Category Archives: Football

Key Coliseum City deadline passes with no Raiders letter of interest

Added 2:43 PM: Now dead Piers 30/32 development schedule.

dubs-schedule-arena

About two-thirds of the bubbles in this chart are no longer needed

Important documents for the Coliseum City project were due Monday. While some needed reports were apparently submitted just before the deadline, a signed letter of intent interest from Raiders ownership did not, according to CSN’s Scott Bair. The letter of interest was a requirement for development group BayIG, though it’s not known what will happen now that the deadline has passed. Important informational documents from BayIG were received, which could include the long-awaited funding and revenue sources analyses. Those will be important for determining the feasibility of the project.

Given the paucity of information available at the moment, it would behoove Raiders owner Mark Davis to proceed cautiously. But the bar for commitment was set extremely low, as BayIG was not required to get a Letter of Intent from the Raiders. Instead, BayIG only needed to get a Letter of Interest. While a Letter of Intent is generally non-binding in matters such as these, at least it lays out basic terms for a deal. A Letter of Interest is an entirely speculative document, only promising future discussions (sort of like an ENA without the “E”). If Davis hasn’t even provided a response for a much lesser requirement, you have to wonder what he really thinks about the project. 

Then again, the Letter of Interest is so weak that it can’t really make or break Coliseum City anyway. If there are consequences for BayIG not delivering, we certainly have no idea what they are. And it seems highly unlikely that BayIG and the JPA won’t move forward because of this. They’ve already engaged the Raiders in preliminary discussions and submitted several reports, so halting the project now would be tantamount to throwing in the towel. That wouldn’t go over well considering some $3 million was previously approved for studies.

For now, we’ll await any documents that are made available. Raiders fans can hope that Davis was simply too preoccupied the Terrelle Pryor trade or with the Warriors-Clippers series to respond. If the week ends without the LoI from the Raiders, there will be a lot of questions about that subject at Thursday’s and Saturday’s community meetings. People will be wondering how committed to Oakland Davis really is. Meanwhile, Lew Wolff will be sitting back, watching everyone involved with Coliseum City twist in the wind.

 

 

A’s lease extension comes up again

Update: Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has a response.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Matier and Ross are reporting that Lew Wolff has requested a lease extension at the Coliseum of up to 10 years.

That would be news, except that we heard it last week. And last month. And back in December.

There is literally nothing new to report here. More importantly, what’s not being reported is that this follows a pattern. The previous lease ended after the 2013 season, but Wolff asked for an extension as early as 2011, knowing that a new ballpark was not forthcoming. The JPA was in the tough spot of negotiating new leases for both the Raiders and A’s because both leases ended in 2013. The stalemate between the A’s and the JPA forced MLB to broker a new, two year deal that solved little. It merely kicked the can down the road. Meanwhile, the Raiders secured an even shorter one-year lease, with the idea that the Coliseum City project would at least be accelerated. While that process moves on its own, Wolff continues to call for the lease.

The difference between Wolff’s requests now and from 2011-12 are that they are being reported. Headlines show as A’s willing to stay in Oakland for 10 years look good at a glance, but as long as the JPA is reluctant to work out any deal that would jeopardize its future with the Raiders, that lease will go nowhere. Yet you should expect reports like this to surface on occasion throughout this year and next, since it looks good for the A’s from a PR standpoint.

Another thing that’s being ignored is the fact that Wolff has included an escape clause if the Raiders build a stadium at the Coliseum. I haven’t seen the language, so I can’t say if the clause would be triggered by the Raiders coming to a deal with the JPA or if groundbreaking would trigger it. Either way, Wolff has been consistent in that he’s only looking out for the franchise – he wants a place for the A’s to play locally, even if that means a temporary facility. While updated plans for Coliseum City show separate stadia for the A’s and Raiders being ready by 2018, we’re not nearly at the point of determining how that would happen. Numerous questions would have to be answered, such as:

  • As the two new stadium sites are prepped and stadia constructed, how does the JPA replace all of the lost parking?
  • Will the Warriors object to the lost parking?
  • What if the numbers pencil out only for the Raiders? Or only for the A’s? Or not at all?
  • What if neither team is interested in Coliseum City as it’s being presented?

Wolff and Mark Davis are going at this stadium business in different ways. Wolff wants a lease extension, while taking that time to figure out the future either in San Jose or in Oakland. Davis is taking an opposite tack, declaring last year that it was time to stop delaying and get the stadium deal in place before any new lease. That puts the JPA in a very delicate spot. They’re already working with the Davis, though he hasn’t been satisfied with the pace or the information he’s getting. Both owners, whether in league or not, are forcing Oakland to make a difficult decision between the two franchises. Both know that it’s incredibly hard to build one stadium, let alone two right next to each other. Public resources are increasingly scarce. Fred Blackwell’s leaving before he can get any blame for this. Smart move on his part.

On a related note, two public workshops will be held next week for Oakland citizens to discuss Coliseum City. Here’s part of the flyer:

Schedule for upcoming Coliseum City workshops

Schedule for upcoming Coliseum City workshops

At some point in the next 2-3 months, the Coliseum City Specific Plan (which will cover the Coliseum complex area or Area 1) and the draft environmental impact report will be released. Review and comments for both will dovetail nicely with the ongoing lease discussions and could shape the future of the Coliseum, and pro sports in Oakland.

Bruce spends 3+ hours talking Oakland, A’s stadium issues (Update: Quan backtracks)

Update 5:00 PM – Mayor Quan backtracks on the Crown Prince of Dubai claim. Oops.

Say what you will about Damon Bruce’s radio persona or his supposed allegiances. When he wants to drill down on a topic, he drills down. Other than the scheduled weekly segment with Warriors power forward David Lee, Bruce spent the entire time yesterday from 3:30 to 7 talking about the stadium situation in Oakland, specifically related to the A’s. Bruce said that he wanted to get past the blame game and cut through all of blah blah blah, as he described it. That he most certainly did, though the reveal mostly left more questions in its wake.

At 3:30 Bruce interviewed Andy Dolich, who maintained that the Coliseum is still the best place to build new venues for both the Raiders and A’s. Dolich spent the bulk of his extended segment throwing cold water on everything else: San Jose, Howard Terminal, A’s ownership. Dolich even took some credit for the 49ers stadium in Santa Clara, which is bizarre considering that he was against the move at many points and not involved in its planning.

Dolich ended up being the warmup act for what followed. At 5, Bruce interviewed Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who was clearly not prepared for the grilling that Bruce gave her. He asked about the lack of progress on the two stadium plans and asked the mayor to make a choice between the two. Throughout it all Quan dodged and hemmed, and finally got rather defensive about her record on the subject. Then, when discussing Coliseum City, name dropped the crown prince of Dubai as an investor in the plan, which for Bruce was as exciting as a little girl hearing the word “pony” or a dog seeing a squirrel. There’s plenty of money represented here, from Colony Capital and its inherent ties to Qatar to Rashid Al Malik and his Dubai ties. That’s a distraction though, since Qatar and Dubai would provide the silent money. The true face of the money is Colony’s Tom Barrack, who really wants a piece of a team, and a controlling piece if possible. Barrack drove the attempt to buy AEG last year, before Phil Anschutz decided that the various competing bids weren’t high enough and took the company off the market. Colony is also involved in the Chargers’ stadium plans, which are quite similar in scope to what the JPA is trying to do with Coliseum City. In all three cases, Barrack wanted controlling interest in a team (40%) in exchange for the stadium being built. That has me thinking, What if Barrack gets a stadium deal done in San Diego? Does that mean his goal of getting a team and stadium built is completed, making Coliseum City and the Raiders unnecessary? The reverse could easily be asked as well. Fortunately for Raiders fans, San Diego is the one major city in California with an even more dysfunctional government and leadership than Oakland, so no immediate worries there. Still, it’s worth wondering if these opportunities are finite, at least from Colony’s perspective.

After Quan’s interview, Oakland Council Member Larry Reid called into the show to clarify some things the mayor said about Coliseum City. Reid, who also acts as the Vice Chair of the Coliseum Authority (JPA), suggested to Bruce that he speak to JPA Chair (and Alameda County Supervisor) Nate Miley for the real scoop on the project. Reid also dropped a bit of a bombshell:

REID: (The JPA’s) conversation (with MLB) has been much different from what the mayor has said on the radio. Look, the mayor knows that MLB has clearly said that they do not like the Howard Street Terminal (sic). Lew Wolff has said he does not like the Howard Street Terminal. His preference…it would be in the Coliseum. Our focus with the A’s is trying to figure out a way, how to do that deal.

BRUCE: Why do you think the mayor came on as an advocate for the Howard Street Terminal if she already knows that it’s dead in the water?

REID: Well, that’s a question that you have to raise with her. She knows what MLB has said to us, has said to me, and has said to Supervisor Miley in a meeting we had most recently less than two weeks ago. MLB’s preference as well as Mr. Wolff’s preference is the Coliseum area.

Clearly, additional context is needed here. First of all, has MLB’s preference been the Coliseum only recently, or has it been this way for some time? For nearly a year proponents of Howard Terminal have claimed that MLB prefers their waterfront locale. Reid represents the JPA, so he has a vested interest in the choice the same way Oakland Waterfront Ballpark and Doug Boxer would. So who’s right? What was the process in getting to this point?

The mayor’s hands-off approach has created the appearance of two competing factions. On one hand there’s the JPA and the now-departed Fred Blackwell running Coliseum City. On the other hand there’s OWB, Let’s Go Oakland, and the Port having their own discussions. Usually the city manager/administrator would moderate both discussions by being involved, but Blackwell’s focus was much greater on Coliseum City than Howard Terminal. And with both “tenured” city managers gone in Blackwell and Deanna Santana, that would leave the Mayor to make decisions. Except that she hasn’t made decisions. It’s not her vision, and she’s been to content to get to this point with the understanding that MLB would make the decisions for her or force the A’s to make a decision between the two sites.

Well, now the A’s are making a choice, though it’s not exactly how Oakland and the JPA wants it. Wolff and Fisher seem to want the Coliseum without the City, so that they can mold the project in their own way. It’s only possible if Oakland lets go of the Raiders, or if the Raiders give up on Oakland. Oakland’s trying to keep both teams in place, so they’re offering these solutions that neither league nor franchise fully endorses. Truth be told, neither team wants to share a complex – let alone a stadium – as long as precious land is in play to help fund new stadia. The NFL is waiting for the A’s to leave the Coliseum, and MLB is waiting for the Raiders to do the same.

While the A’s and Raiders come into this with somewhat similar goals, their prospects away without the existing Coliseum are much different. The Raiders a have much better short-term future because of Santa Clara. However, their long-term prospects are shaky because the financing aspect of a new Raiders stadium is so difficult and daunting. The A’s have poor short-term prospects because they have no temporary home other than the Giants’ offer of AT&T Park for a short time. Long-term is much better, mostly because the cost of a ballpark is more manageable and they could have other sites in Howard Terminal and San Jose. Alternate sites for the Raiders, such as Concord or Dublin, are so far off that they’re not worth considering.

I’ve been saying for sometime that anyone who claims to know how this is going to play out is clearly trying to sell something. Better to let the process continue, and let the chips fall where they may.

The growing black hole (Update: Blackwell quits)

Update 4:15 PMThe Chronicle reports that Oakland City Administrator Fred Blackwell has left his job to become CEO of the San Francisco Foundation. Who exactly is going to do all the dealmaking that Blackwell was doing before?

Just so we get this straight…

Last summer, the Raiders stadium at Coliseum City was projected to cost $700 million, with a $300-400 million funding gap.

In November, the cost estimate was raised to $900 million, with a $400-500 million funding gap.

Yesterday, new Oakland City Administrator Fred Blackwell was interviewed by the Trib’s Matthew Artz. In passing, he mentioned that the funding gap has ballooned to a whopping $500-600 million.

He did note that one of his top projects, getting a new football stadium built for the Oakland Raiders, remained a struggle. Blackwell said the stadium project faces a $500 million to $600 million shortfall that would have to be subsidized by additional development within the Coliseum complex. While he praised the city’s business partners working on the deal, he said “there are a lot of things that can go wrong in a negotiation of that complexity.”

The biggest thing than can go wrong in any stadium project is not knowing how it gets paid for. Coliseum City is clearly at that moment. $600 million just off the development proceeds and fees? Sure, if they have 500 acres to develop at the Coliseum. In this case it’s only 100 acres, and much of that land is already taken up by the pre-existing venues.

How does this gap keep growing? Are the sides still having trouble determining what the proper stadium vision is? For some time the Raiders and the NFL have wanted a smaller, open-air stadium. The City wants a bigger, retractable dome venue that could also be used as a convention center and to attract future Super Bowls. If there’s still no consensus on the scope of the project a year in, it’s not confidence inspiring. And Mark Davis claims he’s being left in the dark.

Already the backers of Coliseum City are looking into alternatives. Perhaps that will involve the existing Coliseum, or further scaling back or cost-engineering the new stadium. The Raiders may even be considered too expensive to retain. Either way, this stadium project has turned into a money pit. Or a black hole, and not the kind cheers emanate from.

Baer says he’s willing to let the A’s share AT&T with the Giants – with a catch

Giants President/CEO Larry Baer slipped a rather shocking note into the festivities surrounding the spring training opener, when he said that he’d be willing to allow the A’s to play temporarily at AT&T Park.

Of course, there are conditions. From Merc scribe Alex Pavlovic’s article:

“They’ve got to come up with a long-term plan. Once that’s arrived at, then maybe you’ll take a step back and say, ‘Is there something we can do to be helpful?’ As a neighborly thing.

“Obviously, they’ve got to come up with what their plan is and we’ll go from there.”

The A’s have a long-term plan, but that’s in San Jose, the city that Baer is loathe to give up. That means that Baer is perfectly willing to be neighborly, as long as the A’s stay in Oakland.

If you want to read between the lines, you can consider this a memo to Oakland ballpark backers to get off their asses and get something done. He’s willing to be neighborly, up to a point. He’s willing to appear magnanimous in his willingness to share the jewel at China Basin, up to a point. As long as there’s some motion towards a ballpark in Oakland, it helps Baer’s cause.

Strategically, it’s easy to see why Baer is going this route. Now that the Giants have practically paid off their ballpark, they need another rationale for preserving the split territorial rights regime currently in place. They can talk about protecting their fan base in the South Bay, but frankly, the issue is Oakland. Simply put, can a ballpark be built in Oakland? If it can – and it pencils out for the A’s financially – then the current T-rights scheme can remain in place, whether Lew Wolff and John Fisher are the owners or someone else takes their place. If Oakland can’t be done, which Wolff has been arguing, the East Bay itself is done, and MLB will be forced to consider an alternative method of drawing up territories. Immediately that means the South Bay is the only other place in the Bay Area, with Wolff preferring that as opposed to leaving altogether, which Baer has hinted in the past he’d be okay with.

Baer’s little nudge should provide motivation for Oakland boosters, though Baer can’t make it easier to build in Oakland. Nor is it likely that the Giants will help Oakland out monetarily. News coming out of Raiders camp can’t be encouraging, as Raiders owner Mark Davis indicates that nothing is happening with Coliseum City, at least as he sees it. Davis characterized Coliseum City as perhaps Oakland’s last chance to keep the Raiders. By NFL rules, Davis has to make a good faith effort to keep the team in its current market, and Davis has certainly done that so far. If Coliseum City breaks down, the Raiders could leave for LA as early as a year from now, and Roger Goodell can’t say much about it. Sure, the NFL holds the purse strings, but by that point they’ll know full well the challenges of building a stadium in Oakland as much as LA. Like the A’s situation, if it doesn’t pencil out in Oakland, there may not be an East Bay alternative. Already he’s backing away from the Concord Naval Weapons Station and Dublin’s Camp Parks, which makes me wonder if he’s only feigning interest in those sites in order to appear thorough.

Davis also referred to the impact of the Oakland mayoral race, indicating that developers wouldn’t get off the fence until after the election. That runs counter to the idea that the various mayoral candidates could make Coliseum City progress by stumping for it along the way. The project has its own schedule and milestones, with the next big one, the Market Data Analysis, due in March. By spring we’re supposed to find out how feasible Coliseum City is, and by summer teams are supposed to be signed on to be partners – at least according to Mayor Jean Quan. Movement will come from making the numbers work, not magic. Davis is not the only person to wonder what exactly is happening with Coliseum City. We’re going through these phases with CC, where some small amount of progress happens, followed by a huge informational vacuum, then a sobering dose of reality, and then another small step forward. Eventually that cycle will be replaced by real discussions, actual reports, and true political and financial support (or a lack of it).

Going back to the Giants and Baer, I suppose that since he’s offering his place as a 1-2 year airbnb stint for the A’s, we can start talking about what that would look like. That’s for another day. For now, it makes the most sense to focus on Oakland. In the near term, that’s where the only future for the Raiders and A’s lies.

Getting there: Levi’s Stadium early thoughts

Let’s be clear about one thing can be agreed on when it comes to Levi’s Stadium: it will be much easier to get in and out of there than the painfully difficult Candlestick Park.

Beyond the obvious technological improvements and swankier facilities, Levi’s Stadium has much better built-in infrastructure than the ‘Stick. There is light rail service directly in front of the stadium, with links to Caltrain in Mountain View and San Jose. There’s also a Capitol Corridor and ACE stop even closer, which will bring in fans from the East Bay and Central Valley. Highways 237 and 101, which define the Golden Triangle region of Silicon Valley, feed the area surrounding the stadium, which is where the majority of the parking spaces will be found.

VTA, Santa Clara County’s transit authority, announced a plan to bring fans to Levi’s Stadium from various parts of the Bay Area. Existing partnerships with other transit agencies will have to be leveraged, whether it means transfers to light rail from Caltrain or to express buses from Fremont (by 2017, BART-to-light rail in Milpitas). Still more options will be available from some of those other agencies running their own buses straight to the stadium, along with private bus operators providing a more upscale trip from San Francisco and the North Bay.

The transit debacle at the Super Bowl highlighted the difficulty associated with trying to forecast transit ridership for special events. The New York/New Jersey and San Francisco/Santa Clara dynamics are similar. For the Super Bowl, most of the hotel rooms and peripheral events will be in San Francisco. That makes it doubly important that the link between SF and SC are solid. New Jersey transit severely underestimated the number of fans that would take the commuter train option from Penn Station to the Meadowlands through Secaucus, which led to hours-long delays for many frustrated fans. Since the NFL and local officials were encouraging transit use instead of driving or busing, designated public parking lots near MetLife Stadium were relatively empty, including certain bus lots. Meanwhile, buses that were scheduled to pick up fans from various hotels in Manhattan were underutilized.

When I took NJ Transit to a mere Jets preseason game at MetLife Stadium in August, the trains were quite packed and total ride took 45 minutes despite going less than 9 miles, was an ordeal. The biggest problem was the required transfer at Secaucus Junction. Because the train to the Meadowlands complex is a separate rail spur, all NJ trains forced the Secaucus transfer. Then fans had to go inside the station, change levels, and move to different platform where the Meadowlands train could be boarded. Secaucus Junction works fine for daily commute levels of ridership, but it is terrible for a big event such as the Super Bowl. If there is a next time, NJ Transit has to figure out a way to allow trains to go directly from Manhattan to the Meadowlands. While Secaucus can’t handle the crush, Penn Station can (though not without discomfort).

Like the NY-NJ transfer issue at Secaucus, there is a huge potential bottleneck at the Mountain View Caltrain station, where most fans coming from SF and the Peninsula will transfer. Trains from the Peninsula will stop along the station’s southern platform, which will mean that fans will have to cross at least 3 sets of tracks (2 Caltrain, 1 VTA) in order to make the switch. While the southbound platform has a decent-sized queuing area, the northbound platform, where fans would wait for train going home, is notoriously small and narrow. Each Caltrain train set (5 cars + engine) is designed to hold up to 1,000 riders. Compare that to a 3-car light rail train, which holds about 500 riders including standees. That means that two light rail trains would have to pick up a single full Caltrain’s worth of riders.

There’s also a bottleneck just east of the station, where trains run on a single track to cross Central Expressway. VTA plans to construct a second track and pocket track for train storage, which should get rid of the bottleneck. That project is expected to be completed in two phases, the whole thing done by 2016.

Even with those changes, it’s hard to say just how many people will take Caltrain to Mountain View and then transfer to light rail. 6-8 Caltrain trains worth? That’s about 10% of the total crowd. There could also be single trains from Capitol Corridor and ACE covering another 2-3000 fans.

Since the single-tracking bottleneck will take a couple years to resolve, there’s a good chance that fans going to Levi’s Stadium will instead use one of many express buses parked at the Mountain View station to get to the game. The route would be more direct, and much of it would be on a freeway or expressway.

I suspect that buses may be an even more popular mode of transport than they were at the ‘Stick. Rides from the North Bay will be especially long, requiring serious lead time. It’s not hard to see a fairly new institution already in place being used extensively for 49er games: the private Silicon Valley tech bus. Sure, there are already private coaches that take fans to games, especially groups that can charter. In this case I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same buses that shuttle workers to Google and Apple used on Sundays to take fans directly to Santa Clara from North Beach or Marin. Tickets are already much more expensive and cater to a move affluent crowd than before, why not provide luxury transit? The controversial private busing highlights a problem that has been generally ignored by the national media who have attempted to cover the issue: the disjointed Bay Area transit system. Caltrain runs through the downtowns of numerous cities on the Peninsula, which is mostly good and convenient. But if Caltrain or BART ran down 101 to near Google or 280 to Apple, there would be less of a need for such solutions. Levi’s Stadium, which is across the river from Cisco and a mile away from Intel’s headquarters, is in a similar situation: one or more transfers, inelegant design, faster alternatives. For the Super Bowl, these buses will be in even greater demand, especially as certain operators are contracted directly by the NFL for official use (teams, personnel, media).

Fortunately, the vast majority of games will be at 1 PM on a Sunday afternoon, not during commute hours. For the first season there will be no Thursday or Monday night games, with a Cal Friday home game snuck in as an exception. The 49ers’ 2014 promises to be a year of settling in, on the field for the team and in the stands by the fans. Getting there will literally be a process of trial and error for all involved.