Oakland stadium battle lines officially shift from city-vs.-A’s to A’s-vs.-Raiders

Looks like you can forget any thoughts of Oakland city officials trying to make major changes to the A’s lease extension that the city-county joint Coliseum Authority just approved. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan yesterday declared at a news conference, “We need the City Council to approve it as quickly as possible so we can start talking seriously about a new stadium in the city,” though she did say that she’d sent city administrator Henry Gardner to meet with A’s owner Lew Wolff to discuss “clarifications” of the deal.

And with everyone kissing and making up, it’s apparently time for Wolff to make nice as well, responding to councilmember Larry Reid’s stated concern that the A’s could have moved to San Antonio or Montréal by saying he would never dream of such a thing:

Wolff said he hadn’t spent any time thinking about those two cities and wasn’t even sure Montreal has a stadium that would fit the team’s needs.

“I have not done one thing relative to that,” Wolff said. “We’d rather stay in the Bay Area than move to Timbuktu.”

Not one thing other than sending a late-night email saying he could move out of Oakland if the lease wasn’t approved exactly as he proposed it. But apparently not to Montréal, or San Antonio, or Mali, something he took pains to clarify as soon as it was clear that the lease extension was going to be safely approved.

Anyway, if you’re disappointed that the likelihood of political fisticuffs seems to be fading, never fear, as there’s still plenty of opportunity for entertaining chaos ahead. That’s because the developers behind Coliseum City — the redevelopment project that Quan has endorsed despite nobody knowing how to pay for it — sent a memo to the mayor last week asserting that the Oakland Coliseum needs to be torn down next year to make way for a new Raiders football stadium. The new A’s lease would preclude that, since Oakland would be required to give Wolff two years’ notice before demolishing the Coliseum, yet Quan still insists that both the A’s lease and the Coliseum City project should go ahead, despite them being mutually contradictory on this point.

Members of the Coliseum Authority, meanwhile, have pointed out that the city doesn’t actually own the Coliseum, they do, and they have no intention of tearing it down tomorrow. City councilmember and authority board member Larry Reid called the idea “crazy, absolutely insane,” while county supervisor and authority chair Nate Miley said, “This is either smoke and mirrors or they are on crack.”

All of which means that Quan and Wolff’s rapprochement notwithstanding, we still have a major war of all against all going on over Oakland’s stadium situation, with next major issue being whether the A’s or the Raiders get control over the Coliseum site. Quan seems dead-set on being on every side at once, but then, she might not be mayor anymore by next year, and in any case the Coliseum Authority holds the ultimate cards, so… yeah, pretty much more chaos assured.

And meanwhile, neither Raiders nor A’s execs have provided any details about how much new stadiums would cost, how much public money (or free land or tax breaks or what have you) would be required, or where the teams would play if the Coliseum needed to be demolished before starting construction on new venues. These might seem like important things to find out before choosing sides on a potential billion-dollar-plus redevelopment plan that could determine the fate of two sports franchises, but so much gets lost in the fog of war.

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35 comments on “Oakland stadium battle lines officially shift from city-vs.-A’s to A’s-vs.-Raiders

  1. Well back to the status quo for the A’s at least if Quan has flip flopped and is now pushing for the lease to be approved with the A’s. However based on the Raiders development lawyer letter the other day and their keeping lines of communication open with both the Niners and LA over the years it could get very interesting for members of the Black Hole as this coming football season and the Raiders lease come to a close. They’ve been pretty consistent over the last few months that the A’s getting a long term lease would put a real crimp in their already on life support plans to build Coliseum City. If that does get derailed the Raiders do have very obvious and easy to use options outside Oakland. And given they’d be able to use the A’s lease as further proof that “nothing will get done in Oakland” with the NFL, the Raiders history of being mobile, and the NFL’s history of being easier to move around anyway, it wouldn’t shock me to see the Raiders playing in the South Bay or LA come 2015. In fact I’d probably put some money on it if they were offering odds in Vegas.

  2. Dan, that’d be a shame for Oakland; it’d turn a horrendous subsidy deal into unchecked disaster for Oakland. I’d bet those bonds still have a way to go before they’re paid off, and I don’t see how they’ll pay them off if the team leaves.

    All more reasons to not get involved in these deals with teams. The teams always win.

  3. Well can’t say I’d feel sorry for Oakland. They knew going in that those bonds were a bad idea. And they did it anyway because, RAIDERS! I mean at this point they’re already reaping part of the ill gained “rewards” for those bonds in that the Raiders don’t even use the monstrosity they built for them anymore. Mount Davis is sitting largely unused 365 days a year now. The Raiders never needed it. And the A’s sure as hell didn’t want it.

  4. Rose Bowl and LA Coliseum are always being mentioned as options. And the Rose Bowl in particular seems to be constantly brought up by LA interests as a temporary location of choice.

  5. Raiders playing at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley was pretty fascinating idea to me. I cruised around Lexis for a while and came across this, which was new to me even though it’s over 30 years old:

    Oakland Raiders v. City of Berkeley (1976) 65 Cal. App. 3d 623

    Seems that last time Cal allowed the Raiders to contemplate use of the stadium, Al ended up suing the city in an attempt to avoid paying a gross receipts tax. Commitment to Excellence!

  6. I think I have lost track of the status of the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl. Generally, however, USC now controls the Coliseum. And the Rose Bowl has historically been limited in the number of events they can hold. Anyway, why would the Raiders even contemplate a move to LA where they need to spend $1.5 billion on a stadium and/or give up a large percentage of team ownership?

  7. For all those who said A’s had no options and were bluffing could not have been more wrong- ATT and adjacent land to EQ stadium were the 2 areas of focus for MLB/LW. How quickly Quan jumped to the other side once her friend Larry Baer confirmed for her the accuracy of those reports- yup- the same Larry Baer who worked to spirit the W’s away from Oakland while Quan stood by- oh well- at least we don’t have anymore giggling going on-

  8. Quoted by LW himself in an article and confirmed by Oakland city council President Kerrigan – it was a SF gate article that was on newballpark site yesterday-sure it’s available by googling-

  9. No such article linked from newballpark.org that I can see. There was an East Bay Express article that had “City Hall sources” saying that “MLB” (presumably Selig) would “let” the A’s play at AT&T if the lease didn’t pass, but that doesn’t mean that either the Giants or Wolff had seriously discussed it. And, in fact, the Express article expressly calls it a bluff:


    Also found an SFGate article where Andy Zimbalist speculated that the A’s could share AT&T, but he didn’t claim any inside knowledge.

  10. I’ve been on a plane- here is the quote on SJ- while it says play at the EQ new stadium I’m sure the statement was a temporary ballpark adjacent to the EQ new stadium where about 50 acres exist that are slated for hotels/office and retail. I will find the Kerington quote (president of the Oakland City Council) who like Quan was playing hardball until she said that she was told by MLB that ATT would be a temporary home. Of course cynanics will continue to call it a bluff but keep in mind Larry Baer, who is behind the Stand for SJ lawsuit would be the first to tell Quan she could continue to wait and hold off on the supposed bluff. He has been counseling Oakland since the beginning- maybe speculation but sure seems like Larry might have given JQ some inside information otherwise what would have made her do a 180 overnight and go from public ally denouncing the lease to how quickly can we sign the lease.

  11. Do you mean this?

    “Wolff said the only step the A’s have taken to look for a new home is investigating whether they could play temporarily at an under-construction soccer stadium in San Jose. The 18,000-seat stadium is being built for the San Jose Earthquakes, which Wolff co-owns.”


    It doesn’t make sense that the A’s would build a makeshift baseball stadium when an 18,000-seat soccer stadium would be just as mediocre as a temporary solution. But then, it also doesn’t make sense that the Giants and MLB would approve the A’s moving temporarily to San Jose after years of telling them they couldn’t set foot there.

    I have no doubt that Wolff and MLB would have told Oakland officials that AT&T or San Jose “could be” a temporary home, just like they told them that the A’s could “look at” other locations. It seems far more likely, though, that that’s for leverage — and Baer would be just as interested in creating leverage for a new stadium in Oakland as anyone else, if only to keep the A’s out of San Jose — than that concerns about the wording of Lew Wolff’s lease has all of MLB scrambling to offer Wolff access to what’s been considered Giants’ territory.

  12. Or to put it more simply: If there’s one thing that Wolff, Baer, and Selig can all agree on, it’s the desire to see Oakland give the A’s a new stadium on as favorable terms as possible. And by any means necessary.

  13. Completely disagree- Larry Baer has one motive- A’s out of Bay Area- he knows Oakland can’t deliver which is why he is blocking SJ- and why would LB do anything to help a franchise that he has tried to run out of town since taking over- why not leave the A’s hanging with no place to play- in your world they will never allow SJ so the only move would be out of the Bay Area- and help me understand how a baseball field would fit into a rectangular soccer field layout- finally, if all of this is smoke and mirrors and so obvious to you Neil then why the heck is Quan turning and running like a French soldier?

  14. If the A’s get a stadium in Oakland, Baer can stop worrying about any incursions into San Jose forever. (Well, or until the Oakland stadium is “outmoded,” so what’s that, 20 years?) Besides, actively trying to force the A’s out of the Bay Area isn’t going to win Baer any friends among the other 28 owners whose votes he needs to retain in order to keep the territorial status quo.

    As for fitting a baseball field into a soccer stadium, soccer pitches are slightly wider than football fields, so it’s no crazier than putting a team in the Alamodome. Which is to say, still pretty crazy, but then, it’s not like Wolff has to actually do it. He just has to “investigate” it.

  15. @Neil- LB has made no bones about his preference for the Bay Area being a single team market- latest reference he had was A’s should consider moving to Sacto- there is a ton of tv revenue if he is successful forcing the A’s out- he has shown little regard for caring about anything A’s related and I doubt he gives a shit about what any of the other owners think of him as he is directly accountable for the lawsuit against MLB right now-

  16. So your theory is what? That Selig told Baer, “If the A’s don’t get a lease, they’re going to have to sleep on your sofa,” at which point Baer panicked and told Oakland, “The jig’s up. Give Lew whatever he wants”?

  17. Can always use the old Polo Grounds configuration – 250 down the lines and 490 to center field.

    I had intended to write about how Coliseum City developers had legal standing to try to block the lease. This was because they had an agreement with the City of Oakland that may supersede the A’s new lease. However, today they even agreed that they “could be onboard” with the new lease. So everyone is, in public, holding hands and singing Kumbaya.

    The only ones we haven’t heard from are the Raiders and they may not have legal standing to block the A’s lease but their own lease runs out after this football season and that gives them some leverage. If we assume Mayor Quan speaks for the Oakland City Council (and I have my doubts) what do the Raiders do next?

    1) Nothing – They don’t have the money to build there own stadium and the Coliseum looks like it will be there for a few more years, at least. So, maybe it’s time to jump on the bandwagon and sign up for a few more years at the Coliseum.

    2) Move to Santa Clara – Stadium is built. So is it better to be a secondary tenant of the 49ers or a secondary tenant of the A’s? I suspect that has more to do with how much the 49ers want (obviously) and how many seats (really suites) the Raiders could fill in Santa Clara and who gets that revenue. The only reason the Jets moved in with the football Giants was they they thought they could come close to filling Giants Stadium while they were not able to fill Shea. They could also charge more for the seats and make more money off of each fanny, even after paying the Giants (instead of the Mets)

    3) Build their own stadium somewhere else in or near Oakland. Maybe not require as much money as Coliseum City would require but then there is that return on investment which doesn’t work on a smaller project.

    4) Move out of the area. Again, how do the Raiders make more immediate money that way versus staying put? Long term, such as how much the franchise is worth is great, but that doesn’t pay the bills right now. With the NFL’s TV contract spread, there isn’t as much short term incentive on a money unless you find a city (see St. Louis) willing to sweeten the deal considerably.

    Unfortunately I don’t know the answer to how much money are the Raiders making in Oakland. And, without that important piece of information it’s hard to say if it is worth the Raider’s time or money to move.

    The other piece of this is that the county still owes approximately $180 million on the Oakland Coliseum (taken from a quote by Nate Miley, chairman of the coliseum authority). I assume, but don’t know, that most of this is for Mt. Davis. That’s a lot of money to swallow for something that would have absolutely no use if the Raiders aren’t in town. Demolishing while still paying for it makes it even worse (see Kingdome) from a politicians’ standpoint. So there is some incentive on the Coliseum side to see the Raiders stay.

    Still will be interesting to see how the City Council votes and when the Raiders take a stance.

  18. Pretty much exactly- Baer is also accountable for this mess and maybe….just maybe….bud said I need to involvment the best interests of baseball- Bay Area is a 2 team market and the 2 counties we have limited the A’s to (while you have 7 Larry) can’t deliver. So either lew can build a temporary ballpark in SJ or you can let him play in your park until we figure this out- either way he’s in your territory. At which point Larry conveniently counseled Quan to agree to lease or this was really it- somebody got to her otherwise how do you explain such a dramatic shift in her opinion of lease-

  19. ALK: I can’t argue with you anywhere except for the $180m in debt being a reason not to demolish the Coliseum — most of that’s a sunk cost (as in, Oakland won’t get it back ever), and 100% of it becomes so if the Raiders do in fact leave. It’d look bad to be using general fund money to pay off a stadium that’s no longer there, sure, but it’s not really any worse than using it to pay off a slab of seats that’s still there but which no one uses.

    SJA’s: Clearly we’re both guessing here, and the true story may never come out. But I find my conspiracy theory more plausible than yours, if only because it doesn’t require me to suspend my disbelief that after 20 years running baseball and only a few months before his retirement, Bud Selig would suddenly see the job of the commissioner as being to order owners around.

  20. @Neil- I for one would love to see Oakland pols follow your theory and call bullshit and not approve the lease- I would expect the lawsuit in SJ to be settled pretty quickly before the 9th District even gets to it-

  21. @ALK- agree with your summary- Oakland council will approve lease looks like next Wednesday- should be a lively meeting with the Raider Nation squaring off against the stAy crowd. With Mark Davis keeping mum I the past dew days as support for the lease has grown makes me wonder if this is the end of his effort to show the nfl he tried in Oakland and couldn’t make it work- doesn’t mean he gets to move to LA but he at least has completed his good faith effort. Last funding projection showed a $500M funding gap- not chump change and we all know Oakland is broke-

  22. I’m pretty sure that Larry Baer’s real motive is avoid having the A’s play in a floating stadium in a cloud above the Bay. Since LB couldnt run them out of town, now he has to block access to the helium tanks. His territory rights are only on the ground! He can’t do anything about the airspace above the water.

    In the cloud, the A’s could even fit a baseball field would into a rectangular soccer field layout-

    Larry Baer, has been in counseling Oakland since the beginning- the VERY beginning. I’m talking since the dinosaurs. LB didn’t know about this though until Quan showed him the new Oakland City Hall 3D Printer. Larry was all like, “oh drat, those things can make anything”. But then Larry said “really JQ, the commish says he has a wand that let’s him do incredible things. He means it too.” so she had to do a quick 180.

    That’s what I heard

  23. Surely no-one is surprised that Quan has moved from changing sides every ten minutes to trying to be on both sides at once?

    For those of you who may know her history better than I do, is she stupid or just utterly shameless?

  24. Neil, logically you are correct. Whether someone uses the seats or not doesn’t change their value (or the value on the debt) although I think it is incorrect to say *all* of the seats aren’t being used. Some of the suites are used during the football season and the lower deck seems moderately populated during an A’s game. I was even in the upper reaches during a Yankees / A’s game over a decade ago (took some nice wide angles that show you can’t actually see most of the outfield from the top of Mt Davis – rake isn’t steep enough).

    But, emotionally it boils down to why do we did we build giant cathedrals in earlier centuries and why giant stadiums and ballparks now? It’s the emotion of building bigger or better or our team / city has something yours’ doesn’t. If you built a stadium / ballpark based on logic, as you have so correctly pointed out many times, you would never build one – or at least they would be much less expensive what was built since Cleveland first handed out a free stadium to the Indians (which the Indians rejected initially as too big). Is there a cheaper way to build a retractable roof in Atlanta, absolutely but the emotion (including greed) makes us build bigger (including costs).

    Now that same emotion comes into play when destroying something we built and are still paying on. I have a hard time throwing out something I bought a month ago that is no longer working. I’ve just paid the credit card and now I’ll have to throw it away!! Very unsettling.

    Mt. Davis is an emotional attachment to Oakland. For better or worse it is tied to the Raiders. Mr. Miley’s quote about the developers must be smoking crack if they want to demolish the Coliseum stated the $180 million as his main reason. That’s not logic or accounting at work, that’s we’re still paying on this how dare you suggest I throw it away. Interestingly enough he didn’t mention that he was upset about the paid part of the Coliseum being torn down, just the $180 million that was remaining.

    So, this is kind of the back-end of the stadium funding saga. Stadiums and ballparks have been built not because they make money but because there is an emotional attachment. It works in reverse as well. I’ve built this thing, I’m paying for this thing now you can’t really ask me to throw it away.

    That remaining money for Mt. Davis (assuming it is for that) is a reminder of “what the Raiders did to the city” while demolishing it while still paying for the “upgrade” would be driving home to the populous what a bad deal it was. Not something any politician would want, I’d think.

  25. SJA wrote: he (Baer) is directly accountable for the lawsuit against MLB right now-

    No he isn’t. Like it or not MLB awarded the Giants the territory Mr. Wolff wants to own (but does not want to pay for). I think the A’s/Haas family got jobbed on that one, but if wishes were horses etc.

    Mr. Baer is no more responsible for Mr. Wolff’s ‘situation’ (which he would like us all to call a predicament… which it is not) than the Steinbrenners are.

    I’m no fan of the Giants, but the fact is they are deemed to control SJ territory by MLB. If we are to believe Baer & co are being “mean” by not giving that territory to Wolff, why is it we aren’t also heaping scorn on the Steinbrenners, Magic Johnson, John Henry and any other owner who won’t let Wolff into their territory?

  26. ALK: Well written, and it is certainly possible that it is the emotional angle that makes people say those sorts of things.

    But that didn’t stop Seattle from blowing up the Kingdome, or Indianapolis from blowing up the RCA dome, or NY/NJSEA (is that the right entity, Neil?) from throwing in the towel on the old Giants stadium. And in each case there was money left owing on the facilities that were imploded.

    It does happen, is the point.

  27. @JB- Larry Baer refuses to provide a reasonable settlement to sharing the territory because he believes he can achieve his endgame of driving the A’s out of the Bay Area. He selfishly has placed MLB in the lawsuit by failing to negotiate in good faith. BS has referenced how Walter haas operated in the best interests of baseball when he gratuitously offered SCCo to the gints for their failed ballpark efforts in the early ’90’s-

  28. John: It’s just NJSEA. NY didn’t have any involvement in either Giants Stadium or the stadium that replaced it.

  29. John, yes, that’s a good argument. There are counter-examples such as the Astrodome (the wart that still stands). But, yes, when there is a replacement that it is bigger or better, it becomes easier to tear down the previous (now less appealing) structure, even if there is money still left on it. Bright shiny renderings really help overcome spending more money, but there are none (other than a block map) that I’ve seen for the Coliseum replacement.

  30. I have never heard of Wolff making any offer, let alone a reasonable one, to acquire the rights to the San Jose area from the Giants. My impression is that Wolff is trying to get it for next to nothing. It is worth a lot and it’s reasonable for the Giants to expect to be compensated. You can go back and question why the deal was made like that but it’s now a done deal.

  31. SJA: Why do you believe it is Baer’s obligation to provide a reasonable settlement in relation to territorial rights?

    The obligation is on Wolff to compensate Baer for the division of what MLB believes is Giants territory. It is always up to the customer to name his price. The vendor simply decides whether or not he is willing to sell at that price.

  32. Vinnie: That’s my feeling also. I’m not aware of Wolff making a single concrete offer to the Giants, nor commencing any formal negotiation process either directly with the Giants or through the Commissioner’s office (which would be the most prudent strategy in my opinion… it at least stands a chance of getting some of his fellow owners on side rather than worrying that they might be next on the list of territorial reductions etc).

    He may have tried to negotiate with the Giants and kept it under the radar… but I honestly don’t believe that he has done that, nor that MLB (or Wolff himself, given his penchant for late night emails) could keep it quiet if he had.

  33. i’ve also been following this in the bay area press for years and have NEVER seen a public statement by a’s or giants that was pro compensation for sj territory (both have made public comments against it). still you have to believe that it’s been (1) looked into by mlb’s “blue ribbon” committee, and (2) privately rejected by one or both parties.
    it seems that if price were the issue it would be long settled.

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