bonds the City used on the 1995 Coliseum renovation — or Seattle, King County, and Washington State used on Lumen Field and T-Mobile Park — the limited obligation bond will only be able to use the tax revenues generated by the ballpark district itself.

Which is I how envision these projects going forward if bonds are used (which I personally prefer to bank loans). The stadiums themselves would have the potential to generate a shitton of tax revenue but they’re often exempted and the tax revenue benefits that the events provide primarily come from parking along with the surrounding restaurant and bar scene. Use the taxes the building generates to pay the bonds back, and then bank those taxes into the governments general fund.

A parallel track in Vegas

There was a report back in November, 2021 that the Athletics have reportedly submitted a bid on the Tropicana Hotel site in the Las Vegas area that could be used for a new ballpark. That is another stadium that will be built near the Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium, the Golden Knights’ T-Mobile Arena, and three different arenas owned and operated by casinos. This was reported back on December 2nd, but got lost in the hubbub around the owners locking out the players.

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There hasn’t been real update on the A’s movements in Vegas since the lockout was announced. This includes a lack of information on what the potential financing package will look like for a new building and whether or not it will be privately financed, just like the proposed stadium in Oakland…or if the Athletics will go after public financing like the Raiders did with Allegiant stadium.

That being said, it would be irresponsible to believe that these discussions around financing are not happening behind closed doors even with the lockout. Since the A’s lease at the Coliseum runs out in 2024, they need to have a resolution ASAP and they can’t spend time dicking around by starting the conversations with officials in Las Vegas if Howard Terminal falls apart at the seems. It seems likely that they are working two separate tracks and if the proposal in Oakland comes apart we’ll see even more serious movements in Vegas towards getting the financing approved.

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