No teams + No developer = No deal

BANG reports tonight that Floyd Kephart, who has been leading the effort to keep the struggling Coliseum City project alive, will not meet this weekend’s deadline to deliver a commitment from one of the Coliseum’s teams, namely the Oakland Raiders. Kephart described the situation in a manner we should all be familiar with.

It’s a complicated land situation; it’s a complicated team situation; and it’s a complicated Oakland situation. There is nothing simple here.

Kephart also revealed that he wasn’t ready to name a developer for the project. Whether that means the developer is under wraps or simply doesn’t exist is up to interpretation. Chances are that any developer’s commitment is contingent upon at least one team anchoring the project, which obviously hasn’t happened yet.

The 90-day deadline set in October was already going to be extraordinarily difficult pull off, so at least Kephart deserves credit for coming through on some of the other deliverables, such as necessary reports and studies (which to my knowledge haven’t been made public). The big stuff, however, is what counts. In the end Kephart won’t get credit for merely trying and he knows that. We’re still 31 days from the final deadline, and it’s worth asking whether or not Oakland should continue this process by extending the ENA another 30, 60, or 90 days. It’s unlikely that any potential partner (teams or developers) will suddenly commit just because the calendar flipped a couple pages. The fundamentals are still shaky at best.

The big takeaway is the Kephart revised the plan down to the 200 acres including the Coliseum and other pieces of public and private land immediately surrounding the complex. That makes for a much more feasible project in terms of acquiring and packaging the land, limiting infrastructure costs, and working out the regulatory aspects. The Coliseum City EIR is written so that the entire 800-acre plan area is the full scope, with the “Reduced Alternative” lowering densities within the full project area, not a smaller plan as a 200-acre project would require. It’s unclear if the final draft will include a 200-acre alternative, but it would seem that if Kephart’s plan moves forward such a major refocus would have to occur.

Lew Wolff has consistently said he’s not interested in being part of the project. He’d rather promote his own vision with no third parties (or perhaps his own) attached. If Coliseum City goes away and Wolff’s plan gets traction, the shoe would be on the other foot as the City, JPA, and Wolff would have to figure out how to accommodate the Raiders, as opposed to a Raiders-focused plan trying to accommodate the A’s.

Meanwhile, murmurs have been getting louder that the NFL will punt on LA for 2015. Hope remains in St. Louis for an 11th hour plan to build a new stadium for the Rams, which might give NFL the chance to extend its wait-and-see posture an additional year. The Chargers are staying in San Diego through at least next year. That leaves Oakland.

The Raiders will have to start negotiating a new lease with the JPA in the new year. Mark Davis prefers a single year or at worst a year-to-year arrangement for maximum flexibility. Davis pushed for the 1-year lease because he thought it would further the process at Coliseum City, which hasn’t happened save for the EIR. The JPA and City want a multiyear deal, which I wouldn’t expect Davis to sign. I’ve heard some strange rumors about backup venues Davis is calling about, which frankly is his right. The Raiders face severe limitations on where they can go, or rather, where they are welcome. We’ve already heard about the LA Coliseum and Rose Bowl slamming the door on the Raiders. There are also issues with Bay Area venues:

  • Levi’s Stadium has been ruled out by Davis. Even if he was interested the 49ers would require a multiyear commitment to pay for finishing construction on the second home team locker room.
  • California Memorial Stadium has a contractual ban on NFL games. Any deal to host the Raiders would run into an immediate legal injunction.
  • AT&T Park could host games, but is small and not ideal from a league perspective.
  • Stanford wants no part of the Raiders.
  • The ‘Stick is being dismantled per a development agreement with Lennar.

Even if the league owners got past Jerry Jones’ and Bob McNair’s objections, they wouldn’t approve a short-term stay for the Raiders in San Antonio. They want long-term stability and certainty. That’s also the problem in LA. Dodger Stadium could provide a short-term home, but the NFL and AEG have to work out a very complex deal for whatever team(s) commits. AEG asked for its own 6-month negotiating extension for Farmers Field. Given the complexity of arranging a temporary venue that it doesn’t control along with planning for the new stadium, getting it all done in 6 months is a tall order. That said, the NFL has assigned Eric Grubman to work on LA among other options, so it’s not like the league isn’t controlling what it can. The NFL may punt on LA for now, and punting is something Raiders fans are all too familiar with this year.

As for the A’s – they’re in a good spot. They have a lease that provides security. They’re working on a CC alternative that should be ready to go if Oakland drops CC. They can wait out the Raiders’ and Oakland’s indecisiveness, at least for a while.

 

For Davis it’s all about #1

Mark Davis explained where he stands vis-à-vis the A’s now and into the future during an interview with Tim Kawakami.

As I’ve said, I’m not against the A’s, I’m not for the A’s, I (sic) just for whatever’s best for our organization.

I don’t think anything else needs to be added here.

JPA board looks for new exec director candidates as Houston is voted down

A vote on former Assemblyman and Dublin mayor Guy Houston’s candidacy for the vacant JPA executive director position was postponed last month. The vote was finally taken yesterday and, as expected, Houston was rejected. Reasoning mostly centered on Houston’s anti-labor stances, with many eyebrows raised at fraud charges levied at Houston a few years back. Robert Bobb’s consultancy is on board with the JPA, leaving a rather gaping hole in the org chart below.

Org chart supplied by The Robert Bobb Group

Org chart supplied by The Robert Bobb Group

The job may go to former Rose Bowl head Scott McKibben, or someone else willing to slum for the measly quarter of a million the JPA will pay to whoever accepts the position. Regardless of candidate, the job should be filled in the next few months if the JPA is going to start negotiating with New City, Lew Wolff, or others looking to develop the Coliseum. It’s no small task.

Kephart provides update on Coliseum City, AEG rumors fly

Two articles – one a blog post by Mark Purdy, the other a SFBT piece by Cory Weinberg – provide a tiny amount of news on Coliseum City. Citing confidentiality agreements, New City and Renaissance head Floyd Kephart provided few new details. He did take time to trumpet that the project’s progress, which is better than no progress, I guess. The other “big” takeaways:

  • Kephart threw Colony Capital and HayaH under the bus for getting its documentation wrong.
  • He’s optimistic, saying that New City is “probably between 60 and 70 percent there.” That last 30-40% is a major sticking point, since it involves convincing at least the Raiders to sign on and a master developer as well.
  • Wolff had a discussion with Kephart. Kephart didn’t offer details to Wolff. Wolff reiterated his “wait-and-see” stance.
  • According to Purdy, both Wolff and Mark Davis would prefer to keep surface parking instead of building garages for various reasons.
  • The financing model – and whether includes paying off the Coliseum’s existing debt – remains unknown, at least publicly.

Next week the 90-day “project” will hit its midway point. Kephart is to be commended for getting the meetings, talking to potential principals, and for ably playing catchup, cleaning up the mess left for him by Colony. That still doesn’t mean there’s a deal in place, and Kephart may have to pull a rabbit out of his hat to convince Davis to commit. Private interests would be fools to give Davis any kind of revenue guarantee – that’s how Oakland get into this mess to begin with – since it could add considerable risk for them.

Meanwhile, the LA options for Davis may be dwindling. LA sportscaster Jeanne Zelasko said yesterday that the Rose Bowl and LA Coliseum want nothing to do with the Raiders, leaving Davis with possibly Dodger Stadium in the short term and perhaps Farmers Field in the long term. AEG, which bought a piece of the Lakers when Staples Center was built, is offering a similar “Lakers deal” to a prospective NFL team. AEG was even reportedly hiring a PR person for the NFL stadium effort, which the company is denying. Of course, it was AEG that asked for and received a six month extension to attract a team to Farmers Field.

Anyone following this story knows that Davis will have to give up some percentage of the team in exchange for tenancy in a new stadium anywhere, whether it’s Oakland, LA, or even San Antonio if a new stadium is built there. Here’s how I assess the Oakland vs. LA:

  • Oakland: Steadier fanbase, limited market potential, difficult financing plan, greater civic/government support
  • Los Angeles: Less stable fanbase, greater market potential, known financing plan, less civic/government support

I honestly don’t know how to handicap that. There are no deal terms available.

As for the parking issue, if you really want to read into this it’s quite possible that the Coliseum City alternative that Wolff is putting together is a low-density development like the original Fremont Pacific Commons plan. No high-rises, few parking garages. If true, that’s a huge departure from Coliseum City, though the infrastructure buildout would project to be much less intense, and therefore less expensive for Oakland/Alameda County since the public sector is expected to fund that part. Assuming that Wolff gets a chance to pitch his plan, it’ll be up to City/County to determine whether that’s good enough.

Timeline from KC years through today now available

Many of you have asked for it, I never got around to it. Until this week.

A timeline. That’s right, a timeline. Point your browser to http://newballpark.org/timeline and off you go.

It covers the years from when the Mack family sold the team to Arnold Johnson until now. It covers 60+ years and is 4,500+ words long, requiring a lot of curating and editing to get it down to that length. For the most part, I’ve included important events in the stadium saga. I’ve excluded much of the posturing and back-and-forth that, while entertaining, is ultimately unproductive.

I hope that this timeline helps you in terms of understanding the full scope of the struggle the A’s have always had in trying to finding a permanent home. Links are provided to my articles or outside articles. For now I’ve kept it to a simple bulleted list format. That may change to a linked list or an interactive format. For now I’m forcing you to scroll all the way down if you want to reach 2014. It’s worth reading the whole thing if you can. Appreciate the struggle.

If you have suggestions or you feel I’ve missed anything, comment away or send me a tweet.

As it looks now, SF’s Olympic bid is already doomed

San Francisco has a new Summer Olympics bid in the works. This time they’re targeting the 2024 Games as one of four cities competing for the US bid. The others are Boston, DC, and LA. The bid is Larry Baer’s quixotic dream, and if the region wins the Games he will rightly lauded for his efforts.

Already, the bid the appears to be off on the wrong foot. A $350 million pop-up stadium is to be the centerpiece, though it won’t be in land-starved SF. Instead the stadium and the Olympic village would be housed at the windy, cold Brisbane Baylands just south of the City. The former railyards there are a massive toxic site, needing years of cleanup before they’re ready to build. An EIR is in progress.

The Chronicle’s C.W. Nevius suggested Oakland as the better site, though it makes too much sense to actually happen. As Mark Purdy notes, the Bay Area’s unique brand of provincialism will probably ruin what should be a fully regional effort.

The problems in the Bay Area are simple:

  • Land is far too scarce and expensive to properly rein in the budget
  • The City of San Francisco lacks the outdoor venues to be a proper anchor
  • The previous bids were plagued by having multiple venues 2-3 hours away from SF

All of the places being discussed for a future stadium and village are brownfields like Baylands or former military sites like Hunters Point, Moffett Field, or Alameda NAS. Even Treasure Island has been discussed, and it too has the same infrastructural problems the others face. Tokyo, which won the 2020 Games, is seeing its budget blown to bits while trying to keep the bid compact – most planned venues are within only a few miles of the village).

The Bay Area, which has a gigantic body of water acting as both a physical and psychological barrier to residents and visitors, can’t dream of having a truly compact bid. Instead it needs to capitalize on the resource it has – a great number of existing venues that can host the Games with little need for new construction.

Bid specifics haven’t been released, but what I have seen so far concerns me. Besides the problematic Brisbane site, Coliseum City is mentioned as an adjunct. Meanwhile, $350 million would be spent on a disposable stadium. That’s utter nonsense. Phase the main stadium at Coliseum City correctly and you can save at least $1 billion while providing the Raiders the new home they want. Here’s how.

Phase I: Two main stands

Phase I: Two main stands

It starts with a technique used historically to build English soccer venues: build stands. One on each side of the field. The illustration above shows the track. Modern track meets and the Olympics require more buffer space around the track, which can be accommodated because the stands don’t have concrete poured all the way down to the field. The first 20-26 rows will be portable, similar to the east football seats for Mount Davis. The twin stands would cost $500-600 million to construct and hold 35-40,000 seats.

olympic-fb2a

Phase II: Fill in the ends temporarily

 

Next, put seats in the end zones and corners. Assuming that this stadium is ready for the Raiders by 2019, these seats don’t have to be on concrete risers. The space between the back of the football end zone and the track oval seats (brown) would be filled by additional rows that go all the way down to the field. There’s your Black Hole. New capacity: 62,000. That would work until…

olympic-fb2b

Phase III: Olympic configuration

After the final game of the Raiders 2023 season, remove the Black Hole seats and start adding temporary sections (green-brown) behind the oval seats. Capacity becomes 80,000 for the Games. After the games end in August, the temporary sections can be removed for football season. If the Raiders want to finish off the stadium in a revenue-maximizing manner, they can undertake a project after the 2024 season ends to remake the end zones.

Phase IV: New end zone sections (temporary sections outlined)

Phase IV: New end zone sections (temporary sections outlined)

The team could add field suites or a huge end zone lounge like what the Patriots are planning at Gillette Stadium. Final capacity: 63,000. This approach would avoid the pitfalls London faced when figuring out what to do with their Olympic Stadium. They did bidding on the post-Games venue after the Games ended, inevitably creating a much more time-consuming, expensive process of stadium redevelopment. If the Raiders are involved from the get-go, they get the venue they want with minimal disruption and cost to themselves. The total cost of this is probably $1 billion. Why? Because all of the important stadium amenities are packaged within the original stands, limiting the amount of square footage built. The two stands can also be built quickly, which should also limit cost.

BASOC’s 2016 bid famously suffered an embarrassing death at the hands of the 49ers, who showed no interest in a multi-use stadium. They had their own vision for a new stadium, eventually realizing it. The Raiders don’t really have a vision for a stadium, looking more towards fulfilling requirements. BASOC and Baer would be smart to recognize the Raiders’ needs as an opportunity. Then again, if the Raiders aren’t in the Bay Area long term, BASOC would have little reason to engage the Raiders.

It’s a shame. There is no market in the country with as many existing, ready-to-use venues for the Olympics as the Bay Area. By 2024 we could have:

  • An Olympic stadium and Village in Oakland with excellent built-in transit access
  • Levi’s, Stanford, Avaya, and Cal Memorial Stadium set up as soccer venues
  • Three major arenas (Warriors, SAP, Oracle), two college arenas (Haas, Maples), and two convention centers (Moscone, McEnery SJ) to handle indoor events
  • Limited new construction required

It would take SF allowing other communities to grab the spotlight. It would take Larry Baer actually being a champion to the region, which he is most certainly not. I too can’t see it happening. Dare to dream, Larry.

 

Wolff to meet with New City’s Kephart over Coliseum City on Monday

An early reason for Thanksgiving? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet. Floyd Kephart, the point man for the rejuvenated Coliseum City effort, has a meeting with Lew Wolff scheduled for Monday.

The encouraging news is that Kephart may have put together a plan to keep either the A’s and/or Raiders while paying off the outstanding Mt. Davis debt. That previously was not on the table, at least under the Raiders-centric plan.

birdseye-view_north

As of this writing, there are 58 days left in the recently-extended Coliseum City ENA. Kephart has to deliver at least one team and a master developer to sign on, otherwise CC is toast.

Or is it? Is there anything stopping yet another 3 or 6 months? Presumably the Raiders will have to decide whether to make a run for LA in January or February, when the NFL’s relocation window opens. Mark Davis, Stan Kroenke, and Dean Spanos will all be tempted to be first movers, if only to stake the first claim to LA despite the lack of concrete new stadium plans. What would happen if the relocation window and the ENA both expired with no action by Davis? Davis would be forced to work on a lease extension somewhere, whether at the Coliseum, Levi’s, AT&T Park, wherever. The JPA and the City of Oakland would prefer to keep the Raiders locked into a multiyear lease, which would buy them additional time while they waited for Coliseum City to magically pencil out. Naturally, Davis would be most comfortable with a year-to-year agreement. Inevitably, it all comes down to Davis being the first domino. Little else substantive can happen without his involvement, at least if Oakland wants to keep the Raiders within city limits.

A hidden issue for all three potential relocation candidates is the need for a practice facility and headquarters. The Chargers might be able to get away with keeping theirs temporarily in San Diego. The Raiders could also keep theirs in Alameda via a lease extension while flying down to LA for games, though the JPA may choose to slam the door in Davis’s face if he brings in the moving vans. Kroenke has vast land holdings, including that Hollywood Park purchase from earlier in the year, so if he wanted to build a facility in conjunction with the move, there’s little to stop him. However, that would take at least a year to complete with no temporary facility in place, and the NFL would prefer that these teams not use a local JC or high school in the interim.

Going back to Wolff, there’s little reason to think he’ll be significantly swayed by Kephart. Wolff already has his own designs on the Coliseum complex, so a third party would add needless complication. Kephart might have a third way that suits Wolff and New City’s investors, though it’s hard to see what that is. Perhaps if Wolff gets the complex to develop, while New City takes the area between the complex and the BART station and the “Area B” west of 880, all parties may be satisfied. It was always assumed that the $500-600 million funding gap made using all 800 acres necessary. Since the A’s would probably need only a fraction of that for the ballpark, there stands to be more wiggle room for all parties. For a project as large as this it’s not unusual to have several developers handling different sections and phases. Getting them all on the same page, making their respective contributions, and not getting too greedy – that’s the hard part.