By Steven Tavares.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors agreed to signing a term sheet with a group led by Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott to begin negotiations for a $1.3 billion football stadium in Oakland. The Oakland City Council is due to also discuss the group’s proposal Tuesday night during a day when mixed signals were given by a NFL official to loyal fans monitoring the fate of the Raiders in Oakland.
After more than three hours of discussion and public comments, Alameda County supervisors mostly voiced acceptance for the proposed term sheet offered by Lott and Fortress Investment Group, LLC. Several officials noted the county’s exposure is solely linked to the disposition of the land under the current Coliseum complex, estimated to be worth $150 million, according to a county staff report. The Coliseum is owned and jointly-run by the city of Oakland and Alameda County. The term sheet to be signed by the county is non-binding and includes an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement that could ultimately span one year.
“There have been many moons that you guys have stared at,” Lott told the county supervisors. “There have been many mornings that I have cried figuring out how to get this done.” In addition, to Lott, former NFL stars Marcus Allen, Rodney Peete and Raymond Chester spoke in favor of the proposal and for keeping the Raiders in Oakland. Fans deserve to be rewarded with a new stadium to replace the aging Coliseum, said Allen, a Super Bowl MVP while playing for the Raiders.“They deserve the team to stay in the city of Oakland,” he said. “If this team does not remain here, there will be a black hole in the city of Oakland.”
Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, however, voiced concern over the proposal and whether it will ultimately be fair to county taxpayers. “I need to be honest with myself whether I’m gifting public funds,” said Carson. On numerous occasions, he suggested the county explore selling its portion of the Coliseum complex to the city.
In a bizarre exchange between Carson and Raiders superfan Ray Perez, better known as Dr. Death, the normally reserve county supervisor lashed out at the public speaker. Upset that Perez had twice labeled Carson as a no vote for the proposal, Carson asked, “Why did you pick me out?” Perez responded, saying he had heard rumors about his Carson’s opposition. Carson strongly disputed he had told anyone how he was leaning to vote on the matter. But, later Carson rendered the lone no vote on the term sheet, leading many on social media to mock the supervisor for voting the way Perez had earlier suggested.
Meanwhile, much praise was reserved for Lott, a former safety for the 49ers and Raiders, for his trustworthiness and business acumen. “Do a vote that will make your mother proud,” said Alameda County Board President Scott Haggerty, who became emotional while talking about his mother. “She wasn’t much of football player at all. She couldn’t throw,” Haggerty deadpanned. He recounted the past fits and starts and stumbles associated with other recent stadium proposals in Oakland. “I met some characters that wanted to build a stadium in Oakland,” said Haggerty, with a derisive tone. “What it comes down to is trust, and my mother would trust Ronnie Lott.” He added, “I hope he’s someone Mark Davis wants to do business with.”
Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan voted to abstain Tuesday afternoon, but she voiced optimism about the current proposal. Chan, though, was the one supervisor who continually questioned whether the Raiders have a desire to work the city and county. “My concern is how sincere the Raiders are to staying here,” said Chan. “We don’t want to have a big wedding and have the groom not show up.”
On this front, there could be some worry. One report published while the county supervisors were in session Tuesday morning quoted an NFL official saying the deal offered by the Lott group is a “carbon copy” of other proposal coming from Oakland.
Eric Grubman, the NFL’s point man in stadium negotiations in Oakland, faulted the deal for including a third-party in negotiations and for not including the Raiders’ hierarchy in discussion. The public comment likely tamps down enthusiasm in Oakland for a new stadium and whether the NFL leaders are truly bullish on keeping the team in the East Bay. Especially since Raiders owner Mark Davis has refused to negotiate with Oakland and Alameda County officials while turning his attention to a possible stadium in Las Vegas.
NFL owners are scheduled to discuss the Raiders’ stadium issues this Wednesday. Raiders ownership could file for relocation during an owners’ meeting in January. However, several more issues must be resolved by then, including the possible $500 million relocation fee the Raiders would have to pay the NFL and whether a move to Las Vegas can win approval by two-thirds of the 32 NFL owners.
Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle said he realizes this is the city and county’s so-called final drive of the game. Having now just received the ball on their own 25-yard line, said Valle, “We have 75 yards to-go and we’ve got a great team.”
“Thank God we’re the Raiders and not the 49ers,” joked Haggerty, comparing the likely playoff-bound Raiders to the downtrodden one-win 49ers.