Update 5:00 PM – Mayor Quan backtracks on the Crown Prince of Dubai claim. Oops.
Say what you will about Damon Bruce’s radio persona or his supposed allegiances. When he wants to drill down on a topic, he drills down. Other than the scheduled weekly segment with Warriors power forward David Lee, Bruce spent the entire time yesterday from 3:30 to 7 talking about the stadium situation in Oakland, specifically related to the A’s. Bruce said that he wanted to get past the blame game and cut through all of blah blah blah, as he described it. That he most certainly did, though the reveal mostly left more questions in its wake.
At 3:30 Bruce interviewed Andy Dolich, who maintained that the Coliseum is still the best place to build new venues for both the Raiders and A’s. Dolich spent the bulk of his extended segment throwing cold water on everything else: San Jose, Howard Terminal, A’s ownership. Dolich even took some credit for the 49ers stadium in Santa Clara, which is bizarre considering that he was against the move at many points and not involved in its planning.
Dolich ended up being the warmup act for what followed. At 5, Bruce interviewed Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who was clearly not prepared for the grilling that Bruce gave her. He asked about the lack of progress on the two stadium plans and asked the mayor to make a choice between the two. Throughout it all Quan dodged and hemmed, and finally got rather defensive about her record on the subject. Then, when discussing Coliseum City, name dropped the crown prince of Dubai as an investor in the plan, which for Bruce was as exciting as a little girl hearing the word “pony” or a dog seeing a squirrel. There’s plenty of money represented here, from Colony Capital and its inherent ties to Qatar to Rashid Al Malik and his Dubai ties. That’s a distraction though, since Qatar and Dubai would provide the silent money. The true face of the money is Colony’s Tom Barrack, who really wants a piece of a team, and a controlling piece if possible. Barrack drove the attempt to buy AEG last year, before Phil Anschutz decided that the various competing bids weren’t high enough and took the company off the market. Colony is also involved in the Chargers’ stadium plans, which are quite similar in scope to what the JPA is trying to do with Coliseum City. In all three cases, Barrack wanted controlling interest in a team (40%) in exchange for the stadium being built. That has me thinking, What if Barrack gets a stadium deal done in San Diego? Does that mean his goal of getting a team and stadium built is completed, making Coliseum City and the Raiders unnecessary? The reverse could easily be asked as well. Fortunately for Raiders fans, San Diego is the one major city in California with an even more dysfunctional government and leadership than Oakland, so no immediate worries there. Still, it’s worth wondering if these opportunities are finite, at least from Colony’s perspective.
After Quan’s interview, Oakland Council Member Larry Reid called into the show to clarify some things the mayor said about Coliseum City. Reid, who also acts as the Vice Chair of the Coliseum Authority (JPA), suggested to Bruce that he speak to JPA Chair (and Alameda County Supervisor) Nate Miley for the real scoop on the project. Reid also dropped a bit of a bombshell:
REID: (The JPA’s) conversation (with MLB) has been much different from what the mayor has said on the radio. Look, the mayor knows that MLB has clearly said that they do not like the Howard Street Terminal (sic). Lew Wolff has said he does not like the Howard Street Terminal. His preference…it would be in the Coliseum. Our focus with the A’s is trying to figure out a way, how to do that deal.
BRUCE: Why do you think the mayor came on as an advocate for the Howard Street Terminal if she already knows that it’s dead in the water?
REID: Well, that’s a question that you have to raise with her. She knows what MLB has said to us, has said to me, and has said to Supervisor Miley in a meeting we had most recently less than two weeks ago. MLB’s preference as well as Mr. Wolff’s preference is the Coliseum area.
Clearly, additional context is needed here. First of all, has MLB’s preference been the Coliseum only recently, or has it been this way for some time? For nearly a year proponents of Howard Terminal have claimed that MLB prefers their waterfront locale. Reid represents the JPA, so he has a vested interest in the choice the same way Oakland Waterfront Ballpark and Doug Boxer would. So who’s right? What was the process in getting to this point?
The mayor’s hands-off approach has created the appearance of two competing factions. On one hand there’s the JPA and the now-departed Fred Blackwell running Coliseum City. On the other hand there’s OWB, Let’s Go Oakland, and the Port having their own discussions. Usually the city manager/administrator would moderate both discussions by being involved, but Blackwell’s focus was much greater on Coliseum City than Howard Terminal. And with both “tenured” city managers gone in Blackwell and Deanna Santana, that would leave the Mayor to make decisions. Except that she hasn’t made decisions. It’s not her vision, and she’s been to content to get to this point with the understanding that MLB would make the decisions for her or force the A’s to make a decision between the two sites.
Well, now the A’s are making a choice, though it’s not exactly how Oakland and the JPA wants it. Wolff and Fisher seem to want the Coliseum without the City, so that they can mold the project in their own way. It’s only possible if Oakland lets go of the Raiders, or if the Raiders give up on Oakland. Oakland’s trying to keep both teams in place, so they’re offering these solutions that neither league nor franchise fully endorses. Truth be told, neither team wants to share a complex – let alone a stadium – as long as precious land is in play to help fund new stadia. The NFL is waiting for the A’s to leave the Coliseum, and MLB is waiting for the Raiders to do the same.
While the A’s and Raiders come into this with somewhat similar goals, their prospects away without the existing Coliseum are much different. The Raiders a have much better short-term future because of Santa Clara. However, their long-term prospects are shaky because the financing aspect of a new Raiders stadium is so difficult and daunting. The A’s have poor short-term prospects because they have no temporary home other than the Giants’ offer of AT&T Park for a short time. Long-term is much better, mostly because the cost of a ballpark is more manageable and they could have other sites in Howard Terminal and San Jose. Alternate sites for the Raiders, such as Concord or Dublin, are so far off that they’re not worth considering.
I’ve been saying for sometime that anyone who claims to know how this is going to play out is clearly trying to sell something. Better to let the process continue, and let the chips fall where they may.