The ballpark sits on water's edge, surrounded by residences and shops and restaurants, the jewel of the community, holding its own against baseball cathedrals in such places as San Francisco and Baltimore.

The reference to San Francisco is germane because this ballpark would be right across the bay in Oakland.

The reference to Baltimore is pertinent because that city is, in many ways, Oakland without the benefit of its inviting climate.

Though this ballpark is but a vision for folks laboring to keep the A's in Oakland, the journey toward reality is shorter than it was a week ago.

A lawsuit settlement on Thursday opens the door for Oakland to develop the 50-acre Howard Terminal property just north of Jack London Square. This is significant because HT is the site for which Major League Baseball has expressed a preference (over the Coliseum site) for a new ballpark.

Though full access to HT can't be granted until the seven-member Board of Port Commissioners votes this Thursday to approve the lawsuit settlement, it is expected.

After which the city could roll up its sleeves and see how viable HT is for redevelopment around a ballpark. It's not an option until there is an environmental impact report, and no report would occur without a detailed redevelopment plan.


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Yet the anticipated availability is enough to fortify the enthusiasm of civic leaders and fan coalitions fighting to keep the A's in Oakland.

"Are we ready to build a ballpark there? That's a little simplistic and premature. There are a number of steps to go," said Doug Boxer, co-founder of Let's Go Oakland, a fan coalition. "That said, this is the most likely site for it."

This is irrelevant unless A's owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff reconsider their stridently expressed intention to move the team to San Jose. There has been no indication of that. Wolff has consistently reiterated that he doesn't believe HT is feasible and that, moreover, Oakland is not an option.

Access to the HT site would provide an opportunity for Oakland to offer compelling evidence to the contrary -- especially with the $1.5 billion Brooklyn Basin redevelopment project on 65 acres south of Jack London Square scheduled to break ground next year, creating 3,100 housing units, 200,000 square feet of retail space and 30 acres of parkland.

Frankly, gaining access to HT is an essential element of Oakland's rally against Fisher and Wolff.

It gives Oakland "site control," something it could not offer last year and is needed to bolster its pitch to MLB. It's the location most likely to receive the support of MLB. It's accessible via two freeways (880 and 980), and Jack London BART station proposals already have been studied.

If HT is offered to the A's, as widely expected, baseball commissioner Bud Selig will have to concede Oakland is doing its part to meet the desires of Fisher, Wolff and certainly MLB.

Selig surely is annoyed with San Jose's recent decision to file a lawsuit essentially seeking to overturn the South Bay territorial rights held by the Giants, clearing the way for an A's move to downtown San Jose. San Jose suing MLB to become an MLB franchise looks, from most every angle, like more of a Hail Mary negotiating tactic.

Meanwhile, Oakland is trying to get its act together. Rhetoric still outpaces results, but there is a restaurant boom, especially around Uptown and Jack London Square. Hotels are coming. And Brooklyn Basin could rival San Francisco's popular China Basin.

"It's exciting," Boxer said. "But we still have a lot of work to do."

It's a lot to ask of a city that often takes a step backward for every step forward, a city that with a more creative and committed leadership over the past 20 years likely wouldn't be fighting so desperately to secure its professional sports teams.

Though locals have inquired, Wolff says the team is not for sale. He says the A's can't compete in Oakland, though the standings offer rebuttal. He says there is not enough corporate support in the East Bay, though his ear is deaf to a man like Don Knauss -- CEO of Clorox, a Fortune 500 Company -- who is fighting to keep the team in the town.

Oakland, like San Francisco, may someday get a waterfront ballpark. Oakland, like Baltimore, may someday have state-of-the-art venues for its MLB and NFL teams, both within walking distance of shoreline homes and businesses. The ballpark has evolved into a vision, which beats the mirage it was not so long ago.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/1montepoole.