Raiders owner agrees to new one-year lease in Oakland, blames A’s again for his stadium problems

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis has agreed to a new lease at the Oakland Coliseum for the 2016 season, and for anyone hoping the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Authority would drive a hard bargain with Davis since he has nowhere else to play this year, nope, that didn’t happen: It’s just a one-year lease with two one-year team options, meaning the Raiders can leave anytime after 2016 that they want to, but can also stay put if they so choose without having to renegotiate. The authority did manage to get an (undisclosed) rent increase, but otherwise public officials pretty much gave up any leverage they had over the team, presumably hoping the resulting warm fuzzies will encourage Davis to build a new stadium with several hundred million dollars he conjures into existence with a wave of his hand.

The lease deal, which still needs to be ratified by the Oakland city council and Alameda County board of supervisors, at least accomplished one thing: Davis has stopped complaining about Oakland again, and is now back to blaming his lack of a new stadium on his other favorite nemesis, A’s owner Lew Wolff:

“There’s an elephant in the room, and that’s the Oakland A’s,” Davis said after Thursday’s press conference. “They have to make a commitment to what they want to do.”…

“They signed a 10-year lease while we were negotiating with Oakland officials), and it kind of put somebody right in the middle of things,” Davis said. “There isn’t much you can do. They’ve tied our hands behind our back.

“Now it’s up to the A’s to make a declaration of what they want to do. If they don’t do that, I don’t see how we can make a deal.”

Signing a 10-year lease seems a pretty strong commitment, but presumably what Davis means is “Hey, Oakland, make Lew Wolff pick one side of the room and stay there, and we’ll build a stadium on the other side, if there’s room, and if we find money somewhere, maybe.”

Realistically, nothing is getting built in Oakland anytime soon, and probably not at all until either Wolff or Davis can force the other out of town, thus clearing the way to control all the Coliseum property themselves. Since it’s far easier to find viable NFL sites than MLB ones — thanks to that whole thing about local cable revenues, and hence local cable market size, not mattering for the NFL — it’s likely to be the Raiders who blink first and end up in San Antonio or Las Vegas or Kankakee or even sharing digs with the Rams in Los Angeles, if San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos succeeds in getting stadium cash out of his city and forgoes the right to move to L.A. Tune back in around November, and in the meantime, try not to stare too hard at the tea leaves, you’ll strain your eyes.

ESPN exposé reveals Rams move to L.A. all about “balls”

ESPN: the Magazine ran a super-long insider-baseball (okay, -football) piece yesterday about the NFL’s decision-making process for moving teams to Los Angeles, which I’ve finally finished digesting. (The piece, not Los Angeles. Stupid non-restrictive relative clauses.) Much of it covers ground we already pretty much knew — the whole battle ended up being far more over who had the most friends in the room than over which relocation deal made the most sense financially or anything — but there are several interesting items of note:

  • First off, I guess ESPN: the Magazine doesn’t have any rules about proper sourcing, because the first several paragraphs of the piece are a fly-on-the-wall description of a December NFL owners’ meeting, complete with verbatim quotes, with zero indication of who the fly was. Did reporters Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr. actually get access to the meeting in exchange for not reporting on it until the L.A. decision was complete? Was all this second-hand reportage based on what they were told by an owner or owners in the room? You won’t tell from reading this article, which is a problem. I guess we should just be glad it’s not cited to “a story going the rounds.”
  • St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke got his appetite for a bigger stage whetted by his 2011 purchase of Arsenal, after which he reportedly “pined for the larger international presence that other owners envisioned for the NFL’s global future.” (No source on that, either.) But the real push for L.A. started in 2013, when the Hollywood Park racetrack site went up for sale by Wal-Mart, the source of his wife Ann Walton Kroenke’s family fortune.
  • Kroenke paid $90 million for the 60-acre racetrack land, though he later paid more for another 238 acres of adjacent property.
  • The biggest bombshell, hidden deep in the middle of a paragraph halfway down the article: One of the losing bidders in the blind auction for the initial 60 acres was NFL VP Eric Grubman, the league’s point person on stadium development. As the article notes, “Nobody knew whether Grubman had bid on his own or on behalf of the league or some other buyer,” but it seems clear that the league had its own thoughts about the Inglewood land before Kroenke grabbed it.
  • Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told his fellow owners that whoever moved to Los Angeles needed to have “big balls.” If there is one image you should take with you about NFL decision-making procedures and their relationship to rational economic self-interest, this is probably a good choice.
  • San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos was really not happy with the booby prize of the option to share digs in Inglewood with Kroenke, if he could work out a lease deal: “When [NFL commissioner Roger Goodell] announced that the Rams had won the right to relocate, Spanos closed his eyes and breathed deeply and loudly, as if preparing to speak at a funeral. When Goodell said that the Chargers had the option to join the Rams, Spanos closed his eyes and sighed again.”

It’s a good (if long) read, but with one obvious omission: Nowhere in the article does it mention how Kroenke decided that the cost of moving to Inglewood ($2.7 billion in construction costs, according to this piece, plus $550 million in relocation fees) was worth it, or how the league settled on $550 million as the price for teams to go to L.A. There’s hardly any mention of money at all, in fact — which, if you take this as a peek inside the brains of NFL owners, lends credence to the theory that while obviously an L.A. move was ultimately about profit, by the time it came down to haggling it was about something else entirely: Kroenke having planted his flag on his wife’s old family property, and refusing to back down until he could declare himself the winner, at any cost.

Or, as Jerry Jones would put it, “balls.” Sometimes an impressive edifice is just an impressive edifice.

Mark Davis recognizes Sacramento exists, film at 11

Okay, just one more this morning, in the interest of full disclose and because it has Mark Davis in it:

Raiders Owner Mark Davis Talks Sacramento

Oooh?

Raiders owner Mark Davis says he has talked about a Sacramento Raiders stadium, but beyond that he won’t offer specifics.

“It’s just, it’s been talked about,” Davis said. “I’m interested in finding the Raiders a home.”…

We asked what about Sacramento appeals to him.

“Well they just built a new arena, they’re building one, and Kevin Johnson’s a heck of a guy,” Davis said. “I get along very well with him. I talked to him the other day. Not about a stadium but we talked.”

Ahhh.

So at a press conference (sorry, “red carpet exchange with reporters”), a TV reporter from Sacramento asked, “What about Sacramento?” and Davis answered that he’s not ruling anything out, as he’s said before. Except for St. Louis and Santa Clara, because he’s totally ruling those out, even though they’re the two most likely candidates, or at least the two best stalking horses to get a bidding war going. Mark Davis is a weird guy, have you noticed?

Chargers plan for November stadium vote by hiring a guy, doing stuff

San Diego voters could face “dueling stadium proposals” for the Chargers in November, reports NBC 7 San Diego. What does that mean? Here’s what NBC 7 says about it:

Now, San Diegans are even looking at the possibility of dueling stadium proposals.

(Read to bottom of article. Go back to top of article, read again. Scroll through article backwards, figuring maybe something will show up this way. Watch the damn video at the top of the article, cringing at what poor female TV journalists are expected to do to their hair. Finally give up any hope that this information is actually provided by NBC 7 San Diego, the headline notwithstanding.)

Anyway, Chargers owner Dean Spanos did hire a new point person to work on their stadium initiative: Fred Maas, who formerly ran the city’s downtown redevelopment agency, and so is well-positioned both to figure out how to run a development initiative campaign and to go through his phone contacts to figure out who to talk to to make this happen. (If nothing else, Maas almost certainly gets along with San Diego’s mayor better than their current stadium point man.) He’s also a guy who once said following one of the many, many stadium planning meetings that went nowhere (this was in 2011), “I’m not a person who just decides to lie down and throw up the white flag because we’ve been confronted with hurdles we never expected.” Stadium or no, Spanos should get some outstanding mixed metaphors for his money.

Here’s my latest conspiracy theory on why Stan Kroenke is moving the Rams to L.A.

L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne loves the design for the new Los Angeles Rams stadium in Inglewood — though somewhat hilariously, one of his favorite parts is that the translucent roof will make it usable for other events if and when pro football ceases to exist amid its brain-injury scandal — but is concerned whether the surrounding development will be as well-designed, and more important, whether anyone will be able to get there without fighting through traffic jams:

Though the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is reportedly weighing the option of extending a new rail link south to meet the complex, the pity — the absurd reality — of the relationship between the forthcoming stadium and the under-construction Crenshaw Line is that we are once again facing the prospect of a major landmark and a rail route coming tantalizingly close to each other without actually linking up. Call it the close-but-no-cigar school of regional planning. See the Gold Line and Dodger Stadium and the Green Line and LAX for earlier examples.

This brings up a potential answer to the puzzle of why on earth Rams owner Stan Kroenke is plunking down close to $3 billion to build a new stadium and get NFL permission to move his team there, when he could just build all the other stuff on his Inglewood site and presumably turn a much bigger profit. What if — stay with me now — he’s hoping to create a groundswell among folks like Hawthorne and urban planners to connect the stadium complex to the transit grid, thus increasing the value of the property exponentially? We already know he’ll be getting publicly funded shuttle buses from stadium parking lots, but maybe he’s dreaming bigger — a light-rail spur, a dedicated shuttle bus route to the train, something with pneumatic tubes. Maybe?

Okay, maybe not. But much as with Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Nets arena crusade, Kroenke’s Inglewood move only makes sense if he’s trying to leverage the presence of a pro sports team into something else. Neither I nor a lot of other people have figured out what yet, so a free light rail hookup is my best wild-ass guess, for today, at least. SoCal readers, please tell me if this is crazy, or just crazy enough to work.

Davis says parking sucks in Santa Clara, will keep looking for “right place” for Raiders

And the hating on Levi’s Stadium continues: Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis says his team won’t move there to share digs with the San Francisco 49ers because the parking lots are too small and traffic is too awful:

“I just don’t think it fits the Raiders,” Davis said Friday. “I’ve said it all along, that there are three words that mean something to me regarding a stadium location. That’s ingress, egress and parking. On game day, our parking lot probably holds the largest non-denominational gathering on Sunday morning that you’ll find. I’m not going to give that up. That’s part of the Raiders in-game experience.”

Given that Davis is in the middle of trying to negotiate a new lease with Oakland, you’d think he’d want to dangle at least the threat of a Santa Clara move to get better terms in his current location. But no, because Mark Davis is either terminally honest, terminally dumb, or just really can’t stand that new stadium the 49ers built:

“The next stadium we build will be around for the next 40 years or so, and that will be for the rest of my life,” Davis said on Saturday. “I want to make sure that, wherever we are, it’s going to be the right place. It can’t be just any place. It has to be the right place.”

At least the San Jose Mercury News’s Mark Purdy loves the Santa Clara stadium, spinning a remark that the head of the Super Bowl committee claims he heard from an unnamed NFL owner into a theory of how Santa Clara will get another Super Bowl sooner than later. Maybe the NFL owners have decided that if football players spend the whole game slipping and falling, at least they won’t be injuring their brains so much by getting tackled?

The Super Bowl and the NFL are both still awful for living things

I did not see the Super Bowl — I actually spent the day rewatching “League of Denial” with my son, after which he decided he’d rather play FIFA 16 on the PS4 than watch American football — so don’t have any actual Super Bowl-related content to use as clickbait, though I know that’s how the game is played. So instead, I’ll direct you to read this article about how the Super Bowl is bad for cities, or this video from the Wall Street Journal, or this two-year-old article by me that still holds true. Or maybe you’d prefer an article on how stadiums get to host Super Bowls just as rewards for teams building them even if they suck, or a list of all the specific ways that the host stadium for this Super Bowl sucks, helpfully titled “Levi’s Stadium is garbage”?

Hope you enjoyed the game! It would be sad if all those players‘ brain cells, not to mention those public tax kickbacks, had died for nothing.

Business leaders want Ohio to spend $5m to move Browns training camp from different part of state

We may have a new definition of chutzpah, courtesy of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam:

The Cleveland Browns and the Columbus business community want Greater Cleveland taxpayers to help pay $5 million for the Browns to move their training camp to a site on or near the Ohio State University campus…

The request from Columbus business leaders says the $5 million is to help pay for an “athletic practice training facility.”

It then describes the project this way: “The Athletic Practice and Training Facility will serve as a backdrop for collegiate athletic teams and community youth programs to utilize throughout the year. It will also attract professional athletic teams and franchises to our region.”

Translated: We’re going to disguise this as a tax request to help kids, but it’s really about the Browns.

The request was actually from the Columbus Partnership, a local business group, which submitted it as part of a list of funding requests for the state’s capital budget. (I know what you’re thinking: My state never asks me what I want its capital budget spent on! Yes, but you do not have the awesome clout and political mandate of the Columbus, Ohio business community.) Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Brent Larkin says that “the funds are being sought with Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s knowledge and approval,” though he doesn’t cite a source for that other than that Haslam has been talking to Columbus about moving his team’s training camp there.

The gross part here, really, is that the state of Ohio would be paying to move a business operation from one part of the state — the Cleveland suburb of Berea, which has already spent $25 million on the Browns’ current training camp — to another. The economic war among the states is bad enough without the states themselves encouraging in-state skirmishes.

Kroenke seeks “significant” subsidies for suburban St. Louis development, has zero sense of irony

Deadspin says pretty much all that needs to be said about this story:

Stan Kroenke, Fresh Off Leaving St. Louis In The Lurch, Asks St. Louis For Tax Dollars

The slightly longer version: Rams owner Kroenke and his attorney Alan Bornstein are pursuing an 1800-acre development in the St. Louis suburb of Maryland Heights that would involve retail, entertainment, office, residential and sports (no indication what kind of sports, but MLS is sniffing around, albeit more downtown than in the burbs), and are seeking “significant” tax kickbacks, possibly in the form of tax increment financing.

Nobody on the Maryland Heights council seems to be batting an eye that this is the same dude who just moved the local NFL team just 20 years after it got huge public subsidies to relocate in St. Louis — which is not all bad, since you do want these things judged on their merits and not on how warm and fuzzy local electeds feel toward the development, but also not all good, since see above re: yanking a team not long after it got subsidies. (Twitter has predictably been less kind to Stan.) Meanwhile, at least one local thinks that the location is a terrible place for tax-subsidized development:

David Stokes, the incoming director for the Great Rivers Habitat Alliance, said he thinks it’s “preposterous” that the city would think of allowing such a project in a flood plain and support it with tax money, especially in light of the damage done in parts of the region by flooding in December.

“The idea that you would subsidize 1,800 acres of flood plain development, well, it’s always a terrible idea,” he said.

St. Louis wants to expand convention center after losing NFL, because that worked so well the last time

Coming off the loss of the Rams, St. Louis’ leaders have come up with a can’t fail strategy for boosting the city and its fortunes: Spend hundreds of millions to improve the convention center and domed stadium complex abandoned by the Rams to better compete in the national convention market. Kitty Ratcliffe, head of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, owner of the center and dome, recently proclaimed, “Our competitors are building, while we’ve been doing nothing.” The chief of staff for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay weighed in with “We’re looking at this as a boost for the region’s tourism industry.” And they promised a consultant study “in the next few weeks” that would document the needs and set out a price tag.

Here they go again. Thirty years ago, faced with the loss of the NFL Cardinals, then-Mayor Vince Schoemehl and the region’s business leaders promoted a combined convention center expansion and domed stadium as the cure for the city’s ills. The argument by mayoral staffers was that “the City cannot feel like a ‘winner’ if it’s constantly losing things.” The city’s then budget director argued that a combined dome/convention center would be “an exciting world-class building project. We don’t often get this type of opportunity to make an international impact, like the Astrodome.”

Armed with consultant studies that promised a big boost in convention activity from what was supposed to be the country’s fourth biggest convention center, the city, county and state governments plopped down $240 million for a dome that still didn’t have a football tenant. More consultant studies said that what St. Louis really needed was a 1,000-room hotel next door to the new America’s Center complex. The head of the Convention and Visitors Commission in 1999 forecast that a new hotel would boost major conventions from 33 in 1998 to 56 in 2004, with hotel room nights almost doubling, to 800,000 a year. Mayor Clarence Harmon pressed the case for state aid for the hotel as “the foundation of our efforts to revitalize downtown and its is a cornerstone of our overall economic development strategy in the City of St. Louis.”

The new $277 million, 1,081-room Renaissance Grand Hotel opened in 2003 and immediately floundered, with occupancy and rates well below consultant forecasts. Beyond the problem of opening in the wake of 9/11, the hotel never spurred the predicted convention boom. By 2006, there weren’t 54 major conventions, but just 32. And the total continued to sink, so that 2008 saw just 438,000 convention room nights, a bit less than the 800,000 promised. With no new convention business, the hotel proved a total dud, and bondholders foreclosed on it in 2009, finally selling it for a third of debt. The story of the city’s convention business is still the same — 26 major conventions in 2014 and 425,411 room nights in 2014, almost exactly the same as the figures for 1997 and 1998.

Now, lest the city once again be viewed as a “loser,” with more promises of a “boost” for tourism, state and local officials seem poised to throw away more public money.