If, on the other hand, you want to entertain the idea that Wolff is being forthright and sees the Coliseum as a real option, I have some ideas about that too.
But first, let’s step back to June 2012, and the Save Oakland Sports meeting I attended. As we were wrapping up, one of the SOS principals (used to be “A’s observer” in the comments) asked me, Do you think Lew Wolff would consider building in Oakland? My response was, Yes, but you have to make it worth his while. He’s trying to pay for a ballpark and make it pencil out, so if Oakland has some mechanisms to make that happen, I think he would be interested.
At the time I figured people would interpret that to mean cash or free ballpark. What I was suggesting was that if Oakland can figure out a way to bridge the gap between what makes San Jose so attractive (corporate interest) and Oakland’s limitations, there could be a solution in Oakland. Can Coliseum City bridge that gap? That’s the billion-dollar question.
Remember that when Wolff was first hired as VP of venue development, he pushed for a ballpark on the Malibu & HomeBase lots, the latter of which was not owned by the JPA. The JPA nixed Wolff’s idea and later bought the HomeBase lot for Coliseum City and the Raiders. Steve Schott preferred a ballpark – if in Oakland – to be in the north parking lot of the Coliseum. That idea was a nonstarter due to potential conflicts with the other tenant teams (Warriors, Raiders) and the area still stinging politically from the Mt. Davis debacle. When Wolff took over as managing partner, he first offered up his Coliseum North vision. The light industrial area includes the old drive-in/swap meet, the now-shuttered Columbo bakery, and several other small businesses. This concept also died quickly, as the City didn’t want to entertain the prospect of buying out businesses and the limited amounts Wolff was willing to offer to seal the deal.
Now there is Coliseum City, which could bridge the gap via third party investor funds. In effect this is a substitute for the normal public subsidy we so often see in the stadium game. The idea is to have Colony Capital and HayaH Holdings take care of some amount of the gap on their own. How much they will be willing to fund for one or more new venues will depend largely on the what forthcoming market study recommends for the project.
BayIG, the combined group of developers and capital, is supposed to have reached out to both the A’s and Warriors in attempts to get them to agree to be involved in Coliseum City. Until now both teams’ ownership groups have shown little interest in partnering with BayIG and the Raiders on Coliseum City as they’re pursuing their own venue plans in San Jose and San Francisco, respectively. However, there is a way I could see Lew Wolff showing interest in CC, especially as a potential funding mechanism.
That way occurs if Coliseum City isn’t feasible for the Raiders. Even though the Raiders are the anchor tenant, there’s a great chance that they’ll have to back out, simply because the costs of building their own stadium are prohibitive. Recently there was talk of a $400-500 million funding gap for the stadium, and with typical football-related sources potentially maxed out, it’s difficult to see how development alone would pay for a large portion. For instance:
Phase I doesn’t address any new sources of revenue to fund the project, except the possibility of selling Coliseum land (Property Transfer). Given the remaining debt on the Coliseum of $100 million (and dropping each year by 7-8%) and the cost of infrastructure, it’s likely that any proceeds from land sales would be wiped out by that combination of costs. It’s likely that BayIG and the JPA would work together to create a Community Facilities District (Mello-Roos) or Infrastructure Finance District, whose purpose is to collect various taxes to fund the project. CFDs require majority votes, whereas IFDs require two-thirds supermajority votes. In the case of the 49ers’ stadium plan, a CFD was approved by the public. Historically IFDs are tougher to put together and approve, though some legislators including State Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) have been making headway on that front. It’s not quite the new redevelopment as it’s limited to infrastructure, but it’s an important step.
Phase II provides for limited ancillary development next to the football stadium. It could raise a $1-2 million per year, depending on how money is extracted from the condo developments. Hypothetically, if each condo provided $100,000 of its sales price towards stadium construction, that’s still only $83.7 million. Chances are that asking for more than that would either make the units not salable or eat significantly into the developer’s profits.
If the Raiders stadium proves too costly, the A’s could easily slot right in with a much less expensive stadium option that has a much smaller funding gap, say $200-300 million. Plus with only one stadium there instead of two, there would be additional land to develop or reassign as needed. Wolff’s in a good position to wait and see how the market analyses work out for them and the Raiders. Numerous outcomes could be put forth:
- Coliseum City works financially for all three teams
- Coliseum City works financially for two of the three teams
- Coliseum City works financially for only the Raiders
- Coliseum City works financially for only the A’s
- Coliseum City doesn’t work financially for any team
I’m sure there are specific benchmarks for each of these outcomes, but we’ll have to wait until April to understand what those are. The Warriors component is even fuzzier than for the A’s and Raiders, since the replacement would be built in Area B of Coliseum City across I-880. To date the arena has not been part of the identified planning phases.
For now, Wolff gets to provide the most tacit support to Coliseum City, while letting the chips fall where they may. If the plan doesn’t pencil out, which I suspect he believes, he’ll have the numbers to prove himself right and to shut his critics up. If it does work out, he’ll be in a good bargaining position to ask for some piece of the pie. BayIG is being asked to get teams to sign on by no later than next summer, so we’ll see if this has legs.
Of course, the last 1,100 words are only believable if you endorse the idea that Wolff is actually considering Oakland in any way. If not, you’ve just wasted a few minutes of your time. Get back to your building your Wolff effigies and altars.