Coliseum City Unveiled
By Robert Gammon and Nate Seltenrich
East Bay Express
Jean Quan has taken a political beating this fall, particularly from Occupy Oakland and the insurgent recall campaign. But on Friday, the mayor came out swinging with a new proposal to build a massive sports village at the Oakland Coliseum. Dubbed “Coliseum City,” the project is designed to be privately funded and would include a new ballpark for the A’s, a new stadium for the Raiders, and a new arena for the Warriors, along with a convention center, hotel, and retail strip.
Although some of the mayor’s critics scoffed at the sweeping plan, city officials said they’ve already received interest from six private development teams in response to a request for bids. Coliseum City also appears to have strong support on the city council. “It could really be a transformative project,” Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan told the Express. “I’m really excited.” Kaplan has been working on the plan with council President Larry Reid, who said he’s also jazzed about it. “It would just be incredible if we were able to do something bigger and better than AT&T Park or LA Live” in Los Angeles, he said in a phone interview.
The mayor’s announcement followed news last week that the Warriors’ owners had talked with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee about a possible new basketball arena near AT&T Park. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Warriors also talked to Quan about a new arena in Oakland — apparently it was about Coliseum City. In addition, the San Francisco 49ers have been trying to convince the Raiders to move to the South Bay and share their planned new stadium in Santa Clara.
There also has been widespread speculation recently that Major League Baseball will soon green-light the A’s planned move to San Jose. The team has been assembling land there, and A’s co-owner Lew Wolff is good buddies with baseball commissioner Bud Selig. However, it remains unclear how the A’s can overcome the San Francisco Giants’ territorial rights to the South Bay, which prohibit any other major league club from moving there — unless three-fourths of the league’s owners agree to it.
Still, if Oakland were to lose three professional sports franchises to nearby cities on Quan’s watch, it might be a death blow to her political career. And keeping the teams will be no easy task. It remains to be seen, for example, whether the city’s efforts to keep the A’s will be successful, because the team’s ownership desperately wants to leave. Moreover, questions abound as to how Oakland would be able pull off a major new development like Coliseum City, especially if the state Supreme Court sides with Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to kill redevelopment in California.
Kaplan, however, said Coliseum City could potentially be built without redevelopment funds because the city and county already own the land. Kaplan noted that the city has been buying up property around the Coliseum so there is plenty of space for the large development. Kaplan also is working on scoring $40 million in funds from the Alameda County transportation plan. Because of its proximity to BART, rail, and I-880, the project may be eligible for transit-oriented-development funding.
As for Quan, Coliseum City represents a chance to shift the conversation in Oakland away from Occupy and the recall. She said that her administration has been talking to Major League Baseball about Coliseum City and she feels upbeat about its prospects. That’s not to say, however, that she has completely given up on the possibility of a waterfront ballpark at Victory Court in the city’s Jack London District not far from downtown. “That’s still my favorite site,” she said.