You’re probably aware that the leases for both the Raiders and A’s run out after their 2013 seasons are completed. Problem is for both that neither team can move into a new facility before 2015, whether it’s in Oakland, Santa Clara, or San Jose. Both teams have limited options to play elsewhere, and City and County still have a large mortgage to pay off. It would seem that a simple one-year extension – perhaps with an option year or two – would be simple to ratify.
However, things are not always that simple. The icy relationship between Oakland and the A’s has some within Oakland feeling that they were misled the last time the lease was negotiated, so they may be a much tougher nut to crack this time around. Chances are that the A’s will be paying a good deal more than the $1 million they’ve been averaging, if only to cover the cost of field conversion. The Coliseum Authority has been talking with the Raiders for some time, but Coliseum City doesn’t appear any closer to fruition now than it did over a year ago, when the Authority bought the Home Base site and unveiled the now-evolved plan. With all of that in mind, it’s a good time to explore the teams’ options after the 2013 season.
No matter what the two football teams are saying about pursuing separate facilities or not sharing one somewhere, there’s no reason to think that they aren’t getting pressure from Roger Goodell and the other NFL team owners to shack up. There’s little practical reason for them not to do it, since they’d have less debt service to deal with and they would be able to join up instead of compete for precious limited G-4 loan money. Even if they came together, there’s still a year between the end of the Coliseum lease and a new one in Santa Clara or Oakland simply due to the required construction time. What to do then?
- If a new stadium were being built at the Coliseum complex, it’d be simple. There’d already be a pre-arranged lease extension for the bridge year, and the new stadium would be configured to minimize impact on the existing Coliseum.
- If the existing Coliseum were being gutted, the Raiders would have to endure one year of reduced capacity (47,000) and come back to a practically new stadium. 2014 could be the bridge year and leave 19-20 months to complete everything.
- If the Raiders chose to go to Santa Clara, which to me would be a last-minute decision for the franchise, they could either rely on goodwill with Oakland and Alameda County to get the 2014 lease in place, especially if they “promise” that the Santa Clara move wasn’t permanent.
- It seems highly unlikely that the Raiders would play 2014 in either Candlestick Park, Cal’s Memorial Stadium or Stanford Stadium. The colleges don’t want the headaches, and the ‘Stick would only be an option if the Coli were unavailable for some reason.
One strategic issue for me is, Did Oakland/Alameda County push for a Coliseum revamp? A new stadium may be prohibitively expensive, whereas a revamp could provide all of the necessary amenities for half the cost. Does the NFL consider the Coliseum damaged goods? The G-4 loan program specifies funding for existing facilities, and it’s believed that the Bills will try to use this funding for Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium, and that place can’t be measurably worse than the Coliseum (especially in its football guise).
The A’s could conceivably throw a wrench into the works by negotiating on a new facility at the Coliseum (like that’s going to happen under this ownership group). There would be enough land to build a new ballpark at the Home Base/Malibu site, and the existing Coliseum could be left intact for 2014. Or if the A’s tried to save money by leveraging what they could from the current Coliseum, the Raiders would be forced out.
Mutual distrust between the team and City/County leads me to believe that any lease negotiations won’t be sunny. The A’s would need a facility for at least a year. Renting out Cashman Field for two series, as was done when Mt. Davis was being built, won’t fly for an entire season. Oakland wouldn’t have much incentive for renewal if they knew the team were leaving immediately after the lease was up, unless they got a lot of money for that one year or there was enough negative PR that came with refusing the A’s request out of spite. Unlike the Raiders, the A’s options would be wildly varied and mostly suboptimal.
- Expansion of 4,200-seat San Jose Municipal Stadium to even 15-20,000 seats is impractical because the team facilities are clearly nowhere close to major league standards. Improving these enough to make it acceptable would probably cost $15-20 million, which would be crazy to pay for one year of play and little return on that investment.
- The Earthquakes’ 18,000-seat stadium is soccer-specific, and MLS is not going to go along with sharing yet another facility.
- Building another stadium alongside the Quakes’ stadium at Airport West would require a new EIR and probably wouldn’t go anywhere politically.
- There’s the possibility of sharing AT&T Park for a year, but that would be entirely up to the Giants. There’s also a logistical issue at play. When Shea Stadium was used by both the Mets and Yankees for a year while Yankee Stadium was getting rebuilt, it already had enough team facilities because it was built as a multipurpose stadium. AT&T Park has only two clubhouses and scant room to build new ones. Where would the A’s or their road opponents go?
- The A’s could play a season at the River Cats’ Raley Field in West Sacramento, but it’s even more limited than AT&T Park. At least there’d be a political path towards making it work as a temporary facility.
- Candlestick’s pretty much “stuck” in its football configuration, so it’s unlikely that the A’s would play there.
The Raiders could throw a wrench into any 2014 lease plans if they agreed to rebuild the Coliseum, so that’s yet another complication. Unless cooler heads prevail, the A’s will be in a tough spot figuring out what to do for 2014. At this early juncture, my guess is that the A’s and the Coliseum Authority will figure something out, but the A’s will pay handsomely for the privilege. If something interferes, 2014 is up in the air for the A’s, and there’s no telling where they’d land. And if a delay forces them to not open Cisco Field until 2016? Yikes.