“Temporary”

So what does “temporary” mean anyway?

For Lew Wolff, it means five years after 2013 spent at the Coliseum, followed by what he hopes is a smooth move to San Jose.

For Mark Davis, it means five more years at the Coliseum while a new Coliseum and village are built next door.

For the Coliseum Authority (JPA), it means… well, they haven’t exactly articulated what that means, have they? It may mean one new stadium, or two. It means having the Raiders and A’s pay more to stay temporarily at the Coliseum in order to reduce the subsidy Oakland and Alameda County currently pay to keep the place running. How much more? We don’t really know. It’s a delicate balancing act. In the previous post I alluded to Davis and Wolff not wanting significantly higher rents at the stadium, yet that’s exactly what will be required if the JPA is to reach its goal of offsetting costs better.

The Merc’s John Woolfork and the Chronicle’s John Shea have dug into the lease matter more, getting reaction from local pols.

Woolfork found that the lease extension talk started in July 2011, when A’s President Michael Crowley first requested a lease extension. With the negotiations going very slowly, the surprise is the MLB tried to help act as an intermediary in the discussions but was rejected by the A’s.

Shea’s big find was that Wolff, while preferring to stay in Oakland over a move to a “temporary home venue”, admitted that “there are options” for such a transitional home.

Those two new pieces of information are huge. Whether or not you believe Wolff is bluffing with the temporary venue idea, he just played that card. He’s thinking about it. And you can bet that he has at least one location in mind. It’s out of the standard team owner playbook. Many will feel that the A’s are locked into the East Bay thanks to territorial rights, and that more than anything should dictate how the A’s and MLB act. Most of the time, these positions are merely negotiating ploys to extract concessions. Playing the temporary venue card is a sure sign of desperation, which Wolff has displayed for some time. If it forces MLB to act on his request or the JPA to commit to a Raiders stadium that would remake the Coliseum complex (per the letter), it will have been well worth it. If it results in a “mutually beneficial” five year lease, it buys everyone time to figure out the next step.

There is a value proposition in play. In the short term (the length of the extension), the A’s will be averse to a lease that hurts their revenue position. For instance, the Warriors’ lease at Oracle Arena had the team pay $7.5 million for the 2011-12 season. That figure includes revenue sharing of club seat and suite sales, which helped finance the arena. The A’s rent for 2012 is $1 million, and they get to keep parking and some ad/concession revenues. If the A’s were forced to pay something closer to what the Warriors pay while giving up revenue, that’s up to a $10 million hit to team revenue, or -6% or so annually. Suddenly the lease extension isn’t just a matter of convenience, it’s a real question of cost-benefit. There is a point at which it costs too much to stay at the Coliseum, especially if there are no agreements on improvements to the old stadium such as scoreboards or even plumbing (those resources would be used on new stadia). I don’t think the A’s should get the sweetheart deal they’ve been on since 1995, but this seems like too much considering the age and state of the Coliseum.

That’s how the specter of a temporary home comes closer to being real. If the A’s are faced with having to forego $10 million in revenue each year for five years, would it make sense to invest that money in a different option? A temporary option?

One more to consider: If you attended a Warriors home game this year, you probably noticed the lovely, brand new high-definition, center-hung scoreboard. It’s part of an $8 million improvement plan at Oracle Arena that was implemented to upgrade technology. Half of the project was paid for by the W’s, and the rest was split between the JPA and AEG, the new arena operator. The bidding process for a new operator for both the Coliseum and Arena included a requirement that the winning bidder pay for improvements at Oracle Arena. The vendor for the arena’s technology package? Cisco. For whatever reason, there was no request to make any additional improvements to the Coliseum. New anything at the Coliseum could help convince either of the tenants to stay.

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