After a couple weeks of speculation, the Oakland Athletics have agreed to pay the outstanding balance on the Coliseum site by the due date of May 14. Athletics owner John Fisher agreed to purchase the 50% share of the site held by Alameda County in a 2019 deal. The remaining 50% is currently owned by the city of Oakland.
The original contract stated that Fisher would pay the county in annual installments of $15 million. Several of the payments had already been made, but the Athletics getting approval from the league to relocate to Las Vegas triggered a clause in the deal that left Fisher responsible for the remaining balance in full, 180 days from their relocation announcement.
According to a report from the SF Chronicle this morning, Fisher has accepted the contract clause without issue and the Athletics are set to make the payment to the county prior to the due date.
There was speculation about how the A's would finance the payment, considering Fisher's statements about how much money the team has been losing on an annual basis. Fisher has claimed that the team is tens of millions of dollars in the red each year, largely due to a severe decline in attendance over the past few years.
As we wrote at White Cleat Beat yesterday, Fisher recently sold a significant number of shares of The Gap stock on Dec 8 and 9, netting him north of $30 million. That figure doesn't cover the entirety of the outstanding balance due to Alameda County, but it does make up a large portion of it. It's fair for fans to wonder if Fisher sold those shares in order to attain the capital to make the payment.
It's unclear what will happen to the Coliseum site after the Athletics' lease expires at the end of the 2024 season. The A's don't currently have a place to play between 2025-2027, the three seasons after their lease at the Coliseum ends and before their new stadium in Las Vegas is expected to be ready to go.
It's possible the team and the city will come to an agreement that allows the Athletics to remain at the Coliseum for those three years, but any development or construction done at the site will have to be made by both the team and the city of Oakland, as both parties will control 50% of the property.
Fisher's family currently owns a significant portion of land in northern California. It's possible they'll attempt to purchase the remaining portion of the site currently owned by the city in order to further develop it into some kind of profitable site for them. It's also possible the city ends up buying him out and doing something that is a greater benefit to the residents of Oakland.
The most likely scenario is that this gets dragged out longer than necessary and the Coliseum site becomes a graveyard for a while. Let's hope that isn't the case.