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Elephant Rumblings: Oakland City Council vote opens door for A’s to buy city’s half of Coliseum site

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2019 AL Wild Card - Tampa Bay Rays v. Oakland Athletics Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Good morning, Athletics Nation!

The coronavirus pandemic has interfered with the Oakland A’s hopes of World Series contention in 2020, as its recent resurgence has caused the closure of all MLB spring training sites and threatens the chance of holding any length of season. Even if the owners and players manage to come to a financial agreement amid their bitter labor dispute, it might not matter if it’s not safe to play.

The pandemic has also potentially gotten in the way of the A’s long-term plan of building a new ballpark in Oakland, or at least slowed down the process. However, the team got some good news on that front at the end of last week, overcoming a long-standing obstacle.

The Oakland City Council voted near-unanimously on Thursday to begin negotiations with the A’s on selling the city’s half of the Coliseum complex to the team, reports Phil Matier of the S.F. Chronicle. The team already has a deal to buy the other half of the jointly owned property from Alameda County, reached in December for $85 million, and the city would get a similar amount for its share.

This represents a reversal in course by the city, which had previously stood in the way of the A’s attempts to purchase the Coliseum site. In October the council filed a lawsuit blocking the team’s pursuit of the county’s half, though they dropped the suit six weeks later. Matier notes that various council members had other preferences regarding what to do with that piece of land, but that the economic effects of the months-long pandemic shutdown have forced their hand.

“After the coronavirus shutdown, we are looking at a very,very serious budget deficit, and they are saying it could cost us $6 million just to maintain the site,” [Councilman Noel] Gallo said. “We don’t have that kind of money. This way we can get some badly needed help.”

The A’s hope to build a new privately financed waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal, but part of the plan involves buying and redeveloping (and generating revenue from) the Coliseum complex. Owning the 155-acre site would also theoretically give the team a backup plan on where to build, in case the Howard Terminal project doesn’t pan out.

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