Why Oakland Coliseum site doesn’t work for big-league teams

For the Raiders, the lure was Nevada’s promise of $750 million in hotel tax money to help build a stadium in Las Vegas. But there’s no such taxpayer boost coming for the Warriors as they move to San Francisco, nor for the A’s as they seek to relocate closer to downtown.


Instead, “a lot of what drives these deals is what you can build next door,” said P.J. Johnston, the Warriors’ spokesman for their Mission Bay arena project.

And that’s where the Coliseum comes up short — because while there may be acres of cheap land nearby, it’s the location that counts.

In moving to San Francisco, the Warriors will not only own their arena — they’ll be able to build two moneymaking office towers next door.

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And exiting Oracle Arena for Mission Bay will also let the Warriors tap into San Francisco’s $754 million-a-year convention industry — a business that just doesn’t translate to East Oakland.

“These days, arenas need to be more than just for the sports season,” Johnston said. “They need to be used year-round, which means being close to hotels and easy access for conventioneers.”

It’s a bit of a different story for the A’s. They want to stay in Oakland, but the “no public money” policy by city and Alameda County officials means the team owners have to rely on private financing for a new ballpark there.

And again, it’s easier to secure that financing if you can build attractive developments nearby. The transit access at the Coliseum helps, but the site is still miles from downtown.

And for all the boom in the Bay Area real estate market, money for development in East Oakland is still elusive. We’re told it would cost just as much to build there as it would closer to downtown, where rents could be 60 percent higher.

There are other factors at play in the A’s picking a site next to Laney College for their proposed 34,000-seat ballpark. Even with adjacent development deals, new sports complexes still need millions of dollars from three sources — ticket sales, corporate luxury boxes and advertising sponsorship, including naming rights for the ballpark.

A stadium that’s within easy walking distance of downtown has a much better chance of driving the bottom line of all three revenue streams.

Plus, there’s a bit of a signage conundrum at the Coliseum that could hamper the A’s.

A few years back, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority allowed several large electronic billboards to go up in the parking lot along Interstate 880. The idea was to help pay down the $20 million-a-year public debt from the 1990s stadium overhaul that brought the Raiders back from Los Angeles.

They’ve helped the taxpayers, but the billboards would also be competition for the A’s efforts to sell their own advertising and naming rights around a new ballpark.

That said, the A’s move still faces a number of hurdles, including concerns that the ballpark and accompanying development could gentrify the adjacent neighborhood — always a touchy subject in Oakland.

And if the downtown move doesn’t work out, said Coliseum Authority chief Scott McKibben, “we are still ready to talk and work with the A’s.”

Third time the charm? Former City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente is adding some early spark to Oakland’s mayoral sweepstakes, saying he plans to challenge incumbent Libby Schaaf in 2018.

“When I was in government, I made things happen,” De La Fuente said.

De La Fuente has been a fixture on Oakland’s political landscape for three decades, most of it spent representing the Fruitvale district on the City Council.

“Look around — cars being broken into, the infrastructure is crumbling, the homeless problem — I don’t think you see things getting done,” De La Fuente said. “Libby Schaaf and Oakland have been lucky with the economy doing so well, but let me tell you, the next four years could be a lot different.”

De La Fuente’s gruff, “tell it like it is” persona made for good quotes in the press and for a commanding presence at City Council meetings. But it didn’t always go over well with voters outside his district.

He was among a crowd of candidates who were buried in the 1998 mayor’s race by Jerry Brown. Then, eight years later, he lost to Ron Dellums.

De La Fuente left the council in 2013 and is now serving on the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority board.

Schaaf’s chief political consultant, Ace Smith, didn’t sound particularly worried about De La Fuente’s comeback bid.

“It’s a democracy, so anyone can run, but I don’t think everyone is going to be lining up for a backroom wheeler-dealer,” Smith said.

Interesting to note that Schaaf got her political start working as an aide for De La Fuente when he was on the council. So this match-up may be more than a political test — it could get personal as well.

San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Matier can be seen on the KPIX-TV morning and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS radio Monday through Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a tip? Call (415) 777-8815, or email matierandross@sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @matierandross

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