COLISEUM AUTHORITY//RAIDERS | The Raiders and the National Football League said lagging corporate support in the East Bay is hampering the team's bottom line. So, the Coliseum Joint Powers Authority (JPA) led by Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley moved to fill the deficiency with a corporate event at Raiders headquarters in Alameda featuring local politicians and past heroes of the silver and black.
However, some officials tell The Citizen the event held last month was ineffective and failed to entice a strong showing of the region's corporate heavyweights willing to aligned themselves with the team and its quest for a new stadium in Oakland.
It's one of the reasons why Save Oakland Sports, an advocacy groups hoping to keep the city's three professional sports teams in town gathered Monday at the den of Raiders fans, Ricky's Sports Theatre in San Leandro to discuss plans for their own event to draw the attention of the Chevrons, Cloroxs and Oracles in the Bay Area.
Rumors of the Raiders possibly returning to Los Angeles have periodically percolated in the press, while a conceit over the past few month floated by the team's ownership urging the city, county and its fans to line up corporate sponsorships for the team to be viable in Oakland along with a new stadium to replace the aging Coliseum, have placed greater urgency on the subject. In addition, the Raiders, like the A's, both have leases at the ballpark expiring at the end of their respective seasons.
The uncertainty over the Raiders has its notoriously faithful and rabid fans parsing every single words coming out of team management's mouth. Tom Blanda, a Raiders executive who attended Monday's meeting, said to the delight of the group, "We want the Raiders in Oakland." Later, when Blanda announced the team would donate 800 tickets per game this season for Oakland students, he added, the number of free tickets could rise in each of the next two years. A Raiders fan with exceptional listening skills quickly jumped on Blanda's words indicating the team's planning process in Oakland goes beyond this season.
Government, however, moves at a glacial pace. While the Coliseum Authority, which runs the facility, acknowledges the need to replace the stadium built in 1966, how it will be funded is a major question. Similar to comments made by Raiders owner Mark Davis to the Oakland Tribune over the weekend, Blanda says time is of the essence. "Help us create a sense of urgency," said Blanda. "What we need the politicians to understand is that we're running out of time. Tell them now is the time to rally."
The Authority is scheduled to meet Sept. 20 to unveil specifics from an Authority-funded study into building a new stadium at the current Coliseum property. Preliminary findings released last month found a 56,000-seat open-air football stadium could cost upwards of $1 billion based upon new facilities currently being built in Minneapolis and Atlanta, among others. However, the Raiders and the NFL also have their own study over the feasibility of a new stadium for the team in Oakland. A scenario whereby any positive findings in the Authority's report could be blunted by less-than-stellar prospects in the team's findings is something one JPA board member understands could occur.
Coliseum Authority board member Chris Dobbins said Monday night, "We know that could happen, but we have to stick to our stated goal, we want them to stay." He reiterated local officials need to feel a sense of urgency for moving forward with a specific stadium plan in light of Davis's public opposition to signing another short-term lease at the Coliseum without a plan for new stadium in place.
The Save Oakland Sports group hopes to hold their own corporate event sometime in November. In the meantime, its members sounded unified in showing the team their willingness to gather strong support in the business community. Dr. Death, a particularly passionate Raiders fan, even for the infamously loyal tribe, and one who travelled from Sacramento for Monday's meeting, said fans need to be highly proactive or risk losing the Raiders. With tinges of locker room bravado, Dr. Death added, "I don't take what's given to me, I take what I want."