Oakland Councilmember Lynette Gibson
McElhaney, center, speaking at Thursday’s
Coliseum JPA meeting at Oracle Arena.
Oakland and Alameda County representatives on the Oakland Coliseum Joint Powers Authority showed keen interest Thursday for revisiting the idea of the county selling its interests in the stadium complex to the city.
In the midst of running negotiations in recent years with all three of city’s sports franchises, several Alameda County supervisors have raised an interest in getting out of the stadium business and selling its share of the jointly-owned and operated Coliseum to the City of Oakland.
With the possibility that all three teams will leave the Coliseum complex within the next seven years, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, during a retreat for the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority Board of Commissioners Thursday morning, urged the city and county to resume talks for a proposed deal. “It would be best if the city bought out the county,” said Miley.
City and county staff, however, have not discussed a deal recently, said Oakland Assistant City Administrator Claudia Cappio. The Coliseum JPA directed staff to begin studying the issue again and bring back a report during its February meeting.
It’s very different time from when Alameda County Supervisors Keith Carson and Miley first raised interest in selling its stake in the Coliseum property to the city during negotiations with the Oakland Raiders to build a new stadium. Earlier this year, the Raiders received approval for a move to Las Vegas and the Oakland Athletics announced their intention last August to build a downtown ballpark near Laney College. The Warriors are scheduled to move into their new arena in San Francisco in two years.
Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid said Thursday that the unwieldy “three-headed monster” of the city, county, and JPA negotiating with the city’s sports teams may have led in part to its difficulty in keeping each at the Coliseum and may hinder any future negotiations with prospective developers.
“There has to be some resolution on the ownership of this property before moving forward,” said Reid. “If not we’re going to have the same issue that we had with the Raiders.”
Reid said Oakland, not the county nor the JPA is responsible for development at the Coliseum. “The city should provide the leadership and understand the developer is going to have to deal with one entity in the future.”
Suitors for developing the Coliseum property are ready to make their pitch, according to Reid, including a proposal to build a soccer stadium on 13 acres near Hegenberger Road. “People out there ready to deal for these 130 acres,” said Reid.
Oakland Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, also a member of the Coliseum JPA, added her support for the city buying out the county.
As for the near present, Coliseum JPA staff attempted to spin a positive tone on the future loss of at least 41 dates a year when the Warriors move across the bay. Losses at Oracle might be mitigated, said Chris Wright, general manager for AEG, the management company that operates both facilities, by utilizing the freed up dates to expand the types of events it currently offers, including college sporting events and luring minor league-level teams. Oakland Coliseum JPA Executive Director Scott McKibben proposed using the facility as a comprehensive sports training center similar to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL.
Oakland Assistant City Administrator Cappio, though, questioned the competitiveness of the arena going forward, with newer and similar facilities in San Jose and soon, coming to San Francisco. “At some point an objective analysis of the competitiveness of the site will be needed,” said Cappio. “The Warriors [new] arena will be equivalent and more modern than Oracle. This facility is older and I think we need to look at long view of the retention of that site.”
Under the two-year-old Coliseum Area Specific Plan, incremental development is possible regardless of whether a sports franchise remains permanently at the site, said Cappio. In addition, BART has its own plans to modernize the adjacent Coliseum station, said Cappio, but “is very hesitant to invest until they know more about the future uses.”
But the glitz of professional sports is still something some JPA officials can’t resist. “The NFL likes this market,” said McKibben, who hinted franchises in Tennessee and Jacksonville could be on the radar for Oakland. He also cautioned that the A’s building a ballpark near Laney College is “not a closed deal,” although he acknowledged the Coliseum is “not their most-favored nation status.”
Reid also questioned the A’s rationale for the Laney site as opposed to rebuilding at the current Coliseum complex. He reiterated past statements that A’s President Dave Kaval said the team could not obtain private financing for the Coliseum site. “I find that hard to believe,” said Reid. Furthermore, the team’s stated lack of a “Plan B” if the Laney site falls through, led Miley to question whether the entire proposal was in fact a “bait-and-switch” scheme perpetrated by the A’s to ultimately allow them to leave Oakland for another city.