A’s lease squabble continues to transition into A’s-Raiders land squabble

The Oakland A’s lease copyediting controversy goes on, now with Oakland’s city attorney making still more “minor” changes to the document, and Alameda County officials charging that they’re anything but minor:

“The city attorney interpreted that to mean that she could go back and insert changes to the language that she had been attempting to get the A’s to agree to for weeks but they had rejected repeatedly,” Streeter said. “This is the kind of thing that we are now going to have to smooth over.”

This is all completely hilarious, but it’s the kind of thing that nobody is likely to blow up the entire lease talks over at this point. Even Streeter said Friday that a final agreement should be in place within “a day or so.”

Marginally bigger news is that A’s owner Lew Wolff has ramped up his battle with the Raiders over the Coliseum site by sending Oakland city administrator Henry Gardner a letter that, in the midst of much sniping at “mean spirited persons” who would criticize his new lease extension or his good faith, declares that once the lease extension is settled, he’ll explore “looking into the bond costs and JPA operating costs to determine if we can present an offer that would vastly reduce or even eliminate the annual City/County subsidy and allow us to develop and control our own destiny.” And Wolff adds that he has “not once said or assumed that the desired new A’s ballpark would rely on or seek public funding” — calling this a “total distortion” put forward by “some parties.”

At the risk of being cut off Wolff’s Christmas card list, this isn’t actually much of a promise: “Looking into” building a stadium while paying off the existing Coliseum bonds isn’t the same as actually doing so, and it’s been clear for a while that any subsidies Wolff would require would likely be in the form of free land and tax breaks, which sports team owners generally don’t count as “public funding,” even though it is. Really, we have no idea — and for all we know Wolff has no idea — what kind of financing and development plan an A’s stadium would require, so it’s impossible to say what kind of deal it would be for Oakland, either compared to giving the Raiders’ Coliseum City partners the rights to the Coliseum site, or compared to not handing it over to either team.

In any event, though, given the amount of verbiage in Wolff’s letter disparaging the city’s exclusive negotiations with the Coliseum City group over the site, it looks like he’s preparing to move on from fighting with Oakland over the lease to fighting with Raiders owner Mark Davis over the land, as expected. If they play their cards right, Oakland and Alameda officials could turn this into a nice bidding war for the site — though given recent events, it might be a bit much to expect those guys to even hold their cards without dropping them all over the floor.

Goodell floats Raiders move to Santa Clara, but 49ers fans’ PSL rights could be stumbling block

The San Francisco 49ers‘ new Santa Clara stadium had its ribbon-cutting yesterday, and according to Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh, whose company bought the naming rights to the place, it is “the most amazing stadium on the face of the planet.” Though, according to SF Gate’s Ann Killion, all NFL stadiums “are big, impersonal, infrequently used and tend to be the same, depending on what era they were built in,” so maybe Bergh is grading on a curve here.

In any event, the stadium opening was slightly overshadowed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s suggestion that the Oakland Raiders might want to consider moving in there as well if stadium talks in Oakland go poorly:

“They have to make that determination, whether they’re in a new stadium in Oakland or whether they feel that it’s best to join this stadium,” Goodell said, according to the Bay Area Sports Guy, who tweeted the commissioner’s remarks. “We’re working on that, and that’s one of the decisions they’ll have to make.”

Rattling move-threat sabers is, needless to say, Goodell’s job. And the 49ers owners have been open to renting to the Raiders if need be. Yet as the San Jose Mercury News’ Tim Kawakami points out, there could be a major stumbling block to the Raiders and 49ers sharing digs: the stadium builders licenses (aka personal seat licenses) that the 49ers sold, for anywhere from $2,000 to $80,000 per seat, to raise $500 million toward construction.

Part of the agreement is that SBL-holders have first dibs on most other events at the stadium…. There is no way the Raiders would agree to 49ers SBL-holders getting first look at their tickets.

Even if they did, the 49ers wouldn’t want to share any % of their precious SBL cash with the Raiders.

That’s a problem on two counts. First off, since SBLs have already been sold, the Raiders would be missing out on a source of cash that the team could otherwise collect at its own new stadium. On top of that, though, if the Raiders then sold tickets without requiring their own PSL purchases, 49ers seat license holders could scream bloody murder about being forced to put up tens of thousands of dollars for seats while Raiders fans paid nothing, and even potentially file lawsuits over the inequity. Kawakami says NFL sources have “muttered” about this problem previously, and that “nobody has a good answer for it, not practically.”

Kawakami doesn’t mention it, but this is a potential stumbling block with any proposed move of the A’s to San Francisco’s AT&T Park, which the Giants similarly sold PSLs, though only on the 15,000 priciest seats. Giants “charter seat license” holders likewise have dibs on buying tickets to other events at the stadium, which could cause major problems in the event of an A’s move. Not that the A’s are likely to move, or the Giants to okay it without usurious lease terms, but it’s an important reminder that there’s more to relocating a team than just saying, “Hey, look, that stadium is empty part of the time, let’s set up there!”

UPDATE: A 49ers SBL holder has posted language that seems to indicate that the 49ers accounted for this problem by omitting “other NFL games” from SBL rights — see comments.

Raiders say they don’t need to tear down Coliseum right this very minute after all

No major shifts in the Oakland A’s and Raiders who-gets-dibs-on-the-Oakland-Coliseum-land controversy today, but there is one minor bit of notable news: The Coliseum City development team aligned with the Raiders issued a letter on Wednesday saying they don’t actually need to tear down the Coliseum right away, and are fine with the A’s new lease requiring two years notice before any demolition.

Which couldn’t have been that hard, given that the lease is almost certainly going to go through anyway, that the Raiders aren’t going to have funding in place for a stadium anytime soon, and that waiting two years in the grand scheme of things isn’t that big a deal if there’s a new stadium and a giant development project on a huge swath of public land at the end of the wait. But still, it’s a concession, kind of.

In any event, it seems like everyone involved is now positioning themselves to move ahead to Act II (or really more like Act XXVII), wherein the two teams fight over the Coliseum site without discussing in public, for as long as possible, how much public cash and/or free land and/or tax breaks they’d want as part of the deal. Assuming the Oakland city council signs off on the A’s lease extension by the end of the month, which while still likely, isn’t yet assured, with tons of official “undecided” votes. We could be here a while.

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.

Raiders oppose A’s lease extension, set up showdown for Coliseum development rights

Forget the Oakland city council — an actual heavyweight has weighed in on A’s owner Lew Wolff’s proposed 10-year lease extension, and boy, are they mad:

The development team working to build a new Raiders football stadium has urged city officials to reject a lease extension for the Oakland A’s because it would frustrate the football team’s desire to tear down O.co Coliseum next year.

In a letter to Mayor Jean Quan and council members last week, the development team’s attorney wrote that “the current proposal … simply allows the A’s to buy more time to find a site outside of Oakland … and disrupt the ability to deliver a stadium for the Raiders and the ancillary developments adjacent to that stadium.”

Translation: We wanna build a new stadium where they play! Why aren’t you making them leave? This is so unfair!

Matthew Artz’s article in the Oakland Tribune does shed a bit more light on the gamesmanship going on between the A’s and Raiders owners, though, as well as some of the strategy involved. Both Wolff and Raiders owner Mark Davis, notes Artz, have their sights set on not just building a new stadium where the current Oakland Coliseum now stands — a location that’s plenty big enough to fit two stadiums if need be — but on being the primary partners on developing the rest of the site. And that town literally isn’t big enough for the both of them:

Because outdoor sports stadiums are often money losers and Oakland can’t afford to help pay for them, any new stadium development in the city is expected to include shops, a hotel and offices to subsidize the project. Sports economists have questioned whether the A’s and Raiders would want to work together because a second stadium would remove land that could be used for more profitable development.

“The probability of Coliseum City working financially and some team committing to it would be greater if there was only one team involved,” Stanford University Economics Professor Emeritus Roger Noll said when asked about the development in April.

In other words, it’s clearer than ever now that both owners’ business plans involve extracting as much as possible in negotiations over the Coliseum site, not just in public money, but in development rights to land, which in the suddenly hot Oakland real estate market could be more valuable than any old sports stadium. Which explains both why Davis is insisting on the A’s eviction at the earlier possible time, and why Wolff is eager to get a lease extension signed that would force the Raiders to wait (two years, anyway) on their stadium plans: The owners aren’t just negotiating with Oakland for the best possible deal, they’re competing with each other not just for sports market share, but for dibs on a mammoth piece of prime real estate.

Right now the Oakland council seems cranky about the Raiders’ less than detailed plans, and so is inclined to let Wolff have his way. (Or as much of his way as they have to, anyway.) But then, Davis hasn’t yet sent any late-night emails pointing out the existence of the rest of North America.



Oakland’s war of the five kings is turning out just like you’d expect it to

As promised, I’ve written up a longer analysis of Friday’s Oakland A’s lease talks train wreck today. It’s not here, though, but rather at Sports on Earth. You can read the whole thing there, replete with Game of Thrones riffs, but here’s the key paragraph:

So long as San Jose remains off the table, the East Bay is by far the best option for the A’s, something [A's owner Lew] Wolff has to know — he and his partners didn’t spend $180 million on the team, which sounds like a pittance in the post-Ballmer era but was a lot in 2005, in order to end up owning the Charlotte A’s or the Louisville Sluggers. (For Davis, who is inclined to care less about city size since he’d get a cut of NFL national TV checks regardless, it’s more about Oakland being his best option for extorting a generous stadium deal.) And for Oakland city officials, who want to keep both Wolff and [Raiders owner Mark] Davis happy while also not breaking the bank, stalling as long as possible may seem their best hope.

In other words, everyone has good reason to be behaving like morons, because there’s no easy resolution to the A’s situation that will benefit Wolff, Davis, Oakland, and MLB. Or as I put it in SoE, this is “an insanely complicated multilateral game of chicken,” so don’t hold your breath waiting for everyone to figure out who’s holding who hostage.

And now we direct you to your regularly scheduled comment war…

Raiders owner: We’d build stadium tomorrow if not for A’s (and, um, being short $500m)

One of the things I find weird about the Twitterized media world is that it always seems like I’m coming into breaking news in the middle of a conversation. For example, here’s how I first heard about Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis’s press conference yesterday about his team’s stadium plans:

As it turned out, this was from a talk Davis had yesterday with reporters at minicamp, in which he said he’d had “positive” talks with Colony Capital, the private developer that is maybe interested in getting involved in the Coliseum City project that Oakland is maybe going to consider building if someone finds the money for it, which isn’t even happening maybe. In the course of this, Kawakami — who is one of the sharper Bay Area sports reporters — asked Davis what he thought about A’s owner Lew Wolff’s plans for a 10-year lease extension on the Oakland Coliseum. Davis’s response:

-Q: But you’ve said in the past that a long-term deal with the A’s on the site could complicate what you want to do.

-DAVIS: It’s not just what I want to do, it’s what the developers want to do as well.

They feel the same way as I do that in order to do a really comprehensive building development there, you have to tear the Coliseum down to start with. You can’t be putting the stadium in a corner here–because of infrastructure and all that…

So the stadium’s got to come down. So it does make a problem, there’s no two ways about it.

-Q: Would “outs” for both sides–for the Coliseum City/Raiders side and for the A’s side–if either gets another deal… would that make it better?

-DAVIS: No. The A’s lease is up in 2015. If we could come to a deal with Colony Capital to build a football stadium there, we would like to be able to tear that Oakland Coliseum down the minute the 2015 baseball season’s over.

And that would get us into a stadium by 2019, I believe. On that site…

But it doesn’t look like it’s going to fit. Lew’s vision and Colony Capital’s vision don’t seem to mesh. So that’s where the problem is.

(Davis added, almost as an aside: “If Lew Wolff was going to do the development there and build a stadium and the Raiders wanted to do it as well, we’d still have to find that $500M funding gap.” Details.)

Ooh, team owner fight, right? Not exactly. The issue here is that while the new A’s lease would let them opt out of the lease extension if the Raiders struck an agreement to tear down the Coliseum for their own new stadium, Wolff wants a guaranteed two years of warning first. (Which makes sense, since they’d have to figure out where else to play in the meantime, and nobody’s building stadiums in a matter of months these days.) Davis, however, wishes that if someone were to find half a billion dollars under the sofa cushions, he could go out and spend it tomorrow, which makes sense from his perspective.

In fact, Wolff can’t be too unhappy with Davis’s comments, because they serve his purpose as well: If the Raiders and Oakland do arrive at a new stadium plan, now Wolff can proclaim, “Look, we’re being evicted — either Oakland, build us a new stadium too, or MLB, let us move to San Jose.” Not that either of those threats is likely to work — if Oakland doesn’t have the money for a football stadium, it really doesn’t have the money for football and baseball stadiums, and MLB would rather see the A’s play on one of those floating Google islands than bust open their territorial rights system that’s been in place since the 19th century. But that hasn’t stopped other owners from trying.


New Warriors home in SF could leave Bay Area with arena glut

As soon as news broke last week that the Golden State Warriors owners were planning to build a new arena in San Francisco entirely with private money, I wondered if having only their old home, Oakland’s Oracle Arena, to compete with would make it easier for them to avoid the fate of, say, Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, which has had to offer discounts to touring acts to beat out Madison Square Garden for concerts. And now the San Jose Mercury News reports that the Bay Area might not be big enough for the both of them:

For now, the Oracle Arena has two things going for it: The Golden State Warriors and the fact that the nearest competitor for major shows is 40 miles away in San Jose.

But that soon will change, and the arena, which already fails to turn a profit, will have to change too if it is to survive, sports facility experts said…

The Warriors accounted for nearly half the 110 events staged at the arena during a recent 12-month period — and even with the team still around, the arena is forecast to post roughly $6 million in operating losses this year and next, according to budget records from the Alameda County-City of Oakland Joint Powers Authority.

A San Francisco arena would definitely have the upper hand in luring acts — it’s the side of the bay where more of the money is — but the competition could end up being bad for both buildings, since promoters could play the two off each other to get the best rates. Which could be bad for Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber as far as paying off their construction costs — though, of course, since it’s their own money they’re risking, that’s not our problem.

All this is assuming, of course, that Oakland doesn’t simply pack it in on Oracle and demolish it to make way for a new Raiders or A’s stadium, something arena board chair Nate Miley floated last week, though of course without any details about cost or who’d pay for all this or anything. One complication, according to the Merc News, is that the Warriors apparently have a lease clause that lets them off the hook on $62 million in outstanding Oracle Arena debt if the building ceases operations. Meaning we could be seeing Oakland weighing whether it’s a good idea to keep a money-losing arena in operation just to avoid letting its former tenant get out of paying for the arena’s last renovation. I really can’t say it often enough: Get somebody to read these leases before you sign them, people.

A’s nix 10-year lease after asking for one, Raiders skip stadium interest letter after avowing stadium interest

So when Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff announced that he wanted a ten-year lease at the Oakland Coliseum, and then the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority yesterday offered a ten-year lease, it might have seemed like rapprochement was at hand, or at least the start of some serious talks. But no!

The A’s on Tuesday night shot down a deal to play at O.co Coliseum for the foreseeable future, saying the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority‘s 10-year lease proposal doesn’t meet all their requirements.

“We cannot accept the terms of the offer,” A’s director of public relations Bob Rose said in a statement. “We have tried to negotiate in good faith for the past several months. As the authority knows, it is still our preference not to negotiate this agreement through the media.”

As for what terms were so unacceptable that Wolff chose to reject them outright within 24 hours via a press statement (a press statement about not wanting to negotiate through the press, even), Rose didn’t say. Apparently the A’s p.r. department tweeted a link to this article as representative of Wolff’s feelings about the lease, which would imply that he rejected the ten-year lease extension because he’s upset about Oakland Mayor Jean Quan not wanting to offer a long-term lease extension, um, wha?

Here, let’s leave it to San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami, who first reported Wolff’s desire for a long term lease last month, to sum things up:

Meanwhile, the Raiders missed a Monday deadline to submit a “letter of interest” in working on a new stadium at the Coliseum site, with Coliseum board member and Oakland city councilperson Larry Reid saying, “I’m very concerned about it.” Maybe everybody is just hedging their bets like crazy now that the Warriors are on their way to San Francisco, but either way, yup, it’s a mess.

Raiders owner Davis wants A’s offa his damn lawn

Sunday is the fifth anniversary of Bud Selig appointing a three-man “blue ribbon” committee to decide the future home of the Oakland A’s, and I really hope you’re not expecting any news on that front, because that’s not happening no matter how many times sportswriters predict it. There were some A’s-related rumblings this week, though, from another direction:

Raiders owner Mark Davis said Monday that he and the A’s seem to be playing tug-of-war over the future of the Coliseum site and that it’s almost impossible to see how both teams win.

Simply put, if the A’s get the 10-year lease extension they are seeking in lieu of a move to San Jose, the Raiders’ push to get a new stadium built on the site in the Coliseum City project would be severely affected.

Um, yeah, right, it would be tough to tear down the Coliseum and build a new football stadium if the A’s are still playing there. Not that the Coliseum exactly needs to be torn down for this to work — there should be enough room to build a football stadium in the Coliseum parking lot — but if Davis wants to play negotiating hardball, he’s welcome to do so. Even if it’s a bit unclear what he’s playing hardball for — to get the Raiders’ stadium demands ahead of the A’s on Oakland’s agenda, I guess?

The Port of Oakland, meanwhile, is moving ahead with its Howard Terminal stadium plan that A’s owner Lew Wolff absolutely hates, while Wolff still has his sights set on San Jose, which MLB has shown no inclination to let him have. Selig’s promise that he’ll “work out something” by the end of this year is looking less and less likely to pan out.