Category Archives: Football

Rams owner Kroenke buys SoCal land, sparking relocation talk

Sam Farmer of the LA Times reported late today that Rams owner Stan Kroenke has purchased a 60-acre parking lot situated between The Forum and Hollywood Park in Inglewood.

Farmer lays out the myriad complications that could arise if Kroenke tried to move the Rams back to Los Angeles. While 60 acres in hand is always good to have, there’s still the question of who would pick up the tab for the $1 billion or more in construction cost. The NFL has had a tepid response to two other NFL stadium initiatives by AEG (Farmers Field) and Majestic Realty (City of Industry), mainly because both developers have wanted stakes in prospective relocating franchises. In the Rams’ case, Kroenke could build it himself with the NFL’s help, though public funding in Inglewood is a nonstarter. It would take an enormous amount of corporate and upfront support to make it work, a recipe that yielded great results for the 49ers. That shouldn’t be an issue in a market the size of LA, but the market is a notoriously fickle place when it comes to pro football. Kroenke could even run into interference from the likes of USC and UCLA, who have the local football landscape to themselves with no pro team as competition.

Speculation about Kroenke’s intentions with the Inglewood land could amount to nothing, as he has substantial holdings throughout SoCal and these 60 acres could by ripe for a shopping center, housing, or other non-sports uses. More plausible is the idea that Kroenke could use the land as leverage to extract the maximum amount of concessions from the State of Missouri and the City of St. Louis, the latter party having already lost an arbitration case over planned improvements to Edward Jones Dome.

The Raiders and Chargers will look at Kroenke’s moves with some interest, as LA remains a potential relocation target for them. Both teams’ owners have prioritized staying in Oakland and San Diego, respectively, but interest from LA remains a phone call or meeting away. It might make the most sense for two relocated teams to share one stadium from a financial standpoint. Such a plan is problematic in execution, as exhibited in the sterile environment at MetLife Stadium. If Kroenke were to declare a move and get sign off from the NFL’s owners, he’d have to play at the LA Coliseum or Rose Bowl for at least a few years while the EIR process and construction were completed.

Land acquisition should put more pressure on Missouri/St. Louis to act. The benchmark there is $375 million provided by Jackson County for improvements to Arrowhead Stadium. That’s well short of the $700 million in improvements the Rams are entitled to as part of their arbitration win. Any team that wishes to relocate has a league-imposed deadline of mid-February each year to declare their intentions. Last year, all three relocation candidates chose to stay. With land in hand, the Rams are for now the best positioned to move.

Why would Lew Wolff ask for a 5-10 year extension at the Coliseum?

Lew Wolff visited the JPA on Wednesday. Staying consistent in his stance from last month, Wolff was seeking a lease extension, up to 10 years in length. Matt Artz’s Tribune article references the lease but not Coliseum City.

If Wolff is willing to hear out CC plans, chances are that he won’t make any kind of commitment unless a lease is in place first. Last month, the A’s put out a press release in response to a Matier & Ross column claiming Wolff’s interest in CC.

We are only prepared to meet with our landlord, the JPA, or elected and designated officials of Alameda County and the City of Oakland, to discuss any aspect of our venue or lease.

Remember that before lease extension talks broke down between Wolff and the JPA last summer, Wolff was seeking a 5-7 year extension with an out clause should the Raiders’ new stadium plans interfere with the A’s being able to play at the Coliseum. Two years at the Coliseum is only somewhat helpful, since there’s no way a ballpark will be ready at the end of the lease. Wolff will continue to ask for a lease extension as long as this uncertainty post-2015 remains.

Shortly after the press release I wrote a lengthy post about Wolff’s motivations, should they extend beyond merely getting an extension. Area A of Coliseum City (east of 880) is divided into three phases, starting with the new Raiders stadium, then the ancillary development designed to support the stadium, and finally the remaining surrounding development and a ballpark in the A Lot.

Three phases of Coliseum City have ballpark built out at the end of the project

Three phases of Coliseum City have ballpark built out at the end of the project

As part of Phase III, the A’s ballpark couldn’t come earlier than the end of the decade unless there was a major reshuffling of priorities. That’s where a 10-year extension could come into play. If Wolff wants to partner up on Coliseum City and the schedule can’t be significantly altered, the A’s would have to play at the Coliseum for the full length of that extension until the new ballpark was in place. MLB may have wielded the AT&T Park threat against Oakland successfully when it inserted itself into last fall’s lease talks, but sharing AT&T Park for any length more than a season or two will create enormous logistical problems for MLB, the Giants, and San Francisco.

Impacts from construction have to be minimized, which is a big reason for the phased approach. Not only does Coliseum City include new venues, it has tons of new infrastructure, including a new BART pedestrian overpass, new bridges over 880, and the “spine” that links all of it together. To understand those impacts, let’s compare the Coliseum complex now and what’s envisioned.

overhead-coliseum

The current Coliseum complex

Coliseum City with all Area A phases completed

Coliseum City with all Area A phases completed

The above image has the new stadium slightly overlapping the current Coliseum footprint. Previous images had the stadium turned slightly and oriented further away from the spine, which could allow the current Coliseum to remain in place – or at partly demolished as was the case with Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium. To accommodate the football stadium where Mark Davis wants it (and where it’s shown in the image), the Coliseum would have to be demolished. That’s unavoidable, even though the new stadium’s footprint isn’t exactly on top of the old Coliseum. That’s also not a huge problem for the Raiders, since they could room with the 49ers for a couple years in the interim. It’s a huge problem for the A’s, who would be displaced. That’s why Wolff wants to get the lease in place. The A’s face eviction in this plan, even though there’s little chance for a new ballpark at CC or at Howard Terminal after the A’s are evicted. The lease would at least force BayIG and the Raiders to work around the A’s and the Warriors, who would be tenants for some time to come.

Another piece of infrastructure could be a huge factor: the power transmission lines running through the south parking lots. A big reason for building where the current Coliseum exists is that the power lines can be avoided. The cost of moving overhead transmission lines could be several million dollars, and easily double that cost if the lines were rerouted underground. In the end it may be best to move the lines underground, as it would free up land for other uses. Whether the lines remain overhead and are relocated down the road or moved underground, it’s a big infrastructure cost that has to be accounted for. Earlier renderings had the stadium displacing the power lines, so if there’s a consensus to avoid the lines, you’ll know it was a big factor. Besides the cost, PG&E and the Public Utilities Commission would have to be involved in the process, which could create delays.

Going back to the A’s and Wolff, as long as Wolff keeps some sort of dialogue going, he can have skin in the game. That disappears this summer, when BayIG is expected to have its anchor tenants signed on to the project, the Raiders being the first (I expect the deadline to slip). If Wolff can get an extension first, he’ll continue to have a say in how Coliseum City is developed. If not, and BayIG and the JPA can’t figure out a way to keep both the Raiders and A’s happy, Wolff can turn to MLB and force them to come up with a solution. That solution can’t be Howard Terminal in the short-term, since we don’t know what can be built at the Port site right now or in the future. Then there’s the possibility I wrote about in December:

If the Raiders stadium proves too costly, the A’s could easily slot right in with a much less expensive stadium option that has a much smaller funding gap, say $200-300 million. Plus with only one stadium there instead of two, there would be additional land to develop or reassign as needed. Wolff’s in a good position to wait and see how the market analyses work out for them and the Raiders.

Wolff can play this multiple ways, but the #1 issue is ensuring the A’s a home for the next several years. The rest is all process that should work itself out over the next 6-9 months. Lew may claim constantly that there’s no Plan B. I’ve never believed that. He’s not going to explain his contingency plans until he absolutely has to. That’s business.

To understand BayIG’s plans for the Coliseum, look to San Diego

Colony Capital, the Santa Monica-based hedge fund, is in a rather enviable position. It is poised to save two NFL teams from leaving their hometowns: the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers. In 2013, Colony inserted itself into both teams’ respective stadium quests, directly working with the Chargers early last year on their downtown stadium proposal and then becoming part of the BayIG consortium for the Coliseum City project.

If you want to get an idea for what Colony and partner HayaH Holdings (Rashid Al Malik) intend to do in Oakland, there’s no need to look further than San Diego. Colony has been working slightly longer on the Chargers’ plans than they have the Coliseum’s. The timing has been seemingly fortuitous. As the dissolution of redevelopment has left cities scrambling for ever dwindling public funds, Colony has emerged as a potential source of funds to bridge major funding gaps for both stadium projects. Because of this, pro-stadium groups in both cities have pinned their hopes on Colony to make these stadium concepts work.

Last fall, the Chargers and Colony took an unusual approach in advocating for a downtown stadium. Together they came out against an expansion of the San Diego Convention Center. Instead they proposed a facility within their planned stadium that could also hold smaller conventions up to 250,000 square feet. In the end the body that runs the Convention Center wrote off any plan that didn’t have an expansion adjacent to the current facility, so the downtown plan died in the process.

The new Chargers stadium would have been located two blocks east of PETCO Park

The new Chargers stadium would have been located two blocks east of PETCO Park

It made sense for the Chargers and Colony to look for public money for the stadium, in the form of a convention center expansion effort. It’s a good way to subsidize part of the stadium cost. Now that the option has evaporated, they’ll go back to their original plan of developing various publicly owned parcels to help pay for a new stadium. San Diego actually has two such properties in play, the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium land and the 38 (up to 95) acres at the old Sports Arena in the Midway neighborhood. Both bring in minimal revenues to San Diego: the arena brings in less than $500k per year, and the stadium is subsidized to the tune of $17 million per year – reminiscent of the Coliseum.

It’s difficult to blame the Chargers/Colony from looking for ways to potentially reduce their contributions. Any stadium in San Diego or Oakland will cost around $1 billion to construct, and the combined Chargers/NFL contribution is expected to be in the $300-400 million range. That leaves a major funding gap of $400-500 million for both stadia, which somehow Colony and its partners will have to cover. Effectively that’s $1 billion in private money for 2 new stadia.

Not including the acreage set aside for the stadia (or parking), the combined acreage in Oakland and San Diego is 300 acres. Let’s say that the land is given to the real estate firms for the purpose of building residential complexes near the stadia, in exchange for Colony covering the entire funding gap for both. A typical medium-density residential development has 20 units per acre, whereas a high-density development can have 100 units per acre. Medium density won’t cut it, because 300 acres X 20 units/acre = 6,000 units, translating into a $166,666 subsidy per unit, prohibitively high if a developer is trying to turn a profit. High density makes more sense as that translates to only $33,333 in per-unit subsidy by the developer. There are obvious issues with making high density work in those areas, mostly having to do with building the necessary infrastructure (access ramps, garages) to support those high rises, on top of replacement stadium parking that would be required.

Coliseum City’s development plans are a little more complex, as they include a mix of residential, office, and retail. That can help defray some of the costs, but in the end it’s still $1 billion that has to be covered by someone other than the team or the NFL. And that doesn’t include a funding gap for a new A’s ballpark or a replacement arena in San Diego. I’m not employed by a big real estate hedge fund, so I’m not smart enough to figure out how it’s all going to work. Thankfully, we should have some vision into this over the next six months, at least as far as the Raiders are concerned. At the moment, East Bay media is taking a wait-and-see stance peppered with a little hope, while the San Diego Union Tribune is in full cheerleader mode. I look forward to seeing what deals are made, and to serious public participation in the process.

MLB and unions approve expanded replay, will Coliseum fans benefit?

The usually brief January owners meetings had one major item on the agenda: the approval of expanded replay. Reports coming into the meetings indicated that the discussions could be drawn out, even approaching the start of the regular season. Thankfully, all parties quickly approved the package of changes, including MLBPA and the World Umpires Association. For now the players’ union has agreed to one year of the new replay scheme, leaving the option for future replay arrangements to be collectively bargained or extended on an annual basis.

Basically, just about everything that happens when the ball is in play or batted is subject to replay. That includes the previously reviewable home run calls. Now the package includes fair/foul calls, catches and traps, timing plays, and even force plays (except for the “neighborhood” play on attempted double plays). Pitches that hit (or come close) batters are also up for debate. Like the NHL, all replays will be sent to review officials at MLB headquarters in New York, where they’ll need “clear and convincing” evidence to overturn a call. Unlike previous years, there will no longer be a monitor for use by field umpires to render or influence any decisions.

Perhaps the biggest benefit coming out of the replay plan is that all stadia now get to show all close plays on their video boards, including plays that aren’t under review. This change has been long in coming for ballparks, as it was always frustrating to be unable to see anything controversial. Now fans will be able to truly see how bad umpires blew calls or no-calls – well, most fans at least.

In Oakland, we’re still stuck with pretty old video technology dating back from the mid-90′s. The vintage Diamond Vision CRT displays aren’t the most crisp, and the boards’ size and distance from most fans will make viewing replays a frustrating affair. The Coliseum has by far the smallest video boards in the majors, and they located significantly further from the seats than anywhere else. The chart below illustrates how sad the state of affairs is:

dodgers-others-videoboards

Comparison of video boards throughout MLB from the Chicago Tribune

Throughout the lease negotiations between the JPA, A’s, and Raiders in the fall, we held out slim hopes of improvements that would’ve included scoreboards. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. We and the tenant teams will have to make do with what’s in the Coliseum. Yet there’s a little hope for something better and more reliable to be installed at the Coli.

A little over a year ago, I suggested that the Coliseum buy used video boards off any team or stadium operator that was in the process of replacing their 5 or 10-year-old displays. Turns out that the A’s had checked in with the SF Recreation and Parks department about the displays at Candlestick Park. Now, you may think that the boards at the ‘Stick are awfully outdated and decrepit like the rest of the stadium, but you’d be wrong. The existing displays were only installed in 2008 as part of a suite of technology enhancements. The old Jumbotron in the northeast end was replaced by a 48-foot-wide Daktronics display, mirrored by a much smaller display in the south end. In addition, ribbon boards were added for score and advertising purposes. So there’s the opportunity for only 6-year-old technology to be installed at the Coliseum, right?

Well, maybe not. The A’s (not the JPA or Raiders as far as I know) inquired about the displays, and were told that the displays would be used at least through the spring for events. No chance of getting anything in time for the start of the season, then. SFPR also informed the A’s that the displays would probably be put up on craigslist for the highest bidder, with the idea of recouping whatever funds they could get. Nevermind that to properly use the Daktronics technology a buyer would also have to invest in the control system (hardware and software) to operate the boards. The A’s, in particular, would have to rip out the existing control room and replace it with Daktronics equipment – hopefully the stuff currently at the ‘Stick. To do that the A’s would at some point have to involve the JPA and the Raiders and amend the new leases to reflect the A’s investment – basically a leasehold improvement.

Then there’s also the issue of whether the boards fit. The ‘Stick’s big board is 26′ x 48′, much larger than either of the 20′ x 31.5′ boards at the Coliseum. However, Daktronics’ LED display technology is modular, broken down into 16 x 16 pixel panels that are each slightly larger than a foot square. In theory, it’s possible to reconfigure the boards to fit the scoreboard frames at the Coliseum or change the frames to accommodate larger displays. To illustrate how this might work, I put together a table that shows how these displays would be mixed and matched.

oldstickvideoboards-sm

The key is that all of the displays – the big and small video boards and the ribbon boards – use the same underlying module size. The top lines show the Candlestick configuration, with different sized video boards and 4 ribbon boards elsewhere. The next scenario has a set number of modules replace each of the Diamond Vision displays, conforming to the current size and aspect ratio. The last group shows the boards reconfigured to support standard definition 16:9 video, with 2 of the ribbon boards used to expand the LF/RF scoreboards and the other 2 used to replace the Coli’s current boards. There would still be an issue of replacing the old matrix displays, but that’s a relatively cheap fix. The big non-video scoreboard in the ‘Stick’s north end zone is too football-centric to repurpose for baseball, though it might be useful for the Raiders. I joked earlier today that the JPA should take the displays and stick them on top of Mount Davis since no one’s sitting there, but was told that there’s no way make that work.

Candlestick Park's display setup, with a scoreboard on the left and video board on the right

Candlestick Park’s display setup, with a football-purposed scoreboard on the left and video board on the right

Assuming that some billionaire doesn’t snap up the ‘Stick displays for nostalgia or to build his own stadium somewhere, those boards should be available come spring for the Coliseum to buy. They should be relatively cheap to acquire and a no-brainer purchase for all parties to agree to. The relatively new technology would be a big enhancement for fans with little cash outlay, and would be a pretty responsible recycling of technology. If it can’t happen – well, can’t say someone didn’t try.

Wolff reconsiders the Coliseum – to what end?

If you want to know what I thought immediately when I heard that Lew Wolff is reconsidering the idea of building a ballpark at the Coliseum, well, Ray Ratto beat me to it.

If, on the other hand, you want to entertain the idea that Wolff is being forthright and sees the Coliseum as a real option, I have some ideas about that too.

But first, let’s step back to June 2012, and the Save Oakland Sports meeting I attended. As we were wrapping up, one of the SOS principals (used to be “A’s observer” in the comments) asked me, Do you think Lew Wolff would consider building in Oakland? My response was, Yes, but you have to make it worth his while. He’s trying to pay for a ballpark and make it pencil out, so if Oakland has some mechanisms to make that happen, I think he would be interested.

At the time I figured people would interpret that to mean cash or free ballpark. What I was suggesting was that if Oakland can figure out a way to bridge the gap between what makes San Jose so attractive (corporate interest) and Oakland’s limitations, there could be a solution in Oakland. Can Coliseum City bridge that gap? That’s the billion-dollar question.

Remember that when Wolff was first hired as VP of venue development, he pushed for a ballpark on the Malibu & HomeBase lots, the latter of which was not owned by the JPA. The JPA nixed Wolff’s idea and later bought the HomeBase lot for Coliseum City and the Raiders. Steve Schott preferred a ballpark – if in Oakland – to be in the north parking lot of the Coliseum. That idea was a nonstarter due to potential conflicts with the other tenant teams (Warriors, Raiders) and the area still stinging politically from the Mt. Davis debacle. When Wolff took over as managing partner, he first offered up his Coliseum North vision. The light industrial area includes the old drive-in/swap meet, the now-shuttered Columbo bakery, and several other small businesses. This concept also died quickly, as the City didn’t want to entertain the prospect of buying out businesses and the limited amounts Wolff was willing to offer to seal the deal.

Now there is Coliseum City, which could bridge the gap via third party investor funds. In effect this is a substitute for the normal public subsidy we so often see in the stadium game. The idea is to have Colony Capital and HayaH Holdings take care of some amount of the gap on their own. How much they will be willing to fund for one or more new venues will depend largely on the what forthcoming market study recommends for the project.

BayIG, the combined group of developers and capital, is supposed to have reached out to both the A’s and Warriors in attempts to get them to agree to be involved in Coliseum City. Until now both teams’ ownership groups have shown little interest in partnering with BayIG and the Raiders on Coliseum City as they’re pursuing their own venue plans in San Jose and San Francisco, respectively. However, there is a way I could see Lew Wolff showing interest in CC, especially as a potential funding mechanism.

That way occurs if Coliseum City isn’t feasible for the Raiders. Even though the Raiders are the anchor tenant, there’s a great chance that they’ll have to back out, simply because the costs of building their own stadium are prohibitive. Recently there was talk of a $400-500 million funding gap for the stadium, and with typical football-related sources potentially maxed out, it’s difficult to see how development alone would pay for a large portion. For instance:

Three phases of Coliseum City have ballpark built out at the end of the project

Three phases of Coliseum City have ballpark built out at the end of the project

Phase I doesn’t address any new sources of revenue to fund the project, except the possibility of selling Coliseum land (Property Transfer). Given the remaining debt on the Coliseum of $100 million (and dropping each year by 7-8%) and the cost of infrastructure, it’s likely that any proceeds from land sales would be wiped out by that combination of costs. It’s likely that BayIG and the JPA would work together to create a Community Facilities District (Mello-Roos) or Infrastructure Finance District, whose purpose is to collect various taxes to fund the project. CFDs require majority votes, whereas IFDs require two-thirds supermajority votes. In the case of the 49ers’ stadium plan, a CFD was approved by the public. Historically IFDs are tougher to put together and approve, though some legislators including State Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) have been making headway on that front. It’s not quite the new redevelopment as it’s limited to infrastructure, but it’s an important step.

Phase II provides for limited ancillary development next to the football stadium. It could raise a $1-2 million per year, depending on how money is extracted from the condo developments. Hypothetically, if each condo provided $100,000 of its sales price towards stadium construction, that’s still only $83.7 million. Chances are that asking for more than that would either make the units not salable or eat significantly into the developer’s profits.

If the Raiders stadium proves too costly, the A’s could easily slot right in with a much less expensive stadium option that has a much smaller funding gap, say $200-300 million. Plus with only one stadium there instead of two, there would be additional land to develop or reassign as needed. Wolff’s in a good position to wait and see how the market analyses work out for them and the Raiders. Numerous outcomes could be put forth:

  • Coliseum City works financially for all three teams
  • Coliseum City works financially for two of the three teams
  • Coliseum City works financially for only the Raiders
  • Coliseum City works financially for only the A’s
  • Coliseum City doesn’t work financially for any team

I’m sure there are specific benchmarks for each of these outcomes, but we’ll have to wait until April to understand what those are. The Warriors component is even fuzzier than for the A’s and Raiders, since the replacement would be built in Area B of Coliseum City across I-880. To date the arena has not been part of the identified planning phases.

For now, Wolff gets to provide the most tacit support to Coliseum City, while letting the chips fall where they may. If the plan doesn’t pencil out, which I suspect he believes, he’ll have the numbers to prove himself right and to shut his critics up. If it does work out, he’ll be in a good bargaining position to ask for some piece of the pie. BayIG is being asked to get teams to sign on by no later than next summer, so we’ll see if this has legs.

Of course, the last 1,100 words are only believable if you endorse the idea that Wolff is actually considering Oakland in any way. If not, you’ve just wasted a few minutes of your time. Get back to your building your Wolff effigies and altars.

Coliseum City page created

The other day Wendy Thurm asked me if there was a page of links and material related to Coliseum City that she could check out. There wasn’t, so I took some time to create one. The result is a curated, reverse chronologically-ordered list of posts, with a brief overview of the project. The link is simple enough:

There’s a new link in the sidebar as well, so you can reference it after this post disappears. Eventually I’ll do the same for other sites, but it will take awhile.