When it comes to professional sports, Oakland and Sacramento share an identity crisis.
While Oakland currently has three major league sports franchises located within its confines and Sacramento has one, how long that will be the case remains an open question.
The Golden State Warriors already have signed a contingent deal to leave Oakland for the waterfront of San Francisco. The Oakland A's ownership desperately seeks league approval to move to San Jose. Now even the vaunted hometown Oakland Raiders face new challenges to building a new stadium in Oakland.
Meanwhile, for the second time in three years, the Sacramento Kings appear to have one foot out the door. This time the suitor is a well-financed group from Seattle. That would be a particular embarrassment for a city whose mayor, raised in Sacramento, is a former star in the NBA.
As one might expect, elected officials in both places have been scurrying to retain the franchises.
While each case is different, they share a common thread that prompts an uncomfortable question: Are Oakland and Sacramento really big league venues?
Yes, that question stings, especially for Oakland, which has had at least one franchise for more than 50 years. But the teams' inability to attract enough paying customers (with the Warriors excepted) and corporate sponsorship makes us wonder.
In Sacramento, the city and the Kings have been unable to build a new venue and attendance has shown significant decline that mirrors the team's performance. Mayor Kevin Johnson tenaciously fought off a bid from Anaheim two years ago with a promise of more corporate and fan support. But the Seattle bid is different. It is backed by some serious money that likely dwarfs anything Sacramento can offer.
Oakland is a small market by professional sports standards, and in two of the sports, it must compete for audience and market share with franchises across the bay. It also must fend off suitors for those franchises
Oakland has had the added degree of difficulty of a dysfunctional government. Mayor Jean Quan and Mayor Ron Dellums before her seem clueless about the city's role in ensuring that the franchises remain.
But, based on track record, maybe that is for the best. When the local government actively involved itself in negotiations to lure the Raiders back to Oakland from Los Angeles, it struck a horrible deal. The city and county continue to pay about $10 million apiece every year to pay off stadium bonds and about $100 million is still owed on those Coliseum bonds.
To be fair, Oakland officials approved spending $3.5 million last year to move forward with planning of Coliseum City, a 750-acre project that includes rezoning adjacent land for biotech uses. The plan is supposed to be unveiled soon and we will reserve judgment until then.
But as we wait, we can't help but believe that the time is nigh for governments, fans and businesses in both Oakland and Sacramento to get serious about keeping their professional sports franchises or simply say goodbye.