Proposed Waterfront Ballpark Seen as Crown Jewel of Oakland Revival

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Oakland A Howard Terminal - View 1 (1)

By Neil Gonzales

As Douglas Boxer envisions it, a shimmering waterfront baseball stadium for the Oakland A’s would serve as a crowning jewel to a burgeoning renaissance in city development.

[contextly_sidebar id=”8a0a21301b6637ebe515cff53945f738″]Much of that development is already happening or targeted along or near the Oakland Estuary. Jack London Square has been undergoing a $350 million revitalization with new housing, restaurants and offices. Next to it is the $1.5 billion Brooklyn Basin project, which would feature more housing, retail and commercial space, parks and marinas.

The new ballpark could be located adjacent to Jack London Square. “It will be the icing on the cake” for Oakland to become a regional destination, said Boxer, a development consultant.

Boxer, who also happens to be the son of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), is part of a group of local heavy hitters that is swinging hard for a ballpark to be built at Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland. The ballpark not only would ensure that the A’s remain in Oakland but also could spur further development in a city that has long struggled with economic progress, crime and other issues.

In January, the group—Oakland Waterfront Ballpark LLC—sent a letter to the port requesting exclusive negotiating rights to develop a world-class stadium and other amenities on the 50-acre terminal site.

As of early March, the group—which also consists of Clorox boss Don Knauss; T. Gary Rogers, former CEO of Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream; Michael Ghielmetti, president of Signature Development Group, which is behind the Brooklyn Basin master plan; and Seth Hamalian, a developer seeking to build a high-rise residential tower in Oakland’s Uptown District—was still waiting for a response from the port.

The group’s main goal “is to keep the A’s in Oakland,” Boxer said. The team has been “part of the fabric of Oakland for [46] years. They’ve been successful, winning championships, and are an important asset for the community.”

Currently, the A’s play in one of the oldest Major League Baseball parks— Coliseum. The team sought a move to San Jose, but MLB quashed that bid because the San Francisco Giants hold territorial rights to the South Bay.

While Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has backed the proposed waterfront ballpark, the A’s ownership has contended that the project is not feasible, citing concerns such as a costly environmental cleanup.

Boxer’s group has dismissed such arguments and is “looking to engage in a conversation with the port about the best uses for Howard Terminal that provide economic stability, jobs and tax revenue,” he said. The group believes its ballpark proposal more than offers those benefits.

Boxer also argues that new ballpark developments in other parts of the country have proven to reenergize communities and cities. One prime example of that, he said, is just right across the bay—the Giants’ AT&T Park in the rejuvenated South of Market neighborhood. “There’s no reason why the same thing shouldn’t happen at Howard Terminal,” he said.

Right now, the port has “interim leases in effect at the Howard Terminal, which is being used for maritime-related activities,” port spokeswoman Marilyn Sandifur said.

On Feb. 27, the port rejected three long-term lease proposals for the terminal. The port cited environmental concerns with one proposal and revenue-generating challenges with another. The port found a third proposal to be lacking sufficient information.

Boxer feels those rejections could leave the door open to his group’s ballpark idea. “We are hopeful that the port would want to engage with us,” he said.

The group is already armed with some glossy visuals of the ballpark and its surroundings done by Kansas City, Mo., based Manica Architecture.

The ballpark’s design features “a sculpted upper deck” for clear views of the bay and incorporates existing shipyard cranes at the port as homage to Oakland’s maritime and industrial history, architect David Manica said.

“We would look to repurpose the cranes, clean them up and integrate signage on them,” Manica added. “They could also be sculptural or an important location for lighting.”

While the ballpark would respect the city’s past, he said, it would still be very much “forward-leaning in its architecture” with the use of modern glass and steel as well as renewable material. The stadium would also integrate 21st Century technology that interacts with fans’ mobile devices, he said.

Another option for a new stadium proposed by a different group is a few miles south along Interstate 880—the Coliseum City project, a multi-billion dollar development that would rise from the site of the current A’s ballpark. Coliseum City would integrate sports, retail, entertainment, housing, hotels and waterfront elements all within an 800-acre district.

Boxer’s group is all for whatever keeps the A’s in town, he said. “If it happens at the Coliseum site, we’d be happy, too,” he said, “but the waterfront site [along the estuary] is an opportunity to build something wonderful.”

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