Here’s a new twist in the never-ending saga that is the Oakland Athletics’ stadium search: the A’s have offered to purchase the Coliseum and the land on which it sits from the City of Oakland and Alameda County, California.
Well, not really “purchase it.” Technically, they want to to “assume control of the Coliseum” in exchange for paying more than $135 million of city and county debt still owed on the stadium complex and property. The offer comes in the form of a letter sent Sunday by Oakland A’s president Dave Kaval, and which the A’s tweeted out a few hours ago (see below).
The A’s, Raiders and Golden State Warriors call the site home now, but the latter two teams are leaving for Las Vegas and San Francisco, respectively. That would leave the A’s as the sole sports tenants and, presumably, the acceptance of this offer would grant them development rights for the entire complex, which is roughly 120 acres and includes the Oracle Arena in which the Warriors currently play. That could serve as a massive source of revenue down the line. Notably, the right to develop real estate around a new ballpark was what started the A’s years-long stadium search off, back when they were hoping to move down to San Jose.
I have to applaud the Athletics for initiative here, but I’m struggling to think why Oakland-Alameda would agree to do this. The debt service notwithstanding, it’s very valuable land in an area with some of the highest real estate prices in the world. As the San Francisco Chronicle notes, the city has contemplated buying out the county’s half-ownership as it is, likely because there’s a ton of money to be made developing the site. There are also private developers not connected with the Athletics who have eyed the property too, no doubt thinking about all of the residential and commercial development which could be accomplished there. One would think that Oakland-Alameda could, if it so wanted to, sell the Coliseum property off for far more than the debt it carries and still get cash-in-pocket over and above that. After that, the land will still bring in tax revenue, whether it’s from the A’s and whatever it is they put on the land or whether someone builds, I dunno, an Ikea, a Top Golf complex and 1,000 condos.
No doubt this is part of the reason the city and county are so intent on the A’s looking at the Howard Terminal site mentioned in the letter. The A’s realize this too, as Kaval’s letter to Oakland acknowledges that it’s still looking at the Howard Terminal site, but highlights the challenges inherent in building there in terms of accessibility and transportation (which are legitimate issues with that site). To me it all seems like a very polite way of the A’s trying to pressure Oakland into giving them a sweetheart deal on the Coliseum site, with the most subtle suggestion that (a) it’s the only viable site left; and (b) if that doesn’t work out, well . . . maybe they move out of town entirely? Not that anyone has gone that far yet.
All very interesting, but unless I’m reading this really wrong, it strikes me that Oakland-Alameda giving the land up for debt service relief would be a tremendous gift that would serve as a far larger public subsidy of the Athletics than any voter in the region has seen fit to offer them or any other sports team in many, many years.
I suppose you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, but this seems like a shot that will miss.