Raiders owner Mark Davis was interviewed during Friday’s home exhibition opener at the Coliseum against the Cowboys. Davis left no doubt about how he felt about sharing the Coli with the A’s, calling the situation a “travesty“.
Just as the A’s and MLB complain about the state of the field when the Raiders invade the Coliseum every August, the Raiders and the NFL complain about the dirt infield dominating the football field. While that has proved to be something of a home field advantage because of Sebastian Janikowski’s well-developed skill in kicking off the brown stuff, the Polish cannon is not going to be around forever. Every other team has either a pristine grass or fake grass field, and frankly the Raiders should have the same conditions in today’s era.
Three more conversions to the football setup are planned through the rest of the baseball regular season. Another two or three could occur if the A’s reach the postseason and go deep. There’s an especially tricky period from September 29 to October 6, which will have two Raiders home games sandwiching an indeterminate number of A’s home postseason games. The home dates could be a division tiebreaker, wild card game, part of the best-of-five divisional series.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the other franchise owners are monitoring the Oakland situation continually, with the knowledge that the Raiders’ lease expires at the end of the season. The ratcheted up rhetoric by Davis and the Raiders’ broadcast team is no coincidence. The state of the field is a wedge issue in lease negotiations for both tenants at the Coliseum, with both teams basically saying that they’d rather have the field in their preferred condition. Of course, the only way to truly get that is to get the other tenant to leave. The A’s and Raiders have a friendly and professional relationship so you won’t see them going after each other. Instead they’ll send their gripes the JPA’s way.
At the moment the Raiders have an advantage over the A’s in their respective lease talks due to their ongoing dialogue with the JPA over Coliseum City. However, the A’s need the field ready sooner because their season starts in April. In fact, lease decisions will have to be made in the fall because decisions have to be made about when to start growing grass and rebuilding the infield, a process that usually starts in late January or early February. And you can bet that MLB, which has stayed hands off for the moment, will have no choice but to get involved if there’s a threat of the A’s being “homeless” for 2014.
Davis has said previously that even a temporary lease at the Coliseum is tied to development of a new stadium at the Coliseum complex, which only serves to make negotiations even more complicated. Perhaps the Raiders can commit with only a tentative agreement on how to move forward with Coliseum City. The feasibility study should be complete in a month or so, whereas an EIR is still ongoing.
With all of the lease factors in play, let’s talk about what has to happen next. A Raiders lease extension will need to be finalized well before the end of the season, probably as early as November. The same goes for the A’s because of the earlier start. If the teams are forced to share, there may be a way to minimize the conversion impact. That would probably include the A’s playing late season games at AT&T Park, allowing for the “permanent” football conversion to commence earlier, or the Raiders playing preseason games in Santa Clara (which makes more sense for the A’s). The JPA has to be careful not to appear as if they’re playing favorites, considering that both tenants don’t need much impetus to bolt. Davis may not have formal discussions with anyone in LA, but he’s probably getting a lot of whispers. We know that Lew Wolff only wants to stay long enough to get a San Jose ballpark built.
For now, let’s shelve the possibility that one of the tenants will move. We’ll have the chance to talk about the more drastic scenarios in posts I’ve scheduled for the weekend. Let’s assume that both will stay for now. What do you think the JPA, Oakland, and Alameda County will need to do to keep the teams happy?