Posted March 2, 2015
Matthew Artz - Santa Cruz Sentinel -
OAKLAND -- While the Raiders' proposed stadium just outside Los Angeles is a $1.7 billion football palace that looks like an updated version of the 49ers new home, the team's stadium plan for Oakland is apparently much more modest.
The Raiders envision building what would be the smallest stadium in the NFL, according to Floyd Kephart, a San Diego businessman who has contracted with Oakland to work on financing a new stadium for the team at the Coliseum complex.
"Mark Davis wants 55,000 seats," Kephart said. "For him, it's not about, 'can I build a football stadium that's a Taj Mahal.'"
Raiders spokesman Mike Taylor said in an email Saturday that the team's preference is for a smaller stadium.
Davis has assured city officials that he would still prefer to keep the team in Oakland if a stadium deal can be worked out in the next year.
One of the most glaring indicators, however, of the team's stagnation in advancing an Oakland stadium plan has been the lack of consensus as to exactly what type of stadium to build.
Davis, who has not unveiled any rendering of a proposed Oakland stadium, has stated publicly in recent years that his team would be fine with a smaller stadium that had plenty of parking for tailgaters.
But that didn't originally sit well with city officials who have recruited several outside investors with the aim of helping Davis fund a football stadium in Oakland. More than a year ago, the city pushed for a larger domed stadium that would be more expensive to build, but could potentially host more non-football events that city officials thought would help spur the development of shops and offices on the sprawling Coliseum property.
The dome made it into several city planning documents, but Mayor Libby Schaaf said last week that it was no longer under consideration, noting that it didn't make sense to build an enclosed stadium in a city with such a good climate.
Kephart said that Davis wants a smaller stadium because it would be less expensive to build and allow the team to keep ticket prices relatively low.
A city-commissioned report two years ago from the consulting firm AECOM recommended that the Raiders build a 56,500-seat stadium estimated at the time to cost $800 million. The report suggested a smaller stadium not necessarily because it would mean lower ticket prices, but because the Raiders lack the corporate and overall fan support to generate the level of premium seat sales that helped privately fund the 49ers new stadium in Santa Clara.
Even if the cost estimate remains the same, however, it would still leave an estimated $300 million shortfall given that Davis has said previously that the league and team could put up $500 million for a new stadium. Kephart said private financing would be available to close any gap.
While a smaller stadium would be less expensive to build, it raises questions about whether it would be large enough to host a Super Bowl -- a big potential revenue generator -- or whether major events would gravitate toward the 49ers larger facility.
O.co Coliseum, which the Raiders share with the Oakland A's, lacks many amenities that generate revenue for team owners. It also has the smallest capacity of any NFL stadium at a little more than 53,000 ever since the Raiders decided to tarp over nearly 10,000 seats to help ensure that games are sold out.
The next smallest facility is Chicago's Soldier Field, which has a capacity of 61,500. Levi's Stadium seats about 68,500, which is approximately the proposed capacity of the stadium the Raiders and San Diego Chargers are considering building in the city of Carson outside of Los Angeles.
Kephart has so far declined to name any investors who might be behind his New City Development Inc., which is in talks with the city to develop the Coliseum property. Alameda County also owns a share of the site. On Friday, Kephart tweeted that county leaders, as expected, were nearing agreement to begin talks with the city about how to move forward with the property if it is redeveloped.