Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf went to New York this week, ready to fight to keep the Raiders in town. Problem is, she didn’t have a stadium proposal to present to select NFL owners on Wednesday morning.
San Diego and St. Louis, other home markets with NFL teams with eyes on Los Angeles, came to the same meeting with stadium plans much farther along.
Oakland is behind schedule compared to other markets, with the possibility of Raiders relocation looming large in the not-so-distant future.
Without a delay or the NFL returning to L.A. with other teams, catching up might be hard to do.
Schaaf, sworn into office in January, is trying to speed up a process slowed by ineffective methods past.
“We have a lot of lost time,” Schaaf said Thursday evening in a press conference. "We have had some fumbles, to use a football term. We have lost some valuable time and we recognize why the Raiders have looked at other options, but the Raiders continue to say that their preference is to stay in Oakland. (Owner) Mark Davis talks with passion about that Oakland fan base.
“We are focused. We remain focused, and we are not going to let the Los Angeles story distract us.”
The Los Angeles story is a complicated tale with several options before the NFL. St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is promoting a stadium development in Inglewood for his team. The Raiders and San Diego Chargers have gone in on a joint stadium proposal in Carson.
The NFL is expected to decide between these competing proposals this winter, with teams able to apply for relocation starting Jan. 1 and a possible vote on these options between then and March. It is possible the league delays deciding another year, though it seems unlikely.
Schaaf said she met with a Raiders delegation including owner Mark Davis before the city’s presentation in New York and will continue to do so in hopes of building a new football-only stadium on the current O.co Coliseum site.
Without specific stadium proposal facts and figures, Oakland’s presentation focused on why the city is a good location for an NFL team. Schaaf said she believes Oakland came out well despite being peppered by tough questions by NFL owners.
“We outlined what we have accomplished, and we are in a strong position with land that entitled and has environmental clearance and is ready to go for a new stadium,” Schaaf said. “Not every city has that. We outlined the next steps and an analysis of what we’re doing right now and how that will lead to an actual project.”
The city has been working with stadium financing company Tipping Point Sports and its CEO Mitchell Ziets -– he met with the Oakland delegation in New York and helped craft its NFL proposal –- on a plan that wouldn’t use public funds for stadium construction.
That’s a sticking point for Schaaf, who said the city will help with infrastructure but is looking for creative ways to finance the project beyond the $500 million the Raiders can contribute. That includes using bonds to monetize future revenues, including lease payments, to help with stadium construction. She is trying to get creative in ways that don't tap from the general fund while still giving Oakland a puncher's chance to keep its football team
NFL owners asked when the city could have more specifics, and Schaaf said it won’t be much longer.
“I told them that I thought we could make significant progress in two months,” Schaaf said. “That doesn’t mean we’ll have something done, but we should have a lot more specificity in a two-month period of time. I know that’s an important period for the NFL.”
A private developer would have to get involved, but the NFL seems pleased that direct talks between the city and the Raiders are occurring without a dominant third-party in the middle.
Schaaf believes development area on the Coliseum site, including future property taxes earned from new structures, is a great financing asset, though that and the possibility of an A’s ballpark could limit space for a tailgating game-day experience Davis is set on providing.
“We have a complicated site with three teams currently on it, one with dual ownership (between Oakland and Alameda County),” Schaaf said “What we’re trying to do right now is unpeel that onion and make it easier to get a deal done and put the team at the center and have them pick a development partner they like.”
Davis says the Raiders are operating on a parallel path, working on stadiums in Oakland and Carson. The Carson project has made headway, including the latest development that Disney CEO Bob Iger will lend his influence to the project as chairman of Carson Holdings, LLC.
Schaaf can only fight on her front and hope Davis would stay put if an actionable plan is created.
“I really respect that Mr. Davis and the Raiders are frustrated with Oakland,” Schaaf said. “There have been a lot of fits and starts. There has been a lot of political instability in this city over the last six years. I respect that they have looked at other options, but my job is to stay focused and not let that distract me.
“We are in negotiation mode right now, and I need to treat Mr. Davis as a trusted partner if I’m going to get something done with him.”