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Oakland A’s offer to buy Coliseum complex in open letter to city council

They still don’t know where they want to build, but they’d like to lock up one site just in case.

Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s stadium search brought its next big development on Monday. The team revealed an open letter they’d sent the city council the previous day, in which they offered to “assume control and purchase the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum complex in exchange for paying off all remaining debt service on the more than $135 million of debt ultimately owed by the city and county against the Coliseum complex.”

The San Francisco Chronicle, which first broke the news (Matier & Ross), notes that the A’s are looking to buy the Coliseum as a fallback option. They haven’t settled on it for sure over Howard Terminal, but want to guarantee that they have control over at least one site so they don’t get locked out of Oakland entirely. Click the link for more details, but here’s one quote for the ages:

“We think that’s a very robust offer and a sharp contrast to the Raiders, who wanted the land for free” had they committed to building a stadium in Oakland, Kaval said.

Here’s the A’s full letter:

Full text:

Dear Mayor Schaaf and City Council members,

As you know, the Oakland A’s have been hard at work over the past two years studying sites for a new privately financed ballpark in Oakland. During this process, we launched our “Rooted in Oakland” campaign publicly reaffirming our long-term commitment to Oakland and the East Bay.

In 2017, we narrowed the choice to three viable locations in Oakland for a privately financed ballpark: Howard Terminal near Jack London Square; the Peralta Community College District Offices near Lake Merritt, and our current home at the Coliseum complex in East Oakland. In September of 2017, we notified the City and the County via letter that the Peralta site was our preferred location for the ballpark and ancillary development. Our intention was an economic deal by the end of 2018, groundbreaking in 2021, and opening day in 2023.

Following significant efforts for community outreach and engagement with the Peralta Community College District and Laney College administration, students, and staff, negotiations on the Peralta site were suspended on December 10, 2017, at the direction of the Peralta Board of Trustees.

This left the A’s with only two sites in Oakland: Howard Terminal and the Coliseum.

2018 — our 50th anniversary in Oakland — brought a renewed focus on the viability of the Howard Terminal site as the last downtown location for an A’s ballpark. The evaluation of Howard Terminal remains ongoing and we have had favorable preliminary conversations with various representatives of the Port. Transportation solutions and the costs of large needed infrastructure improvements are major outstanding items for Howard Terminal, along with the numerous public agencies with jurisdiction of this waterfront site.

Of course, significant uncertainty remains on how the various challenges for Howard Terminal can be satisfied. Given our previous experience at Peralta, it has become clear that the A’s need to solidify control of the one site in Oakland that offers an assured path for the development of a new privately financed baseball venue -- the existing Coliseum complex.

This letter serves as an indication of the A’s desire to assume control and purchase the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum complex in exchange for paying all remaining debt service on the more than $135 million of debt ultimately owed by the City and County against the Coliseum complex. If consummated, our offer would end the long-standing cash drain from the City and County’s general funds caused by ownership of the Coliseum, and ensure that the A’s would possess one assured route to a new privately financed stadium in Oakland.

We would like to enter a formal exclusive negotiating agreement (ENA) as soon as possible to determine if we can together negotiate and complete a transaction for the benefit of Oakland, Alameda County and the long-term success of the Oakland Athletics.

This is a critical moment for the A’s and our community. The venue process has taken too long. We seek your immediate engagement to work with us on a transaction for the Coliseum complex, as we continue to plan for a state of the art privately financed new baseball park in Oakland. The future of the A’s is too important to further risk alternate uses of the Coliseum site at this time.

We are grateful for your ongoing reception and support to help keep the A’s in Oakland.

Play ball,

Dave Kaval
Oakland Athletics

A few notes:

  • The phrase “privately financed” shows up five times in this letter, in case anyone had doubts about that.
  • Howard Terminal is still in play, but far from a sure thing. Peralta is off the table for now but only “suspended” overall, theoretically leaving the door open.
  • The ENA is necessary because there are other potential buyers for the Coliseum site (see Chronicle story for more on that).

The saga continues!