Coliseum City

COLISEUM AUTHORITY | The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority approved a pair of studies for a new football stadium to potentially house the Oakland Raiders Friday morning costing $1 million, despite signs the franchise and the NFL are cool towards the reviews.

The authority signed off to contract out to a firm specializing in site planning for an estimated $500,000, along with seeking proposals for another $500,000 review looking at the revenue potential and market demand for a new stadium at the current Coliseum complex. However, the latter review includes the Raiders pitching in one-third of the cost, or, roughly $160,000. If and when the Raiders would reimburse the joint powers authority left some commissioners confused, although Oakland Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell assured the authority the Raiders were on board.

“The Raiders are the only team with interest in Oakland,” said Blackwell, “but they also have other options.” The team has reportedly also shown in interest in returning to Los Angeles, along with the City of Industry being another option down south. The team and county are also in negotiation for extending its lease at Coliseum. However, the most immediate option for the Raiders, Blackwell said, is to become joint tenants at the 49ers new stadium in Santa Clara, currently under construction.

Despite attempts by some commissioners to suss out the Raiders true intent with the future Coliseum City proposal, some like Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty and Authority Commissioner Aaron Goodwin were not swayed. Both registered uncertainty whether the Authority will have any concrete assurances the Raiders will eventually pay their portion of the study. Blackwell said negotiations with Raiders over whether they will pay for a certain block of the costs or a small portion of multiple aspects of the study have not begun. Goodwin was not convinced just as Haggerty blurted out, “I know. It’s vague.”

In addition, Blackwell told The Citizen there is nothing to be read into the presence in Friday’s agenda of the word “stadium” in the singular. The original Coliseum City plan envisions new stadiums for all three tenants. “The best way to think about this is Coliseum City has a vision for multiple sports facilities and ancillary development and we’re pursuing the Raiders first as an anchor tenant.”

One of ideas being bandied about, said Blackwell, is the possibility of adding a retractable roof to the stadium plan. “We’re going to be lucky to find enough money and now we want to put a roof on it?” said Haggerty, who added later, “I’m getting a little nervous if we’re going to spend time on the roof.” Haggerty said the added feature could double the cost of the stadium. Blackwell, however, believes a retractable roof allows the facility to host more events, year-round, which in turn, could fund the extra construction costs.

Blackwell said the city has had one face-to-face meeting with NFL officials over the Raiders stadium issue. However, he says the NFL was less interested in the Coliseum City proposal, which includes retail and hotel options, and more keen on hearing solely about the stadium portion. When asked by a commissioner to describe the NFL’s reaction to the proposal, Blackwell said, “The NFL is frustrated with the pace of the negotiations.” In addition, NFL officials may also be upset the authority’s plan for the revenue study, approved today.

Haggerty met last week with an unnamed group which claims the NFL is “irritated” by the Authority study, he said, even as the NFL and the Raiders have already commissioned their study on the same subject. “Even if they’re agitated, that shouldn’t concern our decision-making process,” said Blackwell, after admitting, himself, the perception the Raiders were “not all-in” stemmed from the likelihood of duplicate studies. Blackwell added the NFL/Raiders study will only look at potential gameday revenues at the new stadium, while the Authority’s will present a more comprehensive year-round estimate, in addition, to furnishing themselves with an independent study.

How the Authority will pay the $1 million in total costs for the two studies also rankled some commissioners. According to Alameda County Auditor-Controller Pat O’Connell, the Authority will “short” a $3.5 million capital improvements fund previously earmarked for a new scoreboard at Coliseum. The Oakland Athletics and the Authority have been in negotiations to replace the out-of-date scoreboards, said Goodwin, and Friday’s decision may negatively impact relations with the A’s, also in search of a new ballpark.

“What’s the message we’re sending to the A’s?” Goodwin asked. According to staff, the A’s estimate the costs of the scoreboards to be $4 million. “Well, it better cost closer to $2.5 million, if we do what we’re about to do,” countered Haggerty. The alternative, said O’Connell, would be to ask the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and Oakland City Council for addition funds, a move likely unpopular on both fronts.

“If we don’t do this, the Raiders will leave,” said Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan in response to the signal not approving the study will have on the delicate negotiations to retain the county’s sports franchises. Kaplan was appointed to the commission last Tuesday, along with Oakland Vice Mayor Larry Reid.

“We have three teams, two facilities and a majority of them are saying they’re leaving,” said Haggerty. “If you we’re to ask me if I we’re a betting man, I would say we can probably save two of them.” Haggerty, however, would not reveal which teams he believes will remain in Oakland.