Pay Up Or GTFO
We’ve talked a lot in the past year about how the Maloof family is broke and can’t do anything on their own, whether it’s funding their piece of a downtown arena or sell anymore pieces of the Kings without losing control of the franchise. Travel west along I-80, and you can see that Oakland and the Raiders are in the same situation. Oakland has had to rob Peter to pay Paul for the Raiders study, and the prospects for the Coliseum are bleak without some extremely creative (and probably public) financing. Al Davis had his estate structured so that his son Mark could keep control of the Raiders, but the Raiders can’t sell additional shares of the club without giving up control. Overextended as they all are, they’re still under the gun to come up with a future stadium solution that works for both parties, while not adding significantly to either party’s debt load.
That puts the Oakland/Alameda County and the Raiders in very tense dance over how much each side will pay to create an anchor for Coliseum City. Make no mistake, both sides will have to pay something, starting at $100 million depending on how extensive the project will be. If there’s a new stadium, especially one with a retractable roof, up to $200 million could be provided by the NFL. If it’s a redone Coliseum, the NFL will offer significantly less. It’s all based on the scale of the project.
For example, take the deal struck between the Carolina Panthers and the City of Charlotte. They’re partnering on a $302.5 million package of improvements for 17-year-old Bank of America Stadium. The breakdown looks like this:
- $96.25 million from Panthers (33%)
- $143.75 million from City of Charlotte/Mecklenburg County via a 1% food and beverage tax hike (47%)
- $62.5 million from North Carolina (20%, pending state approval)
The actual improvements will cost $250 million, the rest will cover the establishment of a maintenance fund, costs associated with staging City/County events, and other gameday expenses such as traffic control. The stadium, which was privately built by Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, will not get any major structural changes such as the addition or elimination of seating decks. Accessibility will be improved by the addition of escalators. Video boards will be replaced. Obviously those items won’t cost $250 million by themselves, so there will be other buildouts elsewhere in the stadium. Perhaps they’ll expand concourses, build field suites, or create additional premium spaces inside the stadium. BofA Stadium still ranks as excellent in terms of design, sightlines, and amenities, so the new improvements may be what Richardson wants to make the venue a viable future Super Bowl candidate. The Panthers would be guaranteed to stay and additional 15 years if the deal is approved and improvements completed.
Sidebar: It was the enormous success of the Panthers’ initial PSL plan that helped sell the 1995 Coliseum renovation plans to Oakland/Alameda County and Al Davis. The Panthers paid for their entire stadium with PSLs and other private sources, with the City only providing a cheap land lease. Where the East Bay went wrong was in severely overestimating demand.
Earlier this morning, Andy Dolich spoke with the Rise Guys about the Raiders’ tarp news and the prospects of Coliseum City. While he continues to believe that the best place for the A’s and Raiders is the Coliseum, his vision has shifted a bit. In 2010 he talked about a new multipurpose stadium with “technology” that could accommodate both teams. Now he prefers a separate ballpark at the complex and a refurbished Coliseum, which he estimated to cost $300-400 million. My immediate response:
Dolich thinks that Raiders refurb would cost $300-400 million. I think that’s way too low. $500 mil to start + existing Mt Davis debt.
— newballpark (@newballpark) February 8, 2013
Considering what’s budgeted for the Panthers and the Bills, does anyone think a $300-400 million budget as realistic for what the Raiders and the NFL would want? Frankly, I think that by the time everything got going, $500 million may be undershooting it by quite a bit. Dolich also thinks the Diridon ballpark cost could rise to $600-700 million based on additional costs to get the site ready. I tend to disagree with that, though if this saga keeps dragging on $600 million is an easy reach. Even if the land is free, why would two-thirds of a larger football stadium cost half as much as a nearly half-capacity ballpark?
Also, consider that we explored a Coliseum refurb on this blog back in 2008. It would’ve involved gutting the original bowl and replacing it with a new West stand and a single deck of seats along each end zone.
The project as described back then would’ve taken two full NFL seasons and about 18 months to complete, with the Raiders playing in a 47,000-seat temporary configuration while construction work progressed, similar to their 1995 season at the Coliseum. Complicating matters is that Lew Wolff wants an out clause in his five-year lease extension request if the Raiders begin this very type of project. That makes sense, since there’s no way the stadium could host baseball during this period.
Let’s say that a refurb could be capped at $500 million. The breakdown of costs by party could look like this:
- $200 million from Oakland/Alameda County (Coliseum Authority)
- $200 million from Raiders
- $100 million from NFL
The Coliseum Authority could get their piece from land leases, new stadium taxes, or other sources. However, they have factor in the remaining $100 million of debt on Mt. Davis since it affects City and County budgets every year ($20 million annual subsidy). The Raiders and the NFL could work together to sell new PSLs, naming rights, etc.
The NFL has two, maybe three $200 million slots in its G-4 program for new stadia, one already claimed by 49ers. Another could be the Vikings or Falcons. In theirs and the Raiders’ cases, the teams have to at least match the NFL spend, which means that they have to come up with $200 million of their own. The 49ers came up with closer to $800 million, though much of that is money borrowed through the quasi-governmental Santa Clara Stadium Authority. Chances are that the Coliseum City stadium project would borrow through the Coliseum Authority.
Oakland pols will want as much private funds going into the project as possible, but the Raiders will be wary of digging themselves too deep a hole. That stands to reason because of poor suite and club seat sales over the years, along with mediocre season ticket rolls. There’s been a lot of talk about Oakland not requiring a vote, none about how much it’s willing to invest besides land and infrastructure improvements. Unfortunately for Oakland, land and infrastructure only gets you in the door these days. How much skin will each side put into the game? The answer won’t be known without a (hopefully public) discussion about what it’ll take to make Coliseum City happen.