The A’s currently play in RingCentral Coliseum, the team’s home ballpark since 1968. But the front … [+] office has been exploring possible new stadium sites in Las Vegas.
Oakland Athletics president Dave Kaval was wrapping up another recent visit to Las Vegas on Thursday night, the latest in a series of trips by the front office executive to further explore possible stadium sites if the franchise eventually moves from the Bay Area to southern Nevada.
“It’s been a really productive two days. We brought our architect, Brad Schrock, and we got to go to different sites that are in play. (Schrock) had his sketchbook out, drawing how a stadium could look,” Kaval said in an phone interview. “It’s a fun time to be having all that innovation and creativity.”
But while Kaval gushed about the “positive feedback” he and A’s owner John Fisher — who was also on this most recent trip — have received from Las Vegas officials and resort operators, it has been a different story unfolding back in Oakland, where the franchise has been located since 1968. Efforts to build a new stadium in the Bay Area have been complicated by the two sides — the team and Oakland city officials — not being able to come to a binding agreement on the financing of a waterfront ballpark at the Howard Terminal site, as well as the development of the surrounding community.
The A’s have offered to privately finance a $1 billion, 35,000-seat stadium, and have also proposed an estimated $11 billion in private investment to develop the south Oakland neighborhood where Howard Terminal is located. Even though the Oakland City Council on Tuesday voted 6-to-1 in favor of a non-binding term sheet for the waterfront project, Kaval said it differed in language and in the terms that the A’s had originally proposed.
“We’re in a situation where we are in the bottom of the ninth, and we’re down to our last couple at-bats,” said Kaval. “We need to see if we can put together the necessary approvals and get a consensus on a financial framework. And a timeline. A timeline is critically important because we’re running out of time at our current venue.”
The A’s have played home games at the Oakland Coliseum — currently called RingCentral Coliseum — since 1968, but Kaval said that the 60-plus-year-old facility “is 10 years past its useful life,” despite the club pouring over $30 million into stadium renovations over the last several years. The current stadium lease expires in 2024.
“We’re putting money in just to keep the lights on,” said Kaval. “We have a water table that is rising, a site that is susceptible to sea level rise. That’s a very big challenge for a building with tons of deferred maintenance. From our perspective, we need a modern, new facility. We have a vision in Oakland at the waterfront that we think can be very successful. But we need to make that project not a planning effort, but an implementation effort, and we’re not quite at that point.”
Kaval said in the five years since he was hired as the A’s president, the team has been “putting everything into this to advance” the new Oakland baseball stadium project, but there is still no final approval in place. Even with the team proposing to privately fund the new stadium, there has not been a speedy resolution. Historically, many sports stadiums have been funded by taxpayer dollars, with the long-term benefits to the community few and far between.
“The leadership in Oakland, especially recently, has done a tremendous amount to reach across the aisle and work with us in a collaborative way. We appreciate that,” said Kaval. “But we’re running out of time. The commissioner and the league has been really clear that we have to look at some other options. That’s what we’re doing, and making sure we’re thoughtful in both markets. That will give us the highest chance of success in bringing this to a resolution that works for all parties.
“At the end of the day, there has to be a shared vision between the elected leaders and the body politic for something like this to come to fruition, regardless of how it’s financed,” added Kaval. “That is the fundamental public policy question facing us in Oakland — is there a convergence of those two perspectives?”
For now, the A’s franchise has been exploring other stadium options, leading to the numerous Vegas business junkets by the team front office executives. The A’s Triple-A affiliate Las Vegas Aviators currently play at Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin, which seats 10,000. And Vegas already boasts the wildly popular NHL Golden Knights and the recently relocated NFL Raiders.
“The Triple-A team has done exceedingly well, drawing 10,000-plus to every game,” said Kaval. “That shows robust local demand for baseball.”
Kaval said that A’s owner John Fisher wasn’t leaning in a particular direction regarding a preferred city for the team’s future stadium home, and that the A’s front office was more interested in reaching some kind of closure on the situation.
“For us more than anything, we’re looking to bring resolution to something that’s been going on for 20 years,” said Kaval. “Everybody knows the saga, it’s been so long, with so many twists and turns. We feel an incredible sense of responsibility, and me personally, to bring this entire thing to some type of a resolution. We have parallel paths in Oakland and southern Nevada. We owe it to everyone to come to some type of conclusion, to be able to retain our players, generate more revenue, and have a fan experience that is commensurate with other teams in the league.”