Oakland's bid to keep the A's could get a boost Thursday when the city Port Commission reviews a settlement that would end a legal dispute and free up 50-acres of waterfront land for a ballpark.
Oakland stadium boosters have long had their eyes on Howard Terminal, a 50-acre site just north of Jack London Square. The proposal before Oakland's port commissioners would settle a lawsuit brought by the terminal's maritime tenant, SSA Terminals, which had cried foul after a competitor received better terms. While specific terms of the agreement have not been made public, officials have said the company would agree to a more favorable longer-term lease elsewhere at the port and vacate Howard Terminal.
"It's good news for the prospect of a ballpark along the waterfront," said Doug Boxer, who heads a civic group trying to keep the A's from moving. "If the lawsuit settles, we can demonstrate to Major League Baseball that we have site control for a waterfront ballpark and are willing to get to work with the A's."
A's owner Lew Wolff, however, reiterated Wednesday that he doesn't think the terminal site pencils out financially. "From what we've seen, it looks impossible," he said.
Wolff and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan both said that the A's are closing in on a five-year lease extension that would keep the team at the Oakland Coliseum through 2018.
The A's have been thwarted from moving to downtown San Jose by the San Francisco Giants, who claim it as their territory. San Jose filed a lawsuit last week seeking to pressure Major League Baseball into allowing the move by challenging its exemption from federal antitrust laws.
With the A's San Jose plans stymied, Oakland officials are seeking to show Major League Baseball that they have a viable alternative. Although the city is also pitching a new ballpark at the Coliseum, baseball officials and city business leaders are both believed to prefer a site closer to downtown.
Quan said that if the A's weren't interested in building at the terminal, Oakland's business community led by Clorox CEO Don Knauss "is willing to buy the team and build the stadium." Wolff said again Wednesday that he has no plans to sell the team.
The terminal holds the promise of spurring new retail development along Oakland's waterfront and offering views that rival AT&T Park, the Giants' home field.
But it still has issues. The nearest BART station is three-fourths of a mile away. There are also environmental contamination and infrastructure challenges that would add to construction costs.
A 2001 study by stadium designer HOK determined that it would cost more than $100 million extra to build a stadium at the terminal rather than at the coliseum because parking spaces and other facilities would need to be constructed.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435. Follow him at Twitter.com/matthew_artz.