On April 19th Oakland A’s owner, John Fisher surprised the City of Oakland with the baseball team’s announcement that it had a ‘land deal’ to build a new stadium and move the team to Las Vegas. This means Fisher will abandon the proposed ballpark and condominium complex at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal.
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao held a press conference on April 20th in which she described how she was blind-sided by the Oakland A’s decision not to pursue the Port of Oakland Howard Terminal complex. She charged that John Fisher and the A’s used Oakland as leverage to obtain a ballpark deal in Las Vegas: “When was the moment that I noticed that the Oakland A’s were just using the City of Oakland for leverage? Last night (April 19th) at 6 o’ clock when I got a call from Dave Kaval (President of the Oakland A’s) ...”
The Mayor said the message she received from Kaval was: “Heads up… We have a land deal in Las Vegas…”
The announcement by the Oakland A’s effectively ends the threat to truck, rail, and marine terminal operations at the Port of Oakland, which opponents of the development say would have been the result if the A’s Howard Terminal project had been built.
These opponents include a coalition of maritime stakeholders working at the Port of Oakland and organized as the East Oakland Stadium Alliance.
The group, through its spokesman Mike Jacob, issued the following statement:
“This morning, the Oakland A's announced that they have signed a binding agreement to purchase land for a future ballpark in Las Vegas. We were as surprised as everyone by the A's sudden announcement after months of silence. This is a sad day for Oakland, which for the last 50 years has enjoyed a professional sports facility in East Oakland and a working international trade gateway in West Oakland. The East Oakland Stadium Alliance continues to call for the A's to build a new ballpark at the (Oakland) Coliseum, which is their rightful home and has a bright future as the epicenter of Bay Area sports. Howard Terminal was never the right place for this mega development, and the seaport community will continue to work with the city, the port, and stakeholders to ensure that Howard Terminal and the working waterfront continue to be the vibrant hub of the region's economy.”
Although it was not immediately obvious, the A’s decision to move to Las Vegas opens the door for new maritime and economic developments at the Port of Oakland which faced uncertainties as the Howard Terminal project diverted time, energy, and funding. The new initiatives include:
Widening the Turning Basin in the Oakland Estuary to allow mega container ships better access to the Oakland International Container Terminal, the largest terminal at the Port, which is operated by Stevedoring Services of America. The project had faced uncertainty because the City of Oakland had ceded 10 acres needed for the widening to Oakland A’s Howard Terminal project.
The Port can more fully focus on recently announced grants and projects that will hasten the electrification of Port operations, speed up electric truck charging at the Port and develop new zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell technologies in cooperation with Toyota and other Japanese companies.
The Port can also more fully support truck charging stations linking the Port via the 580 freeway to the San Joaquin Valley where agricultural exporters and import warehouses transport containerized truck loads to and from the Port.
The Port can also explore upgrading its marine terminals to support coastal or short-sea shipping services between the Port and offshore California wind operations at Morro and Humboldt Bays. Most wind turbine parts needed for assembly cannot be shipped by truck or rail and will rely on being moved by water via tug/barge or self-propelled vessel. The Port of Oakland’s rail connections could position it as a key transshipment point for California offshore wind projects.
The Port of Oakland is a major U.S. agricultural export hub for Asia. Port officials and exporters can now invest more time and money in building stronger connections to Asian ports and customers with customers knowing that marine operations will not be disrupted by the Howard Terminal ballpark and condominium complex.
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