NFL Owners Meeting Dallas Preview, Oakland Coliseum City Update
The NFL will hold its special ‘one day’ Owners Meeting this Wednesday, December 2nd at the Four Seasons Dallas Resort at Las Colinas, which is really Irving, Texas. What is neat about the venue is its proximity to DFW International Airport, as well as the fact that it’s the kind of luxurious digs the NFL Owners prefer, even if it’s for a short stay. All the better to continue the matter of pondering the NFL’s future in Los Angeles.
The last time we met was in New York City, and for the special presentations by the leaders of Oakland, San Diego, and St. Louis. That seemed like yesterday; now the Dallas meeting is more of a formality, and to determine the timetable for the application of intent to relocate to Los Angeles and for the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, and St. Louis Rams. While no decisions will be made, it’s one more place where the NFL Family can gather and talk – and those discussions are at times as valuable as the decisions.
While the NFL Owners talk LA timetables on Wednesday, it’s important to set the stage by checking in on where each home city is, starting with Oakland.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf scored points with her presentation to the NFL in New York, but now she’s got to deliver a stadium, so she’s on the clock more than ever. She realizes the entry of Disney Chairman Robert Iger has meaning only if Oakland does nothing. To that end, a new version of the Raiders stadium proposal is being readied – this one will feature a $200 million lease revenue bond issue.
No, it’s not the Industrial Development Bond approach I have called for, and for months, and that’s because this group of geniuses insists on reinventing the wheel. If I sound salty and derisive of the plan, I am, and it’s because I have ran the numbers, and know this stadium deal can be done without a commitment of public money. It would be really nice if Mayor Schaaf would get tough, call all of us into one big series of meetings, and let us battle it out, plan for plan.
The political hangup in the $200 million lease revenue bond issue version of Coliseum City (no, that’s not a mis-print, the total deal is for about $1 billion, but that’s the city’s share) is who will be the backstop: City, County, or Raiders. Mayor Schaaf wants it to be the Oakland Raiders and not the City of Oakland (the question is, will the City Council out-vote her, but I doubt it), but that kind of game of determining who holds the hot potato shows how little real analysis is being done. It’s why a task force format is better, and also is a good reason why us fans should just grab the bull by the horns and form our own group, and then sell it to the Raiders ourselves. I say that, because the answer is to form another legal entity and have that organization be the holder of the mortgage note for that portion of the Coliseum that’s valued at $200 million. Thus, if the bond issue goes into default, the bond trustee winds up owning that part of the Coliseum and not the public entities.
Also, this whole Oakland deal is without a stadium developer, and that brings me to my next bombshell to come: I know of a San Francisco developer who wants to do this, and has worked with the National Football League at a very high level, as well as having carved out a reputation as a doer in the San Francisco Bay Area. He knows all of the politicians, and knows Oakland, too. When I mention the name, those who know will slap their heads and say “Of course! Let’s bring him in.” This person would be the perfect Oakland counter to Carmen Policy and Robert Iger in Carson.
I’ll save mention of that person for later. Now, let’s look at San Diego and its Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
Mayor Faulconer is my bet to be one part of the whole that wins this whole horse race and that’s because he’s purely aggressive. On November 20th, the Mayor announced he was meeting with Kansas City Chiefs Owner Clark Hunt, and to present his stadium plan and answer any questions. And his staff is putting what he calls “the finishing touches” on the Mission Valley environmental impact report. The problem is the one piece of the puzzle Faulconer needs is not there, and that’s the San Diego Chargers. The Bolts continue to avoid meeting with the Mayor, unlike Oakland. Why the Chargers have adopted this litigation-inviting strategy is beyond me, but they’re working it to death.
Why piss off politicians, treating them with contempt, as if they don’t matter? I mean given that Faulconer has brought not just the city attorney, but San Diego’s representative in the California Legislature to bear on the matter of retaining the Chargers, also means they’re in a good position to screw the team if they’re of a mind to do so. That could be in the form of some new legislation Faulconer gets California and Washington politicians to back that makes it hard for the Chargers to move a muscle. Chargers Spokesperson Mark Fabiani likes to poke the bear; I just don’t think Mark has considered how sharp the bear’s teeth are. They should take a page from the St. Louis Rams playbook, as that organization knows it’s in a can’t lose place: it’s going to get a new stadium, and that much is certain.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon as much made it clear in his Monday meeting with Rams Owner Stan Kronke. And David Peacock, the leader of Govenor Nixon’s task force, said that “of the public hearings we have had, 23 speakers have been supportive, and six negative” – so the political will to get a new stadium done seems to be on its way to overcoming the negative feelings of St. Louis Councilmember Antonio French, who’s vowed to vote against the proposal. He’s one person.
The St. Louis Rams New Stadium is so ready to go, it even as a contractor and a naming rights agreement. It just needs the political thumbs up, and it’s a go. The ball would be solidly in the NFL’s court. Some adjustments here and there, under the direction of the NFL’s LA point person Eric Grubman, and it’s a done deal.
Why An NFL Expansion Team In LA Makes More Sense Than Moving A Team
Lets face it: the reason we’re along on this magical mystery tour of cities where NFL meetings are held on moving a team into the LA Market is because the NFL Owners felt the earthquake of a deal that was former Microsoft Chairman Steve Balmer buying the L.A. Clippers for $2 billion. This is about a chance for one current owner to have what would be one of the richest teams in sport, if a deal in LA was done correctly.
But let’s think about that.
LA is certainly larger than the San Francisco Bay Area, but from a perspective of pure per-capita wealth, it’s a distant… 17th. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics Data, San Jose and San Francisco both have about double the per-capita Gross Metropolitan Product of the LA Metro Area. That’s approximately $61,000 for LA versus $127,000 and $103,000 for San Jose and San Francisco , respectively. So, you, as the LA stadium developer, are going to push what by accounts will be the NFL’s highest level of seat licenses on the people of a region with 50 percent of the buying power of the SF Bay Area? And the Oakland Raiders are really going to go for that deal? I certainly hope someone with the Silver and Black can do math, because this proposal’s making no sense to me.
If I am in an area where the buying power is better, for my team it translates into higher value revenue streams provided a put a good entertainment product out there. That, in tern, impacts franchise value. Point I’m making is, if the Raiders can’t figure out how to increase their overall value in the San Francisco Bay Area, how can they be trusted to do it in LA, where it’s harder to do? Perhaps that’s why Bob Iger’s involved. But he’s not God, and unless he’s got some wild, out-of-the-box tie in with MARVEL’s Avengers, I can’t see him changing the basic regional economics that govern this deal.
In fact, the need to recast Raiders management to do better business in the LA market is exactly why the NFL needs to focus on putting an expansion team in Los Angeles. The Raiders are Oakland and if anything, the Oakland Town Hall Meeting showed just how much a part of our city the Silver and Black are – LA could never approach that, and will never approach that. The Raiders don’t fit with the LA Style of pastels, pumps, performers, and palms. Better the LA Stars, than the LA Raiders: California Blue, red, gold, and white work better than Silver and Black in Los Angeles.
Bob Iger and Carmen Policy would be free to partner with studios and actually form a football team that’s designed for the entertainment industry from the start. Players would be actors in Netflix TV series, and games would be marketed with full storylines in a “Game Of Thrones” fashion, all the better to make games for the smartphone. I could go on and on, but shoe-horning an existing NFL team into the LA market of today offers a missed opportunity that an expansion team brings.