Five A's takeaways from latest Howard Terminal ballpark vote

Dave Kaval

The Athletics now have non-binding agreements in place with the City of Oakland (from July 20), and County of Alameda (as of Tuesday night) to secure infrastructure financing that supports a Howard Terminal ballpark.

After a seven-hour, two-session marathon, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of joining forces with the A’s and Oakland. But just like sports, that final tally can be deceptive to how the afternoon and evening played out. Here are my main takeaways from a decision that keeps the project moving forward.

Not surprising

The ultimate vote wasn’t surprising, but still seemed difficult to arrive at. County Supervisors originally deferred action on this topic back on June 15, stating they needed more time and information to make a diligent decision. But several times on Tuesday, their line of questioning didn’t appear to be much more advanced than four months ago.

Including discussions on whether Oakland should foot a larger share of the funding, how Alameda could gain more sources of project revenue, what actually constitutes a “non-binding” agreement and what other county spending should be prioritized over the Howard Terminal project.

Out of the sports business?

“We wanted out of the sports business” is a phrase that has been stated multiple times by multiple supervisors dating back to their first official encounter with Howard Terminal back in June. Between things said and unsaid over recent months, certain individuals representing Alameda appear to be burdened by this proposal and opportunity, which (at the very least) should net the county an additional $5 million or more in yearly revenue.


It might not be the easiest decision and process for them to navigate at present, but if in the public’s best interest doesn’t that responsibility come with the job description?

Not the Raiders deal

“This is not the Raiders deal. We’ve all learned from our mistakes of the past.” That’s how Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf put it to the county supervisors. “This is financially responsible,” she said. The ghosts of Oakland’s former NFL and NBA teams continue to haunt the intentions of its still-standing MLB franchise.

For whatever reason, the A’s seem to be grouped into previous motivations of the Raiders and Warriors, who didn’t ever put forth a fraction of the A’s effort to stay in Oakland. Losing that pair of professional teams clearly remains a blemish on the resume and minds of longer-standing individuals who represent the county.

As if the eyesore of “Mount Davis” isn’t bad enough, the A’s also still are paying for how the Raiders took advantage of Alameda throughout the mid-90s.

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Issues still remain

Open items still remain between the City of Oakland and the A’s as it relates to project specifics and what exists in the environmental impact report, and because of that the county indicated hesitation to become officially involved.

According to A’s President Dave Kaval, the team and city officials meet on a “weekly basis” to try and get closer on separations. Meanwhile, the EIR (which was expected in the coming days) is now likely to become public at some point before the end of 2021.

The project on Tuesday also was described for the first time as being $6 billion in private finance vs. the $12 billion figure, which has existed since April.

Will there ever be a binding agreement?

Can something binding ever be reached with Alameda County? We’re not right around the corner from that yet, but at some point it will need to happen.

The A’s current working relationship with the city seems to be a lot closer, and now that they’ve voted in, maybe similar evolution will happen on the county side too. What’s clear is that Alameda will now want some authority in how the project comes together. Specifically desiring something turnkey, that presents zero-risk and maximum reward.