Explaining the unresolved foundational issues of Oakland’s stadium proposal to NFL

I’ve been getting a lot of questions asking to explain the what the key issues the NFL has with the Raiders stadium plan Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf presented to the NFL.

In lay men’s terms, this explains the unresolved issues the league is continues to cite.

1. With no guarantees Oakland would exercise the termination clause with A’s it could take years before construction could actually begin. The NFL needs assurance the A’s long-term lease won’t impede any project moving forward.

2. None of what Oakland proposed is guaranteed to be acceptable to the County Alameda, which is another unresolved contingency issue
that could delay the project moving forward. In addition, there is no blanket approval by the Oakland City Council. The proposal, therefore, is an ENA, not a binding agreement.

3. The partial land being proposed doesn’t work for Raiders as, with the Raiders paying the entire bill for the stadium, it’s not
sufficient enough for development around stadium to create revenue streams to help offset construction cost.

4. None of which even gets into the third party presence of Fortress, and the terms that would be required to pay back the $600m loan being proposed to the Raiders.

Covering the Chargers as an L.A. team, and not playing the blame game

In the two weeks since the Chargers decided to move from San Diego to Los Angeles, some readers and twitter followers have hit me up
essentially insinuating that by not chiding the Chargers for their decision I am supporting what they’ve done and absolving them from any blame for the break up with San Diego.

Or that, by covering their story moving forward – as the Los Angeles Chargers – rather than looking back I’m overlooking the role they played in how things turned out.

I’m not.

Having covered this story as long as I have, I think I’ve heard all the sides by now and can comfortably say the fault rests everywhere and is not overly weighted in one direction or the other. From the city to the team to the circumstances and complexities of the state we reside, there’s more than enough blame to go around.

And at the risk of oversimplifying a very complicated and emotional break up, I’ll say this: When a couple reaches divorce court, pretty safe to assume there were mistakes made by each side in the years leading up to that conclusion.

I suspect that’s the case in this divorce as well.

I do believe both sides wanted it to work. But I don’t think either could figure out how to make that happen. California is a tough nut to crack.

And I just think Dean Spanos and the Chargers finally reached a point where they ran out of hope that a path to a solution would emerge. That, coupled with the fact they had a guaranteed 30-year stadium solution waiting for them in Los Angeles, led to their decision.

I can’t sit here and judge that decision, either. And I’ll tell you why: No one I’ve talked to, and I’ve spoken to plenty of people, has ever told me the Chargers walked away from a guaranteed solution in San Diego.

No one I’ve ever talked to has said they shunned any previous guaranteed stadium solutions, either

To my knowledge, and folks can correct me if I’m wrong, whatever stadium proposals materialized over the years always had contingencies attached to them that, for one reason or other, rendered them unlikely, untenable or indigestible to one side or another or both or to the voting public. It was never one thing or one person or one side that killed proposals, it always seemed to be a collection of things.

Even this most recent plan was contingent on various votes from the public to the county board of supervisors to the state legislature. That’s no one’s fault, those are the rules we have to operate by in California.

Would I have given it one more shot hoping those votes would have turned out favorably in two years?


But I also understand the alternative decision as well. Especially with the certainty that was waiting in Los Angeles.

All that said, they are now a part of the Los Angeles landscape which means I have to cover them. And for me, the majority of my coverage and focus will be on what happens now that they are here.

That doesn’t mean I’m taking any sides or blaming one side more than the other for them moving. I suspect the good reporters in San Diego will sort all that out in the days and months and years to come. And I suspect a final verdict will one day be rendered – if it hasn’t already.

But for me, judgement of the Chargers begins from this point on.

NFL VP Eric Grubman sheds light on meeting with Oakland/Lott Group

While the Oakland Raiders keep plugging away at their plan to relocate to Las Vegas, the city of Oakland is trying to put together a stadium plan to keep them in the Bay Area.

And on Monday, they filled the Raiders and representatives from the National Football League in on the details.

It comes in the form of a $1.3 billion stadium plan Oakland and the County of Alameda have been working on with former NFL great Ronnie Lott, who has partnered with money management firm Fortress Investment on a development deal on the 105 acres on which the current Raiders stadium sits.

You can read more about the plan from the East Bay Times here.

According to multiple league sources, there are significant issues with the proposal in that it puts a third party developer between the Raiders and the land and that stadium and infrastructure funding will lean on NFL driven revenue.

The NFL has long maintained to Oakland and other cities it looks unfavorably on stadium deals in which its teams take a secondary place behind third-party real estate developers. That was a major issue with the NFL in last year’s failed effort in Oakland backed by Floyd Kephart.

It also has issues when public contribution toward infrastructure and stadium construction relies on revenue generated by the presence of the team. For example, a bond that will ultimately be paid for by new taxes on the stadium such as the one Oakland is proposing.

“The Raiders revenues will underwrite the infrastructure,” said an NFL source. “That is an issue because there are currently no such taxes.”

Or, as a high-ranking NFL executive described it: “That’s not a contribution, that’s a loan.”

The NFL was represented at Monday’s meeting by league vice president Eric Grubman, who agreed on Tuesday to share his impressions.

Grubman will be in Dallas on Wednesday as NFL owners meet to discuss, among other things, the Raiders plans to relocate to Las Vegas and where the Chargers stand in San Diego or the option they hold to join the Rams in Los Angeles.

Q: You met yesterday with Oakland reps and the Lott group. From a league perspective do you feel they have a proposal in place the NFL deems on the right track to being viable?

EG: It is important to understand that there is no proposal on the table to the Raiders. The term sheet represents the basis under which Fortress/Lott would gain an exclusive right to complete their negotiation with the city and county.

Q: Based on what you heard and saw, would you advise the Raiders to pursue this deal?

EG: No comment.

Q: If not, what are the issues the NFL has with the proposal?

EG: There are several major unknowns, including a plan for the A’s, the timing of construction, and the financial basis on which Fortress would put in hundreds of millions of dollars.

Q: Have you advised Oakland and the Lott group to make any adjustments?

A: We did not negotiate yesterday. The meeting was requested in order for them to describe their initiative.

Raiders stadium bid in Las Vegas getting big push from Nevada Governor

As Nevada legislatures prepare to decide whether to approve $750 million from a state tourism tax for a proposed $1.9 billion stadium in Las Vegas – and the potential new home for the Raiders – Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is throwing his support behind the project.

Sandoval wrote a piece in the Las Vegas Review-Journal in which he urged Nevada to recognize “a rare opportunity to seize the moment and raise Las Vegas — already the best in the world — to the next level of entertainment and hospitality.”

You can read the Governor’s story here.

Sandoval’s hand picked Southern Nevada Tourism and Infrastructure Committee tasked with analyzing the stadium proposal being pushed by Sands Corp. head Sheldon Adelson, Majestic Realty and the Raiders, unanimously approved the $750 million public contribution – which will be raised by an increased hotel tax – to go toward stadium construction. The remaining cost will be covered by the Raiders, Adelson and Majestic.

Upon approval by the SNTIC, Sandoval called for a special session of state legislatures between Oct. 10-14 for final approval. Sandoval is pushing hard for that to happen, as evidenced by his piece in the Review-Journal.

As he wrote:

“I’m proud of Las Vegas and the work that has been done to create these possibilities for Nevada’s future and the next phase of our state’s evolution. To lead, we must be bold, thoughtful and visionary. This is what the new Nevada is all about.”

If Nevada approves the $750 million – which Sandoval points out will essentially come from the pockets of out-of-towners staying in Nevada hotels – the Raiders will apply for relocation early next year with the hope of getting the necessary 24 votes from fellow NFL owners to move to Las Vegas.

The Raiders turned their attention on Las Vegas almost immediately after their Carson stadium project with the San Diego Chargers lost out to the Rams Inglewood stadium proposal last January in a vote of NFL owners.

The Raiders have an option to join the Rams in Inglewood, but are second in line to the Chargers and must wait for the Chargers situation in San Diego to get sorted out before getting clarity on their L.A. fate.

With time of the essence and the Raiders wanting to secure their long-range future sooner rather than later, they are now focused on Las Vegas.

Raiders owner Mark Davis has continually expressed a commitment to Las Vegas should Nevada approve funding, and told me last May he will honor his word.

With the Governor of Nevada making such a strong call for support – and taking that message straight to the people while touting new jobs and growth possibilities for Southern Nevada – it’s hard to imagine state legislatures turning against him when they vote later this month.

That means the Raiders might soon be filing for relocation, and then taking their case to fellow owners for approval.

As for Oakland, the Raiders have privately and publicly expressed little hope in anything getting done locally to help solve their long-time stadium situation. Hence the move they are making on Las Vegas.

And while former NFL great Ronnie Lott is working with the city of Oakland and Alameda County to build a new stadium for the Raiders, it’s still very much in the preliminary stages and Lott has been instructed by lawyers not to discuss financing details.

Davis and the Raiders have talked periodically with Lott. But there is little to indicate it’s anything more than just that: talk.

So the focus is 100 percent on Las Vegas, and if Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval soon gets his wish, the Raiders might finally lock down their long range future with a new stadium.

And a new home to boot.



NFL will defer to Raiders on Oakland stadium pursuit

I’ve been getting a lot of questions this morning about a story in the San Francisco Chronicle suggesting NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is making calls to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf “pushing the idea of letting a predominantly African American investment group, led by former 49ers star Ronnie Lott, help build a new stadium for the Raiders in Oakland.”

You can read the story here.

Before getting into the league’s involvement in this – and my league sources made it very clear as recently as this morning they will defer to the Raiders on their Oakland stadium pursuit – the Raiders position on Lott’s group or any other group is secondary at this point to the various obstacles impeding a stadium deal in Oakland.

As it relates specifically to Lott and his team, the fairest and most accurate way to put it upon canvassing the Raiders is this: The Raiders have tremendous respect for Lott as an NFL icon and former Raiders player, but from their perspective the issues in Oakland as it relates to land use and the long-term lease the Oakland A’s have at the Oakland Coliseum are far more pressing and pertinent in securing a stadium deal than identifying a potential developer or investor to help bridge any funding gap.

The Raiders can’t move forward in Oakland – with Lott or anyone else – until the city of Oakland and the County of Alameda provide clarity on usage and cost of the 120 acres the Raiders wish to use for stadiums for themselves and the A’s.

Which is why the Raiders have turned their attention to Las Vegas, where they have made a commitment to relocate if Nevada approves funding on a proposed stadium.

As far as the commissioner making calls on Lott’s behalf, upon doing some poking around, I think it’s a bit ambitious to conclude Goodell is making calls urging Mayor Schaaf to support a group led by Lott for the reasons described. Or that the commissioner is backing any particular Oakland plan – let alone one without the current support of the Raiders.

The league’s advice to Oakland has always been – and continues to be – to remain open to the interests of the community, including developers, but to place the Raiders at the center of any proposal.

The league is very clear – and I check in on this periodically, including today – they will defer to the Raiders on their Oakland stadium pursuit. It’s the Raiders call to determine and figure out whether there is a viable proposal to pursue.

And as a league source indicated this morning, the NFL is abundantly transparent on that stance.