Oakland still has chance to keep its teams
OAKLAND, Calif. — They say in sports that it’s better to be lucky than good.
And perhaps no city has been luckier than Oakland when it comes to holding onto its restless teams.
Sticking to their guns against helping pay for new stadiums, city leaders have watched Major League Baseball keep the A’s out of San Jose and the NFL this week deny the Raiders a slot in Los Angeles next season. Even the Golden State Warriors announced Friday that they are in town another three seasons as they battle twin lawsuits against their proposed move to San Francisco.
For now, Oakland is the Hotel California of professional sports, but will the city’s luck run out?
Oakland is better positioned to keep the A’s and Raiders now that the teams’ first choices for relocation appear off the table, Stanford sports economist Roger Noll said. But that doesn’t solve the underlying issue: that the city lacks the financial and political will to help pay for new stadiums, and its teams have been unwilling to commit to a market that can’t match the wealth found on the other side of the bay.
“Sure, they’re in a better position,” Noll said of Oakland. “But the problem is I don’t think there is any way they can take advantage of that. I don’t think it’s likely in the long run they keep anybody.”
The city is offering to essentially split the 120-acre Coliseum complex between the Raiders and the A’s, but both teams have said they would want full control of the site. The A’s, who say they don’t need a stadium subsidy, meanwhile, are looking at other locations, but they haven’t yet found anything to their liking.
So for now, East Bay fans remain in limbo.
The Warriors are still seen as San Francisco-bound, but they must fend off lawsuits from the Mission Bay Alliance, a well-heeled group that doesn’t want the team’s new arena next door to the UC San Francisco Medical Center campus in Mission Bay.
The group has filed one lawsuit seeking to overturn the team’s expedited environmental approval process and another one challenging whether the public university had authority to give away its view corridor to the Warriors.
“Either one of those two lawsuits would help kill the arena plan at Mission Bay, and there may be more lawsuits coming,” said Sam Singer, the group’s spokesman. The Warriors did not respond to requests for comment.
The Raiders, meanwhile, appear shut out of Los Angeles. The team’s only hope to land there at this point is for the San Diego Chargers to turn down the opportunity to join the newly re-christened Los Angeles Rams in their proposed multibillion dollar Inglewood stadium. That is considered unlikely, which has led San Antonio to begin a push for the Oakland club.
ESPN reported that Red McCombs, a San Antonio billionaire and former owner of the Minnesota Vikings, has already reached out to Raiders owner Mark Davis, but observers questioned whether Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Houston Texans owner Bob McNair would try to block a third team in Texas.
“Should Jones and McNair oppose a relocation to San Antonio, they will likely be able to garner enough remaining ownership support to make a relocation unlikely,” Sports Business Group Principal David Carter said.
Jones himself appeared curious why the Raiders would even consider such a move. In an interview with Pro Football Talk last year, he said San Antonio was 97 percent Cowboys fans.
“We do a lot of things down there, we train down there,” the Cowboys owner said. “So if they go down there, they’ll be surrounded with a lot of Cowboy fans and that’s good, that’s good.”
From an economic standpoint, the A’s have more incentive than the Raiders to stay in Oakland, Noll said. While NFL teams share television revenue equally, local television rights are an increasingly big chunk of a baseball team’s revenues. That would make the A’s more valuable in a new Oakland stadium than they would be in a smaller region such as Charlotte, Portland or San Antonio, Noll said.
“San Antonio would be terrible for the A’s, but it’s much better for the Raiders,” he said.
Andy Dolich, a sports business consultant and former A’s executive, said he expected the A’s to eventually build a new stadium in Oakland, which he said is still a viable big-league city.
“This is a vibrant area where people are supporting their teams,” he said. “If the Warriors stayed there, they would be sold out for years to come. And if the A’s were totally committed to winning and not committed to the story that they are the poor little sister, we know what could happen in attendance because it has happened before.”