For the moment, the Oakland A’s are holding to the timetable for their plan to be in a new stadium at Howard Terminal north of Oakland’s Jack London Square for the start of the 2023 season.
As time goes by, however, that date seems more mirage than reality. Privately, the A’s acknowledge the difficulty of meeting that timeline.
Henry Gardner, the interim executive director of the Coliseum Authority, which is the overlord of the A’s current home, the Coliseum, isn’t directly involved in the Howard Terminal project. But indirectly, it’s in his realm of operation, and he isn’t shying away from the realities.
“I don’t know what they’re thinking in terms of the time, but you know if you had all green lights today, it would still take you 2½-to-3 years to build the thing,” Gardner told SI. “And, well, we’re halfway through 2020, and they don’t have all the green lights.
“To think that you can have a facility finished in which you can actually play baseball, you’re probably looking at the end of 2024.”
For what it’s worth, there is a history for teams moving into a new stadium mid-season. When the Mariners moved into then-Safeco Field (now T-Mobile Park) in 1999, they played the first half of the season at the Kingdome, which was right next door.
A’s president Dave Kaval, the driving force behind the A’s project to develop a new home, wasn’t available for comment.
Issues that stand in front of the A’s before they can start building:
--The Environmental Impact Report, which was due months ago, still has not been certified. Until an EIR is in place, the A’s, who struck a deal with the Port of Oakland for the Howard Terminal land north of Jack London Square contingent on a completed EIR, can’t move forward.
--The Port of Oakland owns the land, and members of industries that also do business with the Port – a coalition of shipping, steel and trucking companies – filed suit in March in an attempt to block the fast-tracking of the stadium project. Even if the A’s had a winning hand legally, right now it’s difficult to get on a court docket because the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has shut doors to courtrooms.
--The original design for the stadium was based on pre-coronavirus thinking. Now that COVID-19 has forced social distancing on the nation, the plans may need to be redrawn to accommodate that reality.
Issues that are likely to come up when the get to the point that they can build:
--Construction projects in California were limited to essential projects in March by Gov. Gavin Newsom. As the state has reopened, contractors are coming back. Even so, the need to practice social distancing has made for smaller work crews, making for fewer workers. If that doesn’t change, that would stretch out completion time.
--Auxiliary entities like architecture companies and engineering firms who would be deeply involved in the projects are in many cases working remotely during the pandemic. These are people who would generally need to be on-site with some regularity, and if they aren’t, that would tend to eat up more time.
“It seems to me that you’re looking at as much as 3½ years to build, and that’s if you start construction on Monday. And we know that’s not happening,” Gardner said. “There are people who need to be involved in making this happen, people who have to go to their offices, who have to consult with engineers and architects and attorneys.
“A project like this deals with all these governmental agencies and regulatory agencies. And they aren’t just there to get it started. They’re involved until the last brick is laid.”
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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