MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said a bunch of stuff yesterday about the Oakland A’s stadium plans, none of it earth-shaking, but here you go:
- “I hope the first piece of news will be a decision as to which site will be the focus of their effort to get their plan and finances together.” That sounds like A’s owner Lew Wolff is going to pick a site first and then figure out how to pay for a stadium, which is kind of what’s been assumed all along. But anyway, now we know Manfred assumes it, too.
- “The Mayor in Oakland has made it clear to me that baseball is her first priority. She would like to keep both teams, but baseball is her first priority. And I think that’s a good spot for baseball to be in.” This could mean that Mayor Libby Schaaf is in “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” mode with the Raiders (which would make sense, as Raiders owner Mark Davis is so far the one asking for a lot more public money for a stadium that would be in use about 12% as often), or it could mean that she tells all the sports team owners that they’re her favorite.
- “I do believe that John Fisher and Lew Wolff are committed to the idea that they need to get something done in Oakland. I’ve told them. They understand that it is my strong preference that the team stay in Oakland.” Fisher and Wolff have said for years that they want to stay in the Bay Area (though they would include San Jose, which isn’t an option given the territorial rights squabble with the Giants), and sports league commissioners always say that they’d rather see teams stay put, even if only as a veiled threat. But it can be a true sentiment and a threat all at once — that’s the beauty of the move-threat game.
Meanwhile, the San Jose Mercury News (citing “a source close to the A’s”) says that a previously unreported site could be in play for the A’s: a parcel near Laney College off Lake Merritt, which I’m guessing refers to this:
(The Merc News report says that “one plan at Laney would call for the college to tear down some of their relatively new athletics facilities.”)
That would be a tight squeeze — here’s an overhead view of the current Oakland Coliseum site at the same scale:
But, hey, I’m an avowed fan of baseball stadiums in constrained spaces, since it can require designers to come up with interesting solutions and not just create a giant shopping mall with a ballfield in the middle. Laney College is owned by the local public community college district, so there would certainly be concerns about Fisher and Wolff paying fair market value for the site, but … you know, let’s cross this bridge when we come to it.
Fun fact: The Laney College site is also the where the Raiders played in the mid-’60s while the Coliseum was being built, at a temporary facility called Frank Youell Field. (Okay, fun if you’re into American Football League trivia. Are you saying you’re not? I thought so.)
Speaking of selling stadiums, turns out somebody does want to buy the Oakland Coliseum, so long as it comes with all the land that it (and the neighboring Oracle Arena) sits on:
A group of investors with ties to NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott is offering to purchase the Coliseum land with the hopes of keeping the Raiders in Oakland, according to a letter the group’s attorney sent to local officials last week…
The group proposes purchasing the Coliseum land — which includes Oracle Arena and other nearby properties — for $167.3 million, which accounts for bond obligations owed and prepayment penalties. The plan includes upgrading and replacing the site’s sewer and septic systems, which infamously have backed up during games, spewing raw sewage into dugouts and team clubhouses.
Note that Lott, who previously expressed an interest in developing the Coliseum site with a new Raiders stadium included, isn’t actually involved in the bid, though some of his partners are. The front man for the land bid appears to be Martin J. Greenberg, who is co-founder of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University Law School, which is just weird, but I guess everybody in the stadium world is tempted to jump in and be part of the game at some point.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf immediately rejected the bid, though it’s not immediately clear whether this was because she felt it was too low a price for 120 acres of downtown (well, sort of downtown) Oakland land, or because she doesn’t want to piss off Raiders owner Mark Davis and A’s owner Lew Wolff, each of whom would rather develop the land themselves. Schaaf told the East Bay Express:
“We did not recommend consideration of this offer at this time,” the mayor said. “We remain committed to a team-centered development. We want the Raiders and the NFL at the center of this future site.”
There are so many players here and so much potential jockeying for leverage that it’s hard to tell who’s trying to put one over on whom at any given point, but at least, unlike in Phoenix, there are actually some people who want the stadium land in Oakland. Actually wanting to pay for building a stadium without getting a cheap deal on development rights is another thing, but hey, baby steps!
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf may be one of the Gang of Four mayors taking a hard line on stadium subsidies, but that doesn’t mean she can’t try to help the Oakland A’s owners by showing them properties they could buy with their own money. A’s co-owner John Fisher (and possibly co-owner Lew Wolff’s son and stadium point man Keith) will reportedly tour the Howard Terminal site today along with Port of Oakland officials to see if it can be made to work for a new A’s stadium.
This is only one of several sites the A’s owners are looking at, and they still prefer to stay at the Oakland Coliseum site, and really just going to kick the tires isn’t much of a commitment. But since Howard Terminal has been one of the alternate sites that has gotten more attention, this is getting lots of press attention today. Personally, wake me when somebody has a financial plan.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said a bunch of stuff about the A’s future in Oakland at the All-Star Game last night, and sounded more like a realtor trying to talk up the city as an investment property than a sports league commissioner trying to play hardball on a stadium demand:
“I am committed to Oakland as a major league site,” he told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday. “I think that if we were to leave Oakland, I think 10 years from now we would be more likely than not looking backwards saying we made a mistake.”…
“I think that Oakland is more likely than not to be a better market five years from now than it is today,” Manfred said. “So I certainly have not given up on Oakland.”
That’s all probably true, especially since Oakland is increasingly looking like the next Brooklyn, at least in terms of getting spillover gentrification from the super-wealthy district one bridge away. It’s a terrible way to create leverage, though — any hardball negotiating can now be met with “Yeah, well, your commissioner said you’re not leaving regardless” — and is only likely to stiffen Oakland officials’ already stiff resolve not to offer A’s owner Lew Wolff any public money to help with construction or land acquisition or anything else he might ask for.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that Wolff isn’t looking for any of that — he seems to be happy if he can just get the rights to build a stadium on the Coliseum site instead of the Raiders — and that Manfred knows it, which is why he’s saying such nice things at a time when it’s more traditional to talk about how a city is a tough market, and really needs up to step up to the plate, etc. Either that, or it’s just further evidence that Manfred is really bad at this whole blackmail thing.
So this is weird: Last Saturday, according to a report on SBNation’s Oakland Raiders blog, sports agent Leigh Steinberg wrote on Forbes’ we’ll-let-just-about-anyone-post-here-for-free site that Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf was close to announcing a deal for new stadiums for the Raiders and A’s:
The A’s have threatened to go to San Jose, the Warriors to San Francisco, and the Raiders to multiple locals. This would have a devastating impact on the morale and economic climate of Oakland. Now, there appears to be an opening, under the leadership of Mayor Libby Schaaf, to innovatively revitalize Oakland and solve the needs of all three teams. Mayor Schaaf is expected to make a dramatic announcement regarding the Raiders situation early next week.
That’s not what it says now if you go to the actual Forbes site, though, where that last sentence about the “dramatic announcement” has been deleted.
No explanation or acknowledgment of the change appears on either Forbes or SBNation, not even in comments (yes, I read through an SBNation comments section, this is what I do for you folks), so no way to tell whether somebody at Schaaf’s office called up Steinberg (or Forbes, if they bother editing their unpaid contributors) to say “knock that off” or if he just thought better of alleging things that weren’t going to happen. There are still two days left in the week, so I suppose Schaaf might yet surprise us all with news that Mark Davis has found $500 million under the sofa cushions and Lew Wolff has agreed to build a stadium elsewhere than the Coliseum site. I wouldn’t be holding your breath, though.
When you’re a major league sports commissioner, saying pretty much anything about anything is going to make headlines. So when MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said this yesterday on the Oakland A’s stadium situation:
“The differentiation between the Coliseum site and a site that’s maybe downtown, that’s a local issue. That’s for the A’s to sort out. I really do feel that the degree of influence that we should exercise in the process should be related to telling the club that we’d like them to stay in the market they are.”
…it made headlines.
Reading between the lines a bit, this could either be Manfred sending a “we’ve had enough of this whole A’s mess, Lew Wolff is on his own” message, or more likely an indication that Wolff still hasn’t decided for sure what site he wants to push for — something he hinted at last week — so MLB will take his lead. Especially since last year, when Wolff was pushing for a new lease on the Oakland Coliseum site, Manfred said MLB would go along with the A’s contention that “the Coliseum site is the best site for a baseball stadium in Oakland.” Sports commissioners seldom let themselves forget these days who signs their checks.
Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff responded late Friday to Raiders owner Mark Davis calling his team the “elephant in the room” (oh, I see what he did there) and saying Wolff had “tied our hands behind our back” with his ten-year lease on the Oakland Coliseum:
“The A’s signed a 10-year lease at the Coliseum because we are committed to Oakland. Mr. Davis has said he is fully committed to do a new football stadium in Oakland and there is nothing in our lease that precludes Mr. Davis and the Raiders from building on the Coliseum site. As we stated yesterday, the A’s are aggressively working with the city to evaluate venue sites in Oakland. Our efforts are fully focused on Oakland. Although the Coliseum remains the main focus of our venue efforts, we are also evaluating potential sites throughout Oakland. We are confident our efforts will continue to move forward and we will share our progress throughout the process.”
Nothing that precludes the Raiders from building a stadium except that both team owners really want development rights to the whole Coliseum site. So we’re back to being treated to “get offa my lawn” nastygram wars, which should be resolved either the minute Davis finds some other city to give him the stadium money that he’s struck out on getting from Oakland, or never, somewhere in there. Or maybe Davis and Wolff will figure out a way for them both to share the Coliseum space, and Davis will find a way to pay for a new stadium with his own money, and … yeah, I can’t really see that happening either. The best bet for both teams staying in Oakland long-term might be if Wolff picks another site, and Davis settles for a remodeled Coliseum at a more affordable price or something after the entire rest of America wakes up and decides it doesn’t want to build him a football stadium. What Vegas odds do you think I could get on that one?
The city of Oakland has sent A’s owner Lew Wolff a 21-page report outlining ten possible alternative locations for a new stadium, only five of which it considers definitely “feasible”:
- A USPS facility in West Oakland.
- Howard Terminal on the Oakland waterfront.
- Brooklyn Basin on the Oakland watefront.
- The current site of Laney College’s stadium and playing fields.
- A site currently occupied by Peralta College administration offices and an adjacent lumberyard.
None of these sites are without their problems — in fact, most of them have been at least considered before — but it does indicate that city officials are trying to find a possible baseball stadium site in case the existing Oakland Coliseum site ends up getting used for a Raiders football stadium (or, possibly, for some non-sports development). It’s not a bad thing as due diligence goes, though as usual the most important hurdle isn’t figuring out where to put a stadium, but figuring out how to pay for one.
MLB Rob Manfred gave one of his patented mumble-mouthed comments about the Oakland A’s stadium situation yesterday:
I want the A’s to stay in Oakland. It’s a very fundamental policy of baseball. We favor franchise stability. I think it is possible to get a stadium done in Oakland, and that remains my preference.
That could be a statement of commitment to building a stadium in Oakland, or it could be a veiled threat (he said Oakland is his “preference,” so that implies a Plan B, right, people?), or more likely, it could be a way of just ducking a question asked by the L.A. Times’ Bill Shaikin.
The question was actually about whether MLB would consider moving the team to San Jose now that that city’s lawsuit has crashed and burned, but there’s never been any evidence that MLB was going to force the San Francisco Giants owners to name a price for allowing the A’s to go to San Jose (deemed Giants territory, and no, I really don’t want to get into the historical reasons why, thanks), and so, yeah, no surprise here. There will likely be stronger (if not necessarily clearer) words from Manfred eventually, but if so they’ll be prompted by whatever A’s owner Lew Wolff decided to push for, not what a newspaper writer decides should be news.
Judging from some of the reader comments back when I reported on San Jose’s antitrust lawsuit over not allowing the Oakland A’s to move there getting rejected by an appeals court last January, some people were still holding out hope that the Supreme Court would tell MLB where to stick its territorial rights rules. Y’all can stop hoping now:
The Supreme Court of the United States returned from its summer recess to grant appeals on the approximately 2,000 petitions submitted to it over the break, but took no action today on City of San Jose vs. Major League Baseball, a strong indicator that it will allow the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to stand.
The Supreme Court could still try to sneak the San Jose case in with a late acceptance, or ask the Solicitor General for an opinion on whether to hear the case, but neither of those is very likely. MLB’s antitrust exemption may be one of the Supreme Court’s stupidest rulings ever, but like the ruling that corporations are people, at this point it’s so well established that it’s going to take something far more cataclysmic than the fate of the A’s to get the courts to even think about overturning it.
Meanwhile, A’s owner Lew Wolff publicly gave up on San Jose months ago, so this isn’t likely to change his leverage much in seeking a new stadium in Oakland. Not that we’ve heard much about that lately, but presumably he’s just hoping that Mark Davis takes the Raiders to Southern California and gets out of his way in the battle for Oakland Coliseum land. Hey, maybe he’ll bring the team with him the next time he goes to get his hair cut.