Rams win LA, Chargers and Raiders in limbo, reactions

At the very least, you have to give it to the NFL owners for being decisive. They wanted a team in LA. They wanted a team with strong (rich) ownership in LA. They got it. Everything else is unresolved. Here are the big takeaways from today’s LA-centric owners meetings:

  • Earlier in the afternoon, the LA Committee voted 5-1 in favor of the Carson proposal.
  • After a few hours, an initial full ownership vote favored Inglewood over Carson 20-12, not enough votes to win outright
  • After some additional horse trading, the owners held a final vote before 8 PM local time (Central). The outcome was 30-2 in favor of the Rams moving to LA in 2016 with the Inglewood stadium being their future permanent home starting in 2019. The Chargers can also move to LA. The Raiders withdrew from consideration for LA.
  • The Chargers were given first dibs at being the Rams’ tenant in Inglewood. They could also choose to stay in San Diego with an extra $100 million (aside from G-4 loans, I’m assuming) towards a local stadium.
  • The Raiders will also get an extra $100 million to use in Oakland. In a post-vote press conference, Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “We want to incentivize the community to get the stadium the Raiders need. That’s what the $100 million is for.”
  • Chargers have 1 year to decide on moving to LA. If at any point they balk, the Raiders will have 1 year from that point to decide on whether to move to LA.
  • Nothing precludes either the Raiders or Chargers from considering other markets. What is not clear is whether either team will get any sort of discount or waiver from a relocation fee for other non-LA markets.

Reactions, first from the Raiders:

raiders.jpg

Chargers owner Dean Spanos:

spanos

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf:

oak-mayor

The Coliseum JPA:

jpa

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer:

sd-mayor

The winners here are Stan Kroenke, since he clearly won the deal, and to a lesser extent the NFL, because it got a team back in the #2 media market and a future LA Super Bowl home, along with a new headquarters for the NFL Network.

The Raiders and Chargers are both serve in heaven, rule in hell positions. Either they figure out how to get additional public money from their respective cities, or they agree to be tenants in LA. They could also look at San Antonio or St. Louis, but that’s for another day. The $100 million the NFL pledged to the Raiders is far short of the $400-500 million funding gap. The new money could help in San Diego, where the plan is more fleshed out, though it’s too early to call that until the Chargers’ stadium vote goes through in July.

Most importantly, both teams and the NFL have lost LA as a reliable, utterly predictable stalking horse. St. Louis and San Antonio don’t inspire the kind of fear that Los Angeles does. Neither Spanos nor Davis talked much about their current cities. Davis evaded questions about San Diego and San Antonio after the presser, summing up his options in clumsily grand fashion.

“America, the world is a possibility for the Raider Nation.”

The Inglewood Compromise

“Inglewood Compromise” sounds more like a Cold War era weapons treaty than a pact between football teams, yet the latter is what we’re facing. Now that it’s clear that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has pushed for such a concept and that it may be gaining momentum, it’s time to start thinking about what it could mean for the teams at the center of the debate, and of course, our beloved Oakland Athletics.

Of the two Los Angeles stadium plans, Stan Kroenke’s vision at Hollywood Park (next to the Forum in Inglewood) is furthest along. Most of the land there has been cleared, including the area set aside for stadium construction. The same can’t be said for the land in Carson, which needs a final round of remediation before any construction can begin there. Inglewood is encountering some resistance in the form of FAA objections over the height of the stadium and the materials used for it, but these issues can be mitigated. Besides, other stadia have been built beneath airport landing approaches before, including SAP Center and Levi’s Stadium.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While the NFL is pushing for 50/50 partnerships regardless of site, it’s clear that Kroenke would run the show in Inglewood whereas Dean Spanos would do the same in Carson. That goes for stadium design to some level of revenue control. If Mark Davis could find a way in he’d be happy with the arrangement, if only because his team’s revenue-generating capacity would be so much more than the abysmal figures he’s been pulling down in Oakland. The thinking is that under the Inglewood Compromise, Kroenke would provide concessions that Spanos needs to ditch the Carson plan, whatever that entails.

That would leave Davis as the odd man out, locked out of the LA market perhaps forever. The Raiders would be stuck with Bay Area, namely Oakland, as its best local hope for a new stadium. Oakland has been largely consistent in saying it would provide no public money, though it has gone a little softer in opening the doors for infrastructure financing.

Assuming the Inglewood Compromise moves forward and crystallizes, the options the NFL could provide to the Raiders could come in a number of forms, even taken separately or together.

  1. The simplest option would be an extension of current talks between the Raiders and Oakland. At the moment there remains a $400-500 million funding gap on a $900 million stadium that would be the smallest in the league while not having the amenities or cachet necessary to host a Super Bowl. Raider fans are holding out hope that some of the potential $1.1 Billion in relocation fees paid by the Rams and Chargers could be rerouted to Oakland. Given that Roger Goodell shot down a similar idea floated by St. Louis stadium principals, it seems unlikely at this stage or Oakland. Goodell also dismissed the initial framework of Oakland’s proposal for the Raiders, calling it insufficient. More fleshed out proposals from St. Louis and San Diego were also considered insufficient as well. If it wanted, the NFL could create a new funding mechanism outside the existing G-4 loan program to help bridge the gap. However, I suspect that the NFL won’t consider loosening the purse strings unless the City of Oakland at least matches that extra money. By that I don’t mean land rights or sales, since land is considered table stakes for any stadium deal. I mean cold hard cash. So if Davis comes up with $200 million and the NFL matches it, the league could provide another $100 million or more but only if Oakland also matches that piece, $100+ million. Without that, I can’t see how the NFL could take Oakland’s overtures seriously.
  2. When the 49ers’ stadium project in Santa Clara started to come to fruition, the NFL tried to lean on Davis to partner up to allow for two teams at what would eventually be named Levi’s Stadium. Davis considered Santa Clara too far from Oakland so the talks never went anywhere. The NFL left Davis to work with Oakland, and we all know how that worked out. With a reset in talks coming for those two, the NFL could introduce Santa Clara again as a short term or long term play. The NFL remains concerned about revenue for the Raiders. Levi’s would be the most direct way to provide a boost. If Davis is more concerned about the atmosphere and experience in Oakland, then talks would prove fruitless again. But with the league bringing in those relocation fees, it could take $100 million, build out the second home team locker room in Levi’s, and provide enough money to make the stadium more Raiders-friendly through new flexible signage and other elements. Previously there was talk that the Raiders would be a mere tenant with the 49ers getting most of the revenue including for Raiders games. The NFL could grant a partial renovation G-4 loan to the Raiders for the renovations, making them more of a partner for the stadium. The NFL could also lean on the 49ers to provide more revenue to the Raiders, since the 49ers wouldn’t be on the hook for the renovation project. The 49ers had sought a minimum 10-year lease term to make the second team scenario work financially. If the NFL and the Raiders are footing the bill that’s no longer an issue. The Raiders could stay for a 5-10 year lease, with the ability to leave if an Oakland stadium opens during that time frame. Or the Raiders could find out over time that the arrangement actually works the best for them and forgo an Oakland stadium completely, as the Jets eventually did after they moved to New Jersey.
  3. Then there are the other relocation alternatives. San Antonio continues to be the city that tries to get noticed in all of this. That all seems in vain, though who knows what could happen when LA shakes out? Davis has friends in San Antonio, and he could use them to either bargain a stadium deal out of Oakland or to move to the Alamo City in earnest. There has been talk that St. Louis could try to attract the Raiders after being spurned by the Rams, but the NFL seems unwilling to accept their proposal regardless of which team the city tries to attract.

After trying to piece through all of that, Davis may decide that the status quo is the best plan at least for the short term. He could go back to Alameda to consider what he’ll truly need to commit to get a stadium deal done, and whether it’s worth it. As a man who has never built anything significant on his own, it has to be at the very least a somewhat appealing (and comforting) option. As I noted in the previous post, Davis hasn’t burned all his bridges yet as his counterparts Kroenke and Spanos have.

Poor, Poor Mark Davis

Judging from various media reports, Mark Davis is about to be rejected by the NFL in his LA pursuit, leaving him as the loser while the Rams and Chargers work out details of a shared stadium in Inglewood. I have no sense of the validity of that story, but there is something interesting about the process that came out of an article in the Orange County Register yesterday. To wit:

While Kroenke is adamant about moving and Spanos has accepted the fact that a move to Los Angeles is essential for the Chargers’ financial health, Davis has hurt himself with some NFL owners by wavering between Carson and publicly stating he wants to stay in Oakland. In particular, Davis undermined his argument for relocation during an emotional appearance at an October town hall meeting in Oakland set up by the NFL.

All three owners have pitched LA to their peers, with Kroenke and Spanos the most strident about not staying. But if I’m reading this correctly, Davis is actually getting punished for showing even the slightest amount of loyalty to Oakland. Kroenke may win in part by deploying a scorched earth campaign in which the Rams pump up San Diego and Oakland by claiming that Oakland will surpass San Francisco in gross domestic product in 10-15 years.

Maybe Davis simply hasn’t made a good enough case for his team compared to Kroenke and Spanos. It’s possible that Davis’s strategy, to play second banana to either team’s project while stating he was a full partner in Carson, was a foolish gambit. Apparently the owners feel that’s wishy washy. In the end Oakland may get to keep the Raiders after all, though there’s plenty of uncertainty still remaining about that.

The lesson? If you’re going to succeed in this game you have to be cutthroat. Empathy is a sign of weakness. That’s the NFL, folks.

Setting Terms: A Commitment to Exodus

Okay, there was real news about the Raiders and Oakland today, not rumors, so I feel compelled to write about it. I’m over the soap opera news cycle of the last year, looking forward to January, when something LA might (not) be resolved to the NFL’s satisfaction.

As St. Louis and San Diego provided stadium financing plans pledging $350-400 million in public funds for their respective stadia, Oakland officials offered a mere five-page letter promising no public money for construction, hoping that the NFL’s respect of legacy and history would help keep the Raiders in the East Bay. The NFL’s reaction was that the letter was expected, while Mark Davis expressed befuddled disappointment.

At this point, you have to think that based on the efforts City of Oakland and Mark Davis, few people within the NFL believe that any new stadium is going to happen in Oakland. The City has no will to do it, and Davis has spent far more time and effort on Carson than Oakland. The NFL will have to gauge the owner’s interest in resolving the Raiders’ situation against resolving the dilemma in Oakland. Of course, many within the league previously preferred to have the Raiders share Levi’s Stadium with the 49ers, the same way the Giants and Jets share MetLife Stadium. Even with Davis continually dismissing the idea, the concept remains a viable backup plan should nothing continue to happen at the Coliseum.

But again, my beat isn’t the Raiders except in how the Raiders’ plans might affect the A’s. From today we got a big list of deal terms the City is willing to make in the pursuit of the Raiders’ new stadium. Whether or not the Raiders stay, regardless of the Coliseum’s future as the home of the A’s, the numbers are effectively setting the bar for future stadium deals for either team. What is Oakland willing to provide? Let’s take a look at the “concepts” presented to the Raiders.

  1. 69 total acres in and around the Coliseum, including the “South 60” consisting of the B & C parking lots, plus the Malibu and HomeBase parcels. Also included are 9 acres of publicly owned land near Coliseum BART could be used for a hotel or other commercial development adjacent to an expanded BART station and transit hub. The Raiders and a partner developer would receive development rights based on the Coliseum City rezoning effort.
  2.  $90 million in infrastructure, to be designed and approved by the City of Oakland.
  3. No public money towards construction of the $900 million, 55,000-seat stadium. The Raiders would be responsible for all stadium construction costs, including overruns.
  4. At least 8,000 surface parking spots with minimal ancillary development.
  5. Raiders would own the stadium, City and/or County would own the land underneath. That would set up recurring ground lease and possessory interest tax (PIT) payments.
  6. Raiders would take in all stadium revenues while assuming all operating costs.
  7. City’s promised defeasance of the outstanding Coliseum debt (worth $100+ million now, goes down over time).
  8. Construction to start in 2017, stadium opening in 2019.

Per the A’s current lease at the Coliseum, if they are to be evicted because of new stadium construction for the Raiders, the Coliseum JPA has to give the A’s at least two full seasons at the Coliseum while they figure out where to play next. The lease terms also call for the A’s to be compensated for the scoreboards and for lost revenue associated with new football stadium construction.

If we’re to assume that the A’s should get a similarly valued deal to the Raiders in order to stay in Oakland, the deal would be worth $200 million straight away because of the debt and infrastructure costs, plus the value of any development rights wherever the A’s end up, whether that’s at the Howard Terminal, Uptown somewhere, or the Coliseum. That’s the price Oakland will have to pay, and MLB will be happy to press Oakland hard on that. The A’s are expected to build their ballpark entirely with their own money, so it should in theory be a pretty clean deal with no intrusions or complications created by new, single-purpose quasi-governmental agencies like stadium authorities.

Just to be clear, that’s $200 million in value, not cash. The A’s would never see that money except in terms of the completed infrastructure. It could be that certain sites have such high infrastructure costs that they could approach $200 million on their own. New parking garages, the community benefits agreements and PITs Mayor Libby Schaaf mentioned during tonight’s press conference – they’re all worth something. Will Oakland show as much restraint for the A’s as they have displayed with the Raiders? I imagine they would, though it’s far too early to speculate. For the time being, let’s continue to watch how the NFL-LA business shakes out, and see where the Raiders end up as a result.

Schaaf aims to use public financing for Raiders stadium while claiming it’s not public financing

Libby Schaaf has crossed the Rubicon.

showmethemoney

In further explaining her plans for the Raiders stadium (h/t SFGate/Rachel Swan), the mayor started talking about money. Schaaf explained that “she is now feeling the pressure of (NFL) deadlines,” a sign that Oakland is succumbing to the NFL’s tactics, even though she didn’t provide specifics in the NFL presentation on Wednesday. It’s unfortunate that Schaaf had to go there, but if Oakland is to genuinely provide more than the table stakes offer it was giving previously, it has little choice.

What money, you ask? Yes, there is whatever is expected in terms of infrastructure, land, and debt, but Schaaf also talked about instruments that could be used to finance construction of the stadium.

Namely, that means lease revenue bonds. What are lease revenue bonds? Here’s how the State Controller’s office defines them:

LRBs are a form of long-term borrowing the State uses to finance public improvements, including state office buildings, state universities, prisons, and food and agricultural facilities. Like a GO bond, an LRB is, in effect, an IOU. Unlike GO bonds, however, LRBs are not backed by the full faith and credit of the State, and may be authorized by law without voter approval.

While sports facilities aren’t mentioned in the examples above, they are the kinds of projects that LRBs can fund. In fact, both the Coliseum and the Arena were financed using lease revenue bonds, so the instrument isn’t new. If not structured properly, LRBs can present the same risk as the first Mt. Davis project.

GO bonds are also referenced. GO stands for general obligation, the same kinds of bonds used to fund civic projects via pledged taxes. That may be where Schaaf isn’t considering what she’s suggesting as a form of public financing, since it probably won’t incur new taxes on citizens. Instead there will probably be a number of use fees such as ticket taxes, concessions and parking fees, plus the property tax increment generated by redeveloping the project. Is that not public financing by another name? To me, yes. To others, maybe not. While it might not involve new sales taxes or new property tax assessments, the project will get plenty of other benefits: reduced or eliminated property taxes, lower borrowing costs, and reduced liability.

Schaaf also described how the Mt. Davis payoff would work: the County would buy the debt out via a lump sum payment (the County has money), while the City would pay the County back over time, perhaps using a similar payment schedule to what it pays now. That would mean that Oakland would pay on average $7-8 million a year to Alameda County, instead of bondholders. At the same time, Oakland would have to buy out Alameda County’s share of the land. I expect that it would happen via some sort of land swap since that wouldn’t require upfront cash on Oakland’s part. If no satisfactory swap arrangement can be made, then tack some money onto the annual payment City has to make to County. Then Oakland could make its money back by selling some of the Coliseum land, though that too has its issues. Neither the Raiders nor A’s have expressed any interest in seeing a great deal of development go up next door to the Coliseum as they want to preserve parking. Neighborhood groups decrying gentrification came out in force during the Coliseum City process to protest sales of public land to private developers for what will largely be market rate housing and tech offices. Those factors helped sink Coliseum City. Why would should it be different this time? Because Libby Schaaf is behind it and not Jean Quan?

Lastly, Schaaf indicated that a a successful Coliseum project for the Raiders might help push the A’s towards downtown. Considering that Wolff has HOK working on plans at the Coliseum, he’s probably not pleased by this. I mean, it’s written into the A’s lease:

43. CONTINUED STADIUM DISCUSSIONS

Licensee and Licensor (or Licensor’s designee) shall continue to engage in good faith discussions concerning the development of a new baseball stadium for use by the Licensee that would be a permanent home for the Oakland Athletics, provided that such discussions shall solely focus on the development of a new baseball stadium that would be located on land within or immediately adjacent to current Complex property. If agreement is reached on development of such a stadium, the Parties will renegotiate any terms of this License Agreement that may need to be modified or eliminated in order to facilitate the construction of the new stadium. The Parties’ discussions concerning a possible new stadium will continue during the Term until Licensee communicates to Licensor that Licensee has made a decision on a permanent baseball stadium at another location or until Licensor provides Licensee notice of early termination (as provided in Paragraph 7.2.2.) in connection with a Raiders Construction Plan.

Should Schaaf actually convince the Raiders to stay, the A’s escape clause could be triggered thanks to negative impacts on the A’s operations. And with the amount of assistance the mayor is getting ready to give the Raiders and the NFL, it’s reasonable to expect the A’s (more likely MLB) to ask for a similar amount of assistance. Howard Terminal or any other site near downtown is going to be incredibly expensive to acquire and/or prep, not to mention new infrastructure that will be required there. If that kind of assistance isn’t pledged, well, that’s how teams start gearing up to leave, isn’t that right Mark Davis?

NFL’s LA relocation committee meeting upstaged by Iger-Carson announcement

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf went to NFL headquarters in New York to present her city’s case for keeping the Raiders in town. While no decisions are immediately forthcoming, it was important for Schaaf to keep Oakland in the game. Schaaf and the Oakland contingent arrived shortly before Oakland’s scheduled slot, then left the building by taking the back entrance after she was done, avoiding the assembled press in the process. Maybe the Mayor had to catch the next JetBlue flight back to Oakland or she had tickets to Hamilton, I don’t know. In any case Oakland gave its modicum effort, which was better than literally nothing.

A slide from Mayor Schaaf's presentation

Actual slide from Mayor Schaaf’s presentation

Shortly after the meeting ended, Schaaf’s office proffered this statement:

NEW YORK, NY – Mayor Libby Schaaf released the following statement following the City of Oakland’s presentation to the NFL on November 11 in New York City:

“Today’s meeting with the NFL reinforced that Oakland is correct in continuing to work directly with the team and the NFL to keep the Raiders in Oakland where they belong.

We were very grateful and excited to have the opportunity to make Oakland’s case to the NFL today. I felt it was a positive discussion and that we were well-received by the Raiders’ leadership and the other NFL owners. They were engaged and asked great questions.

Moving forward, the City of Oakland is working to defease the current bond and purchase Alameda County’s stake in the land and existing facilities. We are also beginning to analyze ways that we might monetize future revenue that could be generated from a stadium development.

We remain committed to responsibly keeping as many of our sports teams as possible. My focus continues to be on forging a partnership that supports a team-centered effort to build a new stadium for the Raiders in Oakland that will be successful for the fans and the team and responsible for the city and its taxpayers.” (11/11/15)

What was in the presentation? Mostly it rehashed the work done for Coliseum City. The preso emphasized that the Coliseum land was publicly owned and properly entitled, with a completed EIR in hand. There’s also $40 million in funding available for the planned $140 million expansion of the Coliseum BART transit hub. Beyond that there was little to crow about deal wise. Even though Schaaf isn’t promising any public money for construction, there’s still a laundry list of issues to resolve before any kind of groundbreaking. Among them:

  • Financing for an estimated $100 million in additional infrastructure
  • The buyout of Alameda County
  • Terms to cover the outstanding Coliseum debt (a City/County issue, not the Raiders’)
  • Potential funding sources: tax increment and lease revenue bonds

Those funding sources are what’s expected to pay for the infrastructure at the very least, perhaps more. Keep in mind that the top three items could cost Oakland $400 million or more depending on when the deal happens. It will difficult enough to raise those funds before even considering how to bridge the stadium’s funding gap.

St. Louis and San Diego also had their turns and made their proclamations. But before they even had a chance to plead, an announcement from 3000 miles away sucked all the air out of the room. The Carson Holdings group overseeing the joint Chargers/Raiders stadium project announced that Disney CEO Robert Iger would become a non-executive chairman, with the option to buy a minority stake in either team. Iger, who ran ABC/Capital Cities during the height of ABC’s Monday Night Football run, is a trustworthy known quantity among the league’s owners. That said, Iger is not a billionaire, with a net worth said to be somewhere in the $100 million range. If Iger were to want a piece of the team, he would probably bring in some private equity partners from elsewhere to put up whatever was needed to take care of the project cost in Carson.

For months I have stayed away from the all-too-easy horserace aspects of this story. I won’t handicap any project’s chances now. As a strategic move, the Iger announcement worked like gangbusters. The play was for legitimacy, which is impossible to deny as of November 11. Last week many in Oakland were satisfied in believing that Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood project was superior enough to Carson that the Raiders would be forced to stay by the Bay. Now only a fool would say that.

Oakland poll indicates voters are getting ready to live without some pro sports

We’re nearly one year into Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s tenure, which makes it a fine time for a poll. That led the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce to commission a poll called Pulse of Oakland. As Oakland continues experiences its own kinds of growing pains, the government and voters have tough decisions to make over the future of Oakland. As a city that has been defined by its sports teams for decades, sports will a major role in Oakland’s direction. Or will it? The poll, which asked voters to judge sixteen different issues in terms of importance, showed that pro sports came in last. As expected, crime, jobs, and education were the most important, registering for 93-95% of polled voters.

Pro sports, on the other hand, were quite a different story.

importance

While each of the sports teams were considered important for a majority of voters, they paled in comparison to regular kitchen table issues

The Warriors are practically a moot matter by now, thanks to the progress on their SF arena. The difference in felt import between the A’s and Raiders is fascinating, not because of the percentage difference, but because the Raiders and Raiders fans have spent two years pushing Coliseum City, a project in which the Raiders were considered the feature player. Sure, Mark Davis didn’t exactly participate fully with the project. Nevertheless, Coliseum City had name recognition and media attention, whereas the A’s weren’t (and still aren’t) actively promoting anything. If there ever was any urgency towards keeping the Raiders in Oakland, it didn’t show up in this poll.

More surprising was the indication that Oakland residents may be willing to move from a sports city identity. 83% of respondents favored a Coliseum development plan that didn’t involve any new sports venues, while 60% support new stadia at the Coliseum complex.

support

Polls like these guide politicians at City Hall, and Schaaf is no different. She has stood firm on her pledge for no public money for any new stadia, and she’s not likely to experience any blowback anytime soon based on these poll numbers. I suspect that has to do with so much of the fanbase being situated outside Oakland city limits, where those fans aren’t Schaaf’s constituents. If there’s any worry, it’s for anyone who might eventually ask for voter approval of public financing.

Next week Schaaf will present Oakland’s case to a NFL stadium committee. She’ll talk about Oakland’s trajectory without actually having a Raiders stadium plan to show. While these poll results shouldn’t push Oakland off a cliff, they won’t bolster Schaaf’s case to the owners. In the end, we’re still talking about a $400 million funding gap for just one venue. There’s no way to talk around it.