28 January 2008

Coliseum redux, football style

As the 49ers continue to pursue their preferred Santa Clara site, the Raiders have been focusing mainly on the Coliseum, despite their brief (and largely fruitless) discussions with Dublin officials. Regardless of what anyone thinks of the Coliseum deal, Al Davis, or the politicians involved, the Coliseum remains the most feasible place for the Raiders to get any kind of stadium deal done. Here's why.

  • LA can't get it together. Numerous groups with billionaires at their respective helms have cropped up from time to time to declare their viability for an LA expansion franchise. Often their talk would result in further discussions with LA pols, which would result in nothing. At times there would be two groups competing simultaneously. Multiple sites would come up as well, all of which would end up dead thanks to cost or pre-existing political conditions. While the NFL would love to place a team in LA, there's no indication they'd be willing to foot the bill any higher than what was required to get the NY Giants/Jets stadium going. That would leave any LA stadium woefully short of any real cost. At the same time, any team that wanted to move to LA would need the league's financial assistance, forcing such a team to bow to the league's desires. Right now the league is perfectly fine with the increased TV revenues they get from a blackout-free market such as LA.
  • Al Davis ain't selling or dying anytime soon. Davis has proven to be the NFL's version of Rasputin. He has survived legal battles. He has outlived nice guy owners such as Lamar Hunt, Wellington Mara, and Jack Kent Cooke. He continues to command from his throne, as evidenced by the current controversy involving head coach Lane Kiffin. He may be showing Nero-like tendencies, but like it or not, he's still there.
  • A refurbished Coliseum is far cheaper than a new stadium. The Mount Davis addition and additional renovations, which included the Westside Club and a new baseball/football press box and all new seats, cost $120-140 million depending on who you ask. New NFL stadia being planned or under construction have price tags of $800 million at the very minimum. No renovation plan should have a cost more than half that.

Renovation has many advantages that stem from cost. The site, once the original bowl is demolished, is already excavated and ready to build. New piles may have to be driven because the new western structure would be far taller and more complex than the old bowl. It would likely mimic Mt. Davis to an extent, though it would also include team facilities such as locker rooms and offices, a new press box, and an even more lavish club facility. The end zones would have limited seating, reducing the stadium's footprint.

The new structure would look similar to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The overlay above keeps the old Coliseum structure to show how odd the sightlines are for football from the old bowl. The only advantage it has over any new stadium its low profile. The design could eventually evolve into something more like what the 49ers are proposing, though having nearly 100 suites in the eastern section defeats the purpose.

It's hard to say how long it would take to build. Certainly not three or four years as new stadia typically take. Not 10 months as what happened with Stanford Stadium. Probably 24 months thanks to the site's readiness. Process should be quicker too because any EIR work would reflect the same use as the previous structure. That hidden process time and cost cannot be underestimated.

It would be difficult to conceive of the Raiders playing in the Coliseum in the interim. Demolishing the old bowl while leaving Mt. Davis intact would leave only 22,000 seats in place, and to make construction faster builders couldn't be interrupted by the occasional game or other events. It was doable for the 1995 construction, but not for a project this massive. The Raiders won't be welcome at an old or rebuilt Memorial Stadium on the UC Campus. No chance of playing at Stanford Stadium, and Spartan Stadium's far too small. So are the area ballparks.

That leaves Candlestick as the only venue large enough to hold the Raiders. Sounds blasphemous to be sure, but as both the 49ers and Raiders move forward with their plans, they may find themselves in the unusual position of needing each other. The Santa Clara site has at best a 50/50 shot since it will likely need a true citizens' vote in November, not an "advisory" vote that the 49ers were gunning for. Should that proposal lose, the team would be forced back to SF, only to face a city that has no public funds to pledge for a new stadium.

Meanwhile, the NFL will at some point tire of California's inability to get a new stadium built anywhere in the state. Unlike the situation in LA, it can't allow another exodus of teams because there aren't new stadia in other markets just waiting for football teams to move there. It can help the teams' relative plights by encouraging both teams to work together and by pledging a junior version of the Meadowlands plan for a renovated Coliseum. It's a proposal that won't tax the other 30 owners much, and it would allow the league to focus its resources on the remaining three potentially itinerant teams, the Chargers, Vikings, and Bills. From a local practical standpoint, both teams would have a far easier way to pay off the requisite bonds since both teams' stadium revenues would contribute.

There is, of course, a matter of pride. Both teams and their fans would have to come to grips with major territorial issues. The Raiders would have to deal with playing in the 'Stick temporarily, while the 49ers would deal with a far more permanent transition. That said, there is a point where pride has to give way to more practical concerns. Those who really want to see their teams stay in the area in the most financially responsible manner should consider such a plan.


Anonymous said...

I'd prefer that the Raiders just revamp the Colisieum. Maybe play in Frisco for one season, but I don't want the whiners and my raiders to share a staduim. The A's are leaving, just fix the coliseum a little for football and get a super bowl like they almost did a few years ago.

I have a general question for marine layer or anyone else: why does the staduim have to have a new bowl? Is a baseball/multi purpose bowl really all that different from a football only bowl or is this a ca building code issue (due to Tremors)?

Anonymous said...

I don't know if the physics work out right, but I've always thought a "stadium barge" would be great for the 49ers/Raiders. Float it to one side of the bay on Niners' weeks and the other side on Raiders' weeks.

Marine Layer said...

Sightlines in the main bowl aren't good. The first 6 or so rows of the field level are obstructed by the players on the sideline. The back rows of the field and plaza levels have a low overhang above them which is also an obstruction. The percentage of seats along the sideline as opposed to in the end zones is poor. Plus many of the baseball criticisms about where the club seats and suites are located are equally applicable for football. It's really a matter of money. If the Raiders can do it without taxing Alameda County and without killing their fans with a system like the old PSL scheme then great, more power to them. To me it doesn't add up unless the Niners are involved.

As for a barge concept, even if something is built on the water and floats around on occasion there are still land rights (underwater) to negotiate, and those are very tightly controlled by the state - tight enough that changes often require legislation. It could be just as difficult if not moreso.

Jeffrey said...

I have to say that as a fan of the A's and a casual observer of football I always felt like the Coliseum redo was a net loss for the a's and a very minimal benefit to the Raiders. It was an imperfect solution for either team.

I remember watching the Raiders and NY Giants play in, I think 1997, sitting on the "baseball side" and cranking my neck to try and follow the damn game.

Likewise, the first time I went to an A's game after Mt. Davis was complete I was heart broken. The ballyard just doesn't feel like it once did.

I honestly think that the lemons of the current coliseum can be made lemonade by redesigning the Coliseum for a football only venue. More power to 'em if they can make the stadium work for both teams.

The biggest challenge to that, in my opinion, is one of the three challenges you mentioned as the Raiders moving back to LA: Alfonse Davis.

I find it hard to believe he could share stadium revenues with the 49ers.

Anonymous said...


I think that what you are suggesting is EXACTLY what will happen...with the exception being that the refurbished Colisieum will be the Los Angeles Memorial Colisieum, with help from the NFL.

I truly hope that the Raiders stay in Oakland, but one thing that tempered my excitement when they returned to Oakland was the incredibly SHORT lease that was negotiatied...

I think the ONLY thing that will prevent a return to Los Angeles is if either the Chargers or Jaguaers move there first...or perhaps the Bills...those seem to be the only teams remaining besides the Raiders in need of a new or refurbished stadium who dont have one currently being built or in the works...unless Vikings?

Anonymous said...

"Raiders have been focusing mainly on the Coliseum, despite their brief (and largely fruitless) discussions with Dublin officials."

First of all, would LOVE to believe this, I WANT to believe this, in the sense that the Raiders are sincere in their Oakland Colisieum efforts. ML, do you know what kind of hold ups or details are emerging from the discussions?

One reason that the Raiders are NOT talking with Los Angeles right now, is that they are contractually prohibited from doing so until the lease is over, and I believe that they are also contractually obligated to negotiate a lease extension with Oakland/Alamedea first.

So, the Raider Conspiracy theorist in me simply thinks that the Raiders are going through the motions with the colisieum right now, so that they can say:

"hey, we gave it our best shot, Oakland/Alameda cant afford us, and the last fifteen years have shown that we cant sell out our luxury suites or the stadium"

Then, asssisted by the nfl, they will be back in SoCal as the ONLY nfl franchise.

Marine Layer said...

A move to LA by the Raiders depends entirely on Davis. If he dies the team would be left to his family and associates, presumably reducing the tension that has long existed between Davis and the NFL. If he lives on as owner, he'll have to accept a deal similar to the one the NFL laid out when entertaining stadium site bids in LA a few years ago.

The deal was (IIRC): a $500 million loan to whatever team relocates. The recipient team is fully responsible for the debt service, which would largely come from premium seating revenue for starters. Not sure if that deal still stands in light of G-3 "ending" and the Meadowlands deal.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of stadium redos, I'll bet the costs of expanding Railey Field in Sacramento for the A's would be quite minimal compared to the cost of constructing a whole new stadium. Any estimates?

Marine Layer said...

I wrote about this over two years ago.

Jeffrey said...

You know... Raley Field can not be expanded to host a major league franchise. I confirmed this with a Sacramento bee reporter about 4 years ago when I was trying to figure out if that was a viable alternative.

anthony dominguez said...

Speaking of Sac; if you do a Google Earth shot of Arco Arena, you'll notice to the north what looks like a Raley Field-like footprint of a ballpark (an abandoned ballpark?). Any info. or history on this Field of Dreams that wasn't? As for the Coliseum redux; build a second Mt. Davis in the likes of what the Niners are designing, and leave the 100 existing suites of Mt. Davis for single-game usage.

Anonymous said...

Interesting concept picture of a remodeled football only stadium for the Raiders Marine Layer. I think this is a pretty accurate scenario. It does look similar to Heinz Field.

Then again the Raiders and the county could end up going with a different design that is not really symmetrical but more like what the 49ers have in mind. The design will come down to what is most cost effective and practical for that site. Whatever design they would chose would most likely emphasize the "Black Hole" at the south end of the field.

I am not surprised to see posters in this thread already stating how the Raiders will leave and move back to L.A. but that is old hat. The Raiders are not moving back to L.A. This is not 1982 and things have changed alot since then.

I know someone who works for the Raiders organization and has told me that the team and county have been working for some time now negotiating an extended lease pass 2010, which includes further remodeling of the existing stadium when the A's leave. By the time this all plays out L.A. will already have a team most likely the Chargers as mentioned in a previous thread.

Oakland is working hard to keep the Raiders since they are losing the A's. The Raiders will most likely be the only Bay Area sports team to bear the name "Oakland" unlike the Golden State Warriors or the possible "San Jose" Athletics at Fremont.

Anonymous said...

Not what I heard. I was always under the impression that it was built with expansion in mind. I don't see why it couldn't be expanded to host MLB. Much better location than Fremont.

Marine Layer said...

Anon - in my post over two years ago I covered in detail why Raley Field isn't sufficient for anything more than a temporary venue, thanks to recent market changes.

Tony - You are not mistaken. That was previously a ballpark site - for a minor league team. Then Raley Field was built and that was that.

Anonymous said...

Didn't see anything there other than your opinion indicating why Sacramento's Railey Field couldn't be expanded to accommodate MLB.

Would certainly be more feasible than Fremont.

Anonymous said...

Not sure why comments have to be delayed and reviewed by you. Is this some sort of censorship?

Marine Layer said...

Anon - You're new here, aren't you? The delayed comments and verification are done to eliminate spam and reduce the flame wars that crop up from time to time.

You can dismiss my post on Sacramento if you like, but there are facts there that can't be easily dismissed. Even if Sacramento somehow got the political will to put a stadium deal together, how would it get financed? Do you think Cisco would just say, "Sure, it doesn't matter that you're taking the stadium out of our home market. Go ahead, we'll pay the same amount for naming rights?" Not likely. There are many factors that go into feasibility. Raley Field isn't good enough even if it's expanded, and the city of Sacramento can't get it done. Not to mention the market size and the horrible housing market. End of story.

Anonymous said...

"There are many factors that go into feasibility. Raley Field isn't good enough even if it's expanded, and the city of Sacramento can't get it done. Not to mention the market size and the horrible housing market. End of story."

uhh ... ok if you say so. Raley Field isn't good enough? That's kind of subjective don't ya think? Sac-town can't get it done? Again, subjective and speculative. How could they not do something that Fremont can? Market size? Growing and not shared with another franchise. Horrible housing market? yeah, kind of like Fremont and the rest of the east bay. End of story? ok, after all it's your blog.

Yes, I'm new around here. I can see that those with differing view points are not exactly welcomed here.

Marine Layer said...

Can you tell me how much it will cost to bring Raley Field to modern MLB standards? Care to guess? It isn't about throwing in a few more seats and calling it a day. It's a lot more than that.

Beyond that there is a question of how to finance it. Raley Field is in West Sac/Yolo County, which is not large enough to do it themselves. Sacramento City/County would have to be involved, and they're not known for being able to pull off public/private partnerships like this. Plus you can't discount that other owners have seen how much trouble the Maloofs are having getting a new arena built in Sactown, and that this difficulty factors into their impressions of the market.

It's fine to bring in new ideas, but you haven't brought a single new fact to the table. All you've said is, "It'd be easier than Fremont" without explaining how. And since you've so easily dismissed my opinion, I can easily reciprocate. I'll extend to you the same offer I've extended to the pro-Oakland group: Provide a reasonably detailed plan, financing, site, and all, and I will dedicate a new post to it unedited. Is that open enough for you?

anthony dominguez said...

Not that you need backup R.M., but it's very simple: If Sac Can't get a new arena for the Kings, how in the heck are they going to get a Major League Ballpark for the A's or anyone else? By the way, the Kings would be more than welcomed at the Shark Tank. I say give the Maloof brothers exclusive development rights to Diridon/Arena for the Kings at HP (just a thought).

Jeffrey said...

It is a common misconception that Raley Field was built with the idea for an easy transformation into a major league park. It was one I held when I lived in the area, which was up until August.

I found an old article from the Sacramento Bee on the web about the feasibility and I emailed the author of the article. I can't remember the name of the guy now.

He emailed me and explained that, because of many of the considerations ML has posted here like truly major league style luxury suites, the appropriate concessions, etc.

Basically his point was along the lines that the fact that Raley Field isn't just the lower bowl of a Major League stadium waiting for a second and third deck means that it would have to be gutted and rebuilt almost completely.

I have been to several games at Raley Field, including a Major League exhibition between the Rangers and Mariners. It is clear that the place was not designed to be a major league facility in waiting.

Also, from a market perspective, Sacramento is no where near the size of the bay Area. I researched this as well when I lived there because I was hoping there was a compelling case to bring the A's there. Moving the A's to Sacramento would do more to Tampa bay Rayize the A's then any trades of Dan Haren ever would.

Jeffrey said...

A posting on AN comparing the various markets on the west coast

This is stuff I pulled when I was trying to figure out if the A's could move to Sacramento

Anthony Dominguez said...

That was some pretty interesting information you posted at AN in 05. SJ/SF/Oak over 10 million by 2025?! An article in the Mercury News yesterday concerning BART to SJ suggested that much of the growth over the next 25 years will be in Santa Clara Co. and southern Alameda County. Based on our media strength and population projections, I agree with you that the A's aren't going anywhere (the Raiders should stay put as well). Sacramento should focus primarily on getting the Kings a new venue.

Jeffrey said...

It would be interesting to refresh that information.

As far as the Raiders, the difference between their situation and the A's is that while the Bay Area is expanding, LA will "soon" be the size of New York.

If you can split a market that has 10 million folks, or own a market that has 24 million... which would you prefer?

I am not saying they will move back to LA or that I want them too, but eventually someone will. Why not the Raiders? I am sure Al Davis is asking himself that question.

bartleby said...

It's not at all obvious to me that LA is the staggering opportunity for an NFL team it is so often made out to be.

For one thing, the two revenue streams most greatly impacted by the size of the market - TV and merchandising - are shared. The team which goes there and boosts these local revenue streams will reap only 1/32 of the benefit.

Stadium revenue is the one area where the host team can keep most of the loot, but LA has a terrible record of supporting NFL teams. Basically, the fans come out only when the team is winning. When the team is losing, or even when it's merely mediocre - blackouts.

Even small markets like Cinci and Jacksonville can fill a football stadium when things are going well. So what's the big advantage of being in LA?

Looking beyond that, the NFL has not been able to get a viable stadium deal in place after thirteen years of trying. They don't even have a consensus site. And any NFL team which goes there will most likely have to finance most or all of the stadium costs. Where is the big opportunity? There is a reason why two teams have left LA for smaller markets and other teams have just used LA as a stalking horse to get local deals.

On the flipside, since taking over their own ticket sales the Raiders have quietly managed to sell out the vast majority of their games despited playing in a crappy stadium and fielding the most unwatchable team in the NFL. How many sellouts do you think there would have been in LA for a team which won six games in two years?

And the Raiders already have the big stadium revenue generators (suites and club seats) which are the drivers for most new stadium deals. They would benefit from a new stadium because it would make it easier to sell tickets, but the benefit would be much more modest and incremental than for, say, the Cardinals. And once the A's leave, it will be a lot cheaper and easier to achieve that benefit in their current location than anywhere else.

Oakland has proven itself to be a lousy market for baseball but a decent market for football. I'm as cynical as anyone, but I don't think the Raiders are going anywhere.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Bartleby in his or her characterization of the viability of LA as an NFL football market. After almost 14 years, LA has failed to land another professional football team despite being the 2nd largest media market in the country. That city has a history of losing football teams. The Chargers in 1961, Rams and Raiders in 1995 and the expansion team they were rewarded in 1999 but later lost to Houston becoming the Texans. LA can't seem to get its act together and come up with a site or plan that would be attractive to a perspective franchise. The NFL can't hold their hand and do all the work and pay all the expenses.

I also agree that Oakland is looking like a decent football market since the Raiders have taken over ticket sales, selling out most of their games despite the current poor play on the field. When they finally become a competitive team again they should not have any trouble selling out their all their games or potentially selling many PSLs for a remodeled football only stadium.