From Now Through Opening Day

With the MLB-San Jose legal battle out of the way (for now), we can turn our attention back towards Oakland, where most of the news over the last two years has originated.

January 20 – Tuesday is the deadline for the Coliseum City three-month extension, granted to Floyd Kephart’s New City Development group when they took over the project. The Oakland City Council will take up the matter in the afternoon’s closed session. During the evening open session the Council is expected to report on Coliseum City’s progress.

closed

Agenda item for 1/20 City Council meeting

If everything goes as expected, Kephart will get another extension of 3, 6, or 9 months so that he can try to rope the Raiders. The Raiders will probably be given another one-year lease extension, since Coliseum City is not yet a finished product and the Raiders have nowhere else to go for 2015. Mark Davis wants to retain maximum flexibility for his franchise, so a multiyear deal seems out of the question. Meanwhile, the A’s and Lew Wolff will be patiently waiting on the sidelines for Coliseum City to work itself out, wanting no part of the project.

February 8 – On Sunday comes FanFest. It’s worth going just to get acquainted with all of the A’s new players. If there’s a concurrent BlogFest event, there’ll be a post about it. Tickets are $10, and as usual you can expect a sellout.

On a personal note, this year’s FanFest will mark the first one since it came back that won’t be held on the same date as the Double IPA Festival, held at The Bistro in Hayward as part of SF Beer Week. Looking back, the doubleheader was truly my favorite day of the year. DIPA will be held the previous day, February 7 (Giants FanFest day). I may be draggin’ a bit during FanFest.

February 19 – Pitchers and Catchers report to Mesa, AZ. They’ll be at Fitch Park, as the renovated facility in Mesa has replaced Papago Park in Phoenix.

—-

March 3 – Spring Training Opening Day is a home game at Hohokam Stadium vs. the Giants. You might want to get your tickets in advance, or else the Giants fans will snatch them up. If you want to catch two games during a weekend, come to Phoenix the following weekend, March 7-8.

—–

March 13-14 – Want a different scene from laid back Arizona? The A’s and Cubs are playing a pair of spring training games at Cashman Field in Las Vegas. Yes, you can relive all the splendor that was the start of the 1996 season, then hit the craps tables and buffets.

——

April 6 – Opening Day at the Coliseum. We’ll see if Billy and Bob can work their magic again.

——-

Get comfortable, folks. We’re gonna be here a while.

 

Football Stadium Proposal Tale of the Tape

I put together a simple table explaining the differences between the various stadium+ proposals being bandied about in California. Some of the information below is subject to change.

Click for larger version

Click for larger version

 

With LA off the table for 2015, what will Oakland and the Raiders do?

The Chargers chose to stay in San Diego last week. Over the weekend, word surfaced that the NFL would not approve any LA relocations for 2015. So for now, St. Louis, Oakland, and San Diego have year’s reprieve. So despite the fact that Coliseum City doesn’t have a deal in place, Oakland’s self-imposed deadlines will come and go with nary a penalty.

Yet it’s little more than cold comfort, as the delay was either caused by the NFL’s and AEG’s need for more time, or perhaps just as likely, certain teams’ need for more time. Either way, the process is not driven by anything happening within the current home cities. All three cities are looking at huge nine-figure subsidies, with little actual desire to deal with the reality of it. Even if the cities give away land, it’s still a tangible asset that’s being given away.

Incoming Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf will have a number of options available to her and the City Council. If the City likes Floyd Kephart’s work in salvaging the project, they can extend the deal for another 6-12 months, which may be enough to get the Raiders and investors on board. Coliseum City’s EIR work can continue unabated, and there’s no longer any immediate pressure to make a deal. As mentioned previously, shrinking the project from 800 acres to 200 is nothing but good for its feasibility. No need for new bridges across the Nimitz, a new arena, or a trolley. Conversely, it also means that “giveaway” resource of land is more scarce. At the very least it allows for better focus on what can and should be done.

Schaaf beat Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan with her cheery pragmatism. That will be put to the test once talks start up anew. It would be safe to assume that with the A’s not in jeopardy, any alternative plans Lew Wolff has for the Coliseum area can be safely placed on the back burner by letting Coliseum City play out. The JPA still needs to hire a GM/Exec Director to lead negotiations whether they’re facing Floyd Kephart or Lew Wolff, so that’s the JPA’s biggest priority. Schaaf has maintained in interviews that she sees the impact of 82 baseball games as much greater than 10 football games. That said, perhaps she could be swayed towards some flexible aspects of the Coliseum City proposal, especially if there’s a retractable dome involved.

That brings me to the fundamental problem facing Oakland: How much stadium do they want to build? If they want to build a flexible venue that will bring in a Super Bowl and a Final Four and other indoor events, the potential price tag will easily surpass $1 billion, perhaps reaching $1.5 billion by the time it’s completed. And with every $100 million over the current $900 million cost estimate, that’s another $100 million added to the still-unresolved funding gap. It adds up in a very painful way.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the team, Raider fans feel they have one over on 49er fans thanks to Levi’s Stadium’s inauspicious debut. The Raiders getting over on the 49ers two weeks ago is practically Super Bowl-worthy in the Raider Nation, and the 49ers’ turmoil, highlighted by Jim Harbaugh’s impending departure, only serves as a second helping of schadenfreude. Of course, if the Raiders and Oakland get the Coliseum City stadium deal done, they’ll face the same problems the 49ers faced. Longtime season ticket holders will be displaced and relocated to less desirable seat locations as preferred spots go to corporate interests. The crowd will change in noticeable ways, just as it did for the Giants, Jets, 49ers, and Cowboys. The Raiders don’t have to worry about burning through a season ticket waiting list, making tickets less of a seller’s market.

If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that right-sizing the stadium has huge benefits. As the second team to official tarp off Mt. Davis, the Raiders didn’t suffer through the constant PR war the A’s have. Regardless, it’s hard to argue with the results. The Raiders have a nice consecutive games sellout streak, few embarrassing empty crowd shots (unlike Santa Clara), and a compact stadium feel that’s difficult to duplicate anywhere outside of Green Bay. A place that’s downright cavernous feeling for baseball is intimate for football. Think about that.

It’s no secret that I’ve advocated for different types of Coliseum renovations for the Raiders instead of a new stadium, simply because they’re cheaper and more feasible. It also needs to be said that if a renovation is done properly it can conserve that atmosphere, instead of letting it weaken by attrition. The Bears’ controversial rebuild of Soldier Field may have killed the stadium’s landmark status, but it preserved the atmosphere and improved the facility immensely, which was a win-win for the Bears and Bears fans.

Citrus Bowl as of mid-December

Citrus Bowl as of mid-December

In May I pointed to the renovation of the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, a $200 million project that gutted 90% of the stadium and modernized it in every conceivable way. The stadium reopened last month with a college football game. Next week it will host two bowl games on the 29th and New Year’s Day. The Citrus Bowl won’t run into any grass problems because it has artificial turf. The turf is unfortunate but understandable, given the cost of maintaining a grass field all year round when its big events occur in December and January. Other than that, the stadium looks practically like a NFL venue, with 60,000 seats, large club areas, party decks, and a completely new bowl with new seats installed throughout. All for $204 million. How was it only $204 million? While it’s hard to isolate specific reasons, a nine-month construction timeline certainly helps. As for the Citrus Bowl venue, it sure looks like an NFL stadium.

 

 

No teams + No developer = No deal

BANG reports tonight that Floyd Kephart, who has been leading the effort to keep the struggling Coliseum City project alive, will not meet this weekend’s deadline to deliver a commitment from one of the Coliseum’s teams, namely the Oakland Raiders. Kephart described the situation in a manner we should all be familiar with.

It’s a complicated land situation; it’s a complicated team situation; and it’s a complicated Oakland situation. There is nothing simple here.

Kephart also revealed that he wasn’t ready to name a developer for the project. Whether that means the developer is under wraps or simply doesn’t exist is up to interpretation. Chances are that any developer’s commitment is contingent upon at least one team anchoring the project, which obviously hasn’t happened yet.

The 90-day deadline set in October was already going to be extraordinarily difficult pull off, so at least Kephart deserves credit for coming through on some of the other deliverables, such as necessary reports and studies (which to my knowledge haven’t been made public). The big stuff, however, is what counts. In the end Kephart won’t get credit for merely trying and he knows that. We’re still 31 days from the final deadline, and it’s worth asking whether or not Oakland should continue this process by extending the ENA another 30, 60, or 90 days. It’s unlikely that any potential partner (teams or developers) will suddenly commit just because the calendar flipped a couple pages. The fundamentals are still shaky at best.

The big takeaway is the Kephart revised the plan down to the 200 acres including the Coliseum and other pieces of public and private land immediately surrounding the complex. That makes for a much more feasible project in terms of acquiring and packaging the land, limiting infrastructure costs, and working out the regulatory aspects. The Coliseum City EIR is written so that the entire 800-acre plan area is the full scope, with the “Reduced Alternative” lowering densities within the full project area, not a smaller plan as a 200-acre project would require. It’s unclear if the final draft will include a 200-acre alternative, but it would seem that if Kephart’s plan moves forward such a major refocus would have to occur.

Lew Wolff has consistently said he’s not interested in being part of the project. He’d rather promote his own vision with no third parties (or perhaps his own) attached. If Coliseum City goes away and Wolff’s plan gets traction, the shoe would be on the other foot as the City, JPA, and Wolff would have to figure out how to accommodate the Raiders, as opposed to a Raiders-focused plan trying to accommodate the A’s.

Meanwhile, murmurs have been getting louder that the NFL will punt on LA for 2015. Hope remains in St. Louis for an 11th hour plan to build a new stadium for the Rams, which might give NFL the chance to extend its wait-and-see posture an additional year. The Chargers are staying in San Diego through at least next year. That leaves Oakland.

The Raiders will have to start negotiating a new lease with the JPA in the new year. Mark Davis prefers a single year or at worst a year-to-year arrangement for maximum flexibility. Davis pushed for the 1-year lease because he thought it would further the process at Coliseum City, which hasn’t happened save for the EIR. The JPA and City want a multiyear deal, which I wouldn’t expect Davis to sign. I’ve heard some strange rumors about backup venues Davis is calling about, which frankly is his right. The Raiders face severe limitations on where they can go, or rather, where they are welcome. We’ve already heard about the LA Coliseum and Rose Bowl slamming the door on the Raiders. There are also issues with Bay Area venues:

  • Levi’s Stadium has been ruled out by Davis. Even if he was interested the 49ers would require a multiyear commitment to pay for finishing construction on the second home team locker room.
  • California Memorial Stadium has a contractual ban on NFL games. Any deal to host the Raiders would run into an immediate legal injunction.
  • AT&T Park could host games, but is small and not ideal from a league perspective.
  • Stanford wants no part of the Raiders.
  • The ‘Stick is being dismantled per a development agreement with Lennar.

Even if the league owners got past Jerry Jones’ and Bob McNair’s objections, they wouldn’t approve a short-term stay for the Raiders in San Antonio. They want long-term stability and certainty. That’s also the problem in LA. Dodger Stadium could provide a short-term home, but the NFL and AEG have to work out a very complex deal for whatever team(s) commits. AEG asked for its own 6-month negotiating extension for Farmers Field. Given the complexity of arranging a temporary venue that it doesn’t control along with planning for the new stadium, getting it all done in 6 months is a tall order. That said, the NFL has assigned Eric Grubman to work on LA among other options, so it’s not like the league isn’t controlling what it can. The NFL may punt on LA for now, and punting is something Raiders fans are all too familiar with this year.

As for the A’s – they’re in a good spot. They have a lease that provides security. They’re working on a CC alternative that should be ready to go if Oakland drops CC. They can wait out the Raiders’ and Oakland’s indecisiveness, at least for a while.

 

For Davis it’s all about #1

Mark Davis explained where he stands vis-à-vis the A’s now and into the future during an interview with Tim Kawakami.

As I’ve said, I’m not against the A’s, I’m not for the A’s, I (sic) just for whatever’s best for our organization.

I don’t think anything else needs to be added here.

JPA board looks for new exec director candidates as Houston is voted down

A vote on former Assemblyman and Dublin mayor Guy Houston’s candidacy for the vacant JPA executive director position was postponed last month. The vote was finally taken yesterday and, as expected, Houston was rejected. Reasoning mostly centered on Houston’s anti-labor stances, with many eyebrows raised at fraud charges levied at Houston a few years back. Robert Bobb’s consultancy is on board with the JPA, leaving a rather gaping hole in the org chart below.

Org chart supplied by The Robert Bobb Group

Org chart supplied by The Robert Bobb Group

The job may go to former Rose Bowl head Scott McKibben, or someone else willing to slum for the measly quarter of a million the JPA will pay to whoever accepts the position. Regardless of candidate, the job should be filled in the next few months if the JPA is going to start negotiating with New City, Lew Wolff, or others looking to develop the Coliseum. It’s no small task.

Kephart provides update on Coliseum City, AEG rumors fly

Two articles – one a blog post by Mark Purdy, the other a SFBT piece by Cory Weinberg – provide a tiny amount of news on Coliseum City. Citing confidentiality agreements, New City and Renaissance head Floyd Kephart provided few new details. He did take time to trumpet that the project’s progress, which is better than no progress, I guess. The other “big” takeaways:

  • Kephart threw Colony Capital and HayaH under the bus for getting its documentation wrong.
  • He’s optimistic, saying that New City is “probably between 60 and 70 percent there.” That last 30-40% is a major sticking point, since it involves convincing at least the Raiders to sign on and a master developer as well.
  • Wolff had a discussion with Kephart. Kephart didn’t offer details to Wolff. Wolff reiterated his “wait-and-see” stance.
  • According to Purdy, both Wolff and Mark Davis would prefer to keep surface parking instead of building garages for various reasons.
  • The financing model – and whether includes paying off the Coliseum’s existing debt – remains unknown, at least publicly.

Next week the 90-day “project” will hit its midway point. Kephart is to be commended for getting the meetings, talking to potential principals, and for ably playing catchup, cleaning up the mess left for him by Colony. That still doesn’t mean there’s a deal in place, and Kephart may have to pull a rabbit out of his hat to convince Davis to commit. Private interests would be fools to give Davis any kind of revenue guarantee – that’s how Oakland get into this mess to begin with – since it could add considerable risk for them.

Meanwhile, the LA options for Davis may be dwindling. LA sportscaster Jeanne Zelasko said yesterday that the Rose Bowl and LA Coliseum want nothing to do with the Raiders, leaving Davis with possibly Dodger Stadium in the short term and perhaps Farmers Field in the long term. AEG, which bought a piece of the Lakers when Staples Center was built, is offering a similar “Lakers deal” to a prospective NFL team. AEG was even reportedly hiring a PR person for the NFL stadium effort, which the company is denying. Of course, it was AEG that asked for and received a six month extension to attract a team to Farmers Field.

Anyone following this story knows that Davis will have to give up some percentage of the team in exchange for tenancy in a new stadium anywhere, whether it’s Oakland, LA, or even San Antonio if a new stadium is built there. Here’s how I assess the Oakland vs. LA:

  • Oakland: Steadier fanbase, limited market potential, difficult financing plan, greater civic/government support
  • Los Angeles: Less stable fanbase, greater market potential, known financing plan, less civic/government support

I honestly don’t know how to handicap that. There are no deal terms available.

As for the parking issue, if you really want to read into this it’s quite possible that the Coliseum City alternative that Wolff is putting together is a low-density development like the original Fremont Pacific Commons plan. No high-rises, few parking garages. If true, that’s a huge departure from Coliseum City, though the infrastructure buildout would project to be much less intense, and therefore less expensive for Oakland/Alameda County since the public sector is expected to fund that part. Assuming that Wolff gets a chance to pitch his plan, it’ll be up to City/County to determine whether that’s good enough.