They tried. Everyone can say they tried. Well, maybe not Mark Davis, since he hasn’t attended an Oakland stadium development meeting in at least a year. Instead, Davis hired a guy to sit in on the meetings he didn’t want to attend. The NFL can say they tried, since they kept Oakland in the game longer than St. Louis or San Diego, despite Oakland providing the least competitive offer among the three cities. Oakland did try repeatedly, though not hard enough for the NFL. And so we find a city and a fanbase at the precipice of losing its football team yet again, the second time less than forty years.
During a press conference-cum-rally yesterday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf defended the city, while expounding on a letter sent to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The letter was an effort to convince the league to give one more chance to keep the team in town. The presser was followed by a walk by supporters around the Coliseum complex and a pizza protest outside Raider HQ in Alameda. Sounds like a good day of fan activism, right?
Whatever positive momentum that generated was quickly squashed by the reveal of a reply by Goodell, which made it abundantly clear that Oakland needed to accede to the league’s demands, not vice-versa.
March 24, 2017
Hon. Libby Schaaf
Mayor City of Oakland
1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, 3d Floor
Oakland, CA 94612
Dear Mayor Schaaf:
We have had an opportunity to review the material your office released today regarding a stadium project in Oakland for the Raiders.
Before addressing the substance of the material, I want to personally thank you for your leadership and for the time and effort you have devoted to addressing the Raiders’ stadium needs and to keeping Oakland as an NFL community. As you have said more than once, the unquestioned need to replace the current stadium has been hampered by a long record of unrealistic and unkept promises that has complicated your efforts and constrained your options. I know from my own discussions with you, as well as those that have involved our staffs, that you and your team have made every effort to be accessible, creative, and diligent in exploring alternatives. I am grateful to you for doing so, and our member clubs are as well.
I particularly want to thank you for meeting on two occasions with our Finance and Stadium Committees, and much of our executive staff, most recently at our committee meetings on March 6. Those two committees consist of 18 owners and have devoted considerable time and attention to the Raiders. They will be presenting their analysis and recommendations to the full membership next week. Your presentations to those committees, as well as the many discussions between our staffs, have been valuable in giving us an understanding of the opportunity available to the Raiders in Oakland.
The material that we reviewed earlier today confirms certain information that had previously been communicated orally, such as a willingness to bring bank financing to a stadium project, and a proposed valuation of the land at the Coliseum site. It also confirms that key issues that we have identified as threshold considerations are simply not resolvable in a reasonable time. In that respect, the information sent today does not present a proposal that is clear and specific, actionable in a reasonable timeframe, and free of major contingencies.
In making this assessment, we recognize and accept the core negotiating principles that you have articulated as being appropriate to your community. A significant number of NFL clubs play in stadiums that have little or no public financial support (including the stadium being built in Los Angeles). We have long accepted your position that no public funds are available for stadium construction in Oakland. We also accept that you do not wish to exercise (and may not be able to exercise) the contractual termination rights related to the A’s.
We have been prepared for nearly two years to work on finding a solution based on access to land at a certain cost, without constraints on the location of the stadium or timing of construction, and clarity on overall development. However, at this date, there remains no certainty regarding how the site will be fully developed, or the specific and contractually-defined nature of the participation by Fortress or other parties. In addition, the long-term nature of the commitment to the A’s remains a significant complication and the resolution of that issue remains unknown. Other significant uncertainties, which we have previously identified, remain unaddressed.
We had hoped that the past two years would have allowed both of us to develop a viable project in Oakland. You have provided valuable leadership; for our part, our clubs have repeatedly delayed any relocation by the Raiders and committed an additional $100 million in NFL financial support (for a total of $300 million) to a stadium project in Oakland. We have had regular communications with you, your staff, and more recently with Mr. Lott and his colleagues. And of course, many of our owners have met with you directly, as noted earlier.
Despite all of these efforts, ours and yours, we have not yet identified a viable solution. It is disappointing to me and our clubs to have come to that conclusion.
At our upcoming meeting, the clubs will consider the Raiders’ application to move to Las Vegas. A key part of that discussion will be a thorough review of our collective efforts in Oakland. I will contact you promptly regarding any decisions made next week.
Thank you again for your leadership and for the material of earlier today.
In short: Don’t call us, we’ll call you.
Financing and planning issues remain for Las Vegas, even with BofA’s injection of $750 million into the stadium project. I could see the project eventually splitting into two parts: the initial less fully-featured, indoor/domed venue that will be sufficient for the Raiders and UNLV to start, and then some $200 million to pay for Super Bowl-ready improvements. Super Bowls are already assigned through 2021, not including second go-arounds for the new stadia in Arlington, Santa Clara, and Indianapolis, so there’s time to figure it out.
If yesterday’s rally ends up the last hurrah, it would appear truly final. The Coliseum will be demolished within the next decade, whether there’s a tenant at the complex or not. The stance against public money will remain as strong as ever in Oakland. The city would end up competing with San Diego, St. Louis, San Antonio, and perhaps London for new franchises. If we say goodbye to the Raiders, be prepared to say goodbye to the NFL. Forever.