Two weeks ago, we laid out the possibilities for the A’s as a team-in-limbo at the Coliseum for 2014. In today’s Trib, reporter Angela Woodall got comments from principals from Alameda County and Oakland, the A’s and Raiders. Try as I might to find a proper analogy for this increasingly awkward situation, I simply can’t. So we’ll go with the comments instead.
A’s President Mike Crowley said he sent what he considered a fair lease extension proposal in June that was met with a “convoluted” response from the Coliseum Joint Powers Authority, which oversees the municipally owned complex.
“So that ended that conversation pretty quickly,” he said. “If we can’t work something out here, we’ll have to find somewhere else to play.
“There are not many options. But we have time. We’re here in 2012, and we’re here in 2013.”
Always eager to open mouth and insert foot, Ignacio De La Fuente “contributes” to the discussion:
“The reality is they’re the ones who have a timeline, not us,” said De La Fuente, referring to the 2013 deadline and the lack of alternatives to the O.co Coliseum in the Bay Area.
That’s strange. The A’s are the only ones with a timeline? Didn’t MLB want the A’s playing in a new venue by 2015? Comments like that and Mayor Jean Quan’s suggestion that Victory Court could be acquired and entitled by November 2014 (making a 2015 opening impossible) aren’t going to convince MLB that Oakland is really serious about this. Couple that with the ongoing discussions with the Raiders, and you get the sense that the A’s aren’t exactly the highest item on the priority list among the Oakland-based sports franchises.
As I mentioned in the previous post, Oakland has little incentive to renew the lease at terms similar to what the teams are paying now. Both teams pay around $1 million each season with some additional revenue thrown in for good measure, not nearly enough to take care of the $20 million in debt service (equally split between Oakland and Alameda County), not to mention the $500k in field conversion costs. The Coliseum Authority is right to angle for more money to cover debt service and costs, but they can’t get too aggressive. If they try to hike the rent to $5 million or more, the A’s will have to consider whether that’s a good deal as opposed to the opportunity cost of improving an existing stadium somewhere else. They’ve already done it at Buck Shaw, adding 3,500 seats and improving the facilities for $4 million. My guess at this point is $3 million for either the A’s or Raiders for 2014, and an option year if new stadium complications arise. That’s a fair amount given the market conditions, which are favorable for Oakland in the short term but not favorable in the long term.
The Raiders are a factor in this as well. Movement in the direction of a new stadium somewhere as opposed to improving the existing Coliseum makes temporarily sharing the Coliseum less impactful for the Raiders. At least the Raiders have an existing NFL stadium option should talks sour with the Coliseum Authority: Candlestick Park. In 2010 the 49ers extended their lease at The ‘Stick through 2014, allowing for a smooth transition to Santa Clara if all of the funding lines up properly. Coliseum City would displace both teams for at least two years (perhaps on a staggered schedule), making it even more difficult to accommodate the A’s and Raiders sufficiently.
Several Oakland officials, including former City Attorney John Russo, have said that the A’s have misrepresented themselves and their intentions when getting the last two extensions signed in 2007 and 2010. That argument never held water to me, because there was always a termination fee that the A’s had to pay if they left Alameda County. If that isn’t an acknowledgement of the situation, I don’t know what is. The Raiders have a similar clause in their lease, yet they aren’t getting vilified nearly as much for talking to/about Santa Clara and Los Angeles. I suppose it all comes down to what the parties care about – getting a deal done as opposed to having good optics about potential deals. If both teams leave Oakland, optics won’t matter one iota and the chickens, in the form of voters, will come home to roost. Then again, maybe not? I suspect there is a large percentage of the populace in Oakland that will be thankful that the City didn’t get screwed Mt. Davis-style all over again. That day of reckoning is drawing closer.