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The Oakland A's mull a last stand against pro-sports owners

The Oakland A's could be leaving the city for Las Vegas if they don't get a new stadium at Howard Terminal in the port of Oakland.
Oakland Coliseum
Posted at 8:03 AM, Jul 19, 2022

Melvin MacKay has been dreaming of turning his work into a family business for years, working to get his son and grandson employed at the port of Oakland right alongside him.

"It’s not a job most people would think of, but it’s a job that most of the people would love to have," MacKay said.

But now, he worries the work that made him the man-about-town could be staring down the beginning of the end.

He’s standing on the bedrock of his hometown team’s vision for its own future. The Oakland A's are the last remaining major league sports team in a city once buzzing with the electricity of game nights.

If they don’t get a gleaming new stadium at Howard terminal in the port of Oakland, they could abandon the bay for the high desert of Las Vegas. 

Dave Kaval is the president of the A’s. 

"The concrete is crumbling, and then the seats break and you can’t actually sit in them," Kaval said. "We’ve had issues with feral cats, a moth infestation, mold.”

Few will argue that the Oakland A’s need a new stadium, and many there would hate seeing Oakland’s last team leave the city that shaped it decades ago.

What’s gripped Oakland’s social and political debate is where they need a new stadium.

Susan Ransom works for SSA Terminals, a neighbor to the much smaller "Howard Terminal" that would become site of the new ballpark.

"We’re at 91% capacity, and the reason that Howard Terminal is so successful is because it is a relief valve for the terminals," Ransom said.

She doesn’t see any space to grow there if the new park comes in. 

"There’s great concern that if you mix commercial land with industrial land, the industrial land normally doesn’t make it," Ransom said.

In a city with a pre-existing housing crisis, the project offers the opportunity to unlock thousands of new living units. But amid rising homelessness, the city has drawn a red line on the number of those units that need to be affordable. 

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is a champion of the project. 

"15% of the units that get built on the project site itself need to be affordable," Schaaf said. "That is a non-negotiable for me. To let a sports deal also generate 18 acres of new waterfront public parks, new infrastructure, safer and cleaner infrastructure, as well as all that affordable housing and good union jobs."

She insists taxpayers wouldn't foot the bill, and that instead, any cost to the city would be paid for with tax revenue from the project. 

"These are new taxes that the project itself will produce, that if the project doesn’t happen, those dollars would never exist for the city, so it’s not like they’re available for something else," Schaaf saaid.

But the project has a big price tag, and since the developers can ask the city to reimburse anything considered “public infrastructure” some Oakland residents worry about how much the city will really be on the hook for and if it’s all worth it. 

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