Raiders revisited

Chris Thompson of the East Bay Express has a lengthy piece on the Raiders’ past and possible future in (and out) of Oakland. While the article doesn’t draw any specific conclusions on the Raiders’ stay in Oakland, their future there appears to be only slightly above bleak.

Last January I posited an idea that the Coliseum, once the A’s moved out, could be renovated to become a properly updated (new) NFL facility. Considering the cost of a brand new stadium ($800 million or more and rising every year), renovation is not an idea that should be dismissed too quickly.

I mentioned in my previous post on this subject that the EIR process could be shortened thanks to the existing use of the stadium. However, there are challenges for a renovation. Let’s start with a timeline, assuming the A’s move into Cisco Field in 2012.

  • September 2011 – Raiders begin final season in “old” Coliseum
  • October 2011 – A’s play final game
  • December 2011 – Raiders play final game
  • January 2012 – Renovation begins
  • August 2012 – Raiders begin playing in temporary facility
  • August 2013 – Raiders begin playing in completed, renovated Coliseum

The plan would be somewhat like the construction of Mt. Davis, except that everything else around Mt. Davis would be torn down and rebuilt. There may even be a chance that the Raiders could play the 2012 season in a partly finished Coliseum. I’ll explain this later.

Building anything on the current Coliseum footprint is challenging due to the shared nature of the venues. The plaza between the arena and stadium is not particularly wide and underneath it is a vast amount of back-of-the-house facilities. There’s the old Exhibit Hall, part of which is now used as the Raiders’ locker room. VIP and player parking flanks the plaza. Anything new would have to minimize disturbance of the plaza and the arena.

When Mt. Davis was built, the existing plaza’s utility was maintained. The lower deck of Mt. Davis has a handful of risers and seats. Most of it was left blank to accommodate the baseball field. Football seats on portable sections are brought in before games. This situation misses out on a large amount of potentially available space. Thus, the first move would be to place permanent seats in the lower deck and build it out underneath. Locker rooms and supporting facilities could all be stashed underneath.

Next, start tearing down the old Coliseum, sections x01-x10 and x24-x33. The recent trend among football stadia is to minimize the number of end zone seats, so building one deck of new infill seating sections in each end zone should not be difficult. Suites and club sections would not be necessary and would be suboptimal anyway.

That leaves the last part of the original bowl, sections x11-x23. These contain the West Side Club, press box, A’s clubhouse, and additional functions. In this case, pull out all of the lower level seats. They’re too low and not pitched enough for football, so they desperately need replacing. Then start building in permanent lower level seats, like the ones put in to finish Mt. Davis. It’ll take some work to “connect” them to the existing concourse but it can be done. The concrete supports for the upper levels, which are built into the vomitories, would have to be preserved.

This is where the timeline could be split. With the new seating sections in place, the Raiders might be able to play 2012 in the partly upgraded stadium. During the next offseason, the remainder of the renovations could begin. The issue there is the structural work that will be required. If it’s lengthy (cast in situ concrete) then there’s no way 2012 could be played there. If not it the split schedule might work. The upper decks would be removed and replaced with two levels of suites with press box, a full-length club level, and a large upper deck (like Mt. Davis but not as tall).

The cost? Well, the land’s already paid for. There’s demo and some new foundation work, but far less than would be expected for a new stadium. Wild guess is $500 million, far cheaper than a new place, yet with all of the location advantages and volume parking that come with the Coliseum.

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