Last week, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf declared that the City was close to approving a framework for a potential stadium deal for the Coliseum. The framework would allow for Oakland’s exposure to be limited, while bringing in a big money financier to bridge the lingering (and growing) funding gap.
Today, media were assembled to cover yet another closed session of the Oakland City Council to further discuss the deal. The thought was the Council would come out of the meeting announcing the approval of the framework. What happened?
Okay, there’s always next week. Regardless, Council members sounded confident, especially Noel Gallo. Soundbites sound practically ebullient, despite the fact that the Raiders aren’t a participant in these talks. So what were they ready to pop the corks over? Matier and Ross revealed an outline of the framework (a more tenuous-sounding description is hard to come up with). I’ll summarize:
- Total cost of the project is $1.3 billion
- $600 million would come from Fortress Investments of New York, the group brought in by Ronnie Lott
- $300 million from the Raiders
- $200 million from the NFL’s G-4 stadium fund
- $200 million from the Oakland and maybe Alameda County, mostly to cover infrastructure
The inflated price of the project is due to the inclusion of 35 acres of ancillary development (retail/commercial). As usual, costs tend to rise over time thanks to inflation and other factors. What I like is that the whole project’s cost is being considered, an improvement over previous proposals with lots of hidden public costs.
The stadium remains a venue with a projected capacity of 58,000 or so, too small for the Super Bowl, right-sized for Mark Davis in Oakland. Davis remains committed to the Las Vegas stadium project, his sugar daddy being
MGM Sands mogul and LV Review-Journal owner Sheldon Adelson. Whether Vegas is approved or Davis is forced to go back to Oakland with his tail between his legs, he will require a benefactor to effectively subsidize the stadium over the short term. Long-term, Davis will either have to give up a piece of the team or a percentage of stadium revenues. Otherwise, Davis and the Raiders are a charity case. Most of the time the taxpayers are the benefactor as their tax dollars subsidize that gap. The NFL even prefers that kind of arrangement as the municipality acting as an equity partner, even though they see little in the way of event revenue.
If you saw how the Vegas stadium was rammed through various levels of government over the course of two weeks once it was drawn up, you can appreciate how, well, different Oakland operates. Oakland is mostly working the process on its own, the pace and work has been less than impressive and for all but the most faithful Raider fans, not particularly inspirational. Even the celebratory tone taken by the Council feels more like bravado than actual confidence. They “got it done” according to CM Gallo, but what exactly did they get done? While Coliseum City suffered through its own bouts of stuttering and stalling, the City has gone silent this round, scrambling after the last sugar daddy, Egbert Perry, embarrassed Lott by going behind Lott’s back to make a lowball offer on the Coliseum complex. We should see more details in the coming days, though we’re still talking about a framework, so most of the details we might want to scrutinize won’t be worked out. The play is to wait for Vegas to get rejected, present the plan to Davis, and have him work out the private-side details with Fortress and Lott, with all parties believing they have leverage over the others.
That’s about as forward an approach as Schaaf can take given her previous statements about not putting any public money towards construction – which given the paucity of information, we should still believe to some extent. Infrastructure, if that’s where the $200 million is destined, is technically not stadium construction, though it goes right up to the line. Will that satisfy the NFL owners enough to vote in Oakland’s favor? Unless they collectively have an overwhelming desire to keep the team in Oakland, probably not. They didn’t like how the pie was getting split in St. Louis, so why should they like Oakland’s less committal plan? If the idea for Schaaf and the Council is to present a united front and declare that they putting their best foot forward, they can celebrate. To keep the Raiders, the NFL’s gonna make you take more than a step or two.