The 50-acre Port of Oakland property known
as Howard Terminal is today mainly used
for auxiliary purposes, such as parking. 

Dreams of home runs soaring past Oakland’s iconic white cranes and splashing into the bay water is back on the table. The Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners agreed to a one-year Exclusive Negotiation Agreement (ENA) Thursday afternoon with the Oakland Athletics. The move allows the team to study the feasibility of a new ballpark near Jack London Square.

The deal with the Port of Oakland furthers a parallel path the team is taking toward finding a home for a new ballpark in the city. The Athletics are also seeking to purchase the Oakland Coliseum complex as a means of securing the location as well. Oakland and Alameda County officials are currently negotiating a potential sale of the property that will allow Oakland officials to streamline future development of the vast parcel.

“One of the key things for our future is a new home,” said Athletics President Dave Kaval, in a short comment to the Port board. An amendment to the agenda item lists general talking points in order to begin discussions for community benefits related to the parcel was also approved by the board. The list includes standard boilerplate for most large-scale building projects in the East Bay, including project labor agreements, living wage and local hire requirements, in addition, to environmental protections. Kaval said the team supports the concept of offering community benefits as part of the project.

A previous rendering of a potential Howard
Terminal ballpark in 2014 captured the
imagination of A’s fans.

“Play ball,” said Port of Oakland Commissioner Michael Colbruno. Nowadays, sports facilities are mostly built in dense urban areas, like the proposed Howard Terminal site, said Colbruno. “I don’t know a city that is more community-based and has the community spirit of Oakland.” Consolidation of the shipping industry and a move toward larger container ships unsuitable for these particular berths, said Colbruno, make Howard Terminal an attractive site for a ballpark.

Thursday afternoon’s meeting, however, suggested a dividing line over the issue between union labor groups and maritime businesses on the waterfront. A representative from the San Francisco Bar Pilots reiterating a past concern that ballpark light standards will blind ship pilots on the bay and estuary. In addition, the attraction of small private vessels to the ballpark’s waters, similar to the fleet of boats and rafts at McCovey Cove near San Francisco’s AT&T Park, will be unsuitable for the port’s day-to-day commerce.

Rob Stoker, president of the Alameda County Building Trades Council, said ballpark construction at Howard Terminal translates to thousands of union jobs and perhaps 1 million work hours. Like other union representatives at the Port meeting, Stoker said a ballpark is an avenue for the union to funnel new people into the trades.

But as far as the team’s plans for Howard Terminal, this is not the first time an entity sought Port approval to study a waterfront ballpark for the Athletics.

Back in March 2014, a group of Oakland businesspeople received approval from the Port board for a similar 10-month ENA. However, the group was not affiliate with Athletics’ team management, and aimed for securing the team as its tenant for a proposed 38,000-seat ballpark that sought to surpass the scenic views of AT&T Park across the bay. But former Athletics co-owner Lew Wolff balked at the feasibility of the site for a new ballpark, despite strong support from successive Oakland mayors.

Prior to the previous ENA, the Port, in February 2014, rejected maritime uses for the the parcels also known as Berths 67-68. The step paved the way for the ballpark proposal four years ago and remain to this day.