Oakland takes a big financial hit on the Coliseum site — but what’s next?

Oakland takes a big financial hit on the Coliseum site — but what’s next?

OAKLAND — Days before the A’s announced a deal to buy land in Las Vegas, it came to light that another of the city’s partners is planning to leave the Coliseum.

The software company RingCentral said it would be pulling its naming rights for the Coliseum, ending a nearly four-year deal that included a still-unfinished plan to feature the stadium name on I-880 signage.

RingCentral’s decision means $750,000 in lost revenue for Oakland and Alameda County’s joint stadium authority, which is juggling various possible futures for the gigantic East Oakland complex that once boasted three major professional sports teams.

With the A’s possibly out the door when the team’s lease ends in December of 2024, the vast Coliseum property — including the ballpark, arena and the seemingly boundless parking space in between — is set to enter the next phase of its long history, with a rising local soccer team already showing interest.

The Warriors and Raiders already have left the Coliseum for other cities, and now the A’s may not be far behind them, though the team’s stated intent to play at its minor-league ballpark in Nevada while a $1 billion stadium is constructed in Las Vegas remains tentative.

Still, times are rapidly changing at the Coliseum complex, starting with the ballpark’s name. Revenue from RingCentral’s naming rights had paid for operational costs at the stadium, including maintenance and security staff.

And while the company told stadium executives that it needed to cut down on expenses, the timing didn’t strike officials as coincidental.

“If there’s no major sports event going on in the stadium, the value of the naming rights goes away,” said Henry Gardner, the executive director of the joint authority that oversees the Coliseum on behalf of Oakland and Alameda County.

Oakland Athletics' Jesus Aguilar (99) celebrates after hitting a home run scoring Oakland Athletics' Tony Kemp (5) and Oakland Athletics' Aledmys Diaz (12) against the Cleveland Guardians in the eighth inning at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday , April 5, 2023. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)
Oakland Athletics’ Jesus Aguilar (99) celebrates after hitting a home run scoring Oakland Athletics’ Tony Kemp (5) and Oakland Athletics’ Aledmys Diaz (12) against the Cleveland Guardians in the eighth inning at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday , April 5, 2023. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)

The nearby arena, once famously named for another software company, Oracle, when it was the home of Warriors basketball, similarly now goes only by the city’s name, though it still hosts major live concert acts that pass through town.

The ballpark, a gigantic concrete structure known for its Brutalist architecture and ability to house both a baseball and football team — though more recently, its crumbling walls and issues of draining sewage — may not stand for much longer.

The A’s, who bought a 50% share of the property in 2019, have publicly disparaged the ballpark’s conditions for years.

And the African-American Sports and Entertainment Group — negotiating with the city to develop the property into a multi-use hub of hotels, retails and nightlife — also hasn’t incorporated the stadium itself much into its future vision.

By all accounts, the joint ownership by the Black-led, locally-based group and a billion-dollar sports franchise rapidly burning bridges with Oakland appear to be an awkward pairing.

Indeed, the first deliverable in the group’s negotiations with the city is to reach a cooperation agreement with the A’s.

“We’d definitely be interested in pursuing a buyout,” said Ray Bobbitt, the group’s co-founder.

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 2: Founder of the African American Sports and Entertainment Group, Ray Bobbitt, left, greets Mayor Sheng Thao during a press conference at the Oakland-Alameda County Arena and Coliseum Complex on Thursday, Feb.  2, 2023, in Oakland, Calif.  The African American Sports and Entertainment Group is negotiating with Oakland for the city's 50% interest in the Coliseum complex.  (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)
Founder of the African American Sports and Entertainment Group, Ray Bobbitt, left, greets Mayor Sheng Thao during a press conference at the Oakland-Alameda County Arena and Coliseum Complex on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, in Oakland, Calif. The African American Sports and Entertainment Group is negotiating with Oakland for the city’s 50% interest in the Coliseum complex. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

Meanwhile, in the midst of news last week that the A’s are nearly ready to leave town, the locally popular Oakland Roots announced a proposal to build an interim stadium on a slice of triangular concrete space at the Coliseum site.

The Roots, who play one division below Major League Soccer, have made clear their desire to start playing games at the property — with the naval base in Alameda as another option — in the 2025 season. A companion women’s team, the Oakland Soul, would join.

The soccer franchise has won over Oaklanders with its energetic home games at Laney College, emerging in the public eye as knights in shining armor to rescue Oakland from becoming a sports desert.

“In just a few short years, the Roots have become a beloved institution in Oakland, and we are thrilled they will soon be joined by Oakland Soul,” Mayor Sheng Thao said in the Roots’ statement announcing the Coliseum site bid.

Until now, though, the Roots have had trouble staying grounded in Oakland, scrambling to Cal State East Bay in Hayward at the start of this season because of storm-related turf problems. They haven’t yet returned.

“Nothing outside of being able to play an actual game will be a determining factor — as soon as we can play a game at Laney possibly, we’ll be back,” said Tommy Hodul, a Roots spokesperson.

The path to playing games at the Coliseum land in question — which is called the Malibu Lot — could be messier than it appears, given a lack of any available infrastructure and the fact that the soon-to-be new neighbors would have opinions on their stay.

AASEG, the community group, has said it needs the Malibu site as an access point for its own property, and the team of founders hasn’t reached a full consensus as to how the Roots would fit into the mix, if at all.

And although the group and the Roots have had productive meetings in recent weeks, according to both sides, AASEG has also had exploratory conversations with an ousted former Roots executive who unsuccessfully sued the team and now wants to start his own Oakland soccer franchise.

Time will tell if the Roots can be the next sports team to call the site an interim home, with plans to build a permanent stadium a decade from now.

And with the last of the old guard shuffling out the door, the future of a once-proud property in Oakland — right off I-880 and easily reachable by BART — could go in various directions.

“The A’s are doing what they do,” said Brien Dixon, another of AASEG’s founding partners. “You’ve seen how they operate. They’re looking to Vegas. Obviously, it’s not a done deal yet, but none of this is shocking — that’s why we have our own plans.”