Announcement: Writing for Bloguin network, too

I’m happy to announce that in addition to my regular, roughly every other day posts at this site, I will be contributing to a regular column on the Bloguin network, home of Awful Announcing and a slew of sports blogs. While I don’t have an automatic fit with a particular site, my first piece was published today at The Outside Corner, Bloguin’s general baseball blog. The post is titled, “Can the A’s Survive California’s Stadium Drought?”

First post on The Outside Corner

First post on The Outside Corner

I expect to make contributions weekly, maybe even twice a week or more if time permits. The topic will be largely stadium construction, though I’ll also cover sports economics occasionally. I’ll post links here and immediately on Twitter. Bloguin CEO first proposed the idea last week, and I felt that I had the bandwidth so I said yes. I look forward to taking more of the general sports posts that I used to write more frequently here to Bloguin, where I feel they’ll have a more appropriate home.

As usual, feedback is welcome. Thanks to all of you loyal readers. It’s you who have helped build this site’s creditability so that I could spread knowledge elsewhere.

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?

Levi’s Stadium picks up additional events, outlines tour costs (Update: Pac-12 game added)

Update 5/15 – The Pac-12 Conference has announced that the annual football conference championship game will be held at Levi’s Stadium. That means that Levi’s Stadium will have 15 events in the final 5 months of 2014, or 3 per month.

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Less than three months before the first event at Levi’s Stadium, the allure of hosting an event there is proving strong. Already, the Earthquakes and Cal football will have games there. Last week, the CCS (Central Coast Section) approved local high school Wilcox the opportunity to play a home game on August 29 at Levi’s. The game vs. visiting Manteca will be part of a high school doubleheader, which may also include powerhouse De La Salle of Concord.

The schedule of events for the fall at Levi’s Stadium will look like this:

  • 8/2 – Seattle Sounders vs. San Jose Earthquakes
  • 8/17 – Broncos at 49ers (preseason)
  • 8/24 – Chargers at 49ers (preseason)
  • 8/29 – High School football – Merced vs. Wilcox, TBA vs. De La Salle
  • 9/14 – Bears at 49ers (regular season home opener)
  • 9/28 – Eagles at 49ers
  • 10/5 – Chiefs at 49ers
  • 10/24 – Oregon vs. Cal
  • 11/2 – Rams at 49ers
  • 11/23 – Redskins at 49ers
  • 11/27 – Seahawks at 49ers (Thanksgiving game)
  • 12/5 – Pac-12 championship game (added 5/15)
  • 12/20 – Chargers at 49ers
  • 12/28 – Cardinals at 49ers
  • 12/? – Fight Hunger Bowl (date TBA)

The MLS match and the HS football doubleheader present a couple of chances for the 49ers to not only break in the stadium but also to stage events with less than a full house. For the Quakes game, the upper deck is not being sold. Chances are that the same will happen for the high school games. Levi’s Stadium is also getting into bidding for the CIF State football championships, which have long been played at StubHub Center (formerly Home Depot Center) in Carson. Personally, I’d like to see the CCS championships at the new digs too. The top division games are played at San Jose City College.

Levi’s Stadium is also making itself available as a future site of the Pac-12 football championship game. Since the restructuring of the conference, the Pac-12 has chosen to stage the game at the home of the team with the best record among the North and South division leaders. The schools seem to like the home-hosting situation, which should mean some resistance towards a neutral site championship. Of course, the other big time FBS conferences have neutral site championship games with the exception of the Big 12, which no longer needs one due to having only 10 teams. The Pac-12 is rather spread out geographically, making it difficult to arrange for fans to fly into the Bay Area on short notice, especially for cheap.

At least for this year, the Santa Clara venue will miss out on the International Champions Cup, a series of soccer exhibitions by top European clubs (at least in name if not by roster). Instead, the one West Coast match will be played at Cal’s Memorial Stadium, which I suppose makes for a fair trade if Cal’s going to lose a home game by rescheduling it in Santa Clara. Other soccer matches are sure to follow, and don’t forget Wrestlemania, which will be played at Levi’s Stadium next March.

For those who simply want to visit the stadium, the team has been giving hard hat tours to VIPs and others who can arrange group outings. Regular public tours will begin in August at $25 per person. If you think that’s expensive – well, it is. Cowboys Stadium tours start at $17.50, and MetLife Stadium tours cost $20. Cost to visit the new 49ers museum, which does not include a stadium tour, is $15.

The $978 million, 50,000-seat NFL stadium

Yesterday the second of two public outreach meetings for Coliseum City was held at Oakland City Hall. I was flying in during the afternoon, so I wasn’t able to make it. Thankfully, @greenkozi (the macinator) put together a Storify compilation of tweets related to the meeting. It should give you a good sense of what was being discussed during the meeting.

Unable to attend, I’ve focused over the last few days on the just-released Coliseum City Football Stadium Revenue Study. The 177-page document covers a variety of funding scenarios for the Raiders stadium, including public and private options. Some of the key takeaways:

  • The full development could generate $22-26 million of annual tax revenue for the project, including ticket, sales, property, and hotel taxes.
  • That tax revenue would support $120-140 million of public debt for the project.
  • Ancillary development, even with three teams remaining at the Coliseum, looks rather modest.
Ancillary buildout potential at Coliseum City

Ancillary buildout potential at Coliseum City

  • Economic impact for the both the stadium and ancillary development is estimated at $2.8 billion.
  • Operating income (private) for the development is estimated at $49 million per year, which would support $300 million in debt. Combined with the public portion, a total of $420 million of debt could be supported. That would leave a nearly $700 million funding gap.
  • The stadium would have a capacity of 50,000, including 75 suites, 4,700 club seats, 200 loge seats, and would cost $978 million to construct.

AECOM’s previous study from last summer had the stadium also at 50,000 including premium seats, a number that was debated. This confirms the number, though the stadium cost has jumped from $700 million to $978 million (and rising) in a matter of months.

A 50,000-seat stadium is a rather alarming figure. People should be asking why the team and market can’t support a larger stadium. 50,000 seats won’t bring in a Super Bowl, and any new stadium has already lost the prestige battle with Levi’s Stadium, which will have a Super Bowl, bowl game, Wrestlemania, and a number of other events. While this study has looked into a number of new development scenarios involving 1-3 new venues, there is no discussion of incorporating any part of the existing Coliseum, nor is there any mention of the existing Coliseum debt. The most cost-efficient route for the Raiders for a “new” venue would be to rebuild the old bowl of the Coliseum and refurbish Mt. Davis, while lopping off the upper deck. That could be done for less than half the cost being considered, while providing an opportunity for ancillary development with an A’s stadium or something else.

A renovated Coliseum could be done in phases in a much more economical manner than a $1 billion new stadium

Maybe the NFL and the Raiders have considered this idea a nonstarter, so the JPA and BayIG aren’t going there. The aesthetics of the Coliseum aren’t great for transit-oriented development. But considering the growing funding gaps and the enormous obstacles to getting just the stadium built, it’s crazy that a renovated Coliseum isn’t under consideration. All they’d have to do is build roughly half a new stadium. There’s no situation where that’s more expensive than, oh, a whole new stadium. Seriously, am I missing something here?

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.