There was some news about the Raiders' stadium issue in Oakland on Wednesday. And after a careful perusal of that news, I have not changed my opinion on one firm issue: The city and Alameda County will still have to decide whether they want to keep the Raiders or keep the A's. Because they aren't going to keep both.
Let's start at the top: Our worthy competitors at the San Francisco Chronicle, Phil Matier and Andrew Ross, reported that Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has worked out a football stadium project for the Raiders with the assistance of the development group that wants to build the Coliseum City mixed-use project on the parking lot land surrounding the Coliseum complex as well as property across the I-880 freeway.
It seems though, that this latest proposal has plenty of land mines. However, it's at least a plan, something all Raiders fans (and the Raiders owner) have been awaiting. The biggest potential land mine is the stipulation that after the Coliseum is demolished for the new project, Oakland and Alameda County taxpayers must still pay off the $120 million in bonds they owe for the 1995 return of the Raiders and the stadium remodel.
Another potential land mine that could be just as explosive is that for the Raiders/Coliseum City project to work, taxpayers would have to contribute all the land and pay for infrastructure improvements to accommodate the development. This could cost the city and county up to a billion dollars, including the land giveaway and infrastructure construction. The most prolific and knowledgeable blogger on the topic, newballpark.org, weighed in with an enlightening breakdown of the real-world numbers here . It's hard to believe all of this will sail through the political waters of the East Bay without some opposition.
For now, the next move is apparently up to Raiders' owner Mark Davis, who must sign on to join the project before anything else happens. Davis has said he wants to stay in Oakland if the proposal makes sense. His other demand is that the new stadium be built on the site of the current Coliseum and can accommodate Raider fans' tailgate parties in some fashion.
Obviously, if the current Coliseum is torn down, that leaves the A's with no place to play. And they say the only spot on which they would consider building a new Oakland ballpark is on the Coliseum property. The Athletics' owners, Lew Wolff and John Fisher, have informally floated their own development proposal which calls for them to absorb the $120 million in current Coliseum debt and provides them land on which to construct offices, hotels and residential buildings, the profits of which would help pay for a privately-financed ballpark. Of course, that plan leaves out any Raiders' stadium.
You see the problem here? Let me outline it for you:
According to the Chronicle reporting, if the A's reject the Coliseum City proposal as outlined to Davis -- which makes the baseball park a far lower priority than the Raiders' stadium -- then the alternate plan is to have a small chunk of city owned property turned over to Wolff and Fisher for them to build their ballpark. The catch: The property wouldn't be large enough to construct the necessary buildings that would finance the ballpark. Wolff and Fisher would never accept that sort of deal. They might throw their hands in the air, tell Major League Baseball that Oakland is treating the sport as a second-class citizen and ask for owners to authorize a move to San Jose.
(And please, East Bay boosters, don't bring up the Howard Terminal site in downtown Oakland. The A's don't want it, MLB commissioner Bud Selig backed that view as recently as two weeks ago and no environmental impact report has been authorized by the city council. Plus, the infrastructure costs there would be in the hundreds of millions. Would Oakland go for that on top of the billion in infrastructure costs at the Coliseum for a Raiders' project? No.)
You know what? All of this will come down to a battle of two developers. In this corner, we'll have the BaylG group that is behind the plan being presented to the Raiders. In the other corner, we'll have the Wolff group that wants to talk about its own ideas for the same Coliseum property.
So. Which side does Oakland back? Will the city and county negotiate with the BaylG group first, knowing that the Raiders' lease is up at the Coliseum after this season and that Davis has been flirting with Los Angeles and San Antonio? And if so, what does that mean for the A's? The baseball team just signed a "10-year" lease at the Coliseum that actually can be broken after 2018 -- or sooner, if the Coliseum is demolished for a Raiders' stadium.
Oakland may not like the fact that it must choose between the Raiders and A's. But as a practical matter, that's the fork in the road on the horizon. And depending on what Mark Davis does next, with the Raiders' lease expiration looming, we could get to that fork very soon.