If the city of Oakland gets its way, the New York City Regional Center won't be the only organization seeking EB-5 money for a professional sports stadium.
According to Mercury News, Oakland, California Mayor Jean Quan is already "wooing Chinese investors" with talk of financing a new waterfront ballpark for the Oakland A's. The so-called Victory Court Ballpark and Coliseum City project would include "hotels, a convention center, shops and new facilities for the Raiders and Warriors, as well as a ballpark alternative."
EB-5 visa investors wouldn't be the only source of financing for such an ambitious project but would serve as "a significant funding source."
A recent ruling by the California Supreme Court allowed the state to gain control of funds that the city otherwise would have used to re-develop the stadium and surrounding area. It was when Oakland learned it wouldn't get the money that city officials decided to go the EB-5 route.
Not without precedent
This wouldn't be the first time EB-5 project promoters solicited investments in a massive undertaking that involved construction of a professional athletics facility. The controversial Atlantic Yards project in New York City ? an effort that has been about seven years in the making ? is doing the same thing.
As part of a huge Brooklyn redevelopment initiative that includes a new arena for the New Jersey Nets as well as new skyscrapers, developer Forest City Ratner has sought $249 million from Chinese EB-5 green card investors.
Of course, Oakland's project isn't Brooklyn's project. Instead of inciting local opposition, the push to develop the Victory Court ballpark and surrounding area has received positive press, and many A's fans are delighting in the possibility of the team staying in Oakland. An earlier push by the team's majority owner would have moved the A's to San Jose.
But the EB-5 element is new to the project. Very little commentary is available about efforts to fund the new ballpark and surrounding area via EB-5 visa investments, although one news source is skeptical.
Riding the trend
The Mercury News article also mentioned other recent EB-5 projects in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of those was the Tribune Tower project, an $8 million endeavor that involved the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Center.
All of these projects, of course, are simply riding the larger trend of turning to foreign investors to finance development projects. According to immigration attorney Ron Klasko, who was interviewed by Mercury News, EB-5 is "quite the rage within the development community" and the supply of qualified investors appears to be "unending."
If the Oakland project manages to use the sports connection to its advantage ? something Atlantic Yards has done with great success ? it could very well find the EB-5 visa program most advantageous.
But in the end, it's all about job creation. As Mercury News reminds us, "If the jobs don't materialize within two years, [investors] don't get their green cards."