The $200 million alternative for Oakland

The dark side of being a city that proudly hosts a major professional sports franchise is the fact that the very same city has to pay for that pride. Usually it means taxpayer subsidies on new or upgraded facilities. Efforts have been made over the last 20-30 years to include capital improvement budgets in each stadium deal, to pay for new seats, scoreboards, or simply to keep up with the Joneses. So it’s rather disheartening to hear the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, only months after the passing of beloved Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. and the approval of a plan to upgrade his namesake stadium, is already calling for a brand new stadium. The lifespan of the old stadium is at its practical end to Goodell and NFL brass. A new stadium somewhere in Western New York is the best plan, not just for the league but also for the team valuation if Wilson’s heirs decide it’s time to sell. Knowing this, I’m going to posit an idea that would have little to no traction if it were presented in New York. Read it anyway, think it over, and ask yourself why these stadia cost so much. The Citrus Bowl in Orlando is undergoing a $200 million, 9-month makeover. For that $200 million, HNTB (same firm that redid the Coliseum in the 90’s) is demolishing the lower bowl. The only parts of the original stadium remaining are the upper decks along each sideline, which were completed in 1990. You could call it a reverse-Mt. Davis.

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Pretty much all of the things you’d expect in a brand new pro stadium will be in the redone Citrus Bowl. That includes:

  • 60-65,000 seats depending on event
  • 5,000 club seats
  • 25,000 square feet of club lounges
  • 34 suites (10 additional)
  • Loge boxes
  • New locker rooms for teams and officials
  • Expanded lower and upper concourses
  • Circulation stairs, escalators, and elevators
  • Restrooms and back-of-the-house facilities
  • 40 x 120 main scoreboard, smaller boards in opposite end zone
  • 10,000 square foot party deck in end zone

Other than the suite total and the greater number of seats, how is that different from what the Raiders are seeking? And it’s being done for $200 million, in only NINE MONTHS. That’s roughly the same timeframe as the Stanford Stadium reconstruction project, yet more comprehensive. HNTB and Turner Construction are under the gun to get the stadium done by November, in time for the first game there: the Florida Blue Florida Classic, the football matchup between historically black colleges Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman. The Citrus Bowl no longer has a permanent team tenant since Central Florida moved to their own on-campus football stadium. That leaves the FBFC, and two bowl games, the Russell Athletic Bowl and the Capital One Bowl. The Raiders could have virtually the same thing done at the Coliseum. AECOM’s study showed that the Raiders have too many suites, with 75 as the right number as opposed to the 143 they currently have. The East stand (Mt. Davis) has 90 suites on its own. One of the levels suites could be converted to broadcast and press facilities, but that side of the stadium is prone to bad sun conditions in the afternoon, when most home games would be played. Perhaps the press box could be placed in the lower suite level, with something in place in the new seating bowl to block out the sun. In league with that transformation, the locker rooms would be moved to under the East lower seats. The space there is mostly used for storage. If not that kind of reuse, the Raiders could have a new press box above and lockers rooms below the redone western seats (old main bowl), though that would be more expensive. Then again, Orlando is somehow doing all of this for $200 million, so how much more could it cost Oakland? 50%? That’s still a no-brainer compared to the prospect of a $1 billion, 50,000-seat stadium. Another thing that would have to change, in order to accommodate 50,000 or so seats for the Raiders, is the removal of the upper deck of Mt. Davis. That would get rid of approximately 9,000 seats, leaving 13,000 seats on the East side. Now let’s say 1,000 more are removed to accommodate the press box move and the switch from some club seats to loge boxes, that’s 12,000. Even then, the Raiders and Oakland would only have to build 38,000 new seats, most of them concentrated in a single structure on the West side. Essentially, the new construction would be limited to a structure with the capacity of a ballpark, which should be significantly cheaper to implement.

There are any number of ways this could work. Maybe everyone decides to use half of the Mt. Davis upper deck instead of the whole thing. Or they could build a new cantilevered seating deck where the top suite level currently is. Either way it makes a ton more sense than spending $1 billion or more on a new stadium. It could be done in 12-18 months, which would force the Raiders to play in Santa Clara for a year. The model is there and proven, Oakland. Will Oakland have enough sense to consider it?

13 thoughts on “The $200 million alternative for Oakland

  1. there would be no way to do to the mt davis seats on top that the chw did with their 3rd deck when they refurbished us cellular? the seats at that park like on mt davis were considered too high so they demolished the deck and made it less steep. if the raiders were to go this route i’d rather they just do that then to get rid of those seats all together.

    • @letsgoas – All Chicago did was lop off the top rows of the upper deck, then install the roof using new columns. They didn’t completely demolish the upper deck.

  2. Of course, there are always other alternative, including cheaper alternatives; this is a good idea! Unfortunately, there is no leadership on this issue from the fools who occupy Oakland City Hall…..there never has been and there never will be. This stadium issue should have been resolved a long time ago when the Raiders left for Los Angeles. No one had the vision to build a new ballpark for the A’s back then, and it looks like the same mindset exists in Oakland and continues to this day.

  3. More likely than a decommissioning of the newer (and larger) suites on the east side is the removal of the older (as outdated) suites in the original Coliseum structure.

  4. I would tend to believe that if Mark Davis does not come to an agreement on a new stadium at CC, a partial rebuilding of the Coliseum could be a plan “B”. I would think that Mark Davis would not object to such a plan “B”, if a completely new Coliseum is not financially feasible for his interests.

  5. Why do stadiums cost so much now, the football stadiums built in the late 90’s like Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati adjusted for inflation cost $500 million in 2014 dollars. How did the price jump to a billion? The 49er stadium looks really cheap erector set compared to other NFL stadiums… Lucas Oil stadium was built for $700 million just eight years ago.

  6. “The model is there and proven, Oakland. Will Oakland have enough sense to consider it?”

    No. Plain and simple.

    @15/70: It’s the much larger and more complex infrastructure that goes into stadiums now along with the one-upsmanship. I’m sure prices are just generally over-inflated without a clear reason on top of that as well. Old stadiums (even ones that aren’t really that old) had very few amenities, much simpler electronics and networking, much less plumbing, no discernible architectural value, etc.

  7. To me this is the only option that really makes any sense for Raiders staying in Oakland. There is no money for them to get a significant taxpayer paid portion of a $1 billion stadium, they need to think realistic. Doing this would be nice and a hell of a lot better football experience.

  8. What’s it been? A month now since the Raiders did not turn in their Letter of Interest on the Coliseum City project and there’s still been zero progress on a Raiders stadium (or an A’s stadium, either, for that matter)? There can be no progress when no one wants to pay for any of this. Some day, MLB and NFL will probably have to make, on their own, the determination that Oakland no longer works as a major pro sports city and the teams have to move. (The Warriors have already spared the NBA from having to break this news.) We all keep checking this Web site for years and years and nothing happens because Oakland expects free stadiums and nobody wants to take the city up on this “bargain.”

  9. Felt like breaking my silence for this one comment. Not like anyone really cared that I left the blog 😉

    Something miraculous happened to me over the last month or so: I STOPPED CARING ABOUT ALL THIS NEW BALLPARK STUFF. Waiting for something to happen re A’s, SJ, MLB, engaging in non stop flame wars with words, lawsuits, hating the Giants, hating Oakland pols, hating the traditional Bay Area media…after almost 10 years of wanting the A’s in San Jose, enough was enough. To much unnecessary stress and anger over what really amounts to NOTHING (in the grand scheme of life). Like Geronimo and his band of Chiricahua warriors finally accepting US manifest destiny of the West, I’ve accepted our territorial occupation of the Giants over San Jose. At least for me, the “war” is over. Wish my A’s the best of luck getting that new ballpark, whether it be in Oakland or somewhere else in the East Bay or Sacramento. Now, going forward…

    If the Giants are going to “win” the battle of San Jose over the A’s/Lew Wolff, then they need to live up to the original
    purpose of having territorial rights to our county: BRING BASEBALL TO SAN JOSE. Relating to the topic of this thread, here’s what I’d like to see:

    1) SF Giants buy out the Rivercats or Fresno Grizzlies. Similar to St. Louis Cardinals buying out the AAA Memphis Redbirds.
    2) SF Giants “swap” our single A Giants with one of the aforementioned AAA franchises. In essence, San Jose would have a AAA franchise while either Sac or Fresno would be become single A. Sac or Fresno would keep the Rivercats or Grizzlies name in tact.
    3) Here’s the big one: Giants privately finance a AAA ballpark in downtown San Jose! At either Diridon or Adobe parcels. 18-20,000 seat stadium built with the same field dimensions as AT&T Park. Similar in size to Coca Cola Field in downtown Buffalo NY (home of the AAA Bisons), should cost around $150 million to finance. SF Giants would now be taking full advantage of Silicon Valley in terms of revenue; a true money maker. I’d buy season tix; just want to see baseball in downtown SJ (and not single A).
    4) Name change: BRING BACK THE SEALS! SJ Giants would become the SJ Seals, along with with the Sharks giving our downtown sports scene a maritime flavor.
    5) Would have loved to see 36,000 fans 81 times per year in downtown San Jose, but as the Sharks have proven with 17,500 fans 40 times per year, 18-20,000 fans 70 times per year would be awesome for critical mass downtown.

    SF Giants could also hold 1-2 exhibition games at the end of Spring Training at the downtown SJ AAA yard as a token of territorial appreciation. Talk about truly serving the heart of your fan base!

    Feels good to be over all of this ballpark stuff. I’ll continue monitoring this blog because its now habit and because Rhamesis has been awesome over the years. Keep up the great work RM! Peace out y’all and Go A’s and Go San Jose!…

  10. Yes, I’m sure San Jose pols will be chomping at the bit to work with the organization that basically has dictated, San Jose Shall Not Ever Have Major League Baseball. San Jose already has minor league baseball – it seats a few thousand people a night. I went a couple weeks ago – because I had free tickets like a lot of people in the building. A city of 1 million people should not be forever consigned to minor league status because an organization 45 miles away has thwarted the will of San Joseans themselves.

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