With LA off the table for 2015, what will Oakland and the Raiders do?

The Chargers chose to stay in San Diego last week. Over the weekend, word surfaced that the NFL would not approve any LA relocations for 2015. So for now, St. Louis, Oakland, and San Diego have year’s reprieve. So despite the fact that Coliseum City doesn’t have a deal in place, Oakland’s self-imposed deadlines will come and go with nary a penalty.

Yet it’s little more than cold comfort, as the delay was either caused by the NFL’s and AEG’s need for more time, or perhaps just as likely, certain teams’ need for more time. Either way, the process is not driven by anything happening within the current home cities. All three cities are looking at huge nine-figure subsidies, with little actual desire to deal with the reality of it. Even if the cities give away land, it’s still a tangible asset that’s being given away.

Incoming Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf will have a number of options available to her and the City Council. If the City likes Floyd Kephart’s work in salvaging the project, they can extend the deal for another 6-12 months, which may be enough to get the Raiders and investors on board. Coliseum City’s EIR work can continue unabated, and there’s no longer any immediate pressure to make a deal. As mentioned previously, shrinking the project from 800 acres to 200 is nothing but good for its feasibility. No need for new bridges across the Nimitz, a new arena, or a trolley. Conversely, it also means that “giveaway” resource of land is more scarce. At the very least it allows for better focus on what can and should be done.

Schaaf beat Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan with her cheery pragmatism. That will be put to the test once talks start up anew. It would be safe to assume that with the A’s not in jeopardy, any alternative plans Lew Wolff has for the Coliseum area can be safely placed on the back burner by letting Coliseum City play out. The JPA still needs to hire a GM/Exec Director to lead negotiations whether they’re facing Floyd Kephart or Lew Wolff, so that’s the JPA’s biggest priority. Schaaf has maintained in interviews that she sees the impact of 82 baseball games as much greater than 10 football games. That said, perhaps she could be swayed towards some flexible aspects of the Coliseum City proposal, especially if there’s a retractable dome involved.

That brings me to the fundamental problem facing Oakland: How much stadium do they want to build? If they want to build a flexible venue that will bring in a Super Bowl and a Final Four and other indoor events, the potential price tag will easily surpass $1 billion, perhaps reaching $1.5 billion by the time it’s completed. And with every $100 million over the current $900 million cost estimate, that’s another $100 million added to the still-unresolved funding gap. It adds up in a very painful way.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the team, Raider fans feel they have one over on 49er fans thanks to Levi’s Stadium’s inauspicious debut. The Raiders getting over on the 49ers two weeks ago is practically Super Bowl-worthy in the Raider Nation, and the 49ers’ turmoil, highlighted by Jim Harbaugh’s impending departure, only serves as a second helping of schadenfreude. Of course, if the Raiders and Oakland get the Coliseum City stadium deal done, they’ll face the same problems the 49ers faced. Longtime season ticket holders will be displaced and relocated to less desirable seat locations as preferred spots go to corporate interests. The crowd will change in noticeable ways, just as it did for the Giants, Jets, 49ers, and Cowboys. The Raiders don’t have to worry about burning through a season ticket waiting list, making tickets less of a seller’s market.

If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that right-sizing the stadium has huge benefits. As the second team to official tarp off Mt. Davis, the Raiders didn’t suffer through the constant PR war the A’s have. Regardless, it’s hard to argue with the results. The Raiders have a nice consecutive games sellout streak, few embarrassing empty crowd shots (unlike Santa Clara), and a compact stadium feel that’s difficult to duplicate anywhere outside of Green Bay. A place that’s downright cavernous feeling for baseball is intimate for football. Think about that.

It’s no secret that I’ve advocated for different types of Coliseum renovations for the Raiders instead of a new stadium, simply because they’re cheaper and more feasible. It also needs to be said that if a renovation is done properly it can conserve that atmosphere, instead of letting it weaken by attrition. The Bears’ controversial rebuild of Soldier Field may have killed the stadium’s landmark status, but it preserved the atmosphere and improved the facility immensely, which was a win-win for the Bears and Bears fans.

Citrus Bowl as of mid-December

Citrus Bowl as of mid-December

In May I pointed to the renovation of the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, a $200 million project that gutted 90% of the stadium and modernized it in every conceivable way. The stadium reopened last month with a college football game. Next week it will host two bowl games on the 29th and New Year’s Day. The Citrus Bowl won’t run into any grass problems because it has artificial turf. The turf is unfortunate but understandable, given the cost of maintaining a grass field all year round when its big events occur in December and January. Other than that, the stadium looks practically like a NFL venue, with 60,000 seats, large club areas, party decks, and a completely new bowl with new seats installed throughout. All for $204 million. How was it only $204 million? While it’s hard to isolate specific reasons, a nine-month construction timeline certainly helps. As for the Citrus Bowl venue, it sure looks like an NFL stadium.



35 thoughts on “With LA off the table for 2015, what will Oakland and the Raiders do?

  1. You da man RM! Wasn’t it Quan who was advocating for a domed stadium? With her ouster, perhaps Schaff can go with your idea/work with Kephart for a Citrus Bowl renovation of the Coli.

    Here’s food for thought: the Raiders will most likely go 3-13 this year, YET HAVE SOLD OUT ALL THEIR GAMES (albeit with tarped sections). If the A’s had gone (say) 40-122 this year, I bet you wouldn’t see more than 4,000 folks at the Coli for a game. My point; it’s probably best for Oakland to go all in with the more popular Raiders and just let the A’s go. (I know some here who love the A’s but hate the Raiders will disagree with me on that one, but we already knew that)

  2. I’m really beginning to think that a remodel for the Raiders may be the only option for Oakland. They can keep Mt. Davis tarped and build around it and probably have a much easier time raising money for construction. If they don’t want to play at Levi’s during construction, let them play for a year in San Antonio and then the NFL can see if it really is ready for another team long-term.

    I have been an A’s fan and Steelers fan my whole sports-loving life, but I have to think Oakland would probably be better off keeping the Raiders. There is more “hometown identity” with the Raiders I think. By that I mean that when people OUTSIDE OF OAKLAND in general think of Oakland’s pro sports teams they think of the Raiders over the A’s and don’t even put the Warriors with Oakland at all – that is a “California” team not an “Oakland” team.

  3. “…especially if there’s a retractable dome involved.”

    I thought we put that silliness to bed.

  4. I do believe tearing down the entire top of mt Davis could be done for about 15-20mil. Tear down the rest of the old bowl. For probably $300-400 mil, you could basically build a new stadium. It’s like buying a really scrappy house in a good spot. You tear it down to the studs and basically get a new house. For someone that has no money, that seems like a pretty good idea. Then A’s get access to the spot they want

    • Jordan,

      I’d replace the top of Mt. Davis’ suites with a roof top terrace similar to Levi’s Stadium. The seating lost on Mt. Davis could then be built into a new north end zone grandstand. I’d also completely gut, refurbish the Mt. Davis suites, perhaps even combining some into party suites.

    • On second thought Jordan, I’d only remove the top half of the current Mt. Davis upper deck (and then construct a similar structure in height on the west end). Having no seats above the Mt. Davis suite level would make it too short of a structure IMHO.

    • I think they should tarp it. Make it policy that if they sell-out the rest of the seats by Tuesday, then they open that section for more capacity as “bargain value seating.”

      Also, you’ve got to think things will turn around for the team and they will make the playoffs SOMEDAY. They will want the extra seats in that case. You watch, they start stringing a couple good seasons together and they can sell-out even with those seats on a regular basis.

  5. What happens to the A’s in the “retrofit the Coliseum for the Raiders” idea?

    • Per the lease terms, the A’s can break the lease without penalty. The City/JPA could arrange it so that the A’s could develop 100 acres or more with a ballpark, with the A’s playing temporarily in SF while the Coliseum renovation happens. If that can’t be arranged, the A’s have a case to move to San Jose.

  6. The future for the Raiders is starting to get somewhat more defined. It appears now that Mark Davis would much rather have his Raiders sharing a facility with a MLB team, at least in the short-term, than with another NFL team. It also seems more apparent that Davis would not want a permanent stadium sharing arrangement with any other NFL team. as could likely be the case in Los Angeles, or would be in Santa Clara. I now can see a more likely scenario where the Raiders do get a deal done for a renovated/partially rebuilt stadium on the Coliseum footprint. The time frame and its likelihood of happening would depend on whether the A’s are eventually granted permission to move to San Jose. That said, even if the A’s do eventually get to build a new ballpark on the Coliseum property, a permanent Raiders stadium on the current Coliseum footprint is less likely, but is not out of the question, either. At least for the foreseeable time being, the A’s and Raiders in all likelihood will be continuing to sharing the Coliseum .

    • ” I now can see a more likely scenario where the Raiders do get a deal done for a renovated/partially rebuilt stadium on the Coliseum footprint.”

      Based on what? There’s no evidence to support that.

      • I wouldn’t say there’s direct evidence to support what llpec stated, but based on the reality of the situation (Oakland finances, lack of corporate base/disposable income in East Bay) a rebuilt Coliseum is way more likely than a completely brand new stadium ala Levi’s.

    • If the choices are between a renovated Oakland Coliseum or a new (albeit shared) stadium in Los Angeles, the Raiders will be moving to Los Angeles.

      • I’m starting to think the Raiders would prefer a renovation or rebuild in Oakland, then something new, in LA that they would more then likely have to share. I agree with llpec. It might not make the most sense, and perhaps something that most wouldn’t do, but I think Davis will if he can.

      • The question, ultimately, is do the Raiders’ revenues increase substantially in a renovated Coliseum?

        The answer: No. The Coliseum already has three levels of (relatively) modern suites and plenty of club seats (many of which go unsold for non-premium games).

        Why spend $200- $400 million to renovate the Coliseum if it is not going to significantly increase revenues?

        A plurality of the football fans among the 18.3 million people in Greater LA are Raider fans. That fact, combined with the stagnation in Oakland, may be convincing enough to push the Raiders back to LA.

  7. I agree that having 81 home dates for the A’s has the potential to be a bigger economic boost for Oakland, but we also have to take in consideration where the ballpark would be located and how committed to winning is the ownership.

    If Oakland keeps just the A’s in the suburban setting Coliseum Complex with very little ancillary development around the ballpark, how much does that really contribute to Oakland’s economy. We also have to consider the propensity this ownership has for tearing teams apart and not really caring about what the fan base thinks. How would that effect potential attendance?

    If Oakland is going to invest a significant amount of money in keeping the A’s, it needs to make sure it gets a good economic boost to its economy. Keeping the A’s out of downtown at the Coliseum doesn’t do much good to Oakland’s over all economy and is not the best return on investment for the city. The A’s belong at Jack London Square near all the activity and near all of the downtown neighborhoods.

    • You have an amazing ability to see only one side of a situation. The A’s have no choice but to try to develop around a Coliseum-sited ballpark because that ancillary development will help make up for the corporate money shortfall. It’s in their vested interest. JLS is off the table, not being considered, done. Game over.

    • …except that putting the team at JLS means infrastructure costs out the wazoo because of the train tracks, not to mention needing an “infill” BART station that currently cannot be built anywhere near JLS unless you want people to have to walk to 12th Street, and…(headdesk) (headdesk) (headdesk)

    • “How committed to winning…” Just shut up.

  8. I actually don’t think they should do anything to Mt. Davis if a rebuilding (or renovation) of just half of the Coliseum takes place. Mt. Davis has been such a headache in the near 20 years since it was built that I think it should stay and just be incorporated into the renovation. I think the City of Oakland (or the County of Alameda, or both?) are still in debt over Mt. Davis, and tearing down a fairly new structure would continue the legacy of fiscal irresponsibility the city/county have been so well-known for. I think the responsible thing to do would be to leave Mt. Davis as is, replace the seats, upgrade the luxury suites, update the West Side Club and then renovate the rest of the stadium so that the new structure is cohesive with the old structure (Mt. Davis).

    Check out this forum I found: http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1271925&page=8

    I think the renderings created by user “Benn” are a good example of how a renovated coliseum could look.

    • so in comparison between levi’s and a new renovated coliseum according to that poster’s estimates.

      levis-68.5k capacity, 165 suites, 8.5k club seating

      renovated coliseum-62k capacity, 84 suites, 7.2k club seating

      • Yep! I think 62k seats and 84 suites is reasonable considering the Raiders ticket sales history and their lesser popularity in the Bay Area.

      • if 62k and only 84 luxury boxes are the case then forget about a super bowl there even though getting a super for the “east bay” i thought was a long shot at best anyways with a newer stadium in levi’s that has the ability to expand into the 70k+ range at least and has over double the suites.

  9. Mark Davis needs to move the Raiders out of Oakland ASAP in 2015 and Move them to Los Angeles where there better off, who cares what Roger Goodell says move them anyway just Like Al Davis did

  10. Something needs to happen soon. The Raider’s will not be around much longer and the A’s can’t continue to keep blowing up the team every time Billy Beane gets his butt hurt when he thinks he showed all his cards.

    I think a Coliseum remodel and finding a way to keep or remodel Mount Davis would benefit the Raiders and at the same time force MLB’s hand on the A’s situation. Maybe this is a good thing that the NFL has shutdown LA for this year. It will give the Rams and Raiders another year to get their stuff together and force them to work with their cities.

    • Oakland, Alameda County, and California have no money to give the Raiders. Sticking around for another year won’t change that.

    • Yeah, something done soon. Would not know what to do without those 3-13 seasons. Life would not be worth living.

  11. Nothing involving their current stadium is an acceptable solution. I would rather see my beloved Raiders go to San Jose with the niners temporarily than stay in that dump. I want them to stay in Oakland, but not if it means staying in the stadium. Even if they spent one billion on renovating it, it would still be lipstick on a pig.

  12. if coli city is cut down to 200 acres and an extension is given to Kephart, can Wolff then submit his proposal for the land he wants to develop outside of those 200 acres and the two projects could be studied concurrently?

    • @jesse – Not really. The preferred site for both projects is right around the Coliseum because that’s where the transportation infrastructure and most of the publicly held land are.

  13. Will Oakland ever host a Super Bowl with a renovated stadium? How much does a “host” team\city receive in revenue from hosting a Super Bowl. If the revenue is significant, then Davis may want a brand new stadium with huge capacity (65,000+) in order to host a Super Bowl.

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