Howard Terminal: Some Things Just Make Too Much Sense

First of all, we would like to apologize for the tardiness of this blog. BaseballOakland is a labor of love by dedicated A’s fans, and we’ve been a little busy. However, we have been VERY active on our Facebook page and we suggest you go there for some good chatter with a growing community of die-hard A’s fans willing to talk Oakland, the A’s and a whole list of other things.

Now on to Howard Terminal. First, Matier & Ross broke the news about a secret meeting that occurred between Oakland officials and MLB. Then, the Bay Area News Group went into further detail about the plan. It all appears to be another strong push by the city to establish a waterfront ballpark near downtown, and we couldn’t be happier. One strength of Howard Terminal is that it is much closer to Jack London Square than Victory Court. Like Victory Court, it also has the chance to augment existing land uses and spur new development. The Howard Terminal site sits on about 50 acres and provides plenty of room for a stadium, surface parking and even other mixed uses. Also, the entire site (the ballpark and surrounding area) can be built in a number of phases, similar to how the area around AT&T Park was planned, where much of the initial surface parking ended up being developed into a much larger development. Victory Court is a cool site with many strengths, but another way that Howard Terminal is even better is that it allows Oakland to build a ballpark right on the water with stunning views, like those of PNC Park in Pittsburgh and AT&T Park. We’ve all seen how the Port of Oakland cranes have become one of the iconic images that symbolize Oakland. Keeping the cranes near the ballpark and incorporating them into its design would enhance its aesthetics, giving a unique “Oaklandish” vibe to the park. Unlike almost any other Bay Area ballpark site, the land has only one owner and is estimated to cost just $40 million — cheaper and simpler than Victory Court and possibly the San Jose site. Clorox CEO Don Knauss, who has represented the Oakland/East Bay business community in keeping the A’s in Oakland, has offered his full support of the plan.

We know that Howard Terminal was passed over in 2001 in favor of other sites, however, some important factors have changed since then.  First of all, in those days port capacity was in expansion mode. Now port capacity is at just 55% and unlikely to expand. SSA Marine, which controls Howard Terminal, is in an above-market-rate lease agreement that expires in 2017. From what we know, they are looking to not only get out of the lease but to consolidate operations into two other facilities they operate at the Port of Oakland.Now about transit: In short, the possibilities are a lot stronger than people think. Worst-case scenario for BART is that the City Center/12th Street station and the West Oakland station each is just three-fourths of a mile from Howard Terminal. But there’s even better news. In 2004, BART issued a report that studied several BART options for Jack London Square, including an infill station at 5th and Market streets which is — you guessed it — just a couple of blocks directly east of Howard Terminal. Also, a street car and other forms of transit were studied and noted as transit possibilities in the area. This would be an excellent addition to the area, and not just for baseball. These ideas would provide a much needed transit option to serve the Jack London Square area and connect it to downtown and West Oakland. For further reading on the Oakland Streetcar, click here. Also some money could become available for these projects if the statewide Measure B is approved. Other federal revenue sources may become available in the near future, too.

Also, a lot of surface parking and garage parking already exists around Jack London Square, Old Oakland and downtown — which could be used to serve a Howard Terminal ballpark. The site also is easily accessible from Interstate 880. It also would be accessed from Interstate 580 (via I-980), removing a large portion of the ballpark traffic away from I-880. A car bridge might need to be built around the Market and Brush streets areas, as well as perhaps a pedestrian bridge. But then again, major infrastructural changes would need to happen at any stadium anywhere. In addition, Amtrak/ACE/Capitol Corridor trains all are just a short walk through Jack London Square. Also, the Jack London ferry stop — receiving passengers from Alameda, S.F. and South San Francisco — is located right next to Howard Terminal. Once a ballpark is built, you can bet Marin County ferries from Larkspur and Sausalito stops surely would add the Oakland waterfront to its list of destinations.We at BaseballOakland are excited about the Howard Terminal site. It once again shows Oakland’s dedication to working with MLB to create a great stadium for the A’s. We look forward to this project developing and to one day seeing the A’s take the field in a sparkling new waterfront ballpark in Oakland.