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Oakland: Who will buy the city’s share of the Coliseum site?

Mercury News logo Mercury News 7/7/2021 Annie Sciacca
a group of people walking down a street: OAKLAND, CA - JULY 2: A's fans walk along the BART bridge towards the Coliseum for a game between the Oakland Athletics and the Boston Red Sox in Oakland, Calif., on July 2, 2021. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group) © Provided by Mercury News OAKLAND, CA - JULY 2: A's fans walk along the BART bridge towards the Coliseum for a game between the Oakland Athletics and the Boston Red Sox in Oakland, Calif., on July 2, 2021. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

OAKLAND — As the Oakland A’s promote their plan to leave East Oakland in favor of a new waterfront ballpark, the City Council has kickstarted a process to begin negotiations with the groups and individuals interested in buying the city’s share of the Coliseum home the team will leave behind.

The council unanimously approved on Tuesday a resolution authorizing the city administration to begin formal discussions with the five groups who have indicated they may want to buy the site for developments including sports arenas, housing and business campuses.

While the Coliseum site was owned jointly by Oakland and Alameda County, Alameda County agreed in 2019 to sell its share of the property to the Oakland A’s for $85 million.

The A’s had previously explored building a new stadium at the site, where their current home is, but team and MLB officials have since declared that the only “viable” site in Oakland for them is at Howard Terminal, the port property where they have proposed a $12 billion mixed-use ballpark development that is awaiting city approval.

Now, the city must decide what to do with the Coliseum complex, which consists of multiple parcels on more than 100 acres bounded by Interstate 880, Hegenberger Road, 66th Avenue and San Leandro Street.

Several groups have offered to the city “unsolicited” letters of interest to buy the city’s share of the property, according to Larry Gallegos, a program manager in the city’s office of economic and workforce development.

Formally allowing the city administration to open up negotiations with those groups — which the city council did unanimously during its meeting Tuesday — kicks off a crucial step in moving forward with the interested parties, Gallegos said. It also allows city staff to brief the council in closed session meetings about the status of the real estate negotiations.

Among the groups interested in buying the city’s portion of the Coliseum complex is the African American Sports and Entertainment Group, led by Oakland businessman and consultant Ray Bobbitt, former city manager Robert Bobb, developer Alan Dones and sports agent Bill Duffy.

Partnering with African American-owned investment firm Loop Capital, the group wants to buy the property for $92.5 million and land a WNBA team at the arena portion of the site, in addition to creating a Black business district, infusing housing into the space and perhaps bringing a Black-owned NFL team, Bobbitt has said.

The council is expected to decide at its July 20 meeting whether to approve an exclusive negotiating agreement with AASEG.

The scheduled vote has bothered other contenders for the property who say the city should not yet box them out of the Coliseum’s future.

Former A’s pitcher Dave Stewart has also stated his interest in buying the property for $115 million, in partnership with Lonnie Murray, a certified player agent, and working with HKS Architects. The group has not released a full detailed plan for the site, but Stewart has indicated in media reports that the group would build a stadium for the A’s if the Howard Terminal plan does not get approved and that he, too, wants to bring a WNBA team to Oakland.

Stewart, in a social media post online and in a comment to the City Council during its Tuesday meeting, chafed at the idea that AASEG will be considered at the July 20 meeting to “excusively” negotiate terms with the city.

We “genuinely want a transparent, fair, and equitable process so that Oakland can choose what’s best based on facts and viability,” Stewart wrote online.

Whichever buyer is chosen will face negotiating the future of the space with the Oakland A’s, who are slated to own the county’s half of the property. The A’s, too, are considered one of the five potential bidders for Oakland’s share of the property.

The team’s vision for the site calls for building sports facilities, housing and parks, even though they want to pursue their own stadium and separate development at Howard Terminal.

Other groups courting the city for the property include Tripp Development, helmed by California real estate developer Rick Tripp, former executive vice president Jim Bailey of the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, and William Miller of investment firm William Miller Associates.

And Floyd Kephart — the financial professional who once served as a point person for the city’s negotiations with the former Oakland Raiders over a new Coliseum stadium — has also indicated interest in the site, according to city staff.

Because there has not been any formal application period for interested parties to submit specific information about their proposals, the scope and details of each group’s plan or level of interest is varied and incomplete.

“We have not done a formal (request for proposals), meaning we don’t have apples to apples,” analogized District 6 Councilmember Loren Taylor.

Treva Reid, the councilmember for District 7 in which the Coliseum is located, also expressed that concern, and stated that the city had not done a good job so far in communicating information about the site to the public.

Residents and business owners, Reid said, “want to see the details.”

“We don’t want a rushed deal, we want the best deal,” she said.

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City staff, in a memo to the council, said that the city may eventually require the various parties to provide more information as it looks to evaluate the proposals.

Any proposal will also have to include certain community benefits which can include provisions such as union labor agreements, local employment requirements, environmental standards and open space and affordable housing.

“As a regional sport, entertainment, and employment center and destination, the property could generate thousands of high-quality/paying jobs in growth industries such as biotechnology, life sciences, research and development, multimedia, green tech and other industries,” the memo states. “It has the potential to become a major economic catalyst for the City and the region, beyond the current sports franchises.”

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