BOSTON -- The A's have handpicked land near Oakland's Laney College as the site they'd like to build a privately financed new stadium, with the goal of breaking ground in 2021 and playing ball in 2023.
The site won out over the current Coliseum lot and a spot at Howard Terminal near Jack London Square, ending long speculation. The A's have played at the Coliseum since 1968, and rebuilding on the same space seemingly would have been the safest choice and easiest to execute.
But the A's have their sights on something "bigger than baseball, a gathering place to bring our community together," A's president Dave Kaval said.
"I think it's something certainly for our fan base to look forward to, especially for the people that live in Oakland," A's manager Bob Melvin said.
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The desired site sits between Lake Merritt and Interstate 880 and currently includes commercial warehouses, parking lots and administrative offices for the college district, with potential for sweeping views of downtown Oakland and Lake Merritt, and promise of warmer weather than the other locations.
Access is one of its biggest draws; the site is a short walk from BART and not far from the freeway. The A's, who have long envisioned a ballpark village, are excited about its walkability and bikeability from the downtown area and surrounding communities.
"You're right in the heart of the city, and having that walkable environment, where you can have bars and restaurants and really a vibrant kind of energy around the ballpark, kind of like Fenway or Wrigley," Kaval told MLB.com. "That is really the key recipe for success in baseball, so we felt that location was the strongest."
But steps must be taken to secure it. Kaval and the A's expect to spend much of the next year negotiating with the Peralta Community College District to purchase the land. The A's will attempt to appeal to the District's Board of Trustees by putting housing -- including affordable housing -- and commercial space on the table as part of a mixed-use development idea with generated revenue supporting the college.
Should an agreement be reached, they would dive into a two-year process of completing an environmental impact report and securing necessary permits. Ideally, construction -- which would create approximately 2,000 jobs -- would then begin in 2021, with doors opening in 2023. Costs are expected to surpass $500 million.
Whatever it takes, Kaval said. The A's, running on a "Rooted in Oakland" campaign, will soon be the last remaining professional sports tenant left in Oakland, following the expected departures of the Raiders, bound for Las Vegas, and the Warriors, who are set to cross the Bay Bridge to San Francisco.
"I think the key is to keep everyone focused on the guiding principal that we want a ballpark that improves the A's on and off the field, but we also want a project that helps the city and strengthens the city and makes sure that everyone is involved in that process," Kaval said. "That's why we're spending nine to 12 months in that step, really engaging in these in-depth workshops and town halls and office hours to get all of the local stakeholders involved."
It's promising on paper, but there will surely be pushback. Kaval is consequently ready to take on the task of unifying residents, interest groups, public agencies and college and government officials. Infrastructure upgrades will also be required.
"It's really in some ways a way to transform the city, and in some ways almost a referendum on the type of city that Oakland wants to be," Kaval said. "So we're having that debate and that conversation to balance the needs of the local neighborhoods and keeping them uniquely Oakland and preserving that and protecting that, while at the same time bringing more economic vitality and jobs. That balance, there's a tension there, and it's really our job to kind of navigate that and get a project to kind of satisfy both needs.
"You don't always see that in these projects where it's so open and collaborative with all the different people, and I think that's really the only way that it can work. It has to be bottom up, grassroots kind of feel to it, or it just won't be uniquely Oakland and the city won't get behind it."
The A's also plan to work with the city of Oakland and Alameda County on redeveloping the Coliseum as a multi-use sports complex and an Urban Youth Academy. The proposed plan will also include several other developments, including housing, retail and office space.
This project is one of many on a to-do list that will require even more patience from an A's fan base that has had far too much practice in this exercise. The team's stadium plight stretches more than a decade.
"Every day I wake up laser focused on advancing the ball forward and making sure that we're making progress, and I think you just need to take it one step at a time," said Kaval, hired in November. "Today was a huge step. Now we have these key milestones that people can hold us accountable to."