OAKLAND — The A’s moved into some plush new office space this week at Jack London Square, with hallways wide enough to ride a skateboard through, as one team executive already discovered.
That ever-elusive search for a new ballpark site?
After guiding reporters through a tour of his team’s 40,000-square foot new office Tuesday, A’s president Dave Kaval made his first public comments on the ballpark topic since the Peralta Community College District pulled the plug on his plans to build a stadium near Laney College.
“I just want to re-emphasize we’re 100 percent committed to Oakland and a location for a privately financed ballpark here,” Kaval said.
“We’ve identified three final locations. We had a preferred location, a lot of thought went into that. We just want to make sure before we make another announcement that we’re very thoughtful about how we approach it.”
Those three locations were Peralta, which seems off the table unless Laney College leaders have a change of heart and the sides re-negotiate; the A’s current home at the Coliseum complex; and Howard Terminal, which is in clear view from the team’s new second-floor office windows at 55 Harrison St.
The A’s chose this site for their offices while originally planning their ballpark at Peralta, so the proximity to Howard Terminal is not an indication that the A’s are now leaning toward that site.
But Howard Terminal and the Coliseum are back in play, Kaval confirmed, though the fact the A’s bypassed both during the original search demonstrates that they feel each has serious drawbacks. Howard Terminal is the preferred site of Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf, but includes headaches having to do with infrastructure needs and environmental clean-ups. The Coliseum would provide the quickest route to completion, but the A’s reportedly have questions about whether the site can generate enough revenue to build a new venue privately.
Whatever direction the search takes, Kaval believes the A’s new executive offices are an important step in the process. The team spent between $4 and $5 million, and the massive space includes an entryway that showcases the nine World Series championship trophies in franchise history, a full gym and a batting cage for employees to enjoy.
There’s also memorabilia from throughout A’s history at every corner, including the white cleats first introduced by Charlie Finley in 1967 and the team’s original scouting report on Reggie Jackson.
Kaval compared the new-age office to those found in Silicon Valley, because he says the A’s will compete with Silicon Valley to recruit the Bay Area’s top business minds. He’s hopeful the new space also helps woo potential sponsors.
“It shows the type of environment we want to create with a new ballpark,” Kaval said, “celebrating our past, having a collaborative work environment. When people see this, they can see the vision we have for a new ballpark. It’s almost like a sampler.”
A’s chief operating officer Chris Giles rode a skateboard Monday down a long hall that connects different departments. Troy Smith, the A’s vice president of marketing, said the new office “really changes the way you view your job. It’s almost like having a brand new job.”
Though the A’s are dedicating plenty of resources to build a new office culture, they’re not as likely to spend aggressively from a baseball standpoint, at least not this season.
Factoring in guaranteed contracts, estimated salaries for arbitration players via mlbtradeumors.com, and estimated salaries for pre-arbitration players via Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the A’s current 2018 payroll sits at roughly $56.75 million.
It’s likely that the Opening Day payroll won’t crack $70 million, which would be well below the roughly $81 million of 2017. But perhaps that’s not a shock. The A’s are still likely a season away, at least, from being a true contender, and they’re building around a core of young players who are making near the major league minimum.
The good news for fans is that Kaval says he doesn’t envision the failed Peralta ballpark plan interrupting the A’s grand vision from a roster standpoint. That would suggest Oakland still plans to sign some of those young core players to long-term extensions, which front office officials have stated as a goal.