Oakland Offers Bait to Try to Keep Raiders in Town

Helen Christophi

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — In a last-ditch effort to keep the NFL Raiders in Oakland, city and county officials approved resolutions Tuesday authorizing them to negotiate with Hall-of-Famer Ronnie Lott to build the team a $1.3 billion stadium.

Flanked by several former Raiders, including his business partner Rodney Peete, Lott urged the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and Oakland City Council to approve a nonbinding term sheet and negotiate with the Lott Group and Fortress Investment Group to strike a stadium deal to persuade the Raiders to stay.

The City Council approved the term sheet 7-0, with one abstention. The county Board of Supervisors approved its terms 3-1, also with one abstention.

If the city and county sign off on a formal proposal, Lott and Fortress will present it to NFL owners in January when they meet to discuss the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas. The team cannot relocate unless 24 of the league’s 32 owners approve it.

“The Raider Nation is everywhere, but the heart and soul of the Raider Nation, its genesis, is here in Oakland,” former Raiders running back Marcus Allen told supervisors Tuesday. “If this team does not remain here, there will be a black hole here in the city of Oakland. We cannot let that happen.”

But Raiders owner Mark Davis is committed to Las Vegas. The Coliseum where the Raiders play is outdated, and Nevada officials and Sands Casino owner Sheldon Adelson have promised him a new $1.9 billion stadium if he agrees to ditch what Allen called the most loyal fan base in the NFL.

Under the term sheet and a 60-day exclusive negotiating agreement passed Tuesday, The Lott Group and Fortress will build a 55,000-seat stadium and a mixed-use development, including offices and hotels, on 105 acres at the Coliseum complex that are owned by Oakland and Alameda County.

The land is worth $150 million, according to the term sheet. City and county officials have yet to decide whether to lease or sell it.

Oakland would pay $200 million to build infrastructure, but won’t pay for stadium construction, according to the term sheet. That money will come from private bonds secured by city taxes generated by the stadium and the mixed-use development.

The term sheet states that none of the money will come from the city’s general fund.

The city and county also must repay $103 million in debt on the Coliseum they racked up making improvements to lure the Raiders back from Los Angeles.

The team moved there in 1982 after then-owner Al Davis tried unsuccessfully to have renovations made to the Coliseum.

“This is a great investment for the City of Oakland,” Councilman Noel Gallo said at the Tuesday meeting. “For me, it’s an opportunity to grow Oakland, to continue to make Oakland a national city.”

Some officials did not share Gallo’s sunny assessment. Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson said the Lott proposal is too vague, and expressed frustration when a Fortress Group representative couldn’t give him detailed information on how it would affect residents.

“As an elected official, I need to be honest with myself as to whether I’m gifting public funds,” Carson said.

Maya Dillard Smith, a former Oakland resident and former head of the Georgia chapter of the ACLU, voiced similar concerns during public comment Tuesday.

“If we don’t do this right, we will be saturating generations with debt,” she said.