Oakland City Council approves terms for Athletics stadium deal against team’s wishes
The Oakland City Council did what the Athletics asked them not to do Tuesday: vote to approve proposed terms for a deal that would keep the team in Oakland and allow them to build a waterfront ballpark.
The A’s want the deal, but not on the terms the city proposed. After the 6-1 vote, city officials strongly suggested the A’s work with the city to finalize the deal.
“Based on our extensive negotiations, shared values and shared vision, we believe the A’s can and should agree to the terms approved by the City Council today,” said a statement signed by Mayor Libby Schaaf, council President Nikki Fortunato Bas and Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan.
However, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said he was “disappointed” in Tuesday’s vote.
“For the last four years at my request and urging, the Athletics have invested significant resources and have made a major commitment to their community in the hopes of remaining as Oakland’s only major professional sports franchise,” Manfred said in a statement.
“We are disappointed the City Council chose to vote on a proposal to which the A’s had not agreed. We will immediately begin conversations with the A’s to chart a path forward for the club.“
On Friday, A’s president Dave Kaval had said a vote on the city’s term sheet would be “a no on that project.”
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred should focus on aiding a ballpark deal in Oakland, where the A’s president and city council struggle to reach an agreement.
On Monday, however, the city amended the term sheet to specify that the A’s would not be responsible for infrastructure improvements associated with the project and estimated at $352 million. Kaval had said he was concerned that the city had not specified who would pay for those improvements; Kaplan said the city would work with other government agencies on the funding but would not hold the A’s responsible for any of it.
Said city negotiator Betsy Lake: “We believe the city has solved for the issue the A’s identified as most critical ... We believe the A’s can and should agree with these terms.”
Kaval and other A’s officials are headed for Las Vegas on Tuesday night, in another trip to explore relocation options there. Manfred said last week that he could soon set the A’s free to explore other possible new homes, and Portland, Ore.; Vancouver, Canada; Nashville; Charlotte, N.C.; and Montreal could be among them.
Schaaf said she would not be deterred by the prospect of the A’s touring North America in search of a potential new home, confident that a waterfront ballpark on the San Francisco Bay would remain the A’s best bet.
“There is no place on Earth that will offer that type of spectacular environment,” she said.
Schaaf said she believed the “primary difference” remaining between the city and the team involved how to fund community benefits. The city has proposed generating an estimated $340 million over 66 years from a “transfer fee” for sales of condominiums within the A’s development.
During Tuesday’s council meeting, Kaval did not rule out additional short-term negotiations with Oakland. He said he had not seen the amended term sheet until it was publicly unveiled during the meeting.
However, he said: “Voting yes on something we don’t agree with ... is not an effective path forward.”
The A’s are proposing a $12-billion redevelopment project, with a $1-billion ballpark surrounded by homes, shops, offices and a theater. Multiple members of the council said Tuesday they were willing to continue talks but were dismayed by what they perceived as the team’s “take it or leave it” strategy.
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Councilmember Carroll Fife, who abstained, said she was not sure why the council should be voting on a proposal the A’s did not endorse, given their threat to end negotiations entirely. She said the city bent over backward to accommodate the A’s.
“I don’t know where we go from here, after doing somersaults and receiving insults,” she said.
Councilmember Dan Kalb called it “disturbing” that the team would not pay for any infrastructure but hoped additional talks could improve the deal.
“I’m going to hold my nose while I’m voting yes,” he said.
Fife wanted to make one thing perfectly clear: No one is chasing the team out of town.
“Everybody wants the A’s to be here,” she said.
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