Wolff, Oakland agree on A’s lease; let the new stadium battles begin

Yeah, there’s no way Lew Wolff was going to let a few wording quibbles stand in the way of a lease extension he pretty much wrote himself. On Tuesday night, the Oakland A’s owner announced that he’d reached agreement with the city of Oakland on a new 10-year lease extension; while the Alameda County Board of Supervisors still needs to sign off on the plan, they were in favor of it all along, so it’s fair to say that this deal is done.

With that out of the way, Wolff can now move on to fighting with Raiders owner Mark Davis over who’ll get the rights to develop the Oakland Coliseum property, which increasingly looks like the prize that both team owners are looking to win in order to make new stadium deals happen. This looks set to be yet another multi-sided battle, in that not only are Wolff and Davis effectively bidding against each other, but each is no doubt going to try to extract the best deal out of Oakland and Alameda County, in terms of land price, tax breaks, and direct stadium subsidies. None of that has advanced much beyond the spitballing stage in either case, so we have lots and lots more fun battles to look forward to before there’s any kind of resolution here — assuming “resolution” is something you can ever really talk about in a sports industry where stadiums can be considered obsolete after only 14 years.

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34 comments on “Wolff, Oakland agree on A’s lease; let the new stadium battles begin

  1. Don’t see why there would even be any competition. Oakland should just select the A’s and move on. The Raiders plan calls for them to build an over 2 billion dollar development, requires the city to acquire (either through purchase or eminent domain) land on the far side of Interstate 880 from the current Coliseum site, and is already over $500-700 million in the hole on JUST the football stadium component. That doesn’t even take into account the existing debt of up to $180 million that the JPA is still sitting on from the Raiders ill advised expansion of the Coliseum. And you know who will have to help fill that massive gap given the Raiders distinct lack of capital, it’ll be the city and/or county.

    The A’s meanwhile haven’t released much, but what they have said is that they just want access to build on existing city held land at the existing Coliseum. Now you could consider that a public subsidy, and I know this site does, but as far as contributions go it’s not much. Wolff isn’t asking for direct subsidies (in fact he’s never asked for such subsidies for any of his proposed A’s stadium plans or his under construction soccer stadium). Wolff’s ballpark would at most cost $500 million (roughly half the football stadium alone). And if he stays true to form, it will be funded from the development around it as was planned for Fremont years ago, and from the typical in stadium amenities like naming rights, suite sales, PSLs, etc… The only other thing we’ve seen Wolff say is that choosing him would hopefully alleviate the city and county of some of if not all of that stadium debt they’re currently holding on to on the existing stadium. All of this mind you to build a ball park that would hopefully help drive traffic through Wolff’s more modest plans for the Coliseum site at least 82 times a year vs the Raiders 10 dates.

    You’d think this would be a no brainier for Oakland… but they’ve never been able to look past the Raiders.

  2. Dan, agree with everything you said.

    However, history would say that Oakland will do everything they can to keep both the A’s and Raiders. The easiest way to do that is to not do anything. Let both the A’s and Raiders study their plans and make threats. But, until one of the teams is actually on the door step with the bags packed and moving vans lined-up, Oakland won’t do a thing. It’s the only way they don’t have to choose A’s or Raiders for the Coliseum site.

  3. Well one can hope that being passed over for the only time since 1995 will finally drive the Raiders to the threshold. We know their have to come up with a viable plan by October, and that so far they’ve blown through all their deadlines without any progress. They keep it up they’ll be on the way out by default.

  4. As Neil alludes to, it’s interesting to see how dead the “move the team” threat is in baseball. Even though cities still give in, the demands aren’t near what they used to be. There’s just no leverage anymore.

  5. There are no cities with waiting stadiums anymore. How many teams used Tampa Bay as a possible destination because the (at that time) Thunderdome would be easy to convert to baseball? Once the Rays came in then RFK became the only possible destination.

    The only one I can think of right now that has a major league ready ballpark available is San Juan, Puerto Rico. The fans didn’t really show up for the Expos “home” games. I’m not sure Olympic Stadium in Montreal will ever be taken seriously as a baseball park again, except for exhibition games. Even then, the games would have been cancelled had there been a significant snowfall.

    So without a potential destination, the threat just isn’t there. I suppose Nashville’s new stadium, opening in 2015, might work but it would take longer than a single off-season to convert it for major league baseball. They wouldn’t have to touch the scoreboard at least. What is Nashville’s market size?

  6. I don’t see the A’s or the Raiders coming up with the money for a new stadium. Nor do I see enough public funding coming to make either of these feasible. The City’s tactic of simply trying to preserve the status quo by doing nothing is not surprising. It’s arguably their best and only move.

    Let me get this straight. The Raiders don’t have any idea how they’ll fund this new ‘Coliseum Complex’ and all it’s development (in a rather undesirable part of Oakland). Yet they’re complaining that the City needs to get the A’s out of ‘their’ location so that they can proceed with this plan. And I’m sure they’ll be expecting about a half billion from the City or County to help them build the stadium. Is it me or is this one of the most ridiculous demands from a sports team of any type?

    Ty, I think you’re analysis is spot on. There is simply no viable move threat for baseball. The economics are just not there. Plus, the A’s would be giving up one of the best media markets in the country (even having to share it with the Giants).

    I think the move threat in football is bigger but still not very much of a threat. How easy is it for anybody to come up with the billion or so needed for a stadium that can pull away an existing team?

  7. Nashville is the 29th largest TV market in the U.S. Bigger than Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati, but that’s not saying much:


  8. Dan, who brings in more revenue the Raiders home games or A’s home games? Which team brings people from across the globe to watch their games and spend money throughout the weekend at hotels and restuarants?

  9. Bauce: I’ll go out on a limb and say “neither,” mostly. I’ve been to several A’s games over the years (including last Friday — woo Josh Donaldson), but always because I was already in the Bay Area.

  10. Lew isnt building in Oakland. Wednesday Rick Tittle had a convo with old man Wolff and he doubts any revenue can be generated around Coliseum area. So what is this crap about him building there? Double talk from a liar! He is buying time to see if precious boring ol SJ opens up. If not he will look again towards the most southern part of Alameda County to build. Lew you dont fool me

  11. Neil, that is wrong bro, quite wrong. Go ask Oakland Planning Commision. I bet they will have to be honest. Jow mich does avg person spend at A’s game and how much does avg person spend at Raider game? Come on

  12. People spend *at* the games, sure. But 30 years of independent economic research shows that very little of that money trickles out into the greater economy, in large part because even when it’s tourists doing the spending, they would have spent much the same amount of money locally anyway.

    In my case, if I hadn’t dropped $100 on A’s tickets, some truly terrible ballpark pizza, and a Cespedes shirt for my son last week, we would have spent it somewhere else that night. Yes, that somewhere else might have been San Francisco or Berkeley, and that’s a net positive for the Oakland economy, and even a small bump for the Oakland budget in terms of food and ticket tax revenues. But any money I’ve spent at local restaurants and hotels would have come whether or not I was going to the A’s game, and there are mountains of economic data showing that I’m hardly alone in this regard.

  13. Neil I hear you but that little that trickles down, who gives more? As Ive said Raider games brings more outside of Bay ppl then A’s. Trust I live here

  14. Bauce, you have any numbers to back that up? Because right now the Raiders don’t bring in much of anybody to their games, hence they’ve had to artificially shrink the capacity of the stadium and still have trouble selling out.

  15. According to Forbes, the A’s annual gate receipts are $39m, Raiders are $35m. Makes sense, since NFL tickets are more expensive, but there are fewer of them sold since the season is 1/10th as long.

    NFL hot dogs, beers, jerseys, etc., though, are not significantly more expensive than MLB, so having that many fewer people wandering the concessions concourses over a year is going to put the Raiders even further behind. Even if the Raiders draw more out-of-towners than the A’s, I’d be very surprised if the net revenues are any better than even between the two teams.

  16. At the Coliseum NFL concessions are actually the same price as they are during baseball season. So there’s no difference there.

  17. Also Bauce, have a link for the Tittle interview you claim Wolff said nothing can be generated by the Coliseum?

  18. Dan: Right, I’m saying Raiders fans make up for only having one-quarter the annual attendance of the A’s by paying more for tickets, but they can’t buy four times as many hot dogs and beers as A’s fans. (Well, maybe beers.)

  19. Actually I’d bet a shiny nickel that A’s fans drink way more beer inside the stadium than Raiders fans do. The latter seem to be far more prolific tailgaters and are already buzzed by the time they wander into the stadium.

  20. Wow. We are some way from Wolff’s previous declarations that “there is no site in Oakland that can work, period”, aren’t we?

    The new lease is no guarantee that the A’s will stay long term (and, as Neil pointed out, neither is a brand new publicly funded stadium… see Rams v Stl and Falcons v Atl), but not that long ago Wolff seemed convinced he had to leave and had to leave now.

  21. Neil: In your opinion, did Wolff’s midnight (central time) emails suggesting that MLB had granted him special permission to do something he had always been able to do (and done…) actually gain him anything here?

    Is the deal in principle any better or worse than what was on the table before?

  22. John: Yeah, it got him this deal approved now. Without his threat, not only might the city council still be trying to eliminate his opt-out clause entirely, they might still be arguing with him about it, and clearly he wanted this done soon, the better to start the race to glom onto the Coliseum site.

  23. MODERATOR’S NOTE: The entire string of comments posted in the last 20 minutes has been deleted, and the person who posted four personal attacks in one day (a new record!) has been banned from commenting indefinitely.

    I hope we can now continue the conversation with less vitriol…

  24. Wow, seems like I missed all the fun…

    Anyway, so was it the city he was trying to hurry up… or was he more concerned that the Raiders might slip in and get a deal done before he could (seems unlikely if not impossible that that could have happened, but was that the catalyst?)

  25. I’m guessing the latter, but people closer to the tea leaves might have a better sense of it.

  26. Why the rush? I suspect it was because it bought him three years. It also bought him some good will, since it shows, on paper, a commitment to stay in Oakland. It’s kind of like he purchased a 3 year option on the Coliseum land for very little money.

    The thing to remember through all of this is that the Raiders know they can’t have the A’s in Coliseum City and the A’s know that the Raiders can’t be part of any ballpark that ends up in the Coliseum parking lot. Neither owner gets full revenue from non-team (A’s or Raiders) events while the other one is there. Can you imaging building a ballpark at the Coliseum site and then having to compete with the Raiders in the old (larger seating capacity) Coliseum?

    Both want to control the revenue stream for non-team events as much as fully control all revenue from the games.

    So anything that makes it more difficult for Coliseum City to move forward, in that unlikely event, is good for the A’s.

  27. ALK: You really think that either Davis or Wolff cares that much about non-their-team events? The number of stadium-size shows each year is vanishingly small already, and Paul McCartney and Billy Joel can’t live forever.

    If anything, it seems like these two guys are fighting over who’ll be lead developer for the rest of the current Coliseum + parking lots site. Presumably they figure that the Bay Area housing market is hot enough that soon people will be clamoring to live in condos by the Oakland airport — or maybe they think they can get tax breaks and/or free/cheap land that will make it worth their while? Either way, they clearly want the Coliseum site for some reason, and I don’t think it’s just to have dibs on it for a stadium.

  28. Neil, I think it’s a combination of all of the above. To make this work (maximize profits), they need the non-team event days and they need the revenue from the ancillary development. There is money to be made from hosting concerts, religious gatherings, college football games crammed into baseball fields, hockey games outdoors, monster truck rally’s, etc – not to mention the parking for those events.

    The more I look the more I think it’s just as much about the land and a method to keep as much of the revenue for themselves as it is about the number of events. In both the A’s and Raiders cases, they can maximize revenue by being able to develop as much of the land immediately around the ballpark/stadium. It’s somewhat like the Fremont development plan but more like what the Padres were “forced” to do around Petco. I’d envision more hotels than condos, but whatever the market analysis shows is what they would build.

    However, I still don’t see how any of this will work unless the A’s or Raiders (or Coliseum City developers) agree to completely finance the ballpark/stadium and Oakland only has to “donate” the land. Then the amount of land immediately around the new stadium/ballpark become very important since that is where much of the future profits will come from. Wolff is a developer after all.

    The city will still try to delay this as long as possible so they never have to choose either team’s plans.

  29. ALK: Maybe so, but those ancillary developments still have to be saleable to make the math work. We’ve heard from many people (who, admittedly, seem to only want the A’s out of Oakland) who suggest that the area around the stadium is anywhere from bad to awful. Add to that the fact that any adjacent development would be much more marketable for a baseball team playing 80-90 games a year than for an NFL club playing 10 times.

    The development plan you’ve described above is pretty much exactly what Wolff attempted to do with the original (?) plan for the Quakes stadium… it can roughly be translated as:

    “I’m a good guy, I don’t want any of your money. I’ll pay myself. Now, you sell me this land for nothing, rezone it for whatever I want, and let me develop and sell it as and how I wish… and I’ll pay for *your* ballpark” (which, obviously, he will get to play in under very attractive terms).

    In fairness, it is a better deal for the city than some stadia have been… but it’s not altruism even in the vaguest of senses.

  30. John: I don’t know about “much” more marketable. 270 days dark a year isn’t a whole lot better than 350.

  31. I think we’re all kind-of mentioning the same thing. The only way this new stadium/ballpark makes sense is to minimize the number of open dates and maximize the amount of ancillary development. Remove the Coliseum and the arena from the equation and now the number of dates at the new stadium/ballpark go up (or go to S.F.). And, the amount of available land goes up.

    But, that again goes to both owners not wanting the other one around, even if they won’t publicly state it.

  32. Taking “STEALING” Private Property for KKKorrupt CorpoRAT Self Interest SMACKS of FASCISM . Let these GREEDY BILLIONAIRE Sports Franchises HONESTLY ACQUIRE the land they need for expansion. As a HARD WORK-ing Class American I am sick and tired of Subsidizing Wealthy Slacker Team Owners and their WAY Too Expensive Tickets for a hard working man to afford to take his family to. As far as I am concerned the SOONER Both These “Money Pit” Teams LEAVE Oakland the Better !!!

    And let US [Oakland Taxpayers] spend OUR “hard earned” tax dollars on creating a Stellar “Higher Education” and “Trade School”
    System that GUARANTEES OUR CHILDREN a Living Wage and a BETTER and More Sustainable Future. For ALL you “sports” orientated citizens… we can build magnificent playing fields for our youth and then you can support their teams . I find going/ [picnicking] at Little League games to be a wonderful/affordable way to have “Real Quality” spent with my family and friends. That “Far Outshines” the last time I was able to scrape enough money to the day watching professional sports and being way overcharged from the concessions.

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