Chargers, Raiders, Rams still working on stadiums everywhere, still anybody’s guess who ends up where

What’s going on the past few days in the NFL-to-Los-Angeles competition, you ask? (Strange thing to ask first thing on a Monday morning, but hey, who am I to judge?) Man, what isn’t going on?

  • The proposed Carson stadium for the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders has gathered enough signatures to get on the ballot, which means it’s also gathered enough signatures for the Carson city council to just pass it without it ever getting to the ballot. No word yet from the council on what its plans are.
  • St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is set to bring “schematic plans for the world’s most interactive and integrated football stadium” in Inglewood to the NFL owners meetings this week, which include a clear plastic roof that covers not just the stadium but a performance space and plaza next door. (I can’t figure out how to link directly to the L.A. Times’ slideshow, but click through here and scroll down for your vaportecture fix.)
  • L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, standing in the back and waving his arms wildly for attention, says he still wants to build a stadium next to the L.A. Convention Center, even if nobody else does: “We have a good stadium deal downtown if anybody wants to take us up on it.”
  • The chair of the advisory group tasked with figuring out how to build a new Chargers stadium in San Diego says it will cost between $700 million and $1.5 billion and “rely on a mix of revenue streams,” as reported by San Diego TV station XETV. That sure narrows it down.
  • The Oakland city council voted to add Alameda County to its negotiations over the going-nowhere-fast Coliseum City project, then the council president promptly put it in terms of the creepiest metaphor ever: “Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney said the agreement with [Coliseum City’s Floyd] Kephart was in its early stages — like a new relationship. At this point there hasn’t even been a first kiss, McElhaney said. The city and county coming together is a crucial step, she said, like two parents supporting a child. ‘We’ve been separated for awhile, but we agree the baby is valuable,’ she said.” Cue the obvious sound clip.

In other words, still nobody knows nothing, but everyone is working really hard at everything that doesn’t involve actual money being raised or approvals being gotten. Tune in next week for more non-news!

MLB commissioner says A’s stadium situation “does need to get handled,” terrifying no one

Two months into the job, and new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred still lacks his predecessor’s penchant for issuing broad ultimatums to scare cities into submission on stadium issues. Here’s Manfred yesterday on the Oakland A’s stadium situation:

“When I think about the five longer term issues that I feel need to be resolved, the stadium situation for the A’s is right at the top of that list,” Manfred said Monday. “It’s one that does need to get handled.”

You call that a threat? Now this is a threat.

Manfred also said he’s going to be investigating the A’s stadium situation himself, rather than appointing blue ribbon commissions that never actually issue reports. So maybe he’s approaching this that his job as commissioner is to try to come up with a stadium solution that works for all parties, and not just to wave threat sticks around in order to increase team owners’ leverage. Poor, deluded Rob Manfred.

A’s owner wants control of Coliseum site for development, just without so much development

With the Oakland Raiders sorta kinda maybe thinking about moving to Los Angeles, it would seem that A’s owner Lew Wolff is sitting pretty to finally seize control of the Oakland Coliseum property so that he can build a lucrative mixed-use development to help pay for the costs of a new stadium. So, naturally, Wolff thoroughly confused everyone by announcing that what he really wants to see built around an A’s stadium is a giant parking lot:

Wolff said there is not enough land readily available at the Coliseum complex to build a stadium and satisfy the city’s desire for additional development, such as homes, shops, offices and a hotel.
The only way it could work, Wolff said, would be to build multilevel parking garages, but that would leave fans waiting in long lines to exit the garages and begin their drives home.
“Parking is a key issue for us,” Wolff said. “We want surface parking surrounding the ballpark wherever we build it unless we’re in the heart of a downtown.”

Now, no argument from me that A’s fans are going to want to park somewhere, and that multilevel parking structures are kind of a mess. (I still have nightmares about the New Haven Coliseum parking ramp.) But given that, as an astute Twitterer noted, back in 2010 Wolff went on and on about how an Oakland stadium would only work if it were surrounded by “residential entitlements” (i.e., the right for Wolff to build condos), it’s a bit odd to see the guy suddenly saying screw condos, parking lots are where it’s at!

The most likely interpretations, it seems, are that Wolff’s latest gambit is an attempt to tell Oakland 1) there’s not enough room for two stadiums plus other development, so get the Raiders offa our lawn, 2) you’re not giving us enough land, go back to the plan where 800 acres would be in play, 3) we don’t like those Coliseum City guys, let us plan our own development or it’s no deal, or 4) some combination of the above. Still, it makes for a bit of a muddled public message from Wolff — but then, muddled messages are kind of his specialty.

Two stadiums on Oakland Coliseum site wouldn’t leave much room for actual money-making development

If you want to see why many folks are skeptical about the Oakland A’s and Oakland Raiders both being able to build stadiums as part of a redevelopment of the current Coliseum site, check out these images, both courtesy of Newballpark.org. First, the original, now-discarded “Coliseum City” plan, which would have covered 800 acres on and around the current stadium site:

And now the latest 120-acre plan:

Notice what’s missing there? The vast majority of the housing development, aka “the stuff that you can actually make money on in the Bay Area.” As Newballpark.org’s Marine Layer notes, there’s still room for two stadiums on the smaller site, but you have to ask yourself: “If capital wasn’t biting at 800 acres and two stadia, why would they bite at 120 acres and two stadia?”

What about 120 acres and one stadium? That’s slightly more feasible, but we still need to see A’s owner Lew Wolff’s and Raiders owner Mark Davis’s actual financial plans for those — if it’s “120 acres of rent-free land and property tax exemptions and one stadium,” that’s not so hot a deal for Oakland. New city mayor Libby Schaaf has asked the two team owners for competing bids, anyway, so hopefully soon we can see if either is less craptacular than the other.

New MLB commish tries to shill for Rays, A’s stadiums, lacks Selig’s flair for crazy-ass threats

With everything else that’s been going on (like me getting ready to be on the teevee), I utterly failed to welcome new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who officially took over from commissioner-since-the-last-millennium Bud Selig last weekend. (Yes, he’s finally gone. Yes, you are now invited to dance a bit on his grave.) And Manfred immediately showed that he knows what his job is, chiming in about how the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays need new stadiums, and he’s gonna help them get ‘em, by gum:

“I share your view that Tampa and Oakland are situations that need to be addressed, and believe me I will be making myself available to both owners, both clubs to play whatever role they want me to play in helping them get their situations resolved because I do think both of them are really important to the game.”

I’d give that about a B-minus as commissioner rhetoric goes — it hits all the usual points (teams need new stadiums, the league will throw its weight around to help get them) but without the flair of his predecessor: It’s no “Don’t make me come in there,” that’s for sure. Manfred should know that the job of a blackmailer commissioner is to always include at least an implicit threat, to let cities know who’s boss and

“I think Montreal helped itself as a candidate for Major League Baseball with the Toronto games that they had up there last year. It’s hard to miss how many people showed up for those exhibition games. It was a strong showing. Montreal’s a great city. I think with the right set of circumstances and the right facility, it’s possible.”

Well, it’s a start, anyway.

Warriors: We need a new $1B arena because we don’t like the restaurant manager at the old one

The San Francisco Business Times has a report out on the pressing matter of “Why the Raiders, A’s and Warriors want new homes” (verbatim headline), and the answer is: They all need to tear down their old venues and build entirely new ones at a cost of billions of dollars because they don’t like the concessionaires, duh!

Consider the recently opened BMW Club at Oracle Arena. BMW is a Warriors sponsor, but the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority contracts arena operations to Anschutz Entertainment Group. AEG, in turn, contracts arena restaurant management to Levy Restaurants.

“It’s a little bit of a challenge” to make customer service part of the overall game experience when food service and stadium operations aren’t in the Warriors’ control, team President and COO Rick Welts said.

Here’s a crazy idea: If your main complaint is the guys the county hired to run the arena operations, why don’t you offer to buy the arena operations rights from the county, and then pick your own operator? Sure, it might cost you something, but less than the billion dollars it will cost for a whole new building.

The real answer, of course, is that this is about the 74th most important reason for these teams wanting out of their old stadiums, but it’s what the Warriors president told the Business Times, so it’s what they’re going to report, dammit. Remember, kids: Friends don’t let friends read news stories that only include sports team execs and stadium developers as sources!

Oakland mayor wants A’s, Raiders to go head-to-head for Coliseum land

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis is reportedly about to sign a one-year lease extension at the Oakland Coliseum, which has to be considered a bit of a win for him as Coliseum officials were reportedly looking to force him to agree to a multi-year deal or make the Raiders go play in the street. But if so, any joy in the Davis camp had to be tempered by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s announcement that she plans to have the Raiders and A’s submit competing bids for redeveloping the Coliseum site.

This isn’t a terrible idea, as it at least forces both Davis and A’s owner Lew Wolff to put their money where their mouths are, and for the city to compare apples to apples in terms of who’s offering the best development-rights-funded stadium proposal — the last Raiders plan involved giving the team hundreds of millions of dollars of free land, so a little competitive bidding couldn’t hurt. Admittedly, developers who don’t want to use the land for a stadium should probably be included as well, even if only for due diligence, but baby steps, here.

Alameda County, which runs the Coliseum Authority in tandem with Oakland, still needs to sign off on Schaaf’s plan, so it’s entirely possible it won’t happen. But as former A’s exec Andy Dolich told the San Jose Mercury News, at least it’s some kind of attempt to assess the city’s options:

“This could very well be a circumstance where the mayor understands the clock is ticking,” he said. “You can’t wait forever. You’re going to have to push people in a way that they don’t want to be pushed to see what is reality and what is fantasy.”

The danger here, on the other hand, would be that the public debate will end up coming down to “Which stadium plan is better?” even if both of them suck from the public’s perspective. But still, getting two sports magnates to fight for your affections isn’t the worst way of trying to get a better deal, even if the deal that results may just be the lesser of two evils.

 

 

Appeals court bounces San Jose antitrust case to Supreme Court, A’s aren’t moving anywhere anytime soon

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the city of San Jose’s claim that MLB’s refusal to allow the Oakland A’s to move to the South Bay is a violation of antitrust law. The Supreme Court giveth baseball its antitrust exemption wrote the judges in a unanimous verdict, and only the Supreme Court can take it away or modify it:

(Thanks to Newballpark.org for the screenshot.)

Sports law experts were split on the viability of San Jose’s case, you may recall, with Stanford’s Roger Noll saying it might have a shot, while NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra snorted in derision. I haven’t seen any comments yet from Noll (and it’s 6:30 am in California, I’m not gonna be the one to wake him up), but Calcaterra draws a pretty devastating conclusion after reading the verdict:

It’s a just full-fledged Heisman at San Jose, citing the three big Supreme Court cases giving MLB its antitrust exemption — most recently the Curt Flood case — and saying that San Jose doesn’t even get past the first threshold. MLB’s exemption from the antitrust laws, while not absolute, certainly covers franchise relocation, the court ruled, thus kicking this one to the curb as a matter of law.

San Jose can go to the Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court has itself ruled that it will take Congress acting to change the law as it applies to Major League Baseball in order to have the exemption removed or modified enough to cover cases like this. So, sorry guys.

In short: If you’ve been holding out hope of a court ordering MLB to let the A’s move to San Jose, don’t hold your breath. The only real chance of a move is if A’s owner Lew Wolff decides to pay the San Francisco Giants‘ territorial ransom once the legal options are extinguished (not likely, considering that the Giants can and will ask for the moon) or that new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is more eager to lean on the Giants owners to cut a deal than his predecessor Bud Selig was (also not likely, if he wants to keep his job). We’ll find out after the Supreme Court acts, I guess.

A’s owner extends San Jose stadium land option, because $175k is chump change to a guy like that

Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff has signed a seven-year extension on his option with the city of San Jose to build a new stadium there, and … yeah, that’s about it. MLB still isn’t ready to approve an A’s move into what it’s designated as San Francisco Giants territory, but $175,000 is a pittance for Wolff to pay to keep his right to buy San Jose land at below market value for a few more years, just in case MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and Giants CEO Larry Baer have a big fight that ends with Manfred shouting, “Fine! If you’re going to be that way, I’ll just let the A’s move to San Jose! I’ll show you who’s commissioner around here!”

As Wolff himself explained it, no doubt knowing that the media and public would be looking to this as a sign of which Bay Area city he loves best: “It’s an option, and we want to keep our options open.” A savvy negotiator creates leverage.

Oakland gives Raiders another 90 days to turn pockets inside-out hoping stadium money falls out

You’re going to have to hold your breath a little bit longer to see any start at a resolution of the Oakland Raiders and A’s bipartite stadium battle: After the Raiders brought in some new investors to their Coliseum City vaportecture project, the Oakland city council last night voted to give the team a 90-day extension in which to finalize plans for a new stadium on the Oakland Coliseum site.

And that should be no problem, because as Newballpark.org points out, here’s all that Raiders owner Mark Davis has to work out to make his vision a reality:

  • Sign at least one tenant, preferably the Raiders to start

  • Engage the A’s and Warriors (even though neither team is interested)

  • Provide deliverables and reports that haven’t been completed yet (deal terms, financing, 2nd phase market analysis)

  • Bring in a master developer

  • Line up needed capital for stadium phase and ancillary development phases

  • Figure out who pays for the remaining debt at the Coliseum and Arena (if necessary)

  • Gather support of the JPA and Alameda County

Piece of cake! Three months is way more than enough time to win $750 million at Powerball, right?