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Raiders stadium hopes at mercy of Lew Wolff, Oakland Coliseum board

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Christian Petersen

Something stinks in Oakland. Usually it's literally the stadium sewage system backing up and flooding the locker rooms. That stench spewing from the A's clubhouse is a physical manifestation of the entire stadium situation in Oakland and A's owner Lew Wolff's part in it.

The Coliseum Authority is not aligning in lockstep to march to Wolff's orders today. On the day they were all to meet and sign the final papers on the A's 10-year coliseum extension, several of those city council members staged a boycott. And things can't move forward until they show up and a vote is cast to approve it.

According to a report in the Mercury News, four of the eight members on the Oakland Alameda Coliseum Authority were part of the boycott. The four missing members included two City Council members who sit on the coliseum board: Rebecca Kaplan and Larry Reid. The other two were Aaron Goodwin and Yui Hay Lee, both appointees of the city of Oakland.

For the most part boycotts like this tend to be more about political posturing -- especially when you consider one of those involved (Rebecca Kaplan) is running for Mayor. But there isn't a lot to like about this 10-year lease plan from the perspective of anyone not named Lew Wolff.

On the surface it appears Wolff wants to keep the A's in Oakland. But the actual reasoning behind the extension may not be taken at face value. A Wolff in sheep's clothing, perhaps?

Wolff has long wanted to move the A's to San Jose. The only reason the A's haven't skipped town already is because their efforts have been thwarted by the Giants' stranglehold on the territorial rights to the South Bay. Wolff hasn't given up on that dream just yet. And until he can blow that house down, he lies in wait, gorging himself on the weary, elderly pensioner that is Coliseum.

In case you were wondering, in this analogy the fans are the naive little girl in the red hood who gets devoured at the end of the story (Despite the many G-rated remakes, that's really what happens in that story, look it up).

Meanwhile, the Raiders and the city of Oakland have been taking very real steps to remain together. Their hopes are tied to the Coliseum City project which includes building two new stadiums on its existing location along with renovating the entire area.

Wolff wants no part of the project and is proceeding with solely his own interests in mind. If the A's remain in the current Oakland Coliseum, the Raiders and the city of Oakland's efforts to get a new stadium(s) are compromised.

Just days ago, it was announced that a deal had been struck. Current Mayor Jean Quan says that is simply not true... yet.

"The A's have been an important part of the Oakland community and an inspiring Oakland team for decades," Quan said in a statement. "We are all working to make sure the A's stay here at home in Oakland. The JPA has been negotiating with the team for months. As recently as last night, they received a new counteroffer from the team, which we have not yet had opportunity to review in depth. We are still negotiating, so were surprised by the announcement of an agreement. We plan to meet tomorrow, continue negotiations, and hope there will be an agreement soon."

Again, this could all just be posturing to make a political statement. This deal may ultimately go through. Then again, you never know what could happen at this point.

The Raiders and A's have a lot of overlapping fans. Wolff's plans put the two Oakland teams at odds, with any support for one team's stadium efforts being in direct opposition to the other. He has low overhead in his current situation which leads to a substantial profit margin and he is digging in his heels at the expense of the city and the fans.

This deal is a stall tactic while Wolff continues to hold out hope he can pry the Giants' territorial rights away from the South Bay. Even though at this point there is no indication San Jose will ever be a realistic option. This has forced him to consider the possibility of a new stadium in Oakland, though he refuses to be part of Coliseum City because he wants total control over the stadium and the current project has investors involved.

With all this said, the big question Raiders fans are asking is how exactly this affects whether the Raiders remain in Oakland?

The Raiders current stadium lease extension is up after this season. If they were to stay in Oakland, the city would have to either alter or abandon the Coliseum City proposal. It is the investors and real estate developers that are making such a project even possible. Without it, there is a big question of where the funding will come from. Not only that but breaking ground on a new stadium on the current site can't happen for another two years at least as the out clauses in the A's new contract carry 2-years notice.

Lew Wolff said he is getting the extension so he can allow time to reassess the situation. If what he comes up with doesn't allow for the Raiders to build a new stadium on the current site, they may have to seek their home elsewhere. Up to this point there's little reason to think Wolff will make any decision to accommodate the Raiders.

What we are left with is an uneasy waiting game that, as per usual, will not have any movement until the deadline. At which time the Raiders will either pack up and leave, or be stuck waiting at least two years to even begin construction on a new facility. Neither of which is good news for Oakland.