I fear for Trib reporter Matt Artz’s email inbox, because it’s about to get pummeled.
In today’s edition, Artz tries to explain why Oakland’s three teams are varying shades of noncommittal with regards to staying at the Coliseum, or even in Oakland in general. For most of us who follow the situation closely, the information is pretty much old hat. Still, it’s good to read someone in the local media deal it as plainly as Artz did, even if the truth is unpleasant.
As Oakland fights to keep its teams, industry leaders say it’s hampered by the fact that its main lure was a site more attractive 40 years ago than it is today.
“I think that’s a real problem,” Smith College economics Professor Andrew Zimbalist said. “The times have passed it by.”
Yesterday I was looking into how Orlando’s Amway Center was built, hoping to understand how it surpasses Oracle Arena in terms of amenities. Oracle does well in having four premium seating options: courtside seats, suites, and two different club options. Amway Center has an astounding seven options: courtside seats, founders suites, presidents suites, legends (party) suites, MVP tables, 4- and 6-person loges, and club seats. All seven options are priced specifically to target certain well-heeled demographics, whether they are big corporations, prominent small businesses, or rich people who simply want more elbow room. A future post will go into how all of this works. For now let me tell you that there’s no going back. All four North American pro sports leagues are multibillion dollar outfits. So are NASCAR and NCAA football.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan talked Thursday about having a huge Cowboys Stadium-like facility in the Coliseum complex, to be co-anchored by a convention center. One thing she didn’t mention was the price tag for such a complex, or even just the stadium itself. Lest we forget, Santa Clara’s Stadium Authority is on the hook for $700 million of the 49ers stadium costs. Zygi Wilf and the Vikings will be paying 49% of the Metrodome’s $1 billion replacement, leaving the rest to public funding sources. Even if you buy the somewhat dubious argument that the 49ers are paying for the lion’s share of the cost (who runs the Authority, again?), Santa Clara had to put up $144 million in hard dollars initially. What price will Oakland/Alameda County have to pay to stay in the game? $200 million? $500 million? Quan cites the $200 million NFL G-4 fund, but that’s available to every team, every market. Any new stadium will cost at least $1 billion.
Also today, a sobering analysis by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows how cities struggle to make their money back even with glistening new stadia, characterizing these efforts as an “arms race”. Good thing that the leagues appear to be bedrock solid for the foreseeable future, because if they weren’t municipalities would be wading into their own “mutually assured destruction”. So dream big, people, because it’s not your money! Until there’s a price tag. Then it’s definitely your money.