14 February 2009

It's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt

I'm pretty meh about the Raiders-Oakland talks. They're talking about renewing the relationship. Great. Ignacio De La Fuente is talking up the potential of the Coliseum redevelopment area. Fantastic. At some point in the next year or so, they'll need to bust out the details. How's it going to be financed? What will it look like? Will they preserve Mt. Davis and rebuild the rest of it or start from scratch?

Kudos to Amy Trask for not using her boss's old tricks. Twenty years ago, any major sports franchise had tons of leverage over cities and counties throughout the nation. These days the tables have been turned. While LA has emerged as a stalking horse, they'll have to get in line behind the Chargers, who have started their own marketing push throughout the basin.

Let's say that the two parties are able to come up with a new stadium plan at the existing Coliseum. To finance it, Oakland gives the Raiders development rights to the Coliseum (~60 acres), the Coliseum South area along Hegenberger (20 acres), and additional land between the complex and the BART station (15 acres). That puts the total available land at around 95 acres.

First and foremost, they have to implement a plan to preserve parking. Oracle Arena stages 100 events per year, over 40 them being Warriors games. I'm not aware of a specific parking requirement for the Arena, but most large indoor arenas tend to have at least 4,000 spaces in close proximity to the venue. The W's will undoubtedly ask for more to be preserved. At the outset, that makes the Coliseum complex's C and D lots, which flank the Arena, off limits.

As I understand it, the power lines and other utilities that supposedly make it difficult to build in the parking lot run underground beneath the center "mall" area. Preservation of the facility will have to be done. It's a good idea anyway because the complex was designed with the mall in mind. Landscaping and beautification are natural fits for this area.

That would leave the A and B lots for development, along with the land along San Leandro St. (which is privately owned and would have to be acquired), and Coliseum South, which includes the gravel "Malibu" lot. Conceivably, a large transit-oriented mixed-use development would be appropriate here. It's not a place for high-rises, but it can accommodate 4-5 story buildings with ground level retail. The difficult thing about this kind of development is that you'll have additional parking requirements. Residential development has parking requirements. Let's get rough minimum estimates for parking:
  • Residential - 3,000 spaces for 3,000 units
  • Retail - 1,000 spaces for 300,000 square feet of floor space
  • Stadium - Replacement of 5,000 spaces from A and B lots
Parking replacement for the stadium would have to be done with garages. That means no more tailgating, folks. If the C and D lots don't have garages built on them, they'd be the only surface lots in the area, which means they'd be the only possible place for tailgating.

The construction cost for all of this would be at least $1 billion depending on the actual stadium cost. Besides the one major problem of how to finance it, there's another issue to deal with: the Raiders have known track record when it comes to development. Al Davis's experience with the vertical passing game means bupkis when it comes to building anything. Even he admits that he's not a stadium builder, and this would be much more than a stadium. Davis, a football man who is not the billionaire type who views his team as a toy, has far less resources at his disposal than other incredibly rich owners like Jerry Jones, Paul Allen, Daniel Snyder, or Robert Kraft.

Do you think the Raiders and Oakland could pull something like this off? If they don't, what happens next? It seems likely that the two will limp along with a short-term extension at the Coliseum until the next move is determined. Beyond that, unless someone drops off a bag containing a billion dollars at either party's doorstep, it's hard to see how something this ambitious gets done.