In an effort to prevent the Oakland A’s, Oakland Raiders and Golden State Warriors from being lured away to places like San Jose, Los Angeles and San Francisco, a group of city officials, business leaders and developers rolled out an ambitious “public-private” partnership plan on Wednesday morning that would transform the Coliseum site and bring up to 32,000 jobs to the area, Mayor Jean Quan said.
The City of Oakland is in a “position of strength” to keep its three professional sports franchises at the Coliseum complex, Quan said at a press conference at City Hall. She also said the area on the other side of the 880 freeway from the Coliseum is perfect for adding office space for new high tech businesses.
At the heart of the plan is the Coliseum’s location as a transportation center—with a BART station, rail line and freeway that bring people from all over the Bay Area to watch games, and hopefully shop in the future as well. “We own one of the best sites in the maybe the country, but particularly in the Bay Area,” Quan said.
The Coliseum site currently hosts two county-owned professional sports venues, the O.co Coliseum, where the NFL’s Raiders and Major League Baseball’s A’s play, and the ORACLE Arena, home to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. All three teams have leases expiring in the next few years—the A’s and Raiders in 2013, the Warriors in 2015. Officials from each team have openly explored moving the team to another California city.
The approved two-part plan to keep the teams includes building hotels, retail, office and residential space in the Coliseum complex, which the plan calls “Coliseum City,” as well as building an Oakland Airport Business Park just across the freeway on the way to the airport. The business park will be developed to attract tech companies. Both projects were allocated a total of $3.5 million at last night’s city council meeting.
The city selected Oakland-based JRDV Urban International to manage the project, and its team includes HKS Sports and Entertainment, a stadium developer, and Forest City Real Estate Services to develop the office and retail space. City councilmember Larry Reid (District 7), City Administrator Deanna Santana and Paul Junge of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce were also present.
The plans for the project do not hinge on the teams staying, Quan said, and the project will move forward before the teams’ leases expire. The plans do not have a specific time frame either, though Quan said officials are prepared to talk to the teams about moving ahead with the project “within weeks.”
Notably absent from the press conference Wednesday was any representation from the three teams. Fred Blackwell, the assistant city administrator, said city officials have been in “close communication” with representatives from the teams and are in negotiations about what could be developed for the site. “They’re not going to show all their cards, and I don’t blame them,” Blackwell said. “We’re anxious to get to the table and have more substantive conversation with them. None of them have said they have ruled out this site.”
Blackwell said that over the years, the city has been buying up property around the Coliseum with the idea of developing an entertainment hub, much like L.A. Live in Los Angeles, which has retail, businesses, and other entertainment centers next to the Staples Center, where the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers play.
City officials also won’t be going to the voters with a referendum to help fund construction of what could be three new, multi-million dollar facilities, Quan said, adding the project was a “public-private partnership.”
“We think it’s going to be a net profit to the city, and maybe that will help pay off some of the old debt,” Quan said, referring to the city’s deal with the Raiders to renovate the Coliseum in the early 90s, a bill that still costs the city $10 million annually.
The possibility of new homes for their teams that might keep them in Oakland for the long term is exciting for the fans, said Christopher Dobbins, an Oakland Unified School District board member and a member of Save Oakland Sports, a grassroots group committed to keeping the pro teams in Oakland. Dobbins attended last night’s city council meeting along with at least 40 fans of the teams, some in full game-day garb, to show the city council how important the project is to the people of Oakland.
“A lot of the Raider fans came in costume. We had a gentleman named “Dr. Death”, Dobbins said. “Every single comment was positive, and it was exciting to hear the city council very positive as well.”
Ed McFarland, the principal of JRDV, said that while Oakland has passionate sports fans, more is needed to keep the teams. “You’ve got to go beyond passion. It’s about a business model and putting value proposition back to all these teams that makes them want to stay here,” he said during the press conference. “And I think we’ve got that.”