A rift opens between Oakland and Alameda County

In the aftermath of the PR disaster that was Friday’s JPA meeting, discord between the two halves of the JPA, the City of Oakland and Alameda County, was revealed. Tensions had been simmering under the surface for some time, most evidently on display during the all-hands joint meeting last December. In Friday afternoon’s Trib article, JPA Board Chair and AlCo Supe Nate Miley expressed his discontent with the City, calling the no-show a step towards dissolving the JPA. He again brought up the possibility of the City buying the County out of the JPA, which would allow Oakland to go it alone on Coliseum City.

Neither party has the available cash to buy the other out, but Miley seems bent on making it part of the discussion. The implications would be huge. Coliseum City talks have divided the JPA into Oakland as the more pro-Raiders group and Alameda County as more skeptical and perhaps leaning towards the A’s. There are major fundamental differences between how the two sides characterize the talks. The City is optimistic about BayIG and the Raiders, whereas the County is questioning where the money will come from and is already looking at alternatives. Should this divide stay intact, it’s difficult to see how the two sides could come together to approve a large-scale redevelopment scheme like Coliseum City. Maybe the rift can be healed as more information comes in that could build confidence with the County leaders. Coliseum City’s current trajectory makes such a kumbaya moment nearly inconceivable.

I’m starting to think that if the JPA had a quorum and took a vote, the lease extension would’ve been approved 5-3 or 6-2, which would’ve forced the City Council to vote on it. There are 2 CMs on the board and 2 Oakland appointees, Yui Hay Lee and Aaron Goodwin. Goodwin has frequently taken independent positions in the past, most recently being the lone dissenter on the short-term lease vote in November. At the time, Goodwin cited the lack of a long-term agreement with the A’s as the reason for his dissent. 10 years is a much longer commitment, even with the opt-outs (which have been standard practice at the Coliseum for years). When the JPA took $3 million out of the capital improvements fund to fund the Coliseum City studies, it was Goodwin who was concerned about the impact the siphoning would have on the relationship with the A’s.

Goodwin’s name should be familiar to those with some sports business knowledge because he’s been an agent to numerous NBA players for 20 years. His current client list includes Oakland native and Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, among others.

If Goodwin didn’t like the lease or chose to vote as a bloc with the rest of the City side, the results would’ve been 4-4, a stalemate. That probably would’ve forced the JPA to go back to the drawing board, which would’ve been fine in that everyone would be forced to be honest about where the JPA stood with regards to the lease.

With a 5-3 or better vote, the next course of action would’ve been for the City Council and the County Board of Supervisors to vote on the lease. Let’s assume that the Supes approved the lease. It would’ve been up to the City. There’s no telling what could’ve happened. There are several potential outcomes:

  1. Council draws up resolution in support, votes to approve lease
  2. Council draws up resolution in support, votes to kill lease
  3. Council draws up resolution against lease, sends their own version back to JPA
  4. Council never makes resolution, lease never comes up for vote

Any of the last three outcomes makes the City look bad in MLB’s eyes, especially after Bud Selig prematurely announced that a lease agreement had been made. Selig’s power play and not-so-subtle wording put Oakland on the defensive. Whether it’s a setup to force Oakland’s hand or Selig simply siding with Wolff, it’s a difficult decision for the City to make with the Council attempting to balance the A’s and Raiders’ interests. As symbolically good a lease would look to Wolff and Selig, it could look terrible to Mark Davis and Roger Goodell. But the City had to know that this day was coming, and that to keep stalling until a solution magically appeared for them was a pipe dream. Selig has discounted Howard Terminal in concurrence with Wolff. Davis considers Coliseum City the last shot for Oakland, and continually has been disappointed by the lack of progress on the deal front. Oakland’s time to tap-dance around the issue is coming to an end.

That leaves the one lingering question about the lease extension, Why now? The A’s lease is up in 2015, not this year, so the urgency feels out of place. Maybe Selig decided to get the first domino rolling, knowing that Coliseum City had a timetable for a decision later this year. Sports law expert Nathaniel Grow considers a new extension potentially damaging for San Jose’s antitrust lawsuit against MLB. That seems like a long shot, especially considering San Jose’s shaky legal standing in the first place. If that is the motivation, it’ll prove once and for all that MLB isn’t terribly concerned about local politics. They’re looking out for baseball. Everything else ends up collateral damage.

Oakland’s reckoning: Raiders or A’s?

More info about the pending lease extension came out via Lowell Cohn over the weekend and from Mark Purdy today. If you’ve been following the story since November, you’ll know that there aren’t many new items here. Yes, the A’s will pay slightly more in rent than they are now or were in the last lease. Yes, they want to put in new scoreboards. And yes, the lease term will be 10 years, with an escape clause if the Raiders build a new stadium that forces the A’s to be displaced. There is one new wrinkle, in that the “eviction” process for the A’s will include a 2 year advance notice by the JPA. That should allow the A’s enough time to properly scope out temporary venues, whether they are existing ballparks in the region or something else like a temporary new stadium. It should also put MLB at ease since they won’t have to go into scramble mode trying to make accommodations for the A’s or visiting clubs.

Cohn’s long blog post is probably the most evenhanded take he’s ever had on Lew Wolff. That alone is notable. More importantly, the post gets comments from both Wolff and Raiders owner Mark Davis on their desires for the Coliseum. Davis confirmed that he would prefer the Raiders to have Coliseum City to themselves. In Purdy’s piece, Wolff confirmed that he has no interest in Coliseum City as currently (or formerly) conceived, citing the complexity of acquiring land for the whole project, three-quarters of which (600 acres) is privately held. Wolff has experience with this, having explored and failed with that option, the Coliseum North/66th-High plan.

Wolff is a developer, and unlike the Coliseum City-Raiders concept, doesn’t need to bridge a $500-600 million funding gap. There could still be a gap, but that could be filled in by the usual private commitments (premium seat lock-in, charter seats, season ticket subscriptions). In turn, Wolff could develop the Coliseum in a more phased manner, with fewer pie-in-the-sky projections. Like Davis, Wolff wants control of a single venue and all of the revenue streams that come with it.

“But under no condition will we become a tenant of anyone in a new facility,” Wolff said. “We have to control our own destiny . . . We would be interested in the land that’s under city control. Once we’ve extended our lease, we can examine that.”

Moreover, Wolff continued to dismiss Howard Terminal, even go so far as to make the elimination of that site as a condition of negotiating on a new Coliseum ballpark, should that opportunity arise.

Naturally, there will be grousing by many in the stAy crowd about Wolff’s supposed fear of Howard Terminal. That’s ridiculous. It really comes down to two things: focus and resources. Right now Oakland is focusing most of its pro sports effort on Coliseum City through the JPA. It has spent money on an EIR, a draft of which is due in weeks. Howard Terminal, on the other hand, has no EIR even started yet. OWB, the group supporting the site, is providing $50-100k on limited work. The rest of the EIR will take at least 18 months from the start and would probably cost $2-3 million to complete. Wolff, having seen prior reports on Howard Terminal, sees this as a waste of money, time, and effort. Why spend $2-3 million to prove a negative? If OWB wants to spend that money, let them. They have the most to gain from an HT park. Something tells me that they won’t.

Then I started to think about the stadium boom of the last 25 years. I tried to figure out if there were any cities or municipalities that worked on two completely new stadium projects within the same city or market simultaneously. There aren’t many examples.

  • New York City – Citi Field & Yankee Stadium built at the same time, opened in 2009 thanks to Rudy Giuliani muscling it through.
  • Philadelphia – With Veterans Stadium and The Spectrum getting old, three venues replaced those two: Wells Fargo Center (1996), the Linc (2003), and CBP (2004).
  • Cleveland – The Jake (Progressive Field) and Gund Arena (The Q) both opened in 1994 thanks to the implementation of a city-wide sin tax.
  • Glendale, AZ – Jobing.com Arena and University of Phoenix overlapped by mere months, and have nearly bankrupted Glendale in the process.
  • Pittsburgh – Heinz Field and PNC Park opened flanking the now-departed Three Rivers Stadium.
  • Houston – Toyota Center and Reliant Stadium (NRG) also overlapped by a year and are in different parts of the city.
  • Seattle – Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field were timed to replace the Kingdome in short order.

Five of those cities had two venues built next to each other. The dual ballparks in NYC, an outlier due to circumstances, happened thanks to shady politics and shadier financing arrangements. The rest were your typical boom-era projects with huge amount of public funding. Most other venues are single-issue, pushed by the teams, and have their own unique financing structure. Oakland and Alameda County aren’t in the position those other cities are, not if various elected officials want to keep their jobs. The Raiders stadium will cost around $1 billion, while the A’s ballpark could cost $500-700 million depending on site. Oakland’s not going to be able to foot even 25% of each venue, so why would Davis and Wolff entertain the JPA’s grand schedule if they’re the ones footing the bill. The last thing Wolff and Davis want is Oakland to have divided focus on two projects that could ultimately compete against each other for scarce resources, whether money or personnel. They’re looking out for their franchises first and foremost. If Oakland gets a civic boost, great, but that’s not paramount for the owners.

And that’s why Oakland will inevitably have to choose between these two teams. Just building a single stadium, getting it approved, getting it vetted by civic groups and voters, will be its own set of difficult tasks. That demands full, undivided attention. If Oakland can’t provide that, it’s worth asking how truly serious Oakland is about all of this. That’s what Wolff and Davis are asking.

Blackwell could become Coliseum City consultant, JPA to vote on lease extension 6/20

Fred Blackwell may end up having his cake and eating it too. Weeks after shocking the City of Oakland with his announcement that he would take the CEO position at the San Francisco Foundation, the Trib reports that Blackwell may end up taking a consulting position to oversee the Coliseum City project. It’s not clear if Blackwell negotiated his availability with SFF or if the JPA will even approve the side gig. Regardless, Blackwell would be valuable to have with the project, even if he isn’t necessarily a decision maker. Then again, considering he’s pulling down $344k per year with SFF and was paid pretty well as Oakland City Administrator, perhaps he should take the gig on a volunteer basis. What better way to show your commitment, eh Fred?

In the same article, JPA board member and Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid continued his Debbie Downer attitude about Coliseum City, especially the developer/investor group BayIG.

As far as the project is concerned, Reid said progress is hard to find. The city still hasn’t been able to sign an exclusive negotiating agreement with their new development team because of a payment dispute with a former development partner.

It’ll take $100k to jettison Forest City. This should not be that difficult. The lack of progress comes in the form of the lack of commitment (the notorious “letter of interest” from the Raiders) and some deliverables, which have slipped on occasion. Still, they’ll continue to plow ahead. What choice do they have?

Then there’s this:

The first question that most will ask after this is, Is there an escape clause? Chances are that there is, beyond the fifth year. That’s what Lew Wolff wants. Mayor Quan and others on the City Council have preferred no out clause, and could vote down the extension after the JPA approves, but can you imagine how bad that would look? Especially with the mayoral race now in gear? Better to compromise and kick the can down the road than to cause yet another scene. And if there is no escape clause, I imagine that MLB wouldn’t approve it (they have to review and approve all team stadium leases). Given the state of the Coliseum, the league would want to retain flexibility for the A’s. That wouldn’t come with a 10-year, no-escape lease.

Lew Wolff has been steadfast in his stance that no future stadium talks can occur with a lease first. That’s the opposite of what Mark Davis is seeking, a stadium deal before the next lease for the Raiders. Davis said in April that a 10-year lease would make it tough for the Raiders to build at the Coliseum. Things might be a little easier if there’s an out clause, since the A’s could simply vacate when it comes time to start construction on a Coliseum replacement, whether it’s on the current Coliseum footprint or elsewhere in the complex. The current plan calls for the Coliseum to remain in use while two stadia go up alongside it. Beyond the obvious questions about parking availability, there’s still a major concern about making the financials work out. There are whispers that BayIG may not foot the bill, not so much because they can’t afford it but because the funding gap is so huge that it cuts heavily into their profit projections. And that may be the case with just one stadium, never mind the replacement ballpark. I expect the one year deadline to get pushed out by six months because of all the details and complexity. Will Davis hang in there? He already considers this stage the 11th hour.

Forever small market

Update 8:10 PM – Oakland CM Rebecca Kaplan will announce on Thursday that she’s entering the mayoral race. Recent polls had her as a frontrunner even though she hadn’t declared.

In an interview on Bloomberg Market Makers earlier this morning, Wolff talks up the 10-year lease extension that has gained momentum this week. When asked by show co-host Eric Schatzker when the extension might be done Wolff replied,

“Next couple of weeks, I hope… there are some approvals necessary, but the people we’re dealing with now are very intelligent and working with us.”

That seems to be a further nod to Oakland City Councilperson and JPA board member Rebecca Kaplan, who is now involved in negotiating the lease. Kaplan, who still hasn’t decided if she’ll run for the Oakland mayoral gig (thanks ranked choice voting for allowing this to play out), could very easily use the A’s extension as part of her platform, pivoting directly into the race immediately afterwards.

It’ll happen when it happens. Unless it doesn’t.

If you want to get a good idea of how the rest of the country views Oakland and the A’s, look no further than Schatzker’s numerous comments about the small market nature of the A’s. Moneyball may have indelibly painted the A’s as a small market team that plays in a crappy stadium, but there’s also a major disconnect. Market Makers is broadcast from New York, so it’s no surprise that the Schatzker and co-host Stephanie Ruhle know little about the Bay Area (Schatzker’s “southern Bay Area” remark is especially telling). Bloomberg has its own West Coast offices and a TV show broadcast out of SF. Oakland is mere miles from SF and a little further from the South Bay, separated only by a body of water, not a border, and yet Oakland is unable to shake the small market label. It’s not even clear that a new stadium in Oakland will get rid of small market.

Wolff, who had perhaps his best television interview in recent memory, played along with the narrative and called the A’s David to the various Goliaths, though as usual he didn’t complain about said Goliaths. The rising tide is lifting the A’s boat, as the franchise should see $200 million in revenue this year thanks to the new national TV deals. Yet competitively they remain way behind most of the rest of baseball, where 16 teams started the year with payrolls above $100 million. The A’s are stuck with the other small market – or rather, low revenue – teams. A new ballpark running at capacity should properly elevate the A’s relative to their peers. The CBA points out that the A’s are in the #7 market, and given their position they should be taken off revenue sharing once a new ballpark starts operation. But as long as the A’s remain in limbo with regards to a new venue, so will their financial position. They live in a large market, yet they can’t function like one because they don’t make enough money to live that way. Sounds apropos considering how tough it is for individuals to live in much of the Bay Area these days.

Oral arguments in SJ-MLB case on 8/12; Kaplan & Miley work on Coli lease extension

Split the difference.

The City of San Jose surprisingly won an expedited hearing in their Ninth Circuit appeal against Major League Baseball in the spring. What remained was the announced date of the first oral argument. MLB wanted it in the fall, San Jose wanted the early summer. Today the court announced that the oral argument hearing will be held on August 12, effectively splitting the difference between the two. The hearing will be held at 9:30 AM at Courtroom 1 of the James R. Browning Courthouse (97 7th St @ Mission), 1 block away from the Civic Center BART station and across the street from the new Federal building on 7th. The wheels of justice go round and round.

Meanwhile, the second item in today’s Matier & Ross column has Oakland City Council member (and oft-rumored, undeclared mayoral candidate) Rebecca Kaplan potentially negotiating the 10-year lease extension that Lew Wolff has asked for at the Coliseum. During the hubbub in March & April, Nate Miley (who is also cited) and Larry Reid were quite vocal, making it easy to forget that Kaplan is, like Miley & Reid, a Coliseum JPA board member. If everyone’s calmed down, the two sides might be able to get something done, but first Oakland & Alameda County will have to consider the consequences of siding with the A’s. Raiders owner Mark Davis has already said that the long lease Wolff is seeking would hamper efforts for a replacement football stadium, which he still prefers on the current Coliseum site.

===

The Earthquakes and 49ers announced a deal in which they’d work together to make the South Bay host “top-tier soccer events” over the next five years. The Quakes are already playing the first event at Levi’s Stadium, so this seems like no more than a formality. But it also should ensure that the two venues aren’t competing against each other for events. While Levi’s Stadium’s capacity is 68,500, it can be closed off to support 50,000 or even 35,000-person crowds. Even that lower limit is nearly double the size of the 18,000-seat Earthquakes Stadium. In theory there should be no overlap. Still, it’s possible that some matches could have ticket sales expectations that fall in between. The deal could extend to both men’s and women’s international events, friendlies, and perhaps the NCAA tournaments.

>>>>

Added 6/3 12:30 AMAll indications are that the Sharks will, in fact, host one of the NHL’s outdoor games in the 2014-15 season. The game could be held at either AT&T Park or Levi’s Stadium, AT&T being the odds-on favorite.

Ballpark Vote seeks to assess A’s fan interest in stadium sites

A site run by three San Luis Obispo residents aims to determine which potential A’s ballpark site(s) fans like the most. Named Ballpark Vote, the site was launched three weeks ago. Listed are five sites or ballpark concepts:

  • Howard Terminal (Oakland)
  • Coliseum City (Oakland)
  • Estuary Waterfront Project (Oakland)
  • Raley Field (Sacramento)
  • Cisco Field (San Jose)

Fans are allowed to vote for more than one choice. Even though the site was up since at least May 7, I only found out about it early this morning. Between then and the time of this writing, voting has jumped up considerably. Obviously the results aren’t scientific, and are prone to change due to the nature and dynamics of social media. Voting appears to be limited to one set of votes per browser session, though people could use multiple browsers to game the system.

What fascinates me about this is that when I first checked the site at nearly 2 AM, Howard Terminal had over 500 votes, double that of the next two selections, Cisco Field and Coliseum City. Since then Cisco Field has spiked well past Howard Terminal. Some in the stAy crowd have called out the site for being a tool of ownership or some sort of fraud, without any proof of course. When I tweeted about the site I received a handful of replies and only two favs, so it’s not as if there was some massive viral effect at work. The site is new enough that it hasn’t established a monthly trend, a common metric used to measure traffic. Hopefully the site runners will reveal some of the statistical data behind the survey.

Davis clarifies stadium wish list through Papa

Greg Papa had a lengthy conversation with Mark Davis after the owners meetings, during which Davis clarified what he wants out of Oakland. Papa related the discussion on The Wheelhouse earlier today (about 14 minutes into the recording). There are some different criteria and some flexibility shown by Davis, which could make the process easier if that pesky funding issue could be figured out. Davis’s wish list:

  • Davis could provide $200 million of his own (Raiders) money
  • $200 million would come from the NFL’s G-4 program.
  • Davis wants a stadium with a 60,000-seat capacity and would like a Super Bowl, which requires a 70,000-seat capacity.
  • Davis also said that he (or rather his mother) owns 51% of the team, and can retain controlling interest with only a 20% share. Davis will never give up controlling interest.
  • Davis has met/lunched with and likes Lew Wolff.
  • Davis continues to prefer that the old stadium be torn down and replaced with a new one. A lengthy lease with the A’s would interfere with those plans.
  • Papa hinted that the JPA could provide $100 million in public funding.
  • Davis would be comfortable with temporarily moving elsewhere for 2-3 years while a new stadium was being built.

So we have Davis’s 60,000, AECOM’s 50,000, and BayIG’s number, which may be 65,000 or more based on their optimism about the East Bay as a market. Someone’s going to have to put everyone on the same page. I’m at a loss as to who does that or how it gets done. Coliseum City is a complex project to put it mildly. So many different stakeholders make for more variables.

What does Mark Davis really want?

With this year’s NFL Draft firmly in the rearview mirror, the time has come for Mark Davis to once again talk about the urgency required to get a new stadium for the Raiders built. It’s becoming an awfully familiar refrain, one we’ll hear again every few weeks throughout the summer and as the football season starts. According to NFL.com’s Mike Coppinger, Davis says that the Raiders are in the 11th hour, a rather dire place indeed if you believe such metaphors.

“I would probably say (negotiations are in) the 11th hour,” Davis said. “It’s always the 11th hour because we’ve been waiting a long time, been waiting a long time on this project. If it doesn’t happen, then we have to start looking at the other options. … We want to stay in Oakland. We want to get something done.”

Updated 5/29 – The story originally came from Zennie Abraham’s 5/20 post, in which he spoke to Mark Davis and Raiders finance officer Marc Badain at the owners meetings.

Oh, so it has always been urgent. Okay.

Davis even pumped up his own position by claiming that he has more money to throw at the project:

$400 million could be very useful. It could also be illusory. There’s no indication of whether that pledge includes money from the NFL’s G4 program or strictly from the team. Either way, the project is still short at least $500 million based on new stadium cost estimates. BayIG has its estimates, AECOM has different estimates. The EIR is due in a few weeks, and BayIG is expected to deliver a complete market and revenue study in the near future. Let’s be clear on one thing, however – $400 million is no more than a nice gesture at this point.

And there’s something odd about how Davis has gone about this stadium quest. While he has occasionally asked about land in Concord and Dublin, he has publicly stayed “loyal” to Oakland. Oakland and the JPA have reciprocated that commitment, at least to the point of getting Coliseum City studied. Yet there’s a strange omission from Davis’s efforts, and it’s a pretty glaring one once you think about it.

Davis has never proposed his own stadium plan.

Not in Oakland or anywhere else in the East Bay. Not in LA either. Instead, Davis has been content to allow others to formulate their own proposals, which he could support from a distance. As BayIG asks for information, Davis directs the front office to provide it. Then Davis will talk about the progress of the project, which has for some time now looked stunted. When the Coliseum City concept was in its infancy, there were rumblings that the Raiders and the NFL were at odds with the JPA regarding the scope of the project. The Raiders wanted an smaller, open air stadium on the site of the current Coliseum, not the big retractable dome that Mayor Jean Quan advocated. Sometime in the last year, the Raiders stopped (or did they even start?) fighting for their scaled down stadium plan.

Let’s look at the history of local stadium plans, shall we?

  • Giants – Led stadium effort in late 90′s, opened new downtown SF ballpark in 2000
  • 49ers – Left SF for Santa Clara, lobbied hard for new stadium, opening in 2014
  • Warriors – Suffered setback with waterfront arena, then secured expensive land for different site in SF
  • A’s - Led effort in Fremont which died in 2009, then took up mantle for San Jose
  • Sharks – Weren’t even around when San Jose arena was first being considered, then used own money to get arena up to proper spec
  • Raiders – ???

Davis showed up at a petition effort to keep the Raiders in Oakland, which makes for good optics among fans. His lack of willingness to get his hands dirty for an Oakland stadium is simply baffling. No stadium in the modern era gets built without a lot of lobbying, horse trading, and compromise. Davis has shown no sign of being willing to work to get it. His reactions have simply been, Well I’m waiting here and nothing’s getting done. Perhaps the question that should be posed to Davis is, What are you willing to do to keep the Raiders in Oakland? If $400 million isn’t going to cut it, and Davis isn’t going to carry the water for the effort, what are we dealing with here? We have seen the cost estimates spiral upward. Davis could have used that as an opportunity to present his own more feasible, more cost-efficient plan. That hasn’t happened. If I were a Raider fan, that would make me nervous.

The $200 million alternative for Oakland

The dark side of being a city that proudly hosts a major professional sports franchise is the fact that the very same city has to pay for that pride. Usually it means taxpayer subsidies on new or upgraded facilities. Efforts have been made over the last 20-30 years to include capital improvement budgets in each stadium deal, to pay for new seats, scoreboards, or simply to keep up with the Joneses.

So it’s rather disheartening to hear the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, only months after the passing of beloved Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. and the approval of a plan to upgrade his namesake stadium, is already calling for a brand new stadium. The lifespan of the old stadium is at its practical end to Goodell and NFL brass. A new stadium somewhere in Western New York is the best plan, not just for the league but also for the team valuation if Wilson’s heirs decide it’s time to sell.

Knowing this, I’m going to posit an idea that would have little to no traction if it were presented in New York. Read it anyway, think it over, and ask yourself why these stadia cost so much.

The Citrus Bowl in Orlando is undergoing a $200 million, 9-month makeover. For that $200 million, HNTB (same firm that redid the Coliseum in the 90’s) is demolishing the lower bowl. The only parts of the original stadium remaining are the upper decks along each sideline, which were completed in 1990. You could call it a reverse-Mt. Davis.

Pretty much all of the things you’d expect in a brand new pro stadium will be in the redone Citrus Bowl. That includes:

  • 60-65,000 seats depending on event
  • 5,000 club seats
  • 25,000 square feet of club lounges
  • 34 suites (10 additional)
  • Loge boxes
  • New locker rooms for teams and officials
  • Expanded lower and upper concourses
  • Circulation stairs, escalators, and elevators
  • Restrooms and back-of-the-house facilities
  • 40 x 120 main scoreboard, smaller boards in opposite end zone
  • 10,000 square foot party deck in end zone

Other than the suite total and the greater number of seats, how is that different from what the Raiders are seeking? And it’s being done for $200 million, in only NINE MONTHS. That’s roughly the same timeframe as the Stanford Stadium reconstruction project, yet more comprehensive. HNTB and Turner Construction are under the gun to get the stadium done by November, in time for the first game there: the Florida Blue Florida Classic, the football matchup between historically black colleges Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman. The Citrus Bowl no longer has a permanent team tenant since Central Florida moved to their own on-campus football stadium. That leaves the FBFC, and two bowl games, the Russell Athletic Bowl and the Capital One Bowl.

The Raiders could have virtually the same thing done at the Coliseum. AECOM’s study showed that the Raiders have too many suites, with 75 as the right number as opposed to the 143 they currently have. The East stand (Mt. Davis) has 90 suites on its own. One of the levels suites could be converted to broadcast and press facilities, but that side of the stadium is prone to bad sun conditions in the afternoon, when most home games would be played. Perhaps the press box could be placed in the lower suite level, with something in place in the new seating bowl to block out the sun. In league with that transformation, the locker rooms would be moved to under the East lower seats. The space there is mostly used for storage. If not that kind of reuse, the Raiders could have a new press box above and lockers rooms below the redone western seats (old main bowl), though that would be more expensive. Then again, Orlando is somehow doing all of this for $200 million, so how much more could it cost Oakland? 50%? That’s still a no-brainer compared to the prospect of a $1 billion, 50,000-seat stadium.

Another thing that would have to change, in order to accommodate 50,000 or so seats for the Raiders, is the removal of the upper deck of Mt. Davis. That would get rid of approximately 9,000 seats, leaving 13,000 seats on the East side. Now let’s say 1,000 more are removed to accommodate the press box move and the switch from some club seats to loge boxes, that’s 12,000. Even then, the Raiders and Oakland would only have to build 38,000 new seats, most of them concentrated in a single structure on the West side. Essentially, the new construction would be limited to a structure with the capacity of a ballpark, which should be significantly cheaper to implement.

There are any number of ways this could work. Maybe everyone decides to use half of the Mt. Davis upper deck instead of the whole thing. Or they could build a new cantilevered seating deck where the top suite level currently is. Either way it makes a ton more sense than spending $1 billion or more on a new stadium. It could be done in 12-18 months, which would force the Raiders to play in Santa Clara for a year. The model is there and proven, Oakland. Will Oakland have enough sense to consider it?

Fan thrown out for saying Daric Barton sucks, then brought back

So there I was today, hanging out in the 2nd row of Section 124, groaning through yet another late inning collapse in Game 1 of the doubleheader. It was the top of the 10th inning. Ryan Cook, who started the 10th, left the game with a forearm injury after striking out Corey Hart. Dan Otero came in, hopefully to get the final out. Runners were on the corners. Otero induced Michael Saunders into a high chopper that first baseman Daric Barton mistakenly took an initial step in to field. When he realized that the ball was about to go over his head, he tried to backpedal and then jumped into the air to field the ball. The ball tipped off his outstretched glove and caromed towards second base, scoring the lead runner. Barton, who should change his name to Rasputin for his uncanny ability to stay on the active roster despite his hitting ineptitude, heard the heavy rain of boos from the assembled crowd. I had a more global response.

As many of us were cursing the team’s fate or shaking our heads, many other fans took to heckling Barton. They included the fan who was seated directly in front of me. He yelled a most familiar refrain at the infielder:

Daric Barton YOU SUCK!!!

A security guard posted at the Field Boxes in front of us heard the heckler and walked over to him. I didn’t record the conversation, but here’s what I recall:

  • GUARD: You can’t say that!
  • HECKLER: Say what? Suck?
  • GUARD: That’s right, the S-word. That is foul language.
  • HECKLER: That’s not foul language. I can use the word ‘suck’.
  • GUARD: If you use it you’re gonna get thrown out. Are you gonna stop?
  • HECKLER: No.

The guard then motioned to the heckler that he was thrown out. He was gone from his seat in a minute or two, to be interviewed by the security staff.

The rest of us tried to argue the guy’s case, to no avail. If the word “suck” is foul language, then they’d have to throw out half the crowd. The guy didn’t drop an F-bomb or use any actual profanity the whole time. The Mariners tacked on another run and won the first game. A 30-minute intermission followed, then the second game. During the first inning of the nightcap, the heckler came back. We heartily applauded the guy. He explained that the security staff were just as incredulous as we were about the word “suck.” So they let him back in. The A’s went on to salvage the second game and stayed ahead of the upstart Mariners (and the slumping Rangers) by two games.

Now I realize that down near the field, there is a need to react more prudently than way up in the stands or in the bleachers, lest we have a Tom Gamboa or Frank Francisco incident. But that clearly wasn’t the situation here. It was simply a matter of A’s fans being pissed off, and a security guy who overreacted to it. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and everyone was able to finish out the doubleheader in peace.

Of course, all of this could’ve been avoided if:

  • BoMel doesn’t slavishly go lefty-righty in the 8th, taking out Fernando Abad perhaps prematurely. Luke Gregerson became a human gas can and let an inherited runner score.
  • The A’s had scored John Jaso in the 9th. Jaso led off the 9th with a HBP and went to 2nd on a wild pitch. The rest of the inning went: K, IBB, FC, F9. Score Jaso and it’s a walkoff, pie ensues, and Ryan Cook doesn’t rip apart his forearm in the next inning.
  • Nate Freiman was at first base instead of Barton in the 10th. That chopper would’ve been an easy reach for 6-foot-N8, and Freiman doesn’t quite have the happy feet problem that Barton uses to either make range plays or get himself in trouble attempting to make range plays. As Ray Fosse noted on the telecast, Eric Sogard was shifted well over and could’ve made a nearly routine play had Barton not touched the ball – something that has happened far too often this year and last.

Oh well. The day sucked because of the losses of Cook and Coco Crisp, who strained his neck slamming into a wall on an unbelievable catch early in Game 1. Then again, the A’s are still in first and Drew Pomeranz looked good. On to the next stanza.