Oakland mayor on Raiders stadium: We’ve got better things to do with our money

Add another mayor to the growing list of those speaking out against throwing public money at local sports teams without, like, a good reason:

“That money we’re paying now is general-fund money we could spend on police, parks or libraries,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who has said she cannot support spending a dime of public funds for a new stadium.

This is the strongest statement that Schaaf has made to date against subsidizing a Raiders stadium plan — back when first elected in January she said the Raiders and A’s should be asked to bid for the land they both want — and while it provides plenty of wiggle room (is public land the same as public funds?) it’s certainly a strong indication that she, like Anaheim’s Tom Tait, Minneapolis’s Betsy Hodges, and Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi, doesn’t see a political downside to standing up to local sports owners’ subsidy demands. Which is probably accurate, at least if you’re going by mayors being punished at the ballot box (being punished at fundraising time is another story), but there does definitely seem to be a mini-trend going on here. Will be very interesting to see if it spreads, not to mention how hard a line the Gang of Four are willing to take if teams start busing in commissioners to threaten that they’ll move — though the Raiders are already there and Schaaf doesn’t seem overly concerned.

Chargers and Raiders buy Carson land, NFL presses San Diego to hurry up with its stadium offer

NFL VP for stadium extortion Eric Grubman hasn’t read the whole Citizens Stadium Advisory Group proposal for a San Diego Chargers stadium yet — it’s 42 pages! and there’s good stuff on TV on Tuesdays! — but he knows what he doesn’t like about it:

“I don’t think they made a specific proposal that includes all the key elements of how they get entitled and so forth and so on. So first of all, I haven’t dug into it. And second of all, I don’t know what the timing of that proposal could be.”

What Grubman seems to be saying is “Nice $647 million in land and cash you’re offering, but hurry up and tell us that you can get it all done by next January, or else we could let the team move to Carson, you know.” Not that the NFL would necessarily do that, but threatening to do that they would totally do.

And speaking of Carson, the Chargers and Oakland Raiders owners and the city’s joint powers authority closed on buying the land for a proposed stadium there yesterday, for an undisclosed sum, setting off a round of “Omigod they’re really building a stadium in Carson!” Which this doesn’t necessarily indicate — the city of Carson gets most of the land, and would keep it for some other development if the stadium doesn’t happen — but it does indicate the teams are serious enough to spend a few million dollars in hopes of advancing the three-city stadium game of chicken a bit further.

Oakland’s stadium plan for Raiders declared to be “gurgling blood,” now what?

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier and Ross have a paywalled article up about the Oakland Raiders‘ proposed Oakland stadium deal, but you can pretty much get the gist from the first, unpaywalled paragraph:

The deal to build the Raiders a new stadium in Oakland “is gurgling blood” — the only question being when it’s going to be declared dead, according to one Coliseum official close to the talks.

This is not at all a surprise, given that Raiders owner Mark Davis has been looking for something like $670 million worth of free land and infrastructure, and Oakland’s current elected officials haven’t been inclined to hand it over. (It doesn’t help that the guy supposedly brokering a deal has mostly been mouthing off about how the NFL should butt out, but the money is the real problem.) Now it sounds like things have completely broken down — I’m not clear on whether Davis even offered a bid for the stadium land like Mayor Libby Schaaf requested back in January — which really isn’t much different from talks not being broken down but nobody knowing how to pay for anything, except that one sounds marginally less bad.

This would all seem to argue for the Raiders moving to a new stadium in Carson soon, except that that plan requires the San Diego Chargers to go along with it as well, and they’re awaiting a counteroffer from San Diego this week. Plus, a Carson stadium has its own problems — even the mayor of Carson isn’t totally convinced the teams are serious about building it. It’s all gamesmanship at this point, in other words, so best not to take any statements too seriously, even if “gurgling blood” is pretty dramatic.

Carson mayor says city to shoulder site cleanup costs, admits whole Raiders/Chargers move could be bluff

Hey, check it out, it’s some actual news about the proposed San Diego Chargers/Oakland Raiders stadium in Carson! Carson Mayor Albert Robles sat down with a local TV sports anchor on a local AM radio station, which was written up on the web, and … where was I? Oh, right, how that Carson stadium land deal is actually going to work. First off, the site is perfect for a stadium, says Robles, because it’s totally contaminated!

“Most of that site was a former landfill. It’s contaminated land,” said Robles. “There is a strip, about 11 acres, that was never a landfill.”

And that’s good because nobody was going to use it for anything else, I guess?

“We were on schedule to build a massive retail mixed-use commercial project on that site. That was already planned, whether the NFL was coming or not. That still is our backup plan.”

Okay, no, not that, then.

Anyway, the teams have bought, or are buying, or will buy as soon as it’s clear that they’re not going to get new stadiums in San Diego and Oakland, the land for about $20 million. Then, because buyers of contaminated land are responsible for cleanup costs under California law, they’ll transfer the land to a new Joint Powers Authority, which will pass it along to the Carson Remediation Authority. So the teams would get the land, but the city would get the responsibility for any cleanup — the CRA has reportedly already set aside funds for this, and would be doing it for the commercial project anyway, but it would still be nice to know exactly how much is being spent by the public to clean up private land being bought from private owners for a private project. [UPDATE: The L.A. Times has it: $120 million, of which $50 million in final bonds are expected to be approved by the Carson city council today.]

Robles also gives some hints about the possibility that the whole Carson thing is just a bluff to extract stadium subsidies from Oakland and San Diego, noting that one condition of the stadium deal was that “there would be no stadium built unless the city of Oakland and the city of San Diego were unable to build them a new stadium.” And asked if the whole thing is just a bluff, he answered:

“There is a shred of possibility to what you’re saying is true, we’ll leave it at that,” he said.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Goodell on L.A. stadium plans: Two enter, only one shall leave

For some reason this took a day to filter over to my news feed, but on CBS Morning News on Tuesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said for the first time that only one of the two L.A. stadium plans can succeed:

“We have two proposed, but we have to pick one or the other. It’s not likely we’ll pick both stadiums.”

This isn’t really any surprise — it’s hard enough to picture that there’s enough money from naming rights, personal seat licenses, etc., to get one nearly-$2-billion stadium built, so two would be downright inconceivable. Not to mention that one of the stadiums, the one in Carson, is supposed to be home to two teams (the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders), and there’s no way the NFL is going to let three teams move to L.A. all at once.

This whole L.A. battle, really, is turning into a multi-sided mess, where the various team owners are trying to pit Inglewood and Carson against officials in St. Louis and San Diego and Oakland in competition for who can offer the most lucrative incentives; and where they’re simultaneously all fighting for their fellow owners’ blessing as the team(s) that should get to take over the L.A. market and leave their old ones behind. If any team ends up getting to do that. Or wanting to.

Basically, remember that sports leagues aren’t secret cabals filled with supervillains working in lockstep; they’re more like the Evil League of Evil, simultaneously teaming up and competing with each other. I have no idea who’s going to win this battle right now, but suffice to say that none of the rich guys involved are going to be any less rich at the end of it.

Carson stadium may not have funding, but does have 20-story lightning bolts and Al Davis flame

New Carson stadium porn! And man, is it porny — check this out:

A signature element of the design is a 115- to 120-foot tower that rises through and extends above the main concourse. It would serve as a pedestal for a cauldron that would change depending on the team. When the Chargers play, simulated lightning bolts would swirl behind glass encasing the tower and, if the team were to score a touchdown, a bolt would shoot out of the top. For Raiders games, a flame would burn in the cauldron in honor of legendary team owner Al Davis.

Having trouble picturing this? Well, wonder no more:

http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/553a597ff92ea14738002859/CHARGERS%20-%2002.jpg

The architect who designed this craziness also said he “wanted the building to be iconic and sleek, like a luxury sports car,” then showed it by releasing a rendering of the new stadium with a Porsche sitting in front of it. Presumably because when people picture sparks shooting out of their car, they don’t usually think of it as a good thing?

Anyway, NFL commissioner called the Carson project (and the St. Louis Rams‘ proposed Inglewood project) “viable” with a “great deal of potential to be successful” on Friday, and then his paid employee Dan Hanzus of NFL.com said this gave the L.A. plans “momentum,” so job well done, crazy lightning renderers! Another day that the media doesn’t spend discussing how exactly anyone is going to pay for these buildings is a happy day for Goodell.

Oakland stadium honcho gets mad at NFL for Raiders move threats, must be new at this game

On Tuesday, NFL VP for stadium extortion Eric Grubman called in to an L.A. radio show and talked smack about Oakland’s stadium plans for the Raiders, because that’s what he does. In particular, Grubman said that over the past three years, “I visited with public officials, and I feel like we’ve gone backwards. So I feel like we’ve lost years and gone backwards. And that usually doesn’t bode well.”

Floyd Kephart, the financier trying to put together an Oakland stadium deal, however, apparently failed to read Grubman’s resume, and so yesterday freaked the hell out at the NFL capo:

“Every time he comes, there is a backward step,” Kephart said of NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman, who was in Oakland last week. “And if he would just stay the hell out of here, we might actually get a deal done.”…

Kephart peppered his remarks before the Airport Area Business Association with one-liners Wednesday but said afterward that he took umbrage with Grubman’s tone at last week’s meeting. “You don’t come to a city and threaten it with ‘I’m going to take your team away. We’ll move to Carson if you guys don’t do something,'” he said.

Floyd, Floyd, Floyd. When you’re the NFL, that’s exactly what you do. It’s not something you need to take umbrage over, it’s something to shake your head sadly at, and try to defuse by talking about all the great progress you’re making, blah blah blah. Sure, I guess that can be tough when you’re not really making much progress, but then just point out how the folks in Carson don’t know how they’re going to pay for their stadium, either. But resorting to petty name-calling is … way more entertaining, actually, so by all means, keep it up!

Carson council approves NFL stadium rezoning without public vote, because it can

Yeah, the Carson city council went and done did it:

A local City Council on Tuesday night unanimously voted to clear the path for a proposed $1.7 billion stadium near Los Angeles that could become the shared home to the NFL’s San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders…

Council members could have opted to put the issue before Carson voters, but instead chose to approve it outright themselves as state law allows.

As covered here yesterday, most of the project details still fall into the “reply hazy, ask again later” category; what the Carson council approved yesterday was the ballot language approved earlier in a petition drive, which voters now won’tget to  vote on because the council did it on their behalf. From the looks of it — it’s 309 pages, which makes you wonder how many petitioners actually read the whole thing, let alone city council members — it mostly approves a bunch of rezoning of land targeted for the stadium, plus some “stadiums are cool” language to make clear the intent of the initiative. Everything else will get worked out later, though it’s been promised that the city will only be on the hook for police and traffic costs, which the teams (the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders, under the current plan) would reimburse them for.

There is one cost that isn’t being mentioned, and that’s foregone property taxes: Under the plan, the entire 157-acre site that would be home to the stadium — and parking, and presumably some other development, since a stadium don’t need no 157 acres — would be transferred to a public authority, which pretty much always means exempting it from property taxes. As we’ve seen before, property tax exemptions can add up to a whole lot of money, so it’s worth asking questions about how much this would amount to for Carson — in fact, that would have been a good question to ask before voting to move ahead with this deal, but meh, there’s always time to figure stuff out later, right?

Carson could approve Chargers, Raiders stadium plan tonight despite not knowing how it would work

The Carson city council is meeting tonight, and could be about to follow the lead of its neighbors in Inglewood and approve a stadium funding plan without a public referendum, via the mechanism of having petitions signed for a referendum, then voting to waive the whole “residents actually voting” thing. And if that doesn’t sound like the greatest idea, the L.A. Times’ Tim Logan and Nathan Fenno today report just how many things will get swept under the rug by the hurry-up approval scheme:

The 26-page initiative petition proposing the stadium says little about how it would be paid for, other than a promise that city tax dollars won’t be used. Leases need to be worked out. Personal seat licenses — which developers say could fund nearly half the project — must be sold. And there’s no mention of the three-way land swap, creation of a new city agency or 10-figure investment led by Goldman Sachs that are all key to the deal.

Also, if Carson can’t get two NFL teams to move in, there might be a huge shortfall in tax revenue to pay the city’s share of costs, the city could lose $1.4 million a year in federal housing aid if it can’t find a new site for the 1,500 housing units that were originally planned for the stadium site, and nobody has figured out where to put 16,000 off-site parking spaces.

This is why one traditionally holds stadium negotiations before voting on the plan — and, for that matter, why California law normally requires environmental impact studies and a long public process before approving these kinds of deals, which is what Carson officials could be voting to skip over tonight. Instead, everyone will have to hope that Carson’s mayor and city council can hash out a funding plan behind closed doors with the teams involved. And surely nothing could go wrong with that, right?

NFL says no vote on L.A. moves for Rams, Chargers, Raiders until end of year, “at the soonest”

I’ve been saying for a while now that the Los Angeles NFL relocation melodrama is likely to drag on most of the year, and now it’s official:

NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman, the league’s point man on L.A., dismissed conjecture that a vote of owners is imminent, saying “that’s based on the fact there’s been an awful lot of progress made on the two sites in Los Angeles, and it’s beginning to be tangible.”

“But the fact is we’re not planning for a vote in May or any time soon,” Grubman said. “We have a process. It’s deliberate. There are steps that need to be taken, and I think that’s much more likely to be later in this calendar year at the soonest.”

That all makes sense, as right now the game that the owner of the St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers, and Oakland Raiders are all playing is to play their home cities off against L.A. to see where they can get the most lucrative deal, and setting an early deadline would only cut off the bidding war prematurely. Still, that “at the soonest” is an indication that the NFL may be ready to let the L.A. war go on into early 2016 — or beyond? — so be ready for a long, long stadium shakedown season before we find out what’s a bluff or whose is going to be called.