Save Oakland Sports meeting with Santana, Blackwell (Updated with Oakland apology)

Update 7:20 PM – Around 4:30 today, an article by the Trib’s Matthew Artz indicated that Oakland officials apologized to Lew Wolff for erroneously stating that the City and Mayor Jean Quan didn’t receive the letter. Wolff angrily replied (in ALL CAPS no less) that he did, in fact, send the letter, and later produced a letter of acknowledgment from Quan dated January 2. During the Bucher & Towny show on The Game, Townsend explained that his crew and Phoenix reporter Kevin Curran had launched their own inquiry into the status of this now mythical letter. Curran sent an email to the Mayor’s office asking for the letter since, by law, the City has to file all such communications. This afternoon the story from Artz broke, followed by an email reply from Quan spokesperson Sean Maher explaining the situation. Apparently the original email, which was also sent to numerous media, was buried in the “mountain of (holiday) furlough email” the City received. Because of this, news outlets reported on it first, giving City staff the impression that they didn’t receive it, when in fact, they did. The explanation was also a bit wishy-washy because the Mayor supposedly “eventually” received the letter, giving the impression that she didn’t receive it directly. Statements coming out of the Mayor’s office yesterday continued to press that they didn’t receive the letter. In any case, Oakland comes off highly incompetent at the very least and petty on top of it all, just because Santana decided to lash out at Wolff. That’s simply poor form. Obviously, that led to today’s apology.

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Monday’s much-delayed Save Oakland Sports meeting was held at La Estrellita in downtown Oakland. Though host Chris Dobbins was keen to not put City Administrators Deanna Santana and (Asst. Admin.) Fred Blackwell on the hot seat, to their credit the staffers addressed several lingering issues with some degree of frankness and a general lack of spin.

Blackwell gave an update on the state of the Coliseum City studies and EIR. The study work should be awarded in the next month, and documents should be ready by the end of the year. Because of the broad scope of the project, there will be a master plan for the 750 acres on both side of 880 and a specific plan for each side, the big focus being on the sports complex. Blackwell called Coliseum City the most dynamic project in the state in terms of size and transit access.

View from east towards Oakland Estuary. Image: JRDV

View from east towards Oakland Estuary. Image: JRDV

Based on JRDV’s newest renderings, he has a point. Much of the area on either side of the Nimitz would undergo a drastic transformation. While there would be a new football stadium in Lot B and a ballpark pushed up to the corner of Lot A, almost everything else would get torn down and replaced. Chief among the changes is a new arena, which would be placed west of 880, where Coliseum Lexus and another empty car dealership are situated. Low and mid rise buildings would be tightly packed from Oakport to the Estuary and in between the two stadia. Two new pedestrian bridges would cross 880. The BART bridge would be transformed into a huge plaza over the Union Pacific tracks. The only two legacy structures that would remain intact in the vision are the 12-story high-rise office building that briefly housed the Tribune and the newer Zhone building.

Before your eyes roll completely into the back of your head, let’s look at the three venues, starting with the ballpark. Blackwell continued previous talk of Oakland giving Lew Wolff information on Coliseum City and Howard Terminal, repeating Wolff’s continued rejection of both sites on financial grounds. Blackwell flat out said that new ownership may be required to get something done in Oakland, and that a MLB could act on behalf of a team to get a deal done. Of course, Blackwell cited Miami as an example of that working. “Working” meant taxpayers putting up 2/3 of the cost and politicians who approved the deal being run out of office. MLB wouldn’t do that unless it felt it could get several pounds of flesh. In Oakland, there is no flesh to take. The only thing MLB has offered so far is to negotiate the short-term lease at the current Coliseum.

As for the Raiders, Santana mentioned upfront that it took four months to get all of the right people (City, County, Raiders) named and set to negotiate the future stadium deal. Four months? You’d figure an e-mail thread and a conference call or two would take care of that.

In a refreshing bit of candor, Santana and Blackwell talked about the challenges facing the Raiders’ stadium piece. Santana said twice that any new project would have to bake in the $100 million of remaining debt (Mt. Davis). As I’ve mentioned before, any advantages Oakland has because of “cheap land” are wiped away because of this albatross. It also makes financing somewhat unclean, though that would depend on how current and future debt are structured. Right now, Mt. Davis debt is tied to the general fund of both City and County and was refinanced last summer. I imagine it could be complicated to restructure the debt to be paid solely by stadium/project revenues and would drive up the cost of borrowing to boot. Santana also talked about how the defeat of Measure B1 in November negatively impacted funding for Coliseum City to the tune of $40 million.

Blackwell admitted that the NFL may have a hard time giving the $200 million that Mayor Jean Quan is looking for, citing fan and corporate support. Why? The G-3 and G-4 loan programs are dependent on two specific revenue streams: national TV money and club seats. TV money is not that big a deal since it’s highly distributed, but the NFL is wary of teams running into blackouts. The Raiders are a particular high-risk case because even though the stadium doesn’t have a large capacity among NFL stadia, it’s had its share of blackouts and has a relatively low season ticket base (30,000). The recent tarping and pricing moves done by the Raiders are being done to grow the season ticket figure and reduce the chance of blackouts. In future seasons, the Raiders could increase capacity as the roll grows and the team performs better. Corporate support is another matter. Blackwell said that the NFL considers corporate support more important than regular fan support. The 49ers have done exceedingly well selling to businesses, which allowed the NFL to release $200 million for the Santa Clara stadium. Corporate support is not great in the East Bay, and the 49ers may have taken some East Bay business from the Raiders, putting the Silver and Black in a very tough position. Blackwell didn’t offer any answers on this, other than to say that the East Bay will have to step up to show it can support the Raiders in a new stadium. It’s a sobering but realistic view, not one to go rah-rah about.

On the Warriors front, Blackwell laid out the City’s case very plainly: Oakland would wait until W’s ownership got frustrated with the process of building something at Piers 30/32, then welcome the team back with open arms. With the A’s, ownership is certainly frustrated (with MLB and the Giants), not enough to run back to make a deal with Oakland. While working in SF, Blackwell saw the same strategy in place for the 49ers, only to see the team start building in the South Bay.

Things got a little strange with Santana laid into the A’s. Santana accused the A’s of playing games, claiming that the letter Wolff wrote requesting a five-year lease extension was only sent to the media, not to City or County. That’s rather confusing, because as the Merc’s John Woolfork wrote on 12/21:

If Wolff’s letter was discouraging to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, she didn’t let on, saying in a statement that she was “pleased to receive Mr. Wolff’s letter stating his desire to stay in Oakland for five more years.”

Considering that it took four months to figure out who the players were in a negotiation, I wouldn’t be surprised if the letter was lost somewhere. One thing to keep in mind is that Wolff has already done two lease extensions at the Coliseum during his tenure. If there’s one real piece of stability here it’s Wolff, not the turnover in Oakland City Hall.

The tough part of all of this back-and-forth is that even if Oakland is resurgent as its supporters say it is, it’s not to the scale of SF and SJ. It may never be to the scale of SJ. That makes it easy to make a case against the future of pro sports in Oakland. Without some kind of miraculous public and/or private miracle to really boost Oakland, it’s hard to see how Oakland could get to its rivals’ level. Maybe the argument is that Coliseum City is that miracle. Oakland has had nearly 50 years to show that pro sports is an economic stimulator. There’s no reason to believe Coliseum City, even in its fully realized, pipe dream scenario, is the miracle Oakland is looking for. The track record – in and out of Oakland – doesn’t support it.

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More reading:

Note: Look at how different the two Tavares articles are. Editors rule!

 

40 thoughts on “Save Oakland Sports meeting with Santana, Blackwell (Updated with Oakland apology)

  1. re: Blackwell flat out said that new ownership may be required to get something done in Oakland

    …as in, new ownership ready to spend $1 billion of its own money to buy the A’s and build a ballpark without regard to whether it makes financial sense. Same old, same old.

  2. Place will be empty in ten years.

  3. Great to see some clear(er) answers and candor from Oakland officials; a bit of a refreshing change from previous administrations’ staff, along with greater sense of urgency.
    .
    It should also be mentioned that the Howard Terminal site was referenced by Blackwell at the meeting, and that even though Wolff has closed dialog with city officials, information about these two stadium sites is being shared with MLB on an ongoing basis.

  4. “Blackwell said that the NFL considers corporate support more important than regular fan support.”
    .
    As I’ve been saying for, what, six or seven years now?

    • And however important it is to the NFL, with it’s massive, shared national TV revenue, it’s ten times as important to MLB.

  5. So to summarize, they’ve made the Coliseum City plan even more ambitious with the addition of a new arena. And one of their hoped for funding sources may not be there along with needing new ownership to even work with the A’s (because they need the A’s owners to pay their portion of the plan)… yeah this is going to end well. Nice rendering though, sadly that’s as far along as it’ll ever get.

  6. Oakland is now irrelevant when it comes to the A’s and their future in the Bay, and that’s not an opinion. (Sorry for the bluntness)

  7. And who’s paying for (and renting) all those other buildings? There isn’t demand in downtown Oakland now for big new office buildings and there’s 4% as much demand for big new office buildings down at the Coliseum. Oakland shouldn’t be in the business of building some big new competitor for downtown anyways

  8. Should be worried at the possibility that the A’s who without a lease next year. If going by this, haven’t even had talks yet on the new lease?

    Either Oakland Is lying and playing games. Or Santana has nothing to do with the lease talks and made up comments out of nowhere. Since obviously there are already printed comments Mayor Quan saw the letter.

    • @Mike – The JPA handles the lease discussions, with the final approval going to City/County. Santana is part of the team negotiating Coliseum City.

  9. Is the arena shown an open-air tennis stadium? I can’t quite make it out. Looks like they plan to have a marina and/or ferry stop near the arena. Is there still talk of a people mover in coliseum city? I like the renderings, but I’ve seen enough of them. Let’s get some brick and mortar already.

  10. John, it’s the basketball arena sans roof.

  11. On KTVU 2 news this morning they said NFL had decided NOT to provide funds to Raiders for new stadium, citing fan and corporate support.

    Not sure if this is a final decision. Did anyone else see this?

    • @steve – Nothing Blackwell said indicated that the NFL would do that. Raiders would have to apply for loan first. KTVU probably just went off the Trib headline.

      • I hope everyone got to listen to Bucher and Townsend in the last 10 minutes. They just gave the City of Oakland the kind of scolding Oakland fans should be giving the pols.

  12. Unbelievable that Santana and Blackwell- both of whom were copied on the initial LW lease email lied in a public forum to try and promote their own agenda. Major faux pas as they question LW’s integrity. Now LW can bring his own signs to the games- Santana and Blackwell lied….

  13. Perhaps before she spouts off in a public forum about not receiving an email before reading about it in the media, she should have gone back and, you know, checked her email like a normal, professional adult. I’m sure a quick search for “from Lew Wolff” would have sufficed.

  14. @ML – Mind giving us a quick synopsis of what Bucher and Townsend said for those of us who missed it?

    • @JL – This paragraph is also at the top of the article.

      Update 7:20 PM – Around 4:30 today, an article by the Trib’s Matthew Artz indicated that Oakland officials apologized to Lew Wolff for erroneously stating that the City and Mayor Jean Quan didn’t receive the letter. Wolff angrily replied (in ALL CAPS no less) that he did, in fact, send the letter, and later produced a letter of acknowledgment from Quan dated January 2. During the Bucher & Towny show on The Game, Townsend explained that his crew and Phoenix reporter Kevin Curran had launched their own inquiry into the status of this now mythical letter. Curran sent an email to the Mayor’s office asking for the letter since, by law, the City has to file all such communications. This afternoon the story from Artz broke, followed by an email reply from Quan spokesperson Sean Maher explaining the situation. Apparently the original email, which was also sent to numerous media, was buried in the “mountain of (holiday) furlough email” the City received. Because of this, news outlets reported on it first, giving City staff the impression that they didn’t receive it, when in fact, they did. The explanation was also a bit wishy-washy because the Mayor supposedly “eventually” received the letter, giving the impression that she didn’t receive it directly. Statements coming out of the Mayor’s office yesterday continued to press that they didn’t receive the letter. In any case, Oakland comes off highly incompetent at the very least and petty on top of it all, just because Santana decided to lash out at Wolff. That’s simply poor form. Obviously, that led to today’s apology.

  15. @DMOS – I don’t whats more disturbing: that they didn’t check their email or that somehow Lew Wolf, the most hated man in Oakland and the one you need on board, sent an email and was completely ignored. Then again, this is Oakland for you…

  16. Just read Tavares article that was linked into post. Quan’s office also denied ever getting the letter yet she sent a letter to the A’s on Jan 2nd acknowledging that she got the letter. Total malicious slander by all 3 of the key leaders of Oakland- one more nail in the coffin for this trio of idiots- FUBAR is the term to describe Oakland politicians-

  17. ML: I heard that bit on 95.7

  18. JL: The 95.7 guys asked whether Oakland should have confidence that these were the people that could deliver on the Coliseum City project and said Wolff played his hand much better than Oakland – offering to stay in Oakland for five more years.

  19. “At Monday’s gathering, city officials said they were seeking about $3 million in concessions from the team, including a demand that it turn over more parking tax proceeds collected during game days and share more game day revenue with the Raiders. ”

    Wow these negotiations are going to go well…

  20. Becoming more obvious with each passing day that the A’s just need to get the hell out of Oakland. The crap coming out of Oakland pols mouths is beyond ridiculous!

  21. yep as an oaklander i’m not surprised by this fiasco by the politicians.

    quan should thank her lucky stars for the dumb ranking choice ballots last election because if done the normal way perata would be mayor granted he himself has said the a’s wouldn’t be at the top of his list of priorities. either way the city leaders wouldn’t have embarassed themselves the way they have under quan and company im regards to trying to keep the sports teams here.

  22. Thanks ML & pjk.

    Sad as it may be, I too am not surprised by this. Just another example of the incompetency that plagues Oakland City Hall…

  23. Sadly, I think this sends a shockwave as the City of Oakland has lied to themselves. They basically are only after money, and the fact that they fired so many officers just to keep this project alive and also do so many things just to save their sports. The right way to do is to privately finance the stadiums and later on, just build the stadium. Sadly, this is the exposure of what Oakland really is, a city that has senseless murders night after night, and also a corrupt mayor, and an uncertainty of having this resolved leaves us wondering, Oakland really tried too many times to get a new park, and will they get one in this current leadership and economy, absolutely not! Coliseum City is just a dream that many Oaklanders want true, but I’m afraid it will only be, just a dream that is.

  24. I was at the SOS meeting monday night. As bad as this makes Santana and Blackwell look, I give them credit for opening up and providing what I felt were honest answers (at least they thought they were). Blackwell candidly stated “The A’s won’t talk to us.” What is being lost in the faux pas fiasco, is the fact that Blackwell was referring to Wolff not “talking” with the city about a new stadium, not about extending the current lease. Without question this mistake discredits Blackwell and Santana.

    The foremost issue here, though, is that Wolff is not even willing to consider talking to the officials about Oakland’s future (except for extending the current coliseum deal). This is unfortunate because now Wolff comes off as the good guy when I see it completely opposite. Wolff is not willing to consider Oakland for the A’s future, and it was confirmed by Blackwell.

    Wolff is the bad guy here folks. If he’s not going to be able to move to SJ he should sell the team and save everyone the heart-ache. He’s a pompous billionaire that puts his pride before thousands of fans. I hope MLB and the Giants never let up. Nothing in this world would give me greater pleasure than to see that man out of Oakland.

  25. You pro-SJ people kill me. Do you ever even walk around San Jose? It’s a sea of Giants shit. Moving the A’s there isn’t going to change that, no matter how much you want to believe it.

  26. Crazy Lazy-
    I walk around San Jose AND the East Bay and it’s the same in both places…sea of Giants shit.

  27. @Jeff – This isn’t a Hollywood movie. Reductionism like “good guys” and “bad guys” is pointless and unproductive. Doug Boxer told me directly that there are no “clean” people in this. You’d be wise to dispense with that type of thinking and focus on what things the different parties can get done.

  28. @crazy lazy – Hence why many fingers should also be pointed at Selig @ Co. The longer they drag this out and leave the A’s in purgatory, the deeper this sea of Giants shit gets.

    I will say Wolff probably hasn’t handled this all too well at least from a PR standpoint – openly dismissing and rebuffing any and all proposals, even ones that are as lofty and unrealistic as Coliseum City, isn’t going to win you alot of fans, and only strengthens that “one-foot-out-the-door” image. But I do agree with ML and Doug Boxer in that nobody’s hands has been clean in this. Its been one giant clusterfuck, 18 years and counting…

  29. HAHA….how is SJ our rivals? ML you are a liar. SJ will never be known to the rest of the country. Its a big suburb wanting to be a major city. I keep telling you that the intermediate part of Bay Area aka the heart, is where the Bay Bridge is. What areas are connected to that? SF and East Bay. This joke that SJ will ever rival that is funny as hell

    Now the Oakland pols surely have their issues and better rally up quick. I wont support a SF Warrior team or a Santa Clara Raiders or even a SJ A’s bullcrap campaign. Those places dont represent me. Our officials better do more to represent us because now they are looking like fools!

  30. Whoa relax 510……..sigh.. where to start… I mean look..I love Oakland too 510, but the only way Oakland is getting a new stadium is using public money to build stadiums for both Raiders and A’s…the fact is they really don’t want to do that they want to do a redevelopment project when the 3 teams don’t want Part of it. Oakland city leaders are banking on “stalling”, while the A’s struggle to get pass the TR issue, the Warriors to get pass the Pier 30/32 issue and the Raiders well with every issue from mount Davis issue etc….its not a bad technique “Stalling” , but its risky because either 1,2 or 3 teams could leave. On the flip side 1,2 or 3 teams could stay due to frusterations which lead to New ownership who might want to stay in Oakland…so we will see of the city ” stall” trick will work. ML take it away.

  31. ML, how do you know that the raiders have 30,000 season ticket holders? I’m not challenging your into because it sounds correct but I’m wondering because I have tried and tried and looked everywhere I could and I was never able to find out the number of season ticket holders that the raiders have.

  32. ML, did you get any idea exactly how they planned to lease / rent out all those office buildings in the Coliseum City renderings?

    I’m an Oaklander, born and raised, and I can tell you that the area that the Coliseum is in is a VERY low income area. Two of the cities largest housing projects are located only a stone’s throw away from the Coliseum. Did you get any indication at this meeting of how they plan to make this low-income, high crime area appeal to potential office leasers?

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