Plans for a waterfront ballpark in Oakland may move forward after positive talks between Oakland’s Board of Port Commissioners and prominent local businessmen, dubbed The Oakland Waterfront Ballpark LLC (OWB). The groups aim to lay the permitting groundwork for a stadium on the 50-acre Howard Terminal site (a recently abandoned shipping terminal near Jack London Square) and hope A’s owners or another team will build it, the Oakland Tribune reported.

The proposed stadium could be a great move for Oakland, which might lose its football and baseball teams to other cities. In addition to giving the Oakland waterfront some serious cache (and giving that other stadium across the bay a run for its money), developing a ballpark in Jack London Square would keep hundreds of jobs in the city. If the Raiders moved to the South Bay and followed through on plans to demolish the stadium it shares with the A’s, employees wouldn’t have anywhere to go.

In addition to giving the Oakland waterfront some serious cache (and giving that other stadium across the bay a run for its money), it would keep hundreds of jobs in the city. 

A new stadium could also spur development in downtown Oakland and surrounding areas, with more businesses, homes, and transit infrastructure put in place to serve whatever team moves in. Although Jack London is more developed than SOMA was before AT&T Park was built, a new ballpark could revitalize the area – although it also brings up the tricky issue of gentrification pushing existing businesses and residents out, in favor of a more upscale vibe. That’s looking too far down the line, though, in a years-long discussion about the future of Green Collar Baseball and the real likelihood that people are willing to invest in Oakland. It doesn’t seem like the Athletics want to, and it will take some serious corporate bucks to back an environmental impact report and construction of the area.

I have a hard time believing anyone would be willing to foot such a bill. While I don’t think it’s the city’s responsibility to develop a stadium, the OWB plan seems to flirt with some major investment issues common to cities with big dreams and little money to see them through. The potential deal relies on private enterprise to fund the permitting and legal process, but doesn’t provide details on how it will solicit someone to actually build the stadium.

Before OWB and its associated official orgs can really delve into this project, the powers behind it need to decide who’s likely to pay up. If the A’s aren’t going to play ball by investing in a new stadium, and no one wants to buy the team (and is it really for sale?), it will be up to another MLB team or private developers. Since no one has stepped up to bat so far – though, maybe they will after an EIR and some major governmental red tape is done with – the stadium proposal is dead in the water. 

Image from Manica Architecture