OAKLAND -- How's this for enthusiasm? Presented with the ambitious plan to transform the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum complex into a sports and entertainment center, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley asked if the city wanted to buy out the county's stake and do the project itself.
Other supervisors were equally wary about the city-driven Coliseum City vision during a joint meeting with City Council members Monday.
Supervisor Richard Valle made clear he opposed any public subsidy to keep Oakland's three professional sports teams in the East Bay, while Supervisor Keith Carson zeroed in on the fact that the city and county still owe more than $200 million from renovations to the o.Co Coliseum and Oracle Arena two decades ago.
"We don't generate enough revenue to cover our existing debt," Carson said. "That is because we did not ask enough questions (before the renovations) and did not have the factual data to back it up."
Future city-county discussions are planned for the project, and Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell said Oakland didn't have the resources to buy out the county's stake.
None of the politicians assembled Monday oppose the Coliseum City concept, which calls for private investors to pour billions of dollars into more than 100 acres in East Oakland owned by the city and county.
The development would raze the Coliseum and redevelop it and many of the surrounding parking lots into hotels, sports bars, shops, condos and a new stadium for the Raiders. It could also include a baseball stadium if the Oakland A's would consider staying in town.
The vision got a shot in the arm recently when Colony Capital, LLC, the world's third largest privately held real estate firm, joined the city's development team and started conversations with the Raiders about a new football stadium.
But Monday's meeting between council members and county supervisors revealed deep-seated skepticism about Colony's sincerity in pulling off the project and lingering doubts about whether a private entity could make money building sports facilities in Oakland when taxpayers took a bath on the last big sports project.
According to Alameda County Auditor Patrick O'Connell, city and county taxpayers are on the hook for $113 million in debt on the Coliseum and $90 million in debt on the arena incurred to renovate the buildings in the 1990s. Taxpayers fork over $20 million a year paying down the debt and running the facilities for Oakland's three teams.
The annual cost is slated to rise by a couple hundred thousand dollars next year under tentative lease extensions that would lower overall rent payments from the teams, O'Connell said.
Coliseum City is designed to make the Coliseum complex profitable by turning it into a destination where fans would go to games and spend their money at adjacent shops, bars and restaurants.
The existing Coliseum complex with nothing but sports facilities and parking lots, "is currently designed to make as little money as it is possible to make," Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan said.
But questions also remain over whether Oakland has the right mix of teams to make the project feasible. The A's and Golden State Warriors play lots of home games to draw consumers, but neither team is interested in the project.
The Raiders are interested, but they play fewer games and their initial stadium concept called for a smallish open-air football stadium that wouldn't be able to host many other events. It also came with a $300 million funding shortfall.
Concerns about Coliseum City's profitability led the original development firm Forest City Enterprises to bow out of the project, said Gregory Hunter, deputy director of Oakland's Office of Neighborhood Investment.
Colony's interest in the project has eased some fears, but Miley questioned why the firm, which manages more than $30 billion in assets, hadn't yet put any money into the project to show their commitment. "That frustrates me very much," he said.
After the meeting, Councilman Larry Reid, whose district includes the Coliseum complex, said he understood everyone's concerns and that he couldn't be optimistic about the project until he sits down with Colony later this month.
"If anyone can make this deal happen it's Colony, but I want to make sure they are unequivocally on board," he said. "At some point we come to a point where either this is real or we lose our sports teams."
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435