Oakland officials didn't let the NFL lockout stand in the way of their plans to transform the city's gray and sagging Coliseum into a new stadium and entertainment district that some supporters are calling Oakland Live.
The clock started ticking on the plans when Gov. Jerry Brown threatened to commandeer redevelopment money. But the pace really picked up when it looked like the NFL deal sealed this week could help deliver money for the project. The city had already begun to buy up land to "control the destiny" of the area, which is part of the Coliseum Redevelopment Project district, said Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid.
"But to get there, we have to spend money to show there is a vision," said Reid, whose Elmhurst-East Oakland district includes the Coliseum area.
The aging complex is co-owned by the city and Alameda County. But the city now controls all the land between Coliseum Way and San Leandro Street except several parcels occupied by, among others, Denny's, a church and a trucking company.
Then the council authorized $4 million in redevelopment funds this month to pay for a design plan and an environmental impact report.
"If we don't do something, we might end up losing all our franchises," Reid said.
He has long cherished the plan to create Oakland Live, named and modeled after the sprawling $2.5 billion entertainment complex in Los Angeles next to Staples Center.
He appears to have the support
The team has backed a redevelopment plan since 2009 when the Raiders and city began to evaluate the chances of success. The support has not changed, said Raiders Chief Executive Officer Amy Trask in an email interview.
The Coliseum, she said, is a "tremendous location," centrally located and accessible from all over the Bay Area by public transportation, including BART.
As for the 49ers, she said the Raiders are keeping an open mind about sharing a stadium as details for a Santa Clara facility unfold.
Prospects of a two-team facility dimmed after 49ers owner Jed York backed off this week. He said the team can build a stadium in Santa Clara without sharing with the Raiders because the NFL is offering a handout large enough to satisfy several teams. The league announced plans to create a financing pool teams could dip into for loans needed to build a new stadium. The NFL would put 1.5 percent of all league revenue earned in a year into the pool. That could generate as much as $150 million annually based on NFL revenues of $10 billion a year, which the league is close to earning already.
The Raiders could play in Santa Clara without needing voter approval.
Conversely, if the Santa Clara deal falls apart, O.co Coliseum could be an option for the 49ers.
The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Board, which oversees operations at the Coliseum complex, commissioned an analysis independent of the Oakland Live proposal.
"(The) addition of the 49ers dramatically increases the economic viability of the project," according to an October 2010 report by Minnesota-based Conventions, Sports & Leisure, which the city of San Jose hired to analyze the potential A's ballpark in that city.
According to the analysis, there is $145 million in outstanding principal on a Coliseum bond debt that helped pay for renovations demanded by Raiders owner Al Davis in 1996. The debt will have to be resolved before the stadium can be torn down to make way for a new one.
Because the Oakland stadium plan involves redeveloping the surrounding area, the project could also be eligible for federal funding if it can be classified as a transit village, according to At-Large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.
She announced the new stadium plans on July 20, catching some of her fellow council members off guard because they didn't know the stadium had become a definite part of the plan. She also surprised Coliseum board members.
Commissioner Scott Haggerty said he knew nothing of the plan, but supports the concept of a new stadium. The A's, who share the existing stadium with the Raiders, may have to be factored into the plan if Major League Baseball blocks the team from moving to San Jose.
Co-owner Lew Wolff said this week by telephone that he has no information about the plans.
"We've seen nothing," he said. The Coliseum area, he added, is a great site, but a new stadium would not persuade him to stay in Oakland.
Reid said the plan doesn't include a new arena for the Golden State Warriors, who have a contract to play at the Coliseum until 2017. But the new owners have made it clear they want a new facility in Oakland -- or possibly in San Francisco.
The next step is to issue a request for proposals from companies to perform an environmental impact report. Then Reid and Kaplan will have to convince the rest of the Coliseum board and county supervisors.
"We're just at the starting point," Reid said.