Update 8:18 PM – The Coliseum Authority board approved AEG 7-1, the only vote against coming from Ignacio De La Fuente.
Oh to be on the Coliseum Authority board these days. The board has two weeks to decide on a firm to manage the Coliseum complex, and the firm they’re grooming to take over, AEG, is getting a lot of unexpected scrutiny over their ability to take the Raiders away even as they manage the stadium for the next several years. The Trib’s Angela Woodall reports that AEG’s status as a potential “poacher” is hanging up approval of the facilites management contract.
The JPA/Authority has sought assurances that AEG would not try to lure any of the current tenant teams away, which is fine and dandy, except that the JPA’s counsel has said that such a stipulation has little teeth. The only thing the JPA could do is terminate the contract, which would entitle them to keep $4.5 million in money promised by AEG to manage the complex.
$4.5 million is a pittance for AEG, considering their claim that they’ve spent $27 million on studies and preparation for the Farmers Field project. They’ve promised to spend $10 million on badly needed improvements to a Metro Rail station near the LACC/Staples/Live!/Farmers complex. The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum complex may be a nice item to put in their portfolio, but Farmers Field is AEG’s big bet. It’s a beautiful situation for AEG because they can play both cities against each other – they’re practically doing it now! They’ll be in bed with the JPA as Oakland pushes Coliseum City while getting cozy with the Raiders, who are considering LA to some extent, in the process.
The whole scenario puts the Authority in a bind. They need AEG to do consulting on Coliseum City (as farfetched as it is), yet they can’t have AEG poaching the Raiders. There’s no other competitor that has anywhere near the kind of real world experience handling single-site, multiple venue development as AEG. Chris Dobbins of Save Oakland Sports and Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley were both in lockstep about their concerns.
And let’s get real about this, the only team AEG has any interest in is the Raiders. AEG is booked solid at Staples with its three teams and the company hasn’t expressed much interest in baseball. While Oakland has expressed interest in retaining the Warriors and Athletics, they’ve taken the most steps to keep the Raiders. AEG has Oakland by the short hairs, thanks to Mayor Jean Quan putting Oakland’s chips behind Coliseum City. Even when there is a big player involved, the City part of Coliseum City can be extraordinarily difficult to get off the ground, as the St. Louis Cardinals and developer Cordish can attest. Comparisons to Mission Bay/South Beach in SF are meaningless because that area and East Oakland are on different planets economically.
Alternately, the JPA could choose incumbent SMG, with whom they’ve had an up-and-down relationship, or Comcast’s Global Spectrum, which comes closest to AEG in that they operate the Wells Fargo Center and the newly opened Xfinity Live! in Philadelphia. The latter finally came to fruition several years after the two stadia and the WFC had opened, and after the old Spectrum was demolished to make way for Xfinity Live!.
If the Raiders went to LA, that creates a situation in which the Coliseum could be available for a new A’s stadium, which is probably the only solution at the complex that MLB would sign off on (assuming the ancillary development came in). The problem with that solution is that there would still be $100 million in Mt. Davis debt to deal with and either a demolished or decaying facility, and the A’s and MLB would want nothing to do with that. That brings us back to the question, What’s in it for the A’s?
It’s a tough situation to be in. Mayor Quan believes that Coliseum City is the best hope for retaining the teams and revitalizing East Oakland, yet it can be argued that bringing in AEG is akin to letting a fox in a henhouse, which could kill the vision of Coliseum City before it even gets started. I’d like to think that the City will make a prudent decision here, but by paving the way for AEG before the decision is made they’re almost locked into a specific path. It may well be a path to ruin.