East Bay public officials plan to vote tomorrow on a proposal to begin the process of renewing a no-bid contract with a private firm that manages the Oakland Coliseum and the next-door Arena. The proposal to extend SMG’s exclusive deal comes after strong criticism was leveled at how a recent U2 concert was handled and following an outside audit in 2008 of the Coliseum and Arena operations that criticized SMG for not booking more concerts and other events.
Under a proposal going to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, a joint panel made up of Oakland city council members, county supervisors, and their designees, the authority would embark on negotiations to extend SMG’s no-bid deal for another ten years. According to sources, SMG may have the inside track on a deal extension in part because in exchange it has proposed to pay the cash-strapped authority $1.5 million.
Authority Chairman Ignacio De La Fuente, an Oakland councilman, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment for this post. Oakland Councilwoman Desley Brooks, who also sits on the authority’s board, declined to comment, saying she would make her thoughts known about the management contract at tomorrow’s meeting.
Authority Executive Director Mark Kaufmann, a former longtime SMG employee, also has proposed that if the authority does not want to extend SMG’s deal, then it should put the contract out to bid. In a report to the authority, Kaufmann said “there may be at least three other firms interested” in bidding on the contract.
In an interview, Kaufman said that those experienced venue management firms are: AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group), which is behind the proposal to build a new football stadium in Los Angeles; Live Nation, the country’s largest concert promoter; and Comcast Spectacor (also known as Global Spectrum), which used to co-own SMG.
Kaufmann declined to comment on which way he thinks the authority should vote — either to extend SMG’s deal or put it out to bid. “It’s not really up to me,” he said. He also declined to predict how tomorrow’s vote will come out. “It could go either way,” he said.
Coliseum management, specifically SMG, came under recent fire for a parking debacle at a U2 concert. Fifteen minutes before the concert began, the parking lot filled up, and then a massive traffic jam ensued outside the lot, leaving many concertgoers stranded, and unable to get inside.
In 2008, SMG also was skewered by an outside audit requested by the Golden State Warriors, which showed that the Arena hosts far fewer concerts and other events than HP Pavilion in San Jose, and that SMG should have been doing more to attract them.