Oakland Athletics: What Happens If They Can’t Move To San Jose?

Dec 6, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; General view of the NFL network television compound at the O.co Coliseum before the Thursday Night Football game between the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

There has been a lot of activity surrounding the Oakland Athletics’ ballpark situation in the past few weeks (and to think, it all started with a sewage leak!), and for the first time in a long while, there’s an actual event on the horizon that will result in meaningful action in regards to whether the A’s can make a move south or not.

Last week’s news of who would actually be litigating the case was exciting for the imagination of the masses, who may be envisioning a classic courtroom drama with Major League Baseball finally getting their comeuppance and losing their antitrust exemption status because of the lowly A’s.

But it’s important to remember that the city of San Jose has an uphill battle as far as getting their desired outcome. Lew Wolff was surely thrilled that San Jose took up his cause and allowed him to avoid the messy legal action that was required to get the ball rolling, but in the event that the lawsuit is thrown out or the decision isn’t made in their favor, the A’s are going to be looking for another site for a new ballpark, and San Jose will no longer be an option.

So what are the options if Cisco Field in downtown San Jose is off the table?

As of right now, there are two sites being considered in Oakland for development. Mind you, these are simply inquiries into whether or not it’d be possible to build a ballpark at these locations, and the logistics of actually getting it all done is very much in question.

The less likely of the two would be Coliseum City, which is a proposal that is similar in makeup to L.A. Live, which is home to the Staples Center and other entertainment venues, restaurants and residences in downtown Los Angeles.

On the surface, this is an extremely ambitious project, and it gets more complicated as you delve into the details.

L.A. Live cost approximately $2.5 billion to finance. Much of that money came from corporate funding, and the significant difference is that Staples Center was already present in the space, and thus the entire complex already had a built-in functional venue to house four professional sports teams, as well as several minor and semi-pro organizations and a host of special events.

Coliseum City proposes brand new venues for all three current tenants (A’s, Warriors and Raiders) along with infrastructure improvements to the surrounding area along with housing. The cost of all this would likely exceed $3 billion, and as the good folks at newballpark.org point out (if you haven’t noticed, most of these links go to that site, and it’s a great source of information for anyone looking for details on all things related to the A’s stadium all the happenings that surround it), only 10% of that would come from the city, so they would have to figure out how to privately fund the other 90%.

While Oakland’s leaders patted themselves on the back for trotting out an actual proposal to keep all three of those tenants in the East Bay and bolster the local economy in the process, this reeked of an effort to simply save face in the wake of the Warriors announcement that they were moving to San Francisco, and in all likelihood it will take a monumental effort with a lot of breaks along the way for it to take effect.

Howard Terminal (Photo: Lance Iversen, The Chronicle)

The more realistic site for the Oakland A’s is Howard Terminal. For starters, it’s the only site that Major League Baseball is even considering approving right now, so that’s a pretty important hurdle to clear.

However, the current tenant on the site, cargo terminal operator SSA Marine, is embroiled in a lawsuit with the Port of Oakland to renegotiate their lease. If that happens and SSA then agrees to relocate, the city can proceed with logistics of actually building at Howard Terminal, which would include substantial infrastructure improvements at significant cost. As of now there’s no word where that money would come from, and a potential settlement hearing for SSA’s suit has been postponed until July 11.

Of course, all of this hinges on what happens with the city of San Jose’s lawsuit, because no one wants to spend a heap of money looking into sites in Oakland if the A’s are going to be allowed to move to San Jose. We all know what Lew Wolff prefers, so don’t expect the A’s to step up to fund any of this site investigation themselves.

In short, the movers and the shakers will be obviously be paying close attention to what happens with the suit against Major League Baseball. In the time before a decision is reached, the city of Oakland will be doing their due diligence as far as making Howard Terminal a possible destination for the A’s, but the question of funding still looms large over the whole process. Even then, Wolff is going to have to be talked into it.

So hopefully this shines a little light on what’s going on with the A’s stadium situation. Follow along at your own peril, because this ordeal will surely get more aggravating as it continues.