No dome? Smaller stadium? That’s a start.

BANG’s Matthew Artz continues the Raiders stadium debate with the new old revelation that the Raiders want a smaller stadium, one that would seat around 55,000.

Yes, it’s a familiar story. We’ve heard it before. Fewer seats, fewer suites, slightly less swanky club areas, all of it should contribute to a lower cost solution for the Raiders and the NFL. And finally, the City of Oakland appears to be coming around, instead of clinging to pie-in-the-sky aspects in the Coliseum City plan. At the very least, the idea of a retractable dome is fading away.

The dome made it into several city planning documents, but Mayor Libby Schaaf said last week that it was no longer under consideration, noting that it didn’t make sense to build an enclosed stadium in a city with such a good climate.

That alone should save some $200 million. Dropping 10,000 seats should also save around $200 million. A rough projection today would be $800 million. Or $978 million. Either way it’s way too expensive. If the goal is a less fancy, simpler structure, there’s little reason for the budget to approach $1 billion, even with the higher construction costs in the hot Bay Area market. I showcased two renovation projects in Florida: the recently completed $200 million Citrus Bowl project and the underway $400 Sun Life Stadium plan.

Another good example from the college ranks is the new McLane Stadium at Baylor University. A 45,000-seat venue, McLane Stadium is a pretty, three-decked, partly roofed horseshoe on the banks of the Brazos River in Waco, TX. The stadium was completed for only $266 million.

McLane Stadium facing Brazos River (image from Wikipedia)

McLane Stadium facing Brazos River (image from Wikipedia)

It’s not the cost effective record of $100 million set at Stanford for a new stadium, but it’s impressive in its own right. There are some obvious visual differences between pro and college football venues, such as the expansive use of bleacher seating in college stadia. These stadia also have smaller scoreboards, club lounges, and locker rooms than their NFL peers. McLane Stadium has a total of 860,000 square feet, less than half the space of a new NFL stadium like Levi’s, whose square footage totaled 1.8 million.

Pro football stadia have achieved such girth over the last 30-40 years through the proliferation of suites and clubs, plus greater buildouts at the field level, a place once reserved for locker rooms and plain old storage. The previous generation of stadia may have had 4-5 levels. A modern stadium may have 9 levels thanks to stacks of suites and clubs. Since all these stadia are getting taller, there needs to be more structural concrete and steel, which contributes further to exploding the cost. The end result is a more complicated structure that takes much longer to build than before.

Living in Silicon Valley, since the recession ended I’ve seen so many cranes and buildings under construction it’s dizzying. Unlike the original Valley land rush, developers and companies aren’t building simple one-story tilt-up offices. These are 6-10 story campus affairs as standard, or crazy concepts like Apple’s spaceship campus or the newly reimagined, glass-canopied Googleplex. Apple and Google are perhaps two unique examples of companies building visions that would make the NFL palaces look modest by comparison. Mall giant Westfield is undertaking a $600 million expansion of Valley Fair. Local cheap hotels and motels are frequently at capacity during the weekdays, filled up by general contractors coming from the Central Valley and Southern California. While it’s a great situation for the Bay Area economically, it also means greater competition for labor than ever before.

If Oakland and the Raiders are truly going to come up with a cheaper solution, they’ll need to follow some of the lessons realized in the college process. That means building simpler, and just as important, building faster. Instead of taking 3 years to complete a stadium, it would behoove both parties to figure out ways to cut down the construction time to 2 years or else in order to save on labor, especially union labor here in California. Employing a design-build process to streamline construction and permitting would also help immensely.

Doing all of this would require a level of coordination and competence heretofore not seen in the East Bay. While the county continues to consider the ENA, the ground beneath Coliseum City shifts. Chances are good that whatever gets built there will look nothing like the renderings provided by JRDV and sponsored by the City. That’s standard practice in urban planning, so no one should be surprised. With the clock ticking on LA, it’s probably a good idea to get moving on something everyone can agree on.

48 thoughts on “No dome? Smaller stadium? That’s a start.

  1. Amen to your last sentence RM. I’m actually liking the idea of a 55K stadium, especially if one could be built. Any idea RM, if Mt. Davis was left intact/renovated, how much stadium would need to be built for 55K? I’m guessing such a stadium would be designed with expansion in mind; possible future Super Bowl, ticket demand in future, etc. Good stuff!

  2. I wonder if there won’t be something of a compromise on seating capacity say 60,000 (if it gets built), that would still be the smallest in the NFL.

  3. They could build a large two-deck structure to replace the old bowl, with one suite/press level. That would be enough.

  4. Isn’t the real question if Davis even wants to remodel over building new? And if the NFL would even financially support that?

    • SMG,
      First question a good one; what MD wants is truly unknown. Being that Mt. Davis is relatively new, can’t see why he wouldn’t be open to building half of a new stadium. As for NFL, again being that Mt. Davis is a similar structure to contemporary NFL stadiums, can’t see why the league wouldn’t financially support a rebuild around. Just my opinion of course.

    • @ SMG
      Davis really hasn’t indicated what he wants, that’s part of the problem he hasn’t actually said what he would be ok with, regarding a rebuild or remodel of the coliseum. More than likely the NFL would not only be ok with it (remodel), they would probably prefer it. I am sure the Oakland Alameda county taxpayer would prefer it, after all they have to pay for MD, weather its used or not.

  5. The more we go forward and the more Oakland does little the more I think this idea of a smaller, bare bones stadium makes most sense. Even the idea that you presented about turning Mount Davis into a section of the stadium, taking down the shell and rebuilding makes sense. I know Davis is waiting for dominoes to fall but it seems to me Spanos and Kroenke are much more agressive and are more likely to win out in LA.

  6. I believe that Mark Davis was never keen on sharing a stadium with any other NFL team, whether in the Bay Area or LA. A scaled down 57,000 to 60,000 seat stadium should be acceptable to all parties involved. Above all, the facility must meet the minimum standards set forth by the NFL. Also, Mark Davis is well aware with the fact that a stadium with a simpler design would be more compatible with Oakland’s blue collar image. Finally, a determination would have to be made on the cost savings for constructing a partially rebuilt/renovated stadium as opposed to building an entire new facility.

  7. i’ve posted more than a few times in previous years that i think a stanford stadium on a little bit of steroids would be a perfect type of smaller stadium that the raiders seem like they want to build. course there would need to be luxury suites in there but i don’t think you would’ve needed to have the same amount that a levi’s stadium or any of these newer nfl venues built over the last 10-15 years have in their stadiums in any new raiders stadium build in oakland.

    course that small of a venue would also put any thought of a super bowl being played there on the chopping block but i always thought even if the raiders did build a new venue somewhere in oakland that drawing a super bowl would’ve been tough with a bigger and more luxurious venue in levi’s stadium what 30-40 miles away?

  8. raiders and or the nfl should give whoever designed and rebuilt stanford stadium or built baylor’s new stadium 500-600 million and tell them to build the best nfl caliber venue they can.

    i know easy to say but probably 100x harder to do.

    • I believe a big part of the reason Stanford stadium was so cheap was that it was already built into a berm/hillside, obviating the need to build a lot of steel and concrete structure. Don’t think the Coli property offers the same opportunities for cost avoidance.

      Have to say, not thrilled with the idea of re-purposing Mt. Davis, it’s a crappy structure. It would be considered by most NFL teams to be obsolete considered on its own; the only thing that makes it look better by comparison is being attached to a structure that’s even older and crappier.

      • Disagree on Mt. Davis. The bones are good, as long as you lop off the upper deck and refresh the interior it’s a very good structure. Sort of a poor man’s Levi’s Stadium suite tower.

      • @ML From my perspective Mt. Davis is inadequate in the following respects: (a) dreary, uninteresting architecture; (b) enclosed and gloomy concourse with inadequate concession and bathroom space on the lower level; (c) no windows to the field on the club level; (d) excessively narrow vomitories on the lower and club levels; (e) insufficient steepness of the lower level seating, resulting in poor sightlines; and (f) horrendous views from the upper deck. As an original PSL holder, I recall being extremely disappointed when I saw the end product in 1995, even when it was brand new.

        Lopping off the top would help with the latter problem, but this starts to eat into any theoretical cost savings. I’m certainly no architect, so perhaps with a creative remodel Mt. Davis could be improved. But the more you do to put lipstick on that pig, the smaller your cost savings over just starting fresh.

        As I recall, you did an article some time ago projecting just how much could be saved this way. Do you have a link to that article?

      • They’d save around a half-billion. All the issues you cite – legitimate – stem from the desire to stuff as many seats into Mt. Davis as possible. While a Mt. Davis makeover is by no means trivial – $50-100 million is my guess – It’s still much cheaper than many alternatives.

      • @ML $50-100 million to reno Mt. Davis sounds possible. Savings of $500 million on a building estimated to cost $800 million to $1 billion if built from scratch sounds WAY too high (especially after deducting the $50-100 million in reno costs).

        Especially if you’re lopping off the top, how many non-suite seats are left in Mt Davis, 15 or 20 thousand? If you’re trying to get to 55,000, that leaves a lot of concrete to pour. I find it hard to believe, after paying the cost to refresh and lop off the top, preserving a structure that’s providing only 1/3 of the seating is going to save 50-60% of the cost. I don’t know much about stadium construction, but in a home remodel context a top to bottom remodel can easily cost 75-80% of the cost of a tear down and rebuild.

        I thought I remembered you posting an article saying a Mt. Davis remodel would only save $200 million or so. Am I remembering wrong? And how did you come up with the $500 million estimate?

      • This can be done efficiently because the vast majority of square footage – clubs, locker room space, suites – has already been built out. All they would be doing with a new renovation is outfitting a two-deck structure and concourse. That’s the equivalent of building a 45,000-seat college football stadium, except inside an existing stadium footprint. Look at the Citrus Bowl and Sun Life Stadium examples. Both come in at much less than half the price of new stadia. I don’t recall saying that a renovation would only save $200 million. That doesn’t make sense to me.

        The capacity of the Coliseum with a tarped Mt. Davis is 56,000. No one will miss it if it’s gone, yet there will remain the space to expand another by 5-10k if called for.

      • maybe if they chop of mt davis top seats they could build some sort of “party deck” like we’ve seen many mlb teams do with their 3rd decks like at coors in col and progressive in cle recently.

  9. Would keeping the Mt Davis side of the stadium even be possible with it’s current location? Maybe I’m thinking of an older post that had an arial view of the current coliseum with diagrams of new football/baseball stadiums on the sides.

    • It wouldn’t work within the Coliseum City plan. The plan would have to change a great deal to include a renovated Coliseum. Otherwise it should work fine.

      • Got it. Wanted to say thank you and also how much I love NewBallpark. Born and raised in San Jose and I have followed this topic, as frustrating as it has been, for years (feels like my entire life). And you have been great with providing updated info.

  10. Oakland should be consulting with Manfred before it makes any move to turn over the Coliseum property for a Raiders stadium. This move would have “last straw” written all over it, I’ll bet.

    • @ pjk
      Perhaps Manfred should as Wolff why he employed the “wait Davis out strategy”, so that Oakland would have very little choice but to go with a Raiders plan. (If it exists) You have often cited the 81 vs 10 game argument; it’s easy to see that if there are two serious proposals (big if), it’s a no brainer that you should go with the 81 games.
      With Wolff employing the wait Davis out strategy, it evokes another old saying.
      A bird in the hand (Raiders with a plan), is worth (more) two (Raiders and A’s without plans), in the bush.
      IF, IF, IF, the Raiders do have a plan, and provided they can make it happen, Oakland has very little choice but to go with them. IF, IF, IF, Wolff is truly employing the “wait Davis out strategy” (I think most of us believe that), to either gain approval for San Jose, or have total control of the Oakland site, if this is in fact the case its Wolff that Manfred truly needs to talk to, and not Oakland.

      • @pjk
        Perhaps Manfred should “ask” Wolff why he employed the “wait Davis out strategy”,

      • Manfred has full visibility over what Wolff is doing. That’s he doing nothing to change it now – and that he got involved in the lease talks – shows he has given at least tacit approval.

        The bird-in-hand analogy is not a good one. The Raiders don’t have a plan. If they do I’d like to see it articulated and agreed upon by all parties.

      • If there is no ancillary development to go with either a stadium or ballpark does it really matter to the city that one is 81 dates and the other is 10- seems to me that economic impact of either is negligible

      • @GoA’s I would tend to agree, though in this case we might be looking at “little” ancillary development rather than “none.” The city might also take the view that having the 81 dates is a greater asset in case the city is ever able to get it together to develop additional land in that area at a later date.

        But I would also agree with Lakeshore/Neil that a bird in the hand is worth a better bird or even two birds in the bush. If the Raiders sign on to a viable plan for any new or remodeled stadium at the Coli site I think Oakland has to go with that regardless of what it means for potentially keeping the A’s.

      • @ML
        I know Manfred has knowledge of what Wolff is up to, and to a certain degree supports it.
        If the Raiders come up with a plan, then Wolff will have to join the project (which many here think is not possible), or MLB will have to consider allowing Wolff to move to San Jose.
        If neither of those things happen Wolff & Fisher can sale to someone willing to work with the Raiders (if that’s possible), or they will sale to out of town interest.
        Everyone keeps saying Oakland has to make a choice, which I have said is not an evenhanded choice. (Wolff’s wait strategy) So, no I don’t think Oakland needs to give Manfred a call, except to say we have chosen the Raiders (if they have a plan that can actually get done), the A’s can join in or get the hell out in 2 years.
        Wolff is waiting for Davis to fail or succeed in Oakland, so Oakland should wait to deal with Wolff (A’s), until Davis either fails or succeeds in Oakland. That’s Wolff’s strategy anyway, right?
        Oakland losses nothing by dealing with the Raiders first, unless MLB (Manfred) is actually going to give San Jose to Wolff, which if so then Oakland would have lost the A’s regardless of what they do at this point.

      • Wolff doesn’t have to join any project he and MLB see as detrimental to the team. You can keep arguing against the idea of Oakland making choice, but it’s right there, right down to the A’s lease agreement. If Oakland sides with the Raiders and the NFL over the A’s twice in 20 years, how is MLB supposed to react? Swallow it because Oakland is such a captivating market? Of course not! It has to go wherever it can put the franchise in the best possible position for the future. Civic pride is not going to be high in Manfred’s criteria.

      • @Lakeshore

        Every comment that you made about Wolf could easily be turned around about Davis. Isn’t Davis employing a wait Wolf out strategy to force the NFL’s hand to make the move to LA easier?

        Wolf has at least said he wants to be in control of any projects whereas Davis has at most said he wants someone to do everything for him. Which personality type is more likely to sit around and wait for the decision to be forced upon them?

        Honestly, I’m not trying to be snarky, I just truly don’t understand why people trust Davis.

      • @ ML

        I did not say Wolff had to join any project, I only presented it as an option, an option I even highlighted as one that most here do not think is possible. I haven’t really argued that Oakland doesn’t have to make a choice, my argument is that it’s not an evenhanded choice, based on Wolff’s strategy of waiting Davis out.(which I think we can agree maybe his strategy)
        Oakland is Wolff’s fallback plan (is there any doubt?) all I’m saying is based on that strategy the A’s should be Oakland’s fallback plan as well. Helpfully if Davis doesn’t succeed in Oakland, and if Wolff still can’t San Jose the A’s and Oakland can play.celebration together (cool.& gang), as both of there perspective fallback plans will remained intact.
        If by Oakland choosing to go with the Raiders plan (if and when there is one), causes Oakland to lose the A’s to San Jose, well good tallest they will still be in the Bay Area, if they move out of the region, it will be in part due to Wolff’s strategy of trying to wait Davis out. What is MLB supposed to do? How about supporting Wolff to put together such a kick-ass plan it pushes the Raiders back to LA, instead of wanting around for Davis to fail.

      • By not prioritizing the teams and facilitating a process in a phased manner, Oakland has put itself in the position of being in the middle of a tug-of-war between the NFL and MLB. Not the A’s and Raiders – baseball and football. Now it is at the mercy of the leagues, teams, developers, owners. The W’s are walking away. All Oakland has as a bargaining chip is land. That’s what happens when you don’t make prudent decisions.

      • @Slacker
        You are correct. I’m not saying this about Wolff as some sort of defense of Davis. (it’s not like I trust one more than the other) It’s reasonable to assume that Davis actually desires to stay in Oakland, not that his desire to do so will make it happen by itself. (if true)
        Let’s put it this way, if Wolff could move to an open market, that would cost less for him to build, and would increase his franchise value, would he still even be talking to Oakland? Davis is, that’s all I’m staying.
        If Davis, or Wolff won’t or can’t get it done in Oakland to hell with both, how’s that equal treatment of both owners.

      • @ ML
        I agree Oakland hasn’t made prudent decisions, and their politicians may be the one group that is most responsible for this mess. But part of the reason it’s at the league level is because of the owners of each franchise, in Wolff’s case it could be argued it’s because he doesn’t want to build in Oakland, in Davis case it could be argued that it’s because he wants to build in Oakland, and needs his leagues help to do so. I understand the NFL is doing it’s own feasibility study in Oakland, I don’t think they would do that if Mark didn’t want to stay. If Davis only had to show a “good faith” effort to get the NFL to help him in LA his half ass efforts. (to this point), would probably have been enough.
        I don’t really see what the problem is, if (big if), Davis is developing a plan that can actually work, then Oakland should chose the owner that’s choosing them. (If true)
        Haven’t you been writing for some time that Oakland has to make a choice? And that choice may come down to the A’s or the Raiders? All I’m saying is if that’s true the choice should be the Raiders.
        As I pointed out before, what is Oakland losing by giving the Raiders a chance first?
        If Davis can’t get it done, Oakland goes with there back-up plan in the A’s, and Wolff at that point may go with his back-up plan in Oakland (with a little arm twisting by MLB)
        Do you mean to suggest that by Oakland and the Raiders simply having a plan in place (not that it’s to that point), would be enough for MLB to turn away from Oakland?
        If that’s the case Oakland has less to lose in going with a Raiders proposal then I though, and really has no choice.

  11. I wonder if a 55K Stadium is necessarily set in stone. Depending upon how a stadium is designed more seats could be added later on raising it to 60K to 63K. Not sure about increasing it later on for 70k though, which would be the minimal for hosting a Super Bowl. Somebody on Facebook was saying that a roof could be added later on but I get the impression that Mark Davis doesn’t find it necessary to have a roof or be able to host a Super Bowl. He just wants a basic nice outdoor stadium, tastefully decorated in a Raider Theme.

    From a regional standpoint in the future, Bay Sports Teams will not be divided by West and East Bay but by North and South Bay if the A’s go to San Jose. North Bay would have the Giants, Raiders and Warriors. South Bay would have the A’s, 49ers, Sharks and Earthquakes. Thats a good spread of teams economically for the region.

  12. A Raiders domed facility – doable and a definite possibility: $400 mil.finacing from PCL sales, $200 mil. from a naming rights deal, $200 mil. directly from the Raiders organization, $200 mil. from the NFL = $1 billion. Not only could Oakland host a superbowl with such a venue – it would also serve other purposes (such as the Cowboys ATT stadium does – hosting NCAA hoops finals, etc and relating sporting events, Sharks games, even non sports related events (conventions, etc) the domed stadium concept is the ticket for the Raiders)

    • Only the willfully ignorant believe the Raiders will build a dome in Oakland. It’s as simple as that. It will NEVER happen. There is zero support for it among the relevant powers that be. Period. End of story.

    • “…$400 mil.finacing from PCL sales,”

      There’s 40,000 people ready to drop $10K each on Raiders PSLs? (Or however you want to multiply it out.) After the debacle the last time they tried PSL sales? I’d love to see that happen.

      • That’s easy to do – Doing simple math – that’s only 10 years of tickets (at a discounted price), also sell a few occasionally – that makes the cost even less.

  13. The Raiders will revamp the existing Coliseum for 60,000 fans and the A’s will be free to build in SJ very soon. The most cost-effective way to do this. Bank on it. No doubt at all.

  14. Revamped Coliseum for the Raiders and a new downtown SJ A’s ballpark by 2018. Guaranteed. G’bye Wolff.

  15. City of Oakland, please pick the Raiders and let Wolff leave. He doesn’t want to be here under any circumstances. Why try to force him? He wants SJ. Accept it and move on now. What other “signs” after 10 years do you need to realize he wants out badly. Let’s quit begging him and embrace the one team that desires to be here. Quit looking foolish and move on. He’s done. He is not your friend and will never be. How can you not see this?

    Move the f’ck on! Now. Before we lose all teams.

    • @ Djhip: even if Oakland chooses the raiders, they don’t have the money to build anything. They are short 500M.

  16. Then at least we tried with the one team that wants to stay. If Oakland chooses the A’s there is no guarantee they stay. IMO it is almost certain they will still pursue SJ. Stick with the Raiders and let Wolff go to SJ.

    • @Djhip: you do not know Davis really wants to stay. The only reason he is trying or pretending he is trying is because he has no other choices. Davis knows he must give up a portion of the team in order to get into LA or SA. In Oakland, there is a chance he might not have to do that. Davis like other owners don’t give a flip about Oakland. Oakland is just a convenient place for Davis plus he wants to remains the controlling partner. Giving up control is not cool. Being an NFL owner is pretty cool.

      Have you seen or heard of any plan from the raiders? Nope. just lots of hot air but no plan whatsoever.

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