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?

 

Stop the presses! A’s, Raiders owners spotted in same room together!

This is news? Yeah, I guess this is news:

It was a rare sight indeed — A’s co-owner Lew Wolff, Raiders owner Mark Davis and their advisers in the same room with members of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, talking about building separate stadiums on the Coliseum site.

We don’t know what they talked about, or even that they talked directly at all. But it’s better than Wolff and Davis just firing public shots at each other about who will get control over the Oakland Coliseum land. Unless, that is, they start talking to each other about how to team up to get Oakland to cough up $750 million for new stadiums, which would be kinda bad.

Is there a term for news that isn’t doesn’t actually leave you better informed about anything? Maybe we could name it after Chuck Todd.

Oakland mayor proposes $670m worth of subsidies for Raiders stadium, won’t say where money would come from

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has a stadium offer ready for the Raiders, and it’s a doozy: The city would give Raiders owner Mark Davis free rights to the Oakland Coliseum property, as well as city-funded infrastructure upgrades, plus agree to pay off $120 million in remaining debt on the Coliseum’s last round of renovations. In exchange, Davis would build his own damn stadium.

Much of the report by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier and Ross is devoted to where Oakland would get that $120 million — leading Quan spokesperson Sean Maher (nope, not that one) to hilariously reply, “That’s a great question that we will probably not say anything about.” But the far bigger issue here could be the land and infrastructure gifts: SFGate has previously estimated the needed infrastructure costs at $150 million, and if Quan’s plan includes development rights to all 800 acres that were previously discussed, that could be a value of … let’s see, a piece of undeveloped waterfront property recently went for about $500 an acre (before remediation costs, which presumably here would be paid by the city), so let’s call it possibly $400 million, more or less?

Anyway, this is just a proposal, and one that neither Davis nor the Oakland city council has yet weighed in on. But if it’s setting the boundaries of debate, man, Oakland is looking at getting hosed. At worst, somebody should call A’s owner Lew Wolff to see if he’d be willing to beat that bid for the land — he has to have a Sacagawea to spare, no?

Selig marks retirement by noting that he never got around to getting the A’s that new stadium

MLB commissioner-for-life Bud Selig is finally retiring, which I guess means either that that “commissioner-for-life” thing really was a joke, or that even stranger forces are at work here. Anyway, Selig took time out from his ballpark farewell tour to make clear that he still really, really wants somebody to build the Oakland A’s a new stadium:

“This is always something I wanted to get resolved before I leave office, which is another 5½ or six months,” Selig said. “If it were easy, just like if it were easy in Tampa, then I would have been 24 out of 24 (in new ballparks). I have hopes in both places. But do I wish it had been solved? Of course I do, and I understand people’s frustrations.”

Oh, yeah, he still really, really wants someone to build the Tampa Bay Rays a new stadium, too. In case you’d forgotten the last few times he mentioned it.

This is actually an interesting moment, because we tend to look at commissioners like Selig as all-powerful gods, wreaking vengeance on cities and any owners who don’t toe the line by flinging thunderbolts from on high. In reality, they’re more like corporate CEOs: At the helm of a hugely powerful enterprise, but having to answer to major shareholders, and having to constantly strategize how to best use their leverage to extract concessions both from external forces and in internal power struggles.

All of which is to say: No, Bud Selig was not able to get new stadium for the A’s and Rays just by waving his magic Bud Selig wand, nor should we have expected him to. The Rays have that ironclad lease that St. Petersburg is holding them to, and the only easy route to a new A’s stadium would have been to force the Giants to let them move to San Jose, which would have been “easy” only in the sense that the massive shitstorm that would have followed would have been internal among baseball owners, not out in public like most stadium battles. Selig has been very adept at steering his massive money-sucking craft to suck as much money as possible — since becoming The Commissioner Who Canceled the World Series he’s even managed to avoid labor strife — which is worthy of some measure of props, I suppose. But in the end, he’s just this guy, and Rob Manfred will be another guy, and most of the forces determining who gets stadiums where will be beyond their control, if certainly not their influence.

Oakland stadiums still at least $750 million short of becoming reality

SFGate has attempted to calculate how much additional money would be needed to get new stadiums built in Oakland for the A’s and Raiders, and the answer is: a whole hell of a lot of money.

– A new Raiders stadium is expected to cost roughly $1 billion. A new A’s stadium could run $400 million to $600 million.

— It will cost at least $150 million to tear up the sprawling O.coColiseum parking lots to build the new streets, water pipes and sewers needed to lure hotels, condos and restaurants that will help subsidize the stadium.

— Roughly $100 million is needed to pay off the bond debt still attached to the Coliseum after the city and Alameda County paid for major upgrades in 1995. And everyone in the mix – city officials, county officials and team owners – is fighting with someone. If they don’t learn to get along, one or both teams could still leave the city.

Calling this $1.75 billion in needed funds, as SFGate does, isn’t quite fair: That $100 million to pay off the rest of the Coliseum is a sunk cost (it needs to be paid regardless of whether new stadiums are built), and A’s owner Lew Wolff has said he’ll privately fund his own stadium costs — though whether that includes land and infrastructure costs is as yet unknown, and when asked where he’d come up with private funds, he replied only, “We’re studying that right now.” The Raiders ownership has promised $200 million toward a stadium, plus could likely get another $200 million in NFL G-4 funding, leaving probably a $600 million gap there.

Still, that’s at least $750 million that would have to come from “TBD” in order to get a pair of stadiums built, if you could even get the two teams to agree on who would get control of the broader Coliseum site for redevelopment. And SFGate doesn’t even get into the value of the land itself once improved by that $150 million in infrastructure spending, or whether the stadiums and other development would pay standard property tax rates … really, we have no damn clue how much this would really cost, or who would pay for it. It’s a crazy expensive project (or two projects), though, so hopefully somebody will actually start putting real numbers to paper sometime in the near future.

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.