For years, Oakland's major event venues — the Coliseum and the neighboring Oracle Arena — have lagged behind the competition, booking fewer big concerts and raking in less money than comparably-sized venues in other cities. In 2008, an outside audit declared the Oracle Arena to be "underutilized" and "underperforming"; earlier this month, the Coliseum's operators came under fire for mishandling the parking situation at a U2 concert.
And as late as yesterday, it looked like venue officials were going to renew their no-bid contract with SMG Management, which has overseen the Coliseum for the past ten years, and which is offering the Coliseum Authority a $1.5 million capital contribution.
But earlier today at its regular meeting, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority — joint city-county panel that governs the Coliseum and the Arena — changed course and moved to open the bidding process up to other firms. This charge was led by Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks, who opened up discussion of the item by stressing the need to open the bidding process. "For me personally, when there has been a contract in place for more than ten years and there hasn't been a public process, it's important that we go out and do that," she said.
At the meeting, representatives from SMG spoke, as well as two other firms seeking the Coliseum contract: AEG, or Anschutz Entertainment Group, a sports-management company that owns teams and operates arenas worldwide, including the Staples Center, and Global Spectrum (also known as Comcast Spectacor), which manages hundreds of sports and entertainment venues nationwide.
Another company, LiveNation was said to also be interested, but none of its employees spoke at the meeting. According to well-placed sources, SMG may be looking to partner with LiveNation and file a joint bid.
After comments from those three companies — in addition to those from two union representatives, speaking for the Coliseum's ushers, security staff, and custodians about concerns regarding outside contracting — Alameda County supervisor Scott Haggerty seconded Brooks' motion, saying that the commission "can gain a lot by at least testing out the market and seeing if there's something else out there." After a brief discussion, the board ruled by consensus to start the RFP process.