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Political decisions may be last hope to keep A’s in Oakland

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The Golden State Warriors have gone to San Francisco; the Raiders are now in Las Vegas. Are the Oakland A’s the next to jump the East Bay major-league sports ship, leaving empty stadiums saddened fans and diminished community pride behind?

The possibility that the A’s may soon depart became a greater possibility a couple of weeks ago, when Major League Baseball gave the baseball team permission to explore other cities as a new home base.

It’s the latest outcome of the increasingly bitter battle to move the A’s away from the Coliseum that bumps up against the Nimitz Freeway and BART access. The destination: the edge of the Oakland Estuary at the Howard Terminal just north of Jack London Square.

When you look at drawings of what the ballpark would look like pushed up against the cranes that load and unload the containers that are at the heart of the Oakland terminal, I keep asking, “Why would Oakland want to jeopardize its most important industrial asset, the Port of Oakland, when the ballpark should be staying where it is right now — in a location that could be further developed for a variety of uses, including a retail complex and low-cost housing?

I mean, where are the container lots and the truck and railroad terminals going be located if affordable housing is a primary goal, besides the ballpark, for the Howard Terminal site?

And now the A’s ownership is saying, “It’s the Howard Terminal or we’re packing up and leaving.”

It’s a conundrum with which the Oakland City Council will be facing next Tuesday, when it meets to decide on its response to the A’s latest ballpark proposal. The outcome is in doubt; the Oakland Council doesn’t have a good track record in coming to agreement on important issues.

Included in the A’s proposal, I should note, is some $665 million in off-site and on-site infrastructure facilities that would be financed with public money.

Developing the Coliseum site seems to be the most viable and productive avenue to take to keep the A’s in Oakland. If not, that avenue may turn out to be Interstate 80 leading to West Sacramento and Raley Field.

Yes, that may be a long shot, but the Sacramento area is a growing giant in economic strength, television market size and sports world stature, so cities like Portland, Nashville and Charlotte might be less formidable rivals than first believed.

And for the A’s fans in our town, although keeping the A’s where they are at the Coliseum site is the best outcome, the consolation prize would be that Sacramento is only a few miles farther away than Oakland.

Everything right now remains pretty murky, but in a week or so, we’ll all know at least a bit more about what the future holds for the Oakland A’s. Stay tuned.

Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at shm@tracypress.com.

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