"I think there is something we are not being real about," Councilman Larry Reid said this morning at a meeting of the agency that runs the coliseum. "I think we need to plan and plan now for the A's leaving."Before the usual back-and-forth starts, let's focus on the Coliseum Authority. It's a joint powers board made up of individuals representing Oakland and Alameda County. Their scope is limited, as is their domain. While the individual board members can come to the table representing their specific City or County districts, they're really working for the Coliseum in this capacity. Reid is unique in that his district includes the Coliseum.
The Coliseum complex's size is about 100 acres. On its borders are branches of a slough, commercial property that is soon to be developed, train tracks, and light industrial buildings. The Authority is already strained due to the staggering amount of debt raised to finance renovations to both the stadium and arena. It's extremely unlikely that the finance types from the City or County will approve additional debt.
At this point, the biggest chip they have is not in the form of a venue, it's the land surrounding those venues. Think of the complex as a candy bar with three pieces that can be broken off. As the Home Base (Coliseum South) property is developed and infill residential starts to encroach on the Coliseum, there will be pressure on the decision-makers to figure out a creative way to relieve the tax burden on County residents. The south parking lots could be the first to go as they're converted to some sort of mixed use village. The north lots would be next. In twenty years, the Coliseum could look vastly different from its current form.
For a recent example, check out Atlanta's Turner Field, where parking has almost disappeared due to development. Today's post on Anaheim highlighted how the city is trying to create a vibrant, "urban" entertainment center anchored by Angels Stadium and a new NFL stadium.
The issue here is what will the powers-that-be do with the land when the time comes? The leases for both the A's and Raiders end at about the same time, and both are looking for extensions just in case they can't get new digs ready in a few years. Say one-third of the land is redeveloped to help pay off the debt. Who gets the other slice? What would be built on it? The use of multilevel garages would no doubt negatively impact Raider Nation's habits. So would building a ballpark on the north lot. If the lots were kept as is to satisfy the Raiders' requirements, the A's would be shut out of the chance to build on the existing land, forcing a land deal elsewhere. And what of the Warriors? They can't be completely ignored in this, though their requirements are fewer than those of the A's and Raiders. The pols will have to choose, and it's not going to be pretty. I touched on this dilemma in February.
Why would the A's be the team to leave? It could be because the Authority doesn't have much invested in keeping the A's right now, whereas they have Mt. Davis and the Arena redo on the books. It could also be a matter of Wolff not really trying his hardest to keep the A's in Oakland. It could be that the Raiders and the Authority have some unannounced plans for the future of the Coliseum. Whatever the case, the A's have the easiest exit strategy of the three tenants in the complex, and it's clear that Wolff is taking advantage.