Friday, January 25, 2013

Coliseum Authority Approves $1 Million in Stadium Studies Despite Tenuous Support From Raiders

By Steven Tavares
Fri, Jan 25, 2013 at 4:05 PM

The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority approved the expenditure of $1 million Friday for a pair of studies for Coliseum City, a plan that would include a new football stadium to potentially house the Oakland Raiders. The authority’s decision came despite signs that the team and the NFL are cool toward the plan.

The authority agreed to hire a firm specializing in site planning for an estimated $500,000, and will seek proposals for another $500,000 review that will look 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 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 been rumored to be interested in returning to Southern California. The team and county are also in negotiations to extend the Raiders’ lease at the Coliseum. Blackwell also said that the team could potentially become a joint tenant at the 49ers new stadium currently under construction in Santa Clara.

Despite attempts by some commissioners to suss out the Raiders true intentions toward the Coliseum City proposal, Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty and authority Commissioner Aaron Goodwin both expressed uncertainty as to whether the authority will have any concrete assurances that 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.”

Blackwell said later that 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 facilities for the Raiders, A’s, and Warriors. “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 said the NFL was less interested in the Coliseum City proposal, which includes retail and hotel options, and more keen on hearing about the stadium portion. When asked by a commissioner about 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 to commission a revenue study.

Haggerty met last week with an unnamed group which claimed that the NFL is “irritated” by the authority study, he said, because 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 likelihood of duplicate studies. Blackwell added the NFL/Raiders study only looks at potential gameday revenues at the new stadium, while the authority’s will present a more comprehensive year-round estimate, in addition, to providing commissioners with an independent study.

How the authority will pay the $1 million in total costs of the two studies also rankled some commissioners. According to Alameda County Auditor-Controller Pat O’Connell, the authority would need to take the money from a $3.5 million capital improvements fund previously earmarked for a new scoreboard at Coliseum for the A’s. The 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.

“What’s the message we’re sending to the A’s?” Goodwin asked. According to staff, the A’s estimate that the costs of the scoreboards to be $4 million. “We’ll, 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 that likely would be unpopular with both bodies.

Oakland Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan strongly advocated for the Coliseum City studies. She has long been a backer of the Coliseum City plan. “If we don’t do this, the Raiders will leave,” she said. Kaplan was appointed to the commission on 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 would remain in Oakland.

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