Warriors owners reportedly interested in buying A’s, building stadium in Oakland

The Oakland A’s stadium situation has gone from “no action since the late Pleistocene” to “everything happened all at once” in record time. In the last two days, we’ve seen a bunch of Oakland corporate magnates release renderings of what a stadium would look like on the Oakland waterfront (cranes! lots of cranes!), which was followed by A’s owner Lew Wolff calling that site “absolutely impossible” but for the first time indicating that the current Oakland Coliseum site is possibly “a place in Oakland where you could do something,” which for Wolff is practically a ringing endorsement.

And then, last night, there was this:

According to knowledgeable sources, the owners of the Golden State Warriors are part of one of at least three potential investment groups who are interested in buying the A’s and building the new ballpark in Oakland on their own…

Despite being spurned by Wolff, the Rogers-Ghielmetti-Knauss-Boxer team is not willing to give up on the waterfront plan. In fact, sources tell us the group knew full well that Wolff might reject their proposal. As such, they made contingency plans and have been shopping around the Howard Terminal proposal for potential investors, identifying at least three groups who are interested in buying the A’s and building the Howard Terminal ballpark themselves, sources say. And one of these groups, sources say, is led by Warriors’ owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber — two wealthy men who had tried to buy the A’s previously.

Given the timeline here, and that the story (in the East Bay Express) is based entirely on unnamed sources, it seems pretty likely that this is Howard Terminal stadium advocates trying to talk up their site in the media. Still, that doesn’t mean a sale to Lacob and Guber couldn’t happen: Even if it’s the Rogers-Ghielmetti-Knauss-Boxer team that came up with the idea, if Wolff eventually tires of waiting in vain for MLB to give him the right to move to San Jose, he could conceivably throw in the towel and let the whole mess be the Golden State Warriors owners’ problem.

Said problem, meanwhile, would first and foremost be how the heck to pay for a stadium at Howard Terminal, which has been estimated to have a $500 million price tag, but that’s 1) probably an underestimate and 2) not including land and infrastructure costs. Lacob and Guber are currently pursuing a mostly privately funded arena on the San Francisco waterfront, of course, but that’s 1) in exchange for development rights to nearby sites, which Howard Terminal can’t really offer (this is Wolff’s main gripe about the site), 2) an arena that can be used 200 or more days a year, not a stadium limited to baseball, and 3) in San Francisco, not Oakland. Shuffling around sites and rich guys is all well and good, but unless you find one so eager to build that he’s willing to lose money (or at least take on massive risk) on the deal, the real trick is figuring out how to pay for it. Maybe the A’s could charge fans extra for crane rides? Just a thought.

16 comments on “Warriors owners reportedly interested in buying A’s, building stadium in Oakland

  1. I’ll be darned if I can think of a real objection to this plan. Maybe traffic, but there’s already a lot of traffic there.

    I can even see this turning into keeping the Warriors in Oakland. That’s not a terrible idea.

    It’s always about the Kings, though. You wonder if the bills get too high for Sacramento’s arena plan if Ranadive doesn’t call Stern and ask him to exercise that option to allow the Kings to move. I bet Vivek would love to be part of this new plan in Oakland.

  2. Problem with the Oakland plan is the price. As many like myself have suspected, Wolff confirmed the price tag for Howard Terminal is $1 billion (and that assumes nothing goes wrong). $1 billion for a ballpark in Oakland is a non-starter. Howard Terminal will never be more than drawings.

    And the Warriors interest is supposedly only Lacob’s interest according to the LA Times. Guber is quite content to keep owning his portion of the LA Dodgers. Which would seem to indicate that HT isn’t a Warriors fallback either.

  3. I’d bet Guber could sell his piece of the Dodgers for a really large profit right now. I’d view that as being a pretty low obstacle. Buy low, sell high… It’s even more exciting when you do that twice.

  4. Oh I don’t doubt Guber could sell his stake in the Dodgers, it may just be that he doesn’t want to. Frankly who could blame him. Own a second rate team in Oakland or own a piece of one of the big dogs.

  5. So Lacob, who is trying to move the Warriors out of Oakland and into SF, now says HT is a great site. Why hasn’t the Oakland/East Bay media challenged him to build his arena there then? Amazing the double standard that exists–one gets a free pass for leaving Oakland even though he sells out every game and the other villified even though the team is 26th in attendance.

    If I was LW i would publically announce that I am willing to buy the Warriors (he used to be part owner) and will committ to keeping them in their current arena thru the life of the lease. Lets see how Lacob responds to that–

  6. There’s one simple reason the Warriors are getting a pass… they’re seen almost universally as a Bay Area team. They started life in SF and played there for a number of years, they moved to Oakland, they’ve played a pair of seasons in SJ (and even tried to move there) and now they’re moving back to San Francisco. And they’ve not been saddled with a city specific moniker for decades which has helped them belong to everyone even more. Add to that they’re the only NBA team in town and you’ve got your reason.

    The A’s meanwhile have spent the majority of their existence being only an east bay team. Sure they have fans all over, but the only place they even get a plurality of fans is in Alameda County. The rest of the bay area is Giants territory and has been for a long time. The inequity in their TV deals has just exacerbated that problem. Throw in that Oakland is on the jersey and would be lost by switching it to San Jose and it’s seen as an insult by the east bay establishment. They’re used to losing out to SF, they’ve spent a century doing that, but losing out to the upstart newbies down south… forget it.

  7. @Dan–understand but Warriors have been in Oakland as long as the A’s. The bay area media has done a good job supressing the W fans who are upset about their move. Remember Lacob getting boo’d off the court when he was trying to present an award to Mullins. My point is the Bay Area media which loves to jump on LW for trying to do what Lacob is trying to do—both realize Oakland is not a top notch market to be in and both would like to go to greener pastures and both are willing to remain in the bay area–would love to hear from Lacob as to how he can rationalize promoting HT for the A’s while simulataneously turning it down for the Warriors–but of course no one will ask him–

  8. Gruber is not interested in buying the A’s:

  9. 23rd in attendance, not 26th. We’ve covered that before.

    As for HT, I would imagine that the interest there has more to do with the idea that it won’t be a privately funded stadium @ HT vs a privately funded one somewhere else. In the same way it behooves owners to get multiple cities or sites bidding for their presence, the reverse also works. If you have an owner who won’t come to the table to discuss any prospective deal, it makes sense to recruit other potential owners who think the present deal (sketchy and incomplete as it is) is “good enough for them”.

    Unlike the claims made by some developers/shills, it isn’t possible to manufacture value out of thin air, and total cost does matter. Having said that, if you are involved in the ancillary developments and need something ‘extra’ to sell those development with, a sports facility within walking distance can help, as can shopping & entertainment areas also within walking distance. As with marble floors and golden toilets, you can charge more for such amenities, even though they also cost more to install.

    It takes a lot of ‘added bonus’ line items to cover an additional $2-300m in costs over another site, but if the development is big enough and expensive enough (in total), that added cost obviously does drop in percentage terms. But there are limits to what can be absorbed, obviously.

    As noted previously, if the city really wants a major development at HT or coliseum city or wherever and are willing to put up some money (or equivalent) to cover some of the additional costs, it’s not impossible (despite what Wolff says) that it could work. The problem for him will be that someone else may get ancillary development rights while he gets a cheap (or free) stadium.

    He’d obviously like more than that… but as Neil has suggested, Oakland doesn’t have to keep piling cash (or whatever) on the table until he says “enough”. They only have to make whichever Oakland site they want equal to (or close enough) to the total cost of the privately funded facility he claims to want to build elsewhere. Wolff is still labouring under the illusion he can get to San Jose for free. MLB has been pretty clear in disagreeing with him on that point. So, unless something dramatic changes, his options are limited to working with Oakland or selling.

  10. @John–yes 23rd–difference between 23rd and 26th is all of 700 bodies per game—so I will concede the point to you. Of course if we looked at capacity factors and took off the tarps Oakland would be near the bottom. One point that LW has made very clear—even as of a couple of days ago–is that he and the A’s are the ones that determine where they will build–not MLB nor the gints as long as it is in his designated territory. LW says HT is a minimum of $1B–that’s not even a consideration for a city like Oakland or SJ to figure out where to come up with $500M of taxpayer dollars (giving away land and/or development rights is still taxpayer dollars) to make it happen. The last thing mlb will do is tell him to build it in Oakland even at his own financial peril—or any other prospective owners financial peril.

  11. SJA’s, Lacob wasn’t boo’ed off the court because of the move to SF. And frankly while no one talks about Warriors fans who are upset about the move, they’re in the VERY small minority of fans. And the even bigger thing is the media by and large appears to support the move. They want the team in a more interesting arena in the spiritual center of the Bay Area rather than having to slog over to Oakland to report on the team. The A’s meanwhile are saddled with a fan base that by and large doesn’t support the move and they haven’t been afraid to show it. You don’t see many (if any) W’s fans at games filling whole sections with banners denouncing the move to SF or Lacob despite some early issues with his poor running of the team. Wolff is practically burned in effigy every night in the outfield of the Coliseum.

  12. SJA:

    They will not tell him to build in Oakland at his financial peril. In fact, as noted in their rejection of the present San Jose financial plan, they are keen to ensure that any plan presented for any location is viable. It has to be, or the league itself will end up owning the club (and trying to sell it) in a bad economic situation.

    However, if Oakland and/or their developer partners come to the table with something that is clearly able to pay it’s own freight and Wolff doesn’t accept it, he may find his partners in MLB start talking to other prospective partners too. As noted in the past, he owns the Oakland MLB franchise and no other. As Neil has pointed out, he is no more entitled to move to San Jose than he is to New York or Los Angeles.

    I don’t know if Oakland can produce an option that will satisfy MLB’s internal demands (it’s worth noting that the San Jose “plan” didn’t). But I do know they don’t have to put Wolff on par with the Steinbrenners… they just have to make a reasonable offer that MLB believes can work. Whether that is a Pittsburgh or KC style deal, or something more is impossible to know.

  13. @JB–its not only about building a ballpark but putting it in a place that will lead to the greatest financial success going forward. While the A’s might be denied SJ it doesn’t mean that they can’t/won’t go back and visit getting as close as possible while staying in their own territory. If mlb is so afraid of the gints suing over giving up TR to SJ then imagine what LW could do if they told him he had to sell or build in Oakland with his own money. This isn’t the case of the public throwing 1B (LW estimate for HT site) at him and him refusing–

  14. MLB has never told anyone they have to build with their own money. Far from it, in fact. One of the objections they have with the SJ proposal is that it requires a privately funded stadium (more or less). MLB wants as much free money as it can get, regardless what location is being discussed. IF there is a deal to be made in Oakland, it will come with significant public asset transfers to the A’s – almost certainly more than he would get in SJ if he were allowed to move there.

    Nor will they ever issue him a letter indicating he “has to sell for the good of baseball”. They will just make it economically difficult for him to stay in the club if they want him (or any other owner) out.

  15. …and how would you “make it economically difficult” to stay in the club? Were talking billionaires here–not people who are living pay check to pay check–

  16. @SanJoseA’s

    One thing to remember is that Lacob was booed during the Mullin event BEFORE he announced his plans for the waterfront arena. The waterfront ceremony didn’t take place until May which is after the season ended.

    FWIW, the booing was pretty lame. It was because of the Monta Ellis trade but as we’ve seen, that deal actually made the Warriors a better team.

    That being said, I’d like to see the A’s play where they will be most succesful and that would seem to be San Jose. The only problem I have with LW is when he says things like he could make an extra $100 million a year in San Jose over Oakland. If anything, that creates even more leverage for the Giants. If our territory is worth $100 million a season then pay us the equivalent of half that over 30 years and we’ll give up the region. That would be $1.5 billion and we all know that isn’t going to happen.

    What LW should be saying is that he’s dangerously close to just breaking even or even losing money in Oakland whereas San Jose could make him profitable. Don’t throw any actual numbers out there but state your case regardless.