Setback for Oakland A's waterfront ballpark plans after grant not recommended

The dream of transforming Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland into a new Oakland A's baseball stadium complex just got thrown a new curve ball.

Oakland had agreed to publicly fund the infrastructure and transportation surrounding the privately funded 35,000-seat, 55-acre ballpark complex at the Port of Oakland.

In the city's application for a federal Megaprojects grant, the city estimated the Oakland Mobility Hub portion would cost $366 million and the city's request was for $182 million.

Now, it appears the Oakland project might not get that funding.

KTVU obtained a copy of the preliminary recommendation rankings by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Oakland project is listed as "not recommended."

That's a significant setback in the overall funding, according to Nola Agha, professor of sport management at the University of San Francisco.

"The City of Oakland had expected to find around $600 million in order to fund the offsite infrastructure that's necessary for Howard Terminal," Agha said. "In the current economy, it's difficult to find that funding."

Oakland's newly sworn-in Mayor Sheng Thao was silent on the matter Tuesday.

In a statement, the city's Department of Transportation Director Fred Kelley did issue a statement saying that he was disappointed to have not been selected in the first round, but "we believe we put forward a strong application and are well positioned to secure other funding sources." 

A city spokesperson said Oakland has already secured $375 million, which will allow the project design phase to move forward without delay.

The city also said the federal Megaproject grant had never been intended as the sole funding source and the city has other applications pending that could total more than $100 million.

"When we've seen recessionary environments or environments with really high interest rates, sport development projects tend to be both a little bit slower, the ancillary development around them tends not to happen at the pace that's expected," Agha said. 

She added that the city is aggressively pursuing other funding sources and the ball is in the A's field if the city can't come up with the funding. 

Agha said there are other options for the A's to revise their funding plans or relocate to the Coliseum property and stick with their "rooted in Oakland" plan instead of leave for another location such as Las Vegas as the A's have suggested in the past.

Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee issued a statement Tuesday, saying that she fought "tirelessly to win federal investments for our district, and the Oakland waterfront project is no exception."

She said that along with others, she has tried to make the case to the department that the Oakland waterfront project fits their criteria as a nationally important infrastructure project, with opportunity to bring jobs and affordable housing to our community. 

While the official announcement has yet to come from the department, Lee said that she will continue pushing for funding opportunities for this "much needed investment in our city and region."