By Matthew Artzmartz@bayareanewsgroup.com
POSTED: 08/12/2015 07:08:38 PM
Alameda County leaders said Wednesday that the best hope for building a new Raiders stadium in Oakland is for the city to buy out the county's stake in the sprawling Coliseum complex and handle the deal itself. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group archive)
OAKLAND -- As plans for Los Angeles-area football stadiums progress, this much has become clear: For all their talk about wanting to keep the Raiders in Oakland, neither the local political establishment nor the team is taking the lead on a plan to make that happen.
Conversations this week among NFL owners in Chicago about new stadiums for three teams -- the Chargers, Rams and Raiders -- are only the latest in which prospects in Oakland were little more than an afterthought. St. Louis and San Diego are aggressively pitching plans to keep their teams from moving. And Oakland?
"There's no champion to get a stadium deal done," said former Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who led negotiations to bring the Raiders back from Los Angeles two decades ago. "The Raiders haven't worked very hard on it. And neither has the city."
Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis laughs while responding to a question from a reporter at the NFL owners meetings at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015, in Schaumburg, Ill.
So far the city has been on the losing end of the stadium blame game. Even Raiders icon John Madden on Wednesday demanded action from local officials.
"They have to come up with some plan," the Hall of Fame coach told KCBS. "So far it's been 'we're not going to do this, we're not going to do that.' But they haven't said ... 'we want to keep the Raiders, and this is how we can help.'"
City officials have said they are willing to lease public land for a stadium and pay for infrastructure costs, but a lack of financial resources remains a stumbling block on both sides of the negotiating table.
Oakland officials reiterated Wednesday that they have no intention of matching the $350 million that San Diego is offering to put toward a new stadium for the Chargers or the roughly $500 million that St. Louis and Missouri are offering the Rams.
Meanwhile the Raiders remain one of the leanest NFL organizations, devoid of the development industry talent required to spearhead a stadium project the way the 49ers did in Santa Clara, said Robert Boland, a professor of sports business and law at Ohio University.
"The 49ers really armed up when they were building their stadium," he said. "You really need four or five people in house who are sought-after development experts, and I don't know if the Raiders had the ability to take on that level of cost at the time they needed to get the ball rolling."
It's still too early to bid the Raiders farewell. The city is continuing to meet with team officials. And later this month an outside developer will submit his final proposal for a mega development at the 120-acre Coliseum complex that would include a new football stadium, even though an earlier version was widely panned. Also, there's a chance that voters in San Diego and St. Louis could reject stadium subsidies, evening the playing field with Oakland.
But it's still unclear whether team or city leaders are willing to go out on a limb to strike a deal in Oakland.
Unlike her counterpart in San Diego, who has been the point person on a new Chargers stadium, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has kept a low profile on stadium talks. Schaaf, who wasn't available for comment Wednesday, didn't attend a recent meeting with the NFL's top stadium official and has turned over negotiations to an assistant city administrator.
Meanwhile, despite his repeated mantra that he wants to stay in Oakland, Raiders owner Mark Davis continues to act as if Los Angeles is his preferred choice, Boland said.
De La Fuente said Schaaf should take a bigger profile in stadium talks, but that the onus is on the Raiders, who four years ago showed him a rendering of a new Oakland stadium but never sought out a financial partner and pursued it.
"I told them that they have to be the ones to push it," De La Fuente said. "Look at the 49ers. They did it themselves. They were the drivers. The Raiders have been waiting. They expect people to somehow send them a plan."
A phone Wednesday to Raiders President Marc Badain was not returned. While the team hasn't shut the door on Oakland, it is working with the Chargers on a $1.7 billion stadium in the Southern California city of Carson.
That proposal is competing with a nearly $2 billion Inglewood stadium proposed by Rams owner Stan Kroenke. Only one of the stadiums is expected to win NFL approval; however, the Raiders could still wind up in Los Angeles as the Rams' tenant.
There still isn't a viable stadium plan in Oakland, NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman said after Tuesday's owners meeting. The Raiders say a stadium can be built for $900 million, but have only pledged $500 million between the team and the league.
Most NFL cities have plugged that type of gap with public funds, but Oakland and Alameda County voters have shown no interest in going that route especially with taxpayers still on the hook for nearly $100 million for renovations to O.Co Coliseum that brought the Raiders back from Los Angeles 20 years ago.
Back then, De La Fuente said, politicians such as himself and former Senate Pro Tempore Don Perata "took the bull by the horns" to bring the team back, and were lauded publicly for their aggressiveness.
But the stigma of that deal complicates any effort to keep the team now, he said.
"Politicians now are more shy about it," De La Fuente said. "They don't want to be accused of making the same mistake. That is part of the issue here."