Category Archives: Oakland

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.

Coliseum City infrastructure cost estimated at $344-425 million

One of the Coliseum City deliverables due in February was a public infrastructure costs report. That report is now available (report/cost tables) thanks to BANG’s Matthew Artz. Sometime ago I half-joked that the amount of infrastructure needed to build out Coliseum City is so much that it would be like adding a fourth venue in terms of cost. It’s no joke anymore, as the numbers are in. Infrastructure cost, which for some reason doesn’t even include the cost to demolish the old Coliseum, ranges from $344 million to $425 million.

Unlike the previous phasing report, which had the Raiders stadium being built for 2018 and the Athletics by 2022 or later, this report has both venues being constructed and opening in time for their 2018 seasons. Much of that total includes relocation of utilities that run through the complex, including nearly $16 million to move overhead power lines and $1.4 million to move the sewer interceptor.

Surprisingly there is no estimate for the cost of demolishing the old Coliseum. The report states that demolition of the Coliseum “will only marginally affect the costs of the new facility.” For large concrete structures like the stadium, that could easily run into the low eight figures, especially because of how massive Mount Davis is. If that’s considered marginal, it’s only because it’s about 3-5% of the total project cost.

CC-easements

Utilities running through the Coliseum City project area

The price escalates quickly when accounting for all the stuff that would make the City part of Coliseum City work. About $24 million would go into BART station improvements. The big addition is a side platform that would allow fans to more directly access the BART bridge without having to go down into the station, only to go up again. That would be a welcome improvement regardless of how much of Coliseum City gets built, since the station can be a huge bottleneck during high-attendance games. There are also initial plans for a streetcar, which at $25 million seems awfully low considering that it would eventually go across the Nimitz and out to Edgewater. $175 million covers all transit, traffic, and infrastructure changes, with another $45 million going towards optional enhancements. $21 million of that total would go towards a new loop road (boulevard) that would serve Coliseum City.

New side platform and access to BART pedestrian bridge

New BART side platform

Another $20 million is estimated for a parking garage for the NFL stadium. Such a garage seems antithetical to Mark Davis’s fan experience with tailgating as a major feature, so I’m curious to see if he would balk at that piece. At the very end of the reports table is an estimate for NFL stadium only infrastructure, nearly $55 million. Naturally, Davis and the NFL might look at that figure with more interest than the total for the whole development. It’s also worth pointing out that a stadium built on top of the current Coliseum footprint would be even cheaper from an infrastructure standpoint, since it would probably require no utility relocation.

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The estimates provided aren’t indicators that the project will proceed. The project could be transformed again or scaled down depending on team or developer interest. The City and Alameda County will seek out TOD grants for much of the transit hub improvements package. It’s also likely that the JPA will look to create an infrastructure financing district (IFD) to fund the rest of infrastructure. If they can pool together enough funding through grants and future assessments to make it all pencil out, Coliseum City has a chance. Nevertheless, these costs have added some $400 million to the various venue construction costs. All told we’re talking about $2.5 billion and counting.

Towards the end of the report was Phase I of the Market Data Analysis, which was also expected in February. The findings go against previous studies that showed weak demand for premium seating. There seems to be an effort to show that a larger stadium with the capacity of the 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium or the Vikings’ new dome in Minneapolis will be worth the escalated cost. The study also indicates that the ticket-buying fan base is far more geographically widespread than merely the East Bay, with many coming from the Central Valley, Reno, Las Vegas, and even Phoenix.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Raiders and Davis concur with these survey findings. Davis has been leading the charge for a smaller stadium with 56,000 seats instead of 68,000 that BayIG is pursuing. Obviously, BayIG wants the bigger stadium for a future Super Bowl, an event that wouldn’t be possible in a smaller stadium. BayIG is emboldened enough to want to pursue the development further. Does Davis like what he sees? Only three weeks ago Davis expressed frustration about not getting information from BayIG or the JPA. Did he receive this report after the comments he made during the NFL owners meetings, or before? If BayIG and Davis can’t get on the same page, there is no Coliseum City.

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.

Kawakami: San Jose is dead for now

If you haven’t already read Tim Kawakami’s latest blog piece, I must insist that you do so. Then come back here.

Kawakami’s premise is that after checking with various league sources, San Jose is not happening soon, and doesn’t have the votes thanks to the Lodge’s reaction to last summer’s lawsuit filed against MLB.

I’ve heard differently, that for some months now everything is simply a big negotiation and the ongoing items in progress (lawsuits by/against San Jose, Oakland’s own activities) are there to make points towards the final figure. As we’ve seen time and time again, MLB is thoroughly inscrutable. They can choose to punish A’s ownership for nodding with San Jose’s antitrust lawsuit while turning a blind eye to the Giants’ interference with San Jose. It’s their Lodge, they make the rules. People have jokingly noted that the fifth anniversary of the “Blue Ribbon Commission” just happened. Well, so has the ninth anniversary of this blog! And we’re still not closer to a new ballpark!

Regardless of MLB’s (in)actions, the fact is that Kawakami’s right that the A’s aren’t going anywhere soon. Maybe that changes if Joe Cotchett can get the heat turned up via the Ninth Circuit. Even then it seems likely that in a loss MLB would appeal to the Supreme Court, which is really what Cotchett wants. If MLB can be made to heel, then it would force a solution the same way Tampa Bay got an expansion franchise. That is at best a long shot and shouldn’t be expected.

And maybe that’s Selig’s point. Selig and the rest of the owners prefer to work everything out within the confines of the Lodge. They could be holding the decision over Lew Wolff’s and John Fisher’s heads as long as the lawsuit moves forward. If the lawsuit were suddenly dropped, the process could be back on, but not while the lawsuit continues. The response brief from MLB is due this week.

While Kawakami’s basic point about inertia stands, it doesn’t speak to a real endgame. There remains the game of musical chairs at the Coliseum, as well as the pace of progress and the numerous unknowns of the Howard Terminal project. If both of those options fall apart it works in Wolff’s favor. If at least one works out it helps MLB and the Giants since they wouldn’t have to touch territorial rights. The endgame scenarios are unpredictable, involving plenty of independent moving parts. The situation within the Lodge could take years to settle, or could be done before Selig leaves office next year (if that happens).

The parting shot that Kawakami takes in which Wolff & Fisher haven’t endeared themselves to the other owners because they “make profits” from revenue sharing – that sounds like a talking point. That’s the system, set up and approved unanimously by the owners per the CBA. If the owners hate the A’s getting revenue sharing so much, adjust the formula to limit their take. Or how about this – allow them to have a solution to get them off revenue sharing. The 2012 CBA specified that the A’s would be off the dole once they moved into a new ballpark within the Bay Area market, perhaps as late as the end of the CBA in 2016. We now know that the next CBA will come with no new (permanent) venue for the A’s at that time. If the owners are that upset, get punitive. That said, I think that criticism is a load of B.S.

Even the outcome that has the A’s staying in Oakland in a new park is problematic. If the A’s (Wolff/Fisher or a new ownership group) privately finance a $500 million stadium, they’ll be on the hook for $30 million in debt service every year for 30 years, with no revenue sharing to backfill any revenue shortfalls (if the A’s have down years or the honeymoon period ends). Plus they won’t have nearly the kind of corporate revenue to cover a large percentage of the loans the same way a ballpark in San Jose or San Francisco would. Is the Lodge ready to approve such a deal? Or would they rather extend revenue sharing to provide a cushion for the A’s? If they do, the M.O. would belie those previous criticisms. Yet it would be the easy way out. Just treat the A’s like a small market team forever, and let the sleeping dog entrenched interests lie. Yep, that sounds a lot like MLB, especially under Bud Selig.

Coliseum gets upgrades for fans, media, players alike

The Coliseum will look a little different from last year or even FanFest. A number of improvements have been made, from fresh paint and changes to the dugouts and clubhouses to the redone West Side Club. Here’s the press release announcing the changes, courtesy of the Coliseum Authority:

For Immediate Release                                Contact: Dan Cohen/Edit Ruano                                              March 30, 2014

 

 

New Improvements to the O.co Coliseum Will Greet Oakland A’s Fans, Players, and Media for the Start of the 2014 Baseball Season

Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Authority and the Oakland A’s have invested in improved security, upgrades to press and player amenities, and new food options

 

OAKLAND, CA – A’s fans visiting the O.co Coliseum to watch a game this year have a number of new improvements to look forward to – and so do the A’s players, opponents, umpires, and media.  The Coliseum Authority and the Oakland A’s made significant investments in the off-season to improve the experience for all guests.  This includes improved security at the entrance, new food and beverage selections at the stadium, and improved amenities for players, fans, and media.

 

“A’s fans have been looking forward to the start of the 2014 baseball season all winter, and we want their return to the O.co Coliseum to be a positive one,” said Authority Chair and Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley. “That’s why we are so excited about all the work that has been happening at the stadium during the off-season this year. It’s more than a fresh coat of paint – it’s about us addressing the needs of our loyal fans.”

 

For A’s fans, here are some new improvements to expect:

  • New look: The O.co Coliseum has been fully re-painted and new Kentucky blue grass sod has been laid on the field as it is each year before the season.  New investments in groundskeeping machinery, including industrial lawnmowers and a “laser-leveling system,” will allow the Authority to maintain the field more easily and effectively.
  • New concessionaire & food items: The Oakland A’s, which are in charge of the concessionaire contract, have brought in an exciting array of new items and are upgrading the concession experience/facilities. Fans will now have access to even more premium beers and new food items like wood-fired pizzas, and more!
  • Improved “Ring” Road:  The Coliseum Authority will repave the road that circumnavigates the stadium after the initial homestand.
  • Improved security: The Authority will provide state-of-the-art magnetic screening equipment that fans can quickly pass through as they enter. The Oakland’s A’s will provide personnel to manage the screening.

 

 

For the players, umpires and media, improvements include:

  • Remodeled dugouts: Both the home team and visitor dugouts have been upgraded with new padded benches, upgraded flooring, new dugout phones, water fountains, and new bathroom fixtures and paint.
  • Upgraded lockers: The home team, visitor, and umpire locker rooms all have new rubberized floors and showers.
  • Updated press box: Members of the press will now have access to flatscreen televisions, and new tables, carpets, restrooms and ceilings.

 

“We are excited about this season and confident that fans who come to the stadium and the players will have a winning experience,” said Chris Wright, VP of AEG Facilities and GM of O.co Coliseum & Oracle Arena. “Now, it’s time to play ball!”

 

To download pictures of the improvements, please visit:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/kuljv0oejnuxp4n/gg26JgTftW?lst

 

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About the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Authority:

The Authority is a public partnership between the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda (owners of the Coliseum Complex) that manages the Complex on behalf of City and County.  The Authority subcontracts the day-to-day operations of the Complex to AEG.  An eight-member Board of Commissioners governs the Authority.  Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley currently serves as the Chair of the Board, and Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid serves as the Vice-Chair.

Let’s hope that the weather cooperates tonight so that everyone can enjoy the changes. The one I care about most? You can guess:

20 craft beers now available in the West Side Club

20 craft and import beers now available in the West Side Club