Last Days of the Raiders 

When the team's lease at McAfee Coliseum expires in 2010, will the Raiders follow the Athletics in the search for a new home?

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So in all likelihood, the Raiders are probably stuck in this market. But that doesn't mean they're stuck with the Coliseum. "It would be much more likely for the Raiders to move somewhere else in the area," Foot said. "The name brand capital is all back in Oakland, not LA. They just weren't exploding on the scene as they hoped, and Davis went crawling back to Oakland. Like the A's, they're probably thinking about moving somewhere within the jurisdiction. That way, they can keep the brand. The Cowboys are moving to Arlington, the A's are moving to Fremont, but they're keeping the name. I suspect the Raiders are going to do the same thing."

In fact, Davis' son Mark has already shopped around for a new East Bay stadium. In January, Dublin Mayor Janet Lockhart was attending a conference where developers reviewed a proposal to acquire 180 acres of surplus Army land, right in the middle of town and just off of Interstate 580. As Lockhart pressed the flesh and murmured niceties, Mark Davis and a colleague approached and asked if Dublin would be interested in the Raiders building a new stadium on the site. "They said, 'What do you think about the Raiders being here?'" Lockhart said. "And I said I don't think it would be a good idea. ... I think they were a little shocked that I said no right offhand. But we're a small suburban community, and having a stadium here doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

Lockhart doubts that any other East Bay suburb would be any more interested in the Raiders than she was. Fremont is just big enough to handle the parking and traffic, she said, but every other bedroom community would say no at the drop of a hat. "The impact of a major stadium on a community is tremendous," she said. "And most people who move out into the suburban areas aren't looking for that impact. That's why they left the cities in the first place." The Raiders might not be welcome anywhere in the East Bay but Oakland.

On the other hand, building a new stadium in Oakland or very near it has been very much on the mind of Scott Haggerty lately. He dreams about the Raiders adopting Lew Wolff's Athletics model, in which a stadium developer also builds a ballpark village of high-end condos and retail outlets. He doubts that public agencies could fund any part of the actual construction — Oakland's deficit is currently projected to be as high as $60 million — but the city and the county could help with zoning, entitlements, and perhaps eminent domain.

Relocating the Raiders while a new stadium is built at the old Coliseum would be too difficult, he said. The Golden State Warriors would be inconvenienced by the construction, the Raiders would probably want to move on the project before the A's leave town, and the existing site's underground utilities and viaduct would complicate matters. But the swap meet just north of the Coliseum complex is underutilized, right next to BART, and very tempting, Haggerty said. "Oakland already has control of some of that land in the area," he said. "There are opportunities for high-density housing and retail and entertainment. How Oakland deals with that is up to them."

According to De La Fuente, the city isn't ruling out any options at this point — not even some sort of public-private partnership. "The reality is only a couple of NFL teams have their own stadium," he said. "Everything is possible. Who's gonna pay for it and how the deal will be structured is the question."

But if Oakland really wants to keep the Raiders, who will step up and take the lead? Haggerty has been encouraged by the temporary return to the city of former Oakland City Manager Robert Bobb, and hopes that his business savvy and enthusiasm for sports will have some effect. But what about Ron Dellums, the man in charge? "I think that team owners, and more specifically the Raiders, need to know that the mayor of the city will work to keep the Raiders in town," Haggerty said. "However, outside of [City Councilman] Larry Reid and Ignacio De La Fuente, I have seen no commitment for anybody else to try to work with these sports teams."

None of this leaves much hope for McAfee Coliseum. The departure of the Athletics would give the Raiders an opportunity to remake the Coliseum into a football-only facility, but they'd just be slapping a few new coats of lipstick on a forty-year-old pig. Unless the Raiders take that road, it is likely that the Coliseum, which is still encumbered with a $164.9 million debt, will be an empty, concrete husk.

That's not to say that the building won't be used now and again. According to Reid, the Coliseum Authority regularly earns more revenue from concerts by the Rolling Stones or major country acts than it ever did from baseball or football. "We have internally been discussing if in fact the A's are gone, what are the options of the Coliseum," he said. "We've hosted a number of soccer tourneys at the coliseum in the past. We've had the Promise Keepers, which is a big group that has put on these concerts."

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