OAKLAND -- A shipping terminal long ago consigned to the dustbin of Oakland A's stadium sites has remerged as one of the city's two most viable options to keep the team from fleeing to San Jose.
During their first meeting in two years with the Major League Baseball committee studying future homes for the franchise, Oakland officials last week presented two ballpark options -- the well-publicized Coliseum City concept near the current stadium in East Oakland, and Howard Terminal, a waterfront site a few blocks north of Jack London Square.
The 51-acre terminal was one of the first sites considered more than a decade ago for the team. It didn't gain much traction then as its owner, The Port of Oakland, had it pegged for maritime operations. But an ongoing legal dispute with the terminal's tenant and ample shipping capacity at the port have city officials and stadium boosters again thinking it could play home to the A's.
"Howard Terminal is a spectacular site, one that would rival any stadium in the country for views and ambience," said Jim Zeliniski of the group Save Oakland Sports.
The site, while flawed, could make it harder for the team to leave town, sources aware of the proceedings said.
The MLB committee and city business leaders had told Oakland officials that they prefer a waterfront stadium near downtown rather than the Coliseum site.
If the city can show that it has a viable waterfront site with business support, it could make MLB owners more reluctant to revoke the Giants territorial rights to Santa Clara County and grant the A's its wish to move to downtown San Jose.
But A's owner Lew Wolff remains uninterested in the site. "We have analyzed Howard Terminal upside down and sideways," he said Sunday, "and it has no ability to be implemented for a ballpark."
No matter which site is chosen by the MLB committee, which has been meeting for more than three years, the A's will be expected to pay for the new stadium, whether it's in Oakland, San Jose or elsewhere.
The two options Oakland presented have one common denominator -- the sites are both publicly owned, making it easier to fast-track construction.
Another waterfront site south of Jack London Square, called Victory Court, has been shelved because the elimination of redevelopment agencies made it impossible for the city to cobble together the private parcels.
Since the demise of redevelopment, Oakland has promoted transforming the currently coliseum site into a privately financed sports and entertainment center with hotels, restaurants and new facilities for the A's, Raiders and Warriors.
But that ambitious vision, which never had buy-in from all of the teams, suffered a major setback earlier this year, when the Warriors announced they planned to leave Oakland and build an arena on the San Francisco waterfront.
Howard Terminal holds out the promise of spurring new development retail development on land around the stadium site and offering fans bay views that rival AT&T Park.
But it still has its share of issues. The nearest BART is three-fourths of a mile away -- farther than the other waterfront sites that had been considered.
The terminal was ranked fourth in a 2001 study by stadium designer HOK behind proposed sites in Downtown Oakland, the coliseum complex and Fremont. The firm determined that it would cost more than $100 million extra to build a stadium at the terminal rather than at the coliseum because parking spaces and other facilities would need to be constructed.
The biggest change from 11 years ago, ballpark boosters say, is that the Port is under capacity and might not need the terminal in order to operate. Additionally, the terminal's only tenant, SSA Terminals, has filed a lawsuit to extricate itself from the lease with the Port, complaining that a competitor received better terms.
SSA did not return calls for comment, but Oakland ballpark supporters are hopin that SSA will move its operations elsewhere at the port, freeing up the terminal.
Port spokesman Isaac Kos-Read said relocating SSA would not necessarily be a simple undertaking. "We don't have a vacant terminal where they could move," he said. "And we haven't heard any interest on their part in moving."
San Jose issues
While a ruling from MLB is pending on whether the A's can leave Oakland, San Jose city officials also are waiting for a decision from state Controller John Chiang's office about whether a deal they made in the fall to sell Wolff six parcels of downtown land near Diridon Station for a ballpark is legal.
San Jose City Attorney Rick Doyle reiterated on Monday that San Jose legally transferred seven Diridon properties to a newly created Joint Powers Authority in March 2011, well before the June 28 deadline when the state Legislature shuttered the state's redevelopment agencies.
Doyle said that even if Chiang's office determines that six of the seven properties the city has offered the A's in an option agreement ultimately have to be returned, the successor agency will have to deal with the legal contract that has already been signed between the two parties.
"The concern is, can they (state controller) claw back the properties?'' said Doyle, adding that the real question is when the properties were transferred, and in March 2011 he said there was nothing under California law that prohibited transfers.
Under the new law, each county's auditor/controller has to audit the assets and liabilities of every former redevelopment agency by Oct. 1. Santa Clara County's Auditor/Controller is working on that now.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6345.