The only thing that now stands in the way of the Oakland Athletics playing the next three seasons at O.co Coliseum is baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s signature. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a ten-year lease agreement previously approved by the Oakland City Council and the Joint Powers Authority (JPA) that oversees the publicly owned stadium.
“This has been a long process,” said county Supervisor Nate Miley, who later added, “the deal itself stands on its own.”
Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan said the presence of the A’s in Oakland is a point of civic pride and a source of jobs. The agreement is also in the best interests of taxpayers, she said. “Obviously, it’s gone through more twists and turns than any road anyone has ever seen,” Chan said, “and I think it’s really clear that none of us would vote for a deal that keep the A’s at any cost.”
The new lease could run as long as ten years, but also contains and out clause for the A’s if they chose to leave the city. Doing so would require the team to pay the $1.35 million annual rent through the end of the lease. It also gives the A’s a two-year window in the event a deal for stadiums, including one for the Raiders, materializes. Although a long disagreement over $5 million in parking taxes pocketed by the A’s is now off the table, the team will purchase a $10 million video screen/scoreboard system.
With an agreement in place, now comes the hard part in figuring out where the team will play in the longterm. “Both Mr. Wolff and representatives from Major League Baseball made it clear that getting a ten-year license extension was a tantamount next step in our ability to move forward,” said Miley. He reiterated his belief that the lease deal, while not optimal, will help achieve the ultimate goal of constructing a new ballpark in Oakland. “I think we’ve built up a lot of goodwill along the way to try to achieve that goal.” However, added Miley, “there’s no guarantees the A’s will stay here.”
The total debt stemming from the return of the Raiders in 1995 and remodeling of the Coliseum and Oracle Arena today stands at $194.1 million, said Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi. $106.5 million of that accounts for O.co Coliseum alone. Any new construction at the Coliseum property will entail retiring the debt. Both Alameda County and the City of Oakland pay roughly $10 million in annual subsidies to operate the facilities.
Attorney John Streeter, the JPA’s lead negotiator, said Tuesday that A’s management has indicated a willingness to possibly pay down the bond debt. Miley said the county administrator and auditor’s office has provided some financial documentation to the A’s regarding the Coliseum’s debt. “This is something the A’s have shown an appetite for, as well as Major League Baseball,” said Miley. Retiring of the Coliseum debt could be included in a deal for property, he added.
The City of Oakland, however, would have to sit out any potential talks with the A’s, at least, until October since it has already entered an exclusive negotiating agreement last year with master developer, BayIG, in hopes of building the Coliseum City project. This plan includes a football stadium for the Oakland Raiders and potentially a ballpark and arena, along with restaurants, hotels and retail options. That deal, however, has shown little life with some public officials critical of the lack of funding offered, thus far, by the developers group.