Selig’s Lamentations and the Law of Unintended Consequences

To hear outgoing MLB Commissioner Bud Selig explain it, he was stuck in the middle. Powerless. The issue was forever “complicated.” He wished he could’ve resolved it. So when he rolled through Oakland on his farewell tour, there was no staged ceremony near home plate, no televised gift of a rocking chair made of bats. The only real exchange was a series of questions from local media, asking him if he could’ve done more get the A’s to a new ballpark. All he could say was that a ballpark was needed. Acknowledging that the so-called Blue Ribbon Commission/Panel/Tribunal was effectively shut down, the only thing missing was a hook to pull him off the podium.

Anyone’s thoughts on how the A’s (and Giants) should be treated are largely colored by three views:

  1. Oakland’s standing as a major league host city
  2. How much power the Commissioner has over teams and whether he should wield that power
  3. The sanctity of territorial rights and baseball’s antitrust exemption

There was never a question of whether the Coliseum is decrepit enough to be replaced; of course it is. There’s also little question of whether San Jose is large enough or wealthy enough to host a team if not encumbered by territorial rights; of course it is. The three items listed above, however, are up for serious debate. And despite the A’s 11th-hour lease extension last year and the hurried extension talks this year (done to give Selig something to hang his hat on as much as anything else), those questions will continue to dominate the discussion moving forward. All we get for the next few years as A’s fans get is a brief respite. Frankly, that’s rather welcome at this point.

Selig touted the 22 parks built during his tenure as head cheese. Virtually all of those parks have a single thread in common that Oakland can’t give at this point: public funding. The notable exception is San Francisco, where the Giants were somewhat ostracized for daring to privately finance their yard. The Lodge thought that baseball was on a slippery slope to No-Subsidies-Ville, with noted baseball town St. Louis playing hardball with its beloved Cardinals enough that the team financed $290 million for Busch on their own. They didn’t need to worry, as the extortion game succeeded in Miami and Minneapolis, even through the recession.

Oakland doesn’t have cash to offer. Despite their repeated shows of incompetence, Oakland’s pols are not crazy enough to offer cash straight up (I think). But they’re showing signs of being willing to offer up a big swath of Coliseum land, which in the long run is nearly as good as cash. If the City/County hadn’t gotten so legally entangled with the Raiders, Oakland would’ve been in the position to offer a Coliseum City-like deal to the A’s. Selig would’ve acknowledged the skin that Oakland was willing to wager, and I’d be watching the game in a new ballpark right now instead of an old one. That’s not to say it would’ve been a good deal for Oakland. It would still be a big-time subsidy. But it wouldn’t have been as disastrous as Mount Davis, that’s for sure.

Selig took the acting commissioner job in September 1992, as Bob Lurie was finalizing a deal to sell the Giants to the Vincents (Naimoli and Piazza). Still carrying the scar from losing the Braves to Atlanta, he purportedly held off the deal long enough (enduring a lawsuit in the process) to allow San Francisco interests to pull an ownership group together. After failing to save the 1994 season, he worked hard to avoid further work stoppages, though he sacrificed the Montreal Expos to do it. After he screwed over the original TB Giants owners, he settled with another group to get them an expansion team in 1998, helping to infuse baseball with cash after the Lodge took it on the chin with the owners’ collusion lawsuit. In the process, he bound the Rays to practically unbreakable lease at a domed stadium. Plus he forgot that San Jose and Santa Clara County, which were gifted to the old Giants ownership when they pursued a ballpark in the South Bay, remained granted territories to the Giants after the new SF-only ownership group took over. All of that happened while he was acting commissioner.

As the elected, properly sworn-in permanent commissioner, Selig orchestrated the Expos contraction-then-expansion ownership swap among three teams that netted baseball a handsome expansion fee and brought baseball back to DC. To satiate O’s owner Peter Angelos, he and his executive team cobbled together a deal that made the O’s majority owner of a new regional sports network, MASN, which owned broadcast rights to the Nationals. Apparently Selig didn’t see the TV rights bubble coming or the conflict such an arrangement might create. The Nats, whose initial term on MASN is now up, want in on that bubble while the O’s are unwilling to pay market rates. Naturally, the teams are in court. Selig, who gave Angelos MASN to get him to stop a lawsuit against MLB, now sees two teams stuck in trench warfare, arguing over hundreds of millions of dollars. To mollify the Nats, Selig is giving the team money from his eight-figures-per-year iscretionary fund. These days $25 million or so is small potatoes compared to the riches Ted Lerner sees going forward, so the struggle continues.

It’s with that perspective that Selig has found himself stuck trying to satisfy both the A’s and the Giants. There’s Selig the legacy-protector, who would prefer to keep the team in Oakland if they could just pull out their checkbook. There’s Selig the Lodge-unity-protector, afraid to take the territorial rights issue head on for fear of reprisal from one faction of owners or owner. Then there’s Selig the procrastinator, whose blind eye towards many baseball issues (PEDs, inner city youth development, growing economic disparity among teams) made this particular outcome entirely predictable. Some want to give Selig credit for MLB Advanced Media or growing TV revenues, when really he just stood aside and let his underlings innovate for him. I mean, really, Selig and MLBAM? The guy doesn’t even have email.

Complete conjecture on my part: I suspect there was a plan at some point in which the Nats-O’s TV issue was resolved permanently and the under-the-table payments could be rerouted to either the A’s or Giants as part of another temporary deal. If the A’s were granted San Jose, the Giants would be given a “refund” of their revenue sharing payment. If the Giants kept the territory, the A’s would get the piece of the discretionary fund as financial ballast as they built in Oakland (remember, per the CBA revenue sharing goes away if the A’s build anew in the Bay Area). Over time such payments would taper off as the teams adjusted. With such funds indefinitely in use for another conflict, there was no solution to be had. Another consequence of the Nats-O’s dispute is that any thought of creating a new Bay Area RSN with the Giants in control in a similar arrangement to the O’s now has to be considered verboten.

So yes, Selig is right to an extent. The problem is complicated. Still, all it would’ve taken is better foresight to manage this and all of the other problems. They are merely ways of moving money around a table, out of one pocket and into another. Some have argued for MLB to establish a stadium loan program like the NFL’s G-3/G-4. That’s not happening soon because the NFL’s TV dollars used to establish G-4 dwarf baseball’s national TV revenue $6 billion to $1.5 billion. The big market owners see the new TV contracts, in which each team receives $50 million per year, as enough in terms of support when coupled with revenue sharing and the luxury tax. That’s enough to give the sense of competitive balance that Selig likes to tout. Then again, we all know that’s an illusion.

Competitive balance means allowing the poor teams to play as if they don’t see the glass ceiling. That’s your Oakland Athletics, now and into the foreseeable future.

What happened to the Stand for San Jose case?

I really should check into these court cases more than once every couple weeks.

While many eyes will be focused on the City of San Jose’s Ninth Circuit appeal against Major League Baseball this Tuesday, another case appears to have been resolved. That would be “citizen group” Stand for San Jose’s lawsuit against the City in Santa Clara County Superior Court. A hearing was scheduled for the end of this week, August 15. However, that was wiped away as the court vacated the hearing. In fact, the court now has the case status as disposed as of July 24. In other words, the case is resolved, over, done. Big hat-tip to Wendy Thurm, who alerted me to this on Friday.

The only recent action leading up to that point was notice that the Oversight Board of SARA (Successor Agency of the Redevelopment Agency) would file its own motion to dismiss by July 25. The idea was that since the Oversight Board was given the power to dispose of the Diridon ballpark parcels however it saw fit as long as it took care of financial obligations to the state. That was to lead for a motion for pleadings on August 15. Then suddenly, the dismissal on July 24. It’s important to note that it’s a dismissal without prejudice, so it could come back at some point. Regardless, it’s a surprising move for all concerned. I’ve asked around to understand what happened, and haven’t gotten any answers yet.

Besides the legal maneuvering, one other thing has happened this summer that might have brought all parties to the table. That would be the A’s and the Coliseum JPA approving an extension at the Coliseum through at least 2018 (up to 2024). Obviously that’s speculation, and the filings may reveal something else, which is why I’m heading to Superior Court tomorrow afternoon. Be forewarned: I don’t expect to get much out of my inquiry. When cases are resolved in a non-public manner as this was, the parties can sometimes choose to reveal little about the motivations to do so.

Then again, there’s this update which came in on Friday:

081414

Some day all this legal stuff will end and there will be a ballpark under construction. Maybe.

Mark Davis meets with San Antonio officials

In case the Mark Davis feels like moving the Raiders to San Antonio, there’s already branding in place. The NFL even owns it.

Card of future Cowboy backup QB and head coach Jason Garrett, whose career ended up far more successful than the WLAF

Card of future Cowboy backup QB and head coach Jason Garrett, whose career ended up far more successful than the late, not-so-lamented WLAF

The World League of American Football launched in the early 90’s, a half-hearted attempt to grow American football in Europe and shore up former USFL markets. Operating the league became a drain, and after shrinking to become a entirely European affair (NFL Europe), the league shut down after the 2007 season. Yet there are still reminders of the San Antonio RIDERS, only one letter removed from RAIDERS. The color scheme is 80’s-90’s awful, so it would be best if the Raiders stuck with the historical scheme, similar to the NBA Spurs.

Around the time Alameda County was approving the A’s lease, a report came out of the San Antonio Express News indicating that Mark Davis met with officials in SA over the weekend. Reached for comment, Davis said the following:

“Former San Antonio mayor Henry Cisneros is a friend and Henry suggested I take the opportunity to meet with some city officials while I was in town. I have nothing further to discuss on the topic.”

After his mayoral stint, Cisneros went to become HUD Secretary during the Clinton administration, then was taken down by a mistress scandal. Davis also met with current mayor Julian Castro, City Manager Sheryl Sculley, San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt, former Minnesota Vikings owner Red McCombs, and representatives from the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. Together they toured the Alamodome and talked about San Antonio as a market.

The Houston Chronicle noted that Cisneros’s son-in-law is Brad Badger, a former Raiders and Stanford offensive lineman who now works in team’s corporate sales department. Sculley made her own statement:

“I was asked to meet two weeks ago with the owner of the Oakland Raiders, Mark Davis, and members of his staff. Mr. Davis has expressed interest in a possible relocation of his NFL team to San Antonio and we are engaged in preliminary due diligience. The agenda for this visit included a tour of the Alamodome and meetings with local business leaders.”

If Davis is going to use whatever leverage he has, the effort will have to involve making visits to San Antonio, Portland, and inevitably, Los Angeles. Heck, Minnesota leaders flinched big time just from a sighting of Vikings owner Zygi Wilf’s plane in LA. It doesn’t matter much that San Antonio is a small market. Football’s largely forgiving of that provided that there are enough regional corporate interests (Hello, Austin!) to bring in. San Antonio’s biggest problems are that the market is already a Cowboys stronghold (and Texans to a lesser extent), since the Cowboys have conducted training camp at the Alamodome on multiple occasions. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones signaled the difficulty Davis and San Antonio might face:

I wonder what Jerruh and Mark will talk about during the joint practice sessions set for August 12-13 in Oxnard?

Beyond the pre-existing teams, San Antonio faces the same problem all other prospective Raiders host cities faces: they need a new stadium. The NFL has set the whole thing up so that a team really couldn’t move permanently unless a stadium deal is in place, since the NFL provides a large amount of financing. And that piece doesn’t come until the public/team portions are committed.

I’m more curious about the reactions from Oakland, Alameda County, and Raiders fans are than anything else regarding this trip. This is how the stadium game is played, nothing more.

Alameda County approves A’s lease unanimously 5-0

After a relatively brief, much less heated discussion over the A’s lease extension than was had by the City two weeks ago, Alameda County’s Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve the extension. The deal keeps the A’s in the Coliseum until at least 2018, and up to 2024 if the team chooses to stay there. Though the deal is characterized as a 10-year lease, the 2014 season runs concurrent with the new deal.

Supervisor Keith Carson asked the most pointed questions of JPA negotiator Jon Streeter, mostly about the debt and the characterization of the new lease as a better deal for the County (and City) than previous leases. Streeter noted that the more money comes in upfront, plus the A’s have to pay off the lease even if they leave the Coliseum early. Miley noted that the original A’s escape provision calls for no payoff if the team pursued a new ballpark elsewhere in Alameda County. The language was changed to Oakland only, meaning the A’s would pay full termination even if they made a stadium deal in Fremont or even San Leandro. Streeter also repeated the notion that the upcoming scoreboard project, which the A’s are paying for, means that the JPA no longer has a potentially big liability item to worry about, since the JPA has been to date responsible for the outdated, frequently failing scoreboard.

To recap the major deal points:

  • A’s stay until at least 2018, up to 2024. A’s must give at least 2 calendar years’ notice if they plan to leave early.
  • The JPA must also give the A’s 2 years’ notice if a Raiders stadium deal comes to fruition and forces the A’s to vacate.
  • Lease payments are $1.75 for this year, $1.5 MM in 2015, $1.5 MM in 2016-19, and $1.25 from 2020-24.
  • A’s will spend at least $10 million on new scoreboard system. A’s retain all revenue from A’s games, Raiders/JPA can split non-A’s game revenue as they see fit.
  • JPA sets aside $1 million per year (increasing 5% annually) to establish a stadium maintenance fund (presumably for fixing plumbing, leaks, etc.)
  • JPA will pay $200,000/year for the O.co signage caps above the scoreboards. A’s may end up replacing those caps as part of the scoreboard project.
  • A’s and JPA will continue stadium discussions on land at or adjacent to the Coliseum (nowhere else like Howard Terminal).
  • The parking arbitration matter is resolved, all claims dismissed.

The JPA and County clarified that there is $191.4 million in outstanding debt at the Coliseum complex: $106.5 million for the stadium, $84.9 for the Arena. Bonds will be retired in 2025 and 2026, respectively.

Next up is MLB’s expected approval of the lease, and the City of Oakland’s next steps in negotiating with the Raiders and BayIG over Coliseum City.

A’s approve City-revised lease, await County vote

No drama this week. The A’s approved the last-minute changes the City of Oakland made to the lease agreement. When Alameda County approves next week, everyone should be square. The A’s put out a press release, in short:

The Oakland A’s have come to an agreement with the JPA on all outstanding points regarding a new 10-year lease at the Coliseum. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors, are scheduled to vote on the lease July 29.

We appreciate the cooperation and efforts of Oakland city officials in this process and are optimistic that our negotiations have led to a fair and mutually-beneficial relationship. Most of all, we are happy for our great fans who, pending the county’s vote, will know that the Oakland Athletics will continue to play its games at O.co Coliseum.

More coverage is available from SFGate and BANG.

With the lease issue very close to resolution, the NFL is once again talking about a football team in LA – at perhaps a league-owned stadium, no less. Curious timing to say the least.

Still, there will be those who keep saying to never trust Lew Wolff, don’t give in, etc. I’ll just leave this snippet from another East Bay legend here:

If I speak at one constant volume
At one constant pitch
At one constant rhythm
Right into your ear
You still won’t hear

Wake up, Oakland

“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” – Confucius

There are any number of ways to rephrase the idiom above. Some might use “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush,” though the meaning is not the same. Voltaire coined the phrase a little more directly.

The perfect is the enemy of the good.

As I listened to Don Knauss make yet another sales pitch about the virtues of Howard Terminal (and Damon Bruce’s softball handling of it), I started to write a point-by-point rebuttal of everything he said. Then, thanks to BANG’s Matthew Artz, I read a 6-page letter from Lew Wolff to Oakland Interim City Administrator Henry Gardner. The letter outlined Wolff’s desire for a lease extension at the Coliseum before leading into the questions surrounding the future of the Coliseum.

Two pages of the letter are devoted to a section called “The Raiders”. Instead of pointing fingers at the Raiders or Mark Davis, Wolff mostly pans BayIG, the Coliseum City plan, and all of the work that has gone into it so far.

I contrasted words from both Knauss and Wolff. The Clorox CEO talked about a transformative project that could hugely benefit downtown Oakland, which it could. A similar description has been made about Coliseum City by its proponents, comparing it to LA Live among other developments. Then there was Wolff, going detail by detail about the process, the difficulty, tedium, and the obstacles. He even lashed back at “Negative Forces” agitating at every possible turn, which could be construed as a critique of Don Knauss or others allied with Knauss.

The argument, which has stretched as long as Wolff and John Fisher have owned the A’s, comes down to Voltaire’s quote. Wolff’s #1 job this entire time has been to get a ballpark. Let’s understand some of those efforts.

  • 2003 – Wolff was hired by Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann to be the VP of Venue Development. During that brief tenure, Wolff proposed building in the Coliseum’s A Lot and at the Malibu/HomeBase lots. The A Lot option went nowhere because Schott was only willing to put up $100 million for the ballpark. The Malibu option was not available because it was not JPA-owned land. Eventually the JPA bought the land in order to assemble a larger complex for what would be become Coliseum City.
  • 2005 – Wolff exercises an option to buy the team, phasing Schott & Hofmann out and bringing Fisher and numerous associates of Wolff in. Wolff soon proposes the Coliseum North (66th/High) plan, which would redevelop a large swath of industrial land north of the Coliseum complex into a ballpark and mixed-use (residential, retail, commercial) plan. The plan received great fanfare at first, but quickly died as numerous existing landowners showed no interest in selling.
  • 2006 – The Fremont Baseball Village plan is proposed in south Fremont near the Santa Clara County line. A compromise plan of sorts, the idea was to court Silicon Valley corporate interests without crossing into the Giants-held territory of Santa Clara County. Again, there is great immediate enthusiasm, this time from Fremont city leaders. This time, a combination of the Great Recession and big box stores vetoing any developments they didn’t approve of killed the plan. Another attempt in 2010 was made to put the ballpark near the NUMMI (now Tesla) factory across the Nimitz. That was met with hostility from well-heeled residents on the other side of I-680 and fell apart quickly.
  • 2009 – San Jose becomes the next plan, with a partially-acquired site downtown, major corporate and civic support, and a certified environmental impact report ready to go. Again the plan stalled as the Giants remained intransigent about their held territory. A lawsuit filed by people associated with the San Jose Giants (eventually a SF Giants-owned property) threatened the project and is still ongoing. The City of San Jose became frustrated and launched its own lawsuit in 2012 against MLB. That too is ongoing.
  • 2009 – Let’s Go Oakland launches with support of three sites in downtown Oakland: Victory Court, JLS West, and Howard Terminal. Victory Court becomes the preferred site in 2010. LGO promoted Victory Court as much as possible, backed by local developers. No significant activity occurs in 2011, and by the beginning of 2012 the site is dead due to the death of redevelopment and spiraling site acquisition costs.
  • 2012 – Not long after Victory Court goes away, murmurs about Howard Terminal becoming the new preferred (not by A’s ownership) Oakland site begin. In 2013, the Port of Oakland negotiates a settlement with SSA Terminals to vacate the site in order to consolidate facilities and kill a lawsuit against the Port. That allows the Port to look into non-maritime uses such as a ballpark, which it does in spring 2014. A new investor/support group, OWB (Oakland Waterfront Ballpark), emerges, led by Knauss and former Dreyer’s CEO T. Gary Rogers.
    While Wolff has been trying to deal with the on-the-ground demands of planning and building a ballpark, many in Oakland have been fixated on grand concepts like Coliseum City and the far-off promises of Howard Terminal and Victory Court. Even yesterday, Knauss couldn’t help but bring San Francisco into the discussion, talking up how a HT ballpark would have better weather and views than AT&T Park. Coliseum City would be a transformative project that could attract Super Bowls and give Oakland new cachet.

Oakland’s desires to become something bigger and better are completely understandable. But they’ve been so pie-in-the-sky, so big, that there’s always been huge doubts about what, if anything, the City could pull off. I’ve mentioned before that Oakland has never built anything by itself, and that it needed the County and the business community to come together to make the Coliseum work nearly 50 years ago. That need hasn’t changed, but the sense of teamwork has. In Oakland’s attempt to keep all three teams in place, it has gotten away from what got them the teams in the first place: strong partnerships and sensitivity to the teams’ needs. Nowhere is that more evident than in Coliseum City, where the County is playing the realist role in questioning the project and in looking to the A’s, while the City brings in big names with no commitments, entirely footing the bill along the way.

Oakland keeps searching for the perfect project, the ultimate solution, the one that will finally vault them past the City beyond its rival across the Bay. Some politician(s) would take credit when it gets done, a legacy-defining moment. So they keep dreaming, keep hoping, clearly not worried about the little details that need to be addressed or the problems that arise when undertaking big projects. At some point, someone in Oakland will recognize that the dreams need to be tempered with what can realistically be done, and understand the work that will be required to get it done – establishing partnerships with the teams and stakeholders for starters. If not, the teams will get frustrated and give up. Those dreams will die. The biggest pro sports Oakland will be able to get will be minor league (which for some is okay). And the Coliseum, home of six world championships, will end up unused, even more unloved, and ultimately, something generic like a shopping center. That’s what happens when the well-intended keep pursuing the ever-elusive perfect instead of understanding that good is actually pretty great.

Lew Wolff is getting ready to offer what could be a pretty good deal. If Oakland wakes up, they may be able to react in time to take it.

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P.S. – I’m removing comments from the site for the time being. It’s not because of the commenters or specific comments – although they can be especially inane at times – it’s because those comments and the constantly attacking spambots (which you don’t see) are causing heavy server load, for which I’ve been warned by my provider. I hope that by having no comments there will be less server load. Thanks for your patience.

Oakland City Council approves amended lease 5-2, now goes back to JPA/County/A’s for approval

A lease agreement was passed tonight. Not the lease agreement the JPA sent to Oakland’s City Council. Instead the Council voted 5-2 (with 1 abstention) to approve an amended lease that included fairly minor changes. Among those changes:

  • A clarification on how the A’s use their termination clause. Example: If the A’s provide notice on January 1, 2016, the lease ends on December 31, 2018. If they provide notice after 1/1/16, termination doesn’t occur until 2019. This was not actually a point of dispute, it’s just that the language was somewhat confusing so an example was provided.
  • A typo in the the agenda document indicated that the the developer fee/deposit for continuing redevelopment at the Coliseum (Coliseum City) was both $10 million and $20 million. This was clarified as $10 million, and was agreed upon in the lease approved by the JPA on July 3.
  • A new section 42.7 that codified lease practices defined in the 2013 (current) lease.
  • A section on Licensor (JPA) default was removed for some reason. It has been added back to the agreement.
  • If the A’s are sold, there is a clause (16.1) that explains how the team transfers the lease to the new owner without requiring JPA approval. The requested change is to include the fact that new owner must be MLB-approved.
  • Removal of language that makes the JPA liable for Raiders’ acts/omissions that are approved by the JPA. The language now solely deals with the A’s revenues and benefits going strictly to the A’s, not to any third party.
  • There’s also a need to clean up language, which is customary in contract negotiations. It’s unclear what those cleanups are.

All in all, there’s little reason for the A’s to decline the lease. On the other hand, these changes are so minor it’s a wonder why they had to be debated in public, with the exception of the typo in the second bullet point.

Council President Pat Kernighan put forth a motion early on to consider the lease with these amendments. That caused CM Larry Reid, who is also a JPA board member, to put forth his own substitute motion that would have the Council vote on the lease as is. At the end of the session, Reid’s substitute motion lost 4-3. Kernighan’s won 5-2. After the votes the Council tried to clear up whether or not the JPA or the Alameda County Board of Supervisors would have to vote on the revised agreement. Naturally, the answer is YES. The BoS will meet on July 29 to go over this new lease and perhaps the old lease two, so they may end up voting on both. The JPA will have to take another special session vote shortly thereafter, and A’s ownership will also have to sign off.

A’s President Mike Crowley was on hand to witness the festivities. After JPA counsel Jon Streeter presented the lease in great detail and asked questions, Crowley was asked to provide a comment on the amended lease. Kernighan was concerned about putting Crowley on the spot, while Reid encouraged Crowley’s opinion. Crowley said that he preferred the original lease as is, though he allowed for the typo correction. After the vote he said he was “disappointed” by the Council’s action. Whether he’s disappointed in the terms or in the fact that everyone’s in for 2 more weeks of gestation over a lease wasn’t clear. Crowley reserved further comment until he had a chance to review the terms.  Kernighan mentioned that she talked with Lew Wolff earlier in the morning, and with a caveat that she wasn’t representing him, revealed that the changes didn’t seem like showstoppers.

There was plenty of time for grandstanding, so several Council members took turns doing it. CM Desley Brooks considers the lease a regression from terms outlined last November. Streeter rebutted that, explaining the back-and-forth of the lease talks that dated back to a year ago. Streeter’s main points were that the A’s are paying double the annual rent of the pre-2013 deal, were guaranteeing $20 million even if they stayed less than the full 10 years, and provides flexibility for all interests (A’s, Raiders, BayIG, JPA, City/County). CM Dan Kalb was unusually high-strung,

Kalb went on to chastise the A’s in advance, in case the A’s don’t approve the deal with the changes. Reid and Noel Gallo were the dissenters, instead voting for the original agreement. They both sowed FUD in their comments, Gallo was more restrained while Reid pulled the full “do what you want, it’s not my fault” card.

Libby Schaaf’s comments were noticeably brief, calling an approved lease (without saying which one) a crucial step towards keeping the A’s in Oakland. Both Schaaf and Rebecca Kaplan opened with some campaign speak, which I necessarily tuned out. Schaaf, Kaplan, Kalb, Kernighan, and Lynette Gibson McElhany provided the Yes votes.

A bizarre moment came late when Alameda County Supervisor and JPA President Nate Miley took time to explain to Gallo how the City of Oakland’s Coliseum City discussions with BayIG worked. At least an hour was spent explaining details that the Council not only should’ve known weeks ago. Current former JPA members such as Reid, Kaplan, and Brooks talked up their knowledge of the issues, yet the rest of the Council seemed inexplicably in the dark. Before Kernighan made her motion, Brooks asked for a full presentation, this after Streeter answered numerous questions about the lease and negotiation.  Communication between the JPA, City, and County is so broken that it’s hard not to be skeptical about the group’s ability to work out a deal as large and complex as Coliseum City. The lack of preparation on the Council’s part was on full display and it wasn’t pretty.

Nearly 30 public comments were given. They included Raiders fans like Dr. Death and Bauce, who raged against the Council. Lil Bartholo spoke first about the team’s and MLB’s blackmail and extortion techniques. The anti-lease, generally anti-Wolff crowd was well represented. However, interspersed among them were several A’s employees who mostly spoke about simply keeping the A’s in Oakland. Out of the five employees I observed, only one overtly called for the lease to be approved. They talked about how they were both fans and employees, about how some of them had union jobs, about how they were trying to collectively bargain for benefits, but the lease fiasco puts such negotiations on hold. An SEIU rep even called for the lease to be tied to a 10-year labor agreement, which is probably an overreach. Regardless, the image of employees coming forth to stand for their jobs was powerful.

Also present was a rep from the scoreboard installation company that could be contracted to work on the Coliseum. The man (whose name I didn’t get) emphasized that the lease had to be approved soon to allow for the equipment to be ordered and installed in time for the next baseball season. Emperor Nobody got some good anger at the system in, though he ran out of time (he’s on the KTVU clip so that’s good, right?).

Attorney Streeter acquitted himself well, handling all of the questions that came his way. He had to explain the rent provisions at least twice, and covered all of the major lease aspects well. It took 2 hours and 10 minutes, but the $200 million debt elephant finally came up. There’s no obvious answer as to how it the debt gets retired. Miley mentioned that the A’s are looking to buy the Coliseum land. Those who distrust Wolff don’t believe that. Streeter then boiled down the whole point of the lease. 

Streeter addressed the A’s-Oakland parking fee dispute. Arbitration is pending. Oakland is asking for $5.4 million. If the City wins they could also be reimbursed $600,000 in legal fees. The amount that the A’s are willing to pay was not disclosed. Streeter factored a discounted amount of a potential arbitration award into the lease. Why? There’s the inherent risk that the City could lose the arbitration. That makes the lease a sort of hedge.

Finally, as further questions were asked about the leases of both the A’s and Raiders, especially the ongoing operating subsidy. While I’ve always known about the subsidy, I’ve never heard it explained in such simple terms. Basically it goes like this:

  • The A’s pay for all gameday operations: power, water, groundskeeping, security. This is for a 180-day season.
  • The A’s pay $1.5 million in rent per season.
  • The A’s receive revenue from pouring rights, stadium advertising, and a chunk of concessions.
  • The A’s keep parking revenue with the exception of the tax that has to be paid to the City & County.

Contrast this with the Raiders

  • The Raiders pay $400,000 per year in rent.
  • The Raiders split parking revenues with the JPA, their share being roughly $1.75 million for the 2013 season.
  • The Raiders pay for zero stadium operating costs, and are subsidized to the tune of $7 million per year, including the costs to convert the stadium between baseball and football (and vice-versa).

Late tonight, word came that the Raiders may want a year extension, though it wasn’t clear if that’s on top of the 2015 option year or something else. I hope the Raiders’ lease gets the same kind of scrutiny the A’s lease gets. It’s the painful yet needed part of the ongoing adult conversation.

P.S. – Wolff met with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed yesterday at the SJ Fairmont. The meeting was described as a “check-in.”