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Libby Schaaf on claims of nothing new out of Oakland: “I call bulls**t”

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A day after the city of Oakland sent what could be their final revised stadium plans to the NFL, Mayor Schaaf took to the podium in Oakland, along with several others, to convince everyone that the ‘revised’ part of these plans is real. That though the Raiders and the city of Oakland have been unable to come to a deal after years of trying, things are different now.

The embattled Oakland Mayor stepped behind the podium with a “Stay in Oakland” sign gracing the front of it, calling herself ‘the mistress of ceremonies’ for the event. She opened the proceedings with a speech of her own, after which several others would speak.

Schaaf endeared herself to the Silver & Black crowd, many in full game day garb, by telling a story of how she remembered attending the Raiders Super Bowl parade as a child in 1981 with mixed emotions because while they were Super Bowl champions, the team was also making plans to leave for Los Angeles, which they would do a year later.

It’s not unlike the situation now with the Raiders fresh off their first winning season in 14 years and the fans in Oakland struggling with celebrating a great, young team that may soon leave them for the bright lights of Las Vegas.

Through much of those years of lackluster football being played in Oakland, the team was also unsuccessful at getting a new stadium built. Only the past year or so of which involved Schaaf as she replaced former Mayor Jean Quan. It was primarily the failed efforts of Quan that led up to the team’s previous attempt to move the team to Los Angeles last year. A point Schaaf was sure to make.

“I cannot speak to the decade of efforts that the Raiders have had to build a new stadium for themselves in their home market of Oakland,” said Schaaf. “I know that that decade has had three other mayors, eight other city administrators, but what I am here to talk about and what I ask the Raiders and the NFL to focus on is what we have on the table right now. We are all here today united in our effort to keep the Raiders in their rightful home of Oakland, the birthplace of the Raider Nation.

“There has been a story out there and it is a myth that we are here to dispel. It goes something like this: People are saying that Oakland’s efforts to build a new stadium have been stalled for years. Nothing has changed and therefore the Raiders have no choice but to leave. We are calling bullshit on that.”

The crowd on-hand roared in appreciation for the Mayor’s passionate use of profanity, their reaction prompting her to say “I told you I was from Oakland” which only further endeared her to them.

“Back to my polite script; that is simply not the case.” Added Schaaf, going on to acknowledge the years of frustration felt on all sides with regard to the stadium situation in Oakland.

She then laid out several developments of late which she believes change things from the dead ends and road blocks of years past to the current situation.

1. Public/private financing

“In the past we did not have a favorable public/private finance package. Now we do,” said Schaaf.

The public portion she is speaking of the $200 million in public money for infrastructure and site preparations which Schaaf said is in line with funding provided for other stadiums. This money is to be repaid through revenue generated by the project.

The private portion comes from Fortress Investments, which is assuming a role which on the surface appears similar to what Bank of America is giving the Raiders in Vegas.

“We are able to get this done because Fortress has agreed to put up $600 million. And they agree to assume responsibility for cost overruns as well as guarantee $200 million in PSL sales. When you add that together with the NFL G4 loan of $300 million and the fact that in Oakland you don’t need a roof, you don’t need a relocation fee and you don’t need a practice facility – we already have one -- you get a smart, responsible financial package that does not saddle the Raiders with an unmanageable debt load or expose them to the uncertainties of starting from scratch in a completely untested market.”

2. Stadium site tenants

“In the past there were three tenants at the current coliseum site – the Warriors, the A’s, and the Raiders – but that situation has fundamentally changed, making the path forward much clearer,” Schaaf continued. “The Warriors have recently broken ground on their new arena -- still in this market I may add --, and the A’s have new leadership that is committed to building a new stadium in Oakland.”

The proposal made to the NFL Friday showed options should the A’s decide to build on the current site or build elsewhere. Either option would have the Raiders new stadium being constructed on the 55-acre southern portion of the 133-acre lot while the Raiders and the A’s continue to play their games in the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum next door. Schaaf saying “there is enough room for everyone.”

3. Everyone on the same page

“In the past we did not have consensus between the city and county and a vision that was supported by all stake holders in Oakland and throughout the region. Now we do.”

Jim Wonderman from the Bay Area Council echoed Schaaf on this point.

“The major members of business are members of the Bay Area Council,” said Wonderman. “During the week they look like me. But I tell you on Sunday a lot of them look like you (the fans). So, if anybody questions if there’s not support from the business community to keep the Raiders here, that’s another misgiving and just and incorrect statement.”

The Bay Area Council has had meeting with Schaaf, Fortress, and the NFL over the past few months. But the one important group they haven’t had the chance to meet with is the Raiders. Though Wonderman said he has spoken with Mark Davis to whom he made a promise.

“I committed to [Mark Davis] that if the owners decide to give some time to send you back to the table for the NFL to actually help Mayor Schaaf and Drew [McKnight] and Ronnie [Lott] and the team to make this deal happen, we in the business community and personally in my group we will help put the deal together that makes this one of the great moments not just for Oakland, not even just for the Bay Area, but for the NFL.”

4. Not ‘too little too late’

“We have kept our ongoing and constant conversations (with the NFL) private, and there has been steady progress throughout these two years,” Schaaf continued. “This group has worked tirelessly and in good faith to lay the foundation for a new stadium for Mark Davis and the Raiders. We’ve walked a fine line, being careful not to get ahead of the Raiders in defining the vision of the stadium or the surrounding development. But we have removed every major obstacle, we’ve answered their questions, we have created a financial plan that does not burden the team with a billion dollars of debt, yet delivers a world class new stadium in Oakland, the Raiders rightful home.”

Schaaf and the city of Oakland obviously don’t think what the progress they have made is ‘too little’. And a recent account of how the Patriots were on the brink of moving to Connecticut if not for last minute work by then NFL executive Roger Goodell provides an example that it’s never too late.

5. Site readiness/superiority

“Let me put it very, very simply: There is 55 acres of premium land is ready for a shovel to go in it tomorrow for a new stadium for the Raiders. That is ample land, it does not require us to kick the Oakland A’s out of town. 55 acres is enough. And secondly the land deal is as firm and solid as it possibly can be without the Raiders at the table. That is all we are asking of the NFL; recognize your home market, recognize we have a viable plan, get the Raiders back to the table with us, and forget the temptations of Sin City. This is your home.”

Drew McKnight from Fortress Investment Group then spoke of not just the readiness of the site, but the location with regard to access.

“We were here in August touring the site with Councilman Reid and Ronnie [Lott] and we had a sports consultant with helped build the stadium in Texas, helped redesign the stadium in Cleveland,” said McKnight. “He looked at the site, he looked at the BART station, he saw the [freeway] and he saw the airport and he said ‘this is the single best site for a sports complex in the country’.”

“There are a lot of questions in Vegas about how all the numbers work. There are no questions here. These numbers work and we’re here to guarantee it.”

City Councilman Larry Reid said NFL VP Eric Grubman agreed that the site was one of the best in the world due to the infrastructure that is already in place. Reid noted the Amtrak rail with stops just outside the stadium along with the BART, AC Transit, the 880 freeway and the newly constructed airport connector tram which carries passengers the three miles from the airport to the coliseum and back.

While all this was going on in Oakland, Ronnie Lott and Rodney Peete are at the owners meetings in Arizona trying to pass this information on and convince at least 9 other NFL owners that they have something in Oakland that deserves at least further consideration from the Raiders.

Reports up to this point suggest the NFL has the votes form the owners necessary to approve the Raiders move to Las Vegas. Just 24 of 32 votes are needed. That vote is expected to occur on Monday.

Also see: Roger Goodell letter to Oakland Mayor: Still ‘significant complications’ to stadium plan, no ‘viable solution’