OAKLAND — Athletics President Dave Kaval peers out his snazzy new digs in downtown Oakland toward San Francisco and the bay, and also the Howard Terminal site that could become home to his new ballpark.
Oakland’s new ballpark — because that is who this is for, the entire city and East Bay. And Kaval remains steadfast and committed despite a setback.
Sure, the A’s had a big hiccup in their planned location when a proposed site near an Oakland community college fell through last month, leaving the club to explore other options as it vows to stay on schedule for a new venue. In early December, a statement from the board of the Peralta Community College District said it had directed the chancellor to discontinue talks about a possible ballpark near Laney College.
“We’re still on the same timeline that by 2023 we’re going to open the new ballpark, but by the end of this year that’s our deadline to have an agreement, we gave ourselves at the end of last year a year to get an agreement with the city or the county, whoever that ends up being,” Kaval said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday at new Jack London Square headquarters where the team moved into offices this month. “So we’re still on that timeline.”
Kaval and his team had considered the Laney land their top choice and had engaged in conversations with community members, officials and business owners in the area in hopes of building a privately financed ballpark to open by 2023. Kaval’s group had finalized three spots, including the one near him at Howard Terminal along the water near the popular Jack London Square district and also the current site of the Oakland Coliseum that the club shares with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders.
With a roster of talented young players returning from another last-place finish in the AL West, the A’s who could be around a while are eager to see how the ballpark project proceeds with a leader like Kaval in charge.
“It’s a very good vibe right now,” said pitcher Kendall Graveman, last year’s opening day starter. “I think it starts with the leadership of our front office and Dave Kaval and what he’s put together. It speaks volumes and affects the way they’re trying to make moves for us with a new ballpark. I know one site fell through but as I go around and talk to people they’re very optimistic on another site and being able to get that done.”
While leading the MLS San Jose Earthquakes new stadium project, Kaval also ran into bumps and roadblocks — something he knows is part of the process even if discouraging at times.
“It was a surprise like I said, but by the same token we knew this process would have ups and downs and we also knew we needed to give ourselves time to engage the community and find a good solution,” he said. “And we put that in the timeline to make sure that we could have those ups and downs and make sure that we could negotiate in an effective way so we got a good conclusion for everybody.”
While the Laney College site still could be considered if the sides worked something out, that seems less likely now.
“It’s not eliminated but obviously we had a setback on it and we want to make sure that we keep evaluating the other sites as well and make sure that we find a solution that fits not only for the A’s but the community,” Kaval said. “Because everyone has to feel this is the right decision, or it won’t work.”