Mark Davis doesn’t have a ton of cards to play against Oakland, other than the usual “I’ll take my team elsewhere” card, which has half-played by entertaining talks with LA and San Antonio. He pulled one out this week, refusing to play the $400,000 rent bill on the Coliseum for the 2014 season. We covered the lease terms in November 2013, when the last Raiders lease deal was made.
According to Matthew Artz, the Raiders are paying rent on their Alameda training facility, which makes withholding rent a rather petty move. What kinds of concessions could get from Oakland/Alameda County at this point? They’re certainly not going to sign over development rights to the Coliseum over a measly $400k. Though somehow Davis has been depicted as a “more willing partner” for Oakland than Lew Wolff, his actions say differently: meetings in LA/SA, repeatedly talking about how he’s doing his best while not creating his own plan until very recently.
It would be one thing if Davis were angling to move to LA for the 2015 season. The NFL has put the kibosh on such a move for 2015, so what reason would Davis hold out? The answer probably lies in the current lease. Besides the rent for the Coliseum and training facility, there’s also the matter of the parking revenue split between the JPA and the Raiders. At the moment that’s a 50/50 deal, with regular parking prices capped at $35 per car, per game. The opening of Levi’s Stadium has bumped the going rate to $50, so Davis may be eager to up the charge, a move that’s accounted for in the current lease. Even if that were the case, it can’t make much of a difference:
- $15 hike * 10,000 parking spaces * 10 games = $1.5 million, split 50/50
The Raiders would net less than $750,000 after the City collects its parking tax. It’s truly a piddly amount of money for a pro football team.
If it’s something else, like a cut of concessions revenue, Davis should’ve acted before allowing Wolff to take it off the table for upcoming years. He’ll get a chance to sell ads on the new scoreboards without having to spend a dime on the project. It’s a head scratcher why Davis would do this.
Then again, maybe this is all a bluff to see how the reciprocal and related parties act. Would Oakland and Alameda County start getting ugly with Davis the same way they did with Wolff last year? Would Davis try to see what the NFL might do to back him (or not)? Davis has already said he doesn’t want to have the Raiders play in Santa Clara, and that’s the obvious local Plan B for Roger Goodell if negotiations got tense. He won’t be able to use this issue to force an LA move because that doesn’t fit into the league’s plans. If Davis is trying to score points in order to get a premier spot in LA, it’s an odd way of doing it.
I doubt that this discord will turn into anything protracted. The A’s-Oakland parking dispute turned into a $3 million issue because Wolff preferred to let it fester until the next lease negotiations, three years down the road. Davis doesn’t have time to let anything fester. The Raiders have to play somewhere in 2015, and preferably beyond. There are no indications that public officials want to to stick Davis with a locked-in multiyear lease, as they’ve been perfectly willing to go year-to-year for the time being as the larger Coliseum City deal is worked out.
Oakland, and especially the Coliseum, is a sort of economic paradox for both the Raiders and the A’s at the moment. Deals there are potentially the most frictionless, yet it can most realistically happen if one of them steps aside. Yet each team has its eye on more lucrative markets that they might consider worth the friction. If one of them “wins” Oakland, the other will get to go to the more lucrative alternative. The “winner” will have the challenge of remaking the Coliseum to benefit not only themselves, but also the City and nearby communities. Oakland as both prize and booby prize? Somehow it makes sense.