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Dave Kaval says A’s will announce new ballpark site this year

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OAKLAND — Speaking at the club’s FanFest on Saturday afternoon, team president Dave Kaval, who is spearheading the Oakland Athletics search for a new ballpark, said the team will announce a site by the end of the year.

Kaval, who previously led the building of Avaya Stadium for the San Jose Earthquakes confirmed that the team has narrowed the process to four potential sites: Jack London Square, Laney, the Coliseum and Howard Terminal.

During a small press conference — following his formal address to the team’s supporters at the club’s FanFest at Jack London Square — Kaval said that the team was treating the event as a “test run” of sorts.

“Today here, at Jack London Square, having 15,000 people here allows you to actually test this location. See how people get in and out. We’re flying drones over us right now. So, we’re seeing where people come in and out, where they park. How many people take BART. We’re working hand-in-hand with them. Because this is actually a pretty good test run, a dry run for this location to understand what the limitations and maybe some of the benefits.”

Here’s a partial transcript of some of the other highlights from Kaval’s talk.

On how he got the idea to stage FanFest at Jack London Square:

“This is a good example of how the office hours program leads to concrete changes immediately in the organization. A fan came in — we had discussed the possibility of Jack London Square. To be honest with you, we thought it was a long shot, we didn’t have time to do it. It was going to be for the next year. A fan came in — he was passionate about Jack London Square when he came in 1999, the whole thing. And we said,’ You know what? Let’s do it.’”

“So, we pivoted, got the whole organization behind it. It was a ton of hard work, a lot of late nights, but we managed to pull it off here and I think what you see in front of you is a glorious day celebrating Oakland and the A’s here in Jack London Square.”

On the importance of working in lock-step with Oakland city officials:

“They’ve been a great partner. Mayor [Libby] Schaaf could not be more supportive of our efforts. I think she’s a truly visionary leader and she is someone who understands kind of our shared vision for really rebuilding Oakland around the new ballpark and what a ballpark village can mean for the city. And so, it’s been a great partnership. We’re excited to continue working together. There’s obviously huge challenges for developing in California and you need to have a great relationship with the city. As I saw in San Jose with Avaya Stadium to make it work.”

On a potential price tag for the park:

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“It’s less about the actual dollar figure. It’s about building a world-class stadium and we’re committed to making the necessary investment to do that. And we did it at Avaya. We spent 100 million and people have said, ‘Wow, it’s better than stadiums that were 200 million.’ So, it’s not always the actual number. It’s about being very intelligent in how you spend. Spending in the right places and picking a site that sometimes is more affordable. Sometimes you build at a site and you have to build like nine tunnels or something underground infrastructure wise. That can suck up a third of the cost of the project. So, you have to understand that we are focused on making a fan-friendly facility that’s world-class in all its areas both for players and the fans.”

On following a “private” financing model but being open to other opportunities for funding:

“That’s really all we know [is private financing]. That’s what we did at Avaya. That’s California and we have a tremendous amount of experience and success with that model. And so, we’re trying to leverage what we did in San Jose and delivering really an amazing facility for a really good value that our fans love, that transforms the team and do it here in Oakland too.”

On how the new stadium progress affects the current team on the field:

“I think the key thing is we have direction now. And I think people in the past didn’t know where we were going and I think our players sensed that too. And it’s energizing for them and it’s exciting. It’s like they see it day-in and day-out and they want to play for a city. That matters. These guys aren’t just mercenaries. They play for Oakland. And that means a lot and you can tell from them on stage the impact it’s going to have.”

On the importance of not picking the wrong site and not building the wrong stadium:

(Back on Jan. 19, Kaval took a not so veiled shot at the San Francisco 49ers and their issues with Levi’s Stadium.)

“Well, I mean as someone [who] traveled to all 30 ballparks in 38 days. I wrote a book on it called ‘The Summer that Saved Baseball.’ We saw stadiums that worked and didn’t work. We saw stadiums that would last 20 years and have to be torn down. And I think for us, we’re building a one-year stadium. We want to build a ballpark that’s like Wrigley or Fenway that lasts the test of time. And the only way to do that is really engage the community and build it into the fabric of the community and the urban planning. And that’s why we’re working hand-in-hand with the mayor’s office and the city to make that happen. And I think what we build here will not only transform the A’s and allow us to win World Championships, but also transform the city.”

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