Millions in debt are still owed on the Oakland Arena, where the Warriors played until 2019. Credit: Azucena Rasilla

The City of Oakland is set to receive $10 million from the Coliseum Authority, a special government agency that operates the Oakland Coliseum and Arena. The money could help patch a small part of the estimated $62 million budget deficit the city is facing.

City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who was recently appointed to the Coliseum Authority’s board of directors, announced the welcome news in a press release yesterday.

Oakland’s city administration confirmed to The Oaklandside that they weren’t counting on the $10 million when they drafted recent budget projections showing that major cuts will need to be made across departments. “To the extent the funds are returned to the City by the JPA”—another name for the Coliseum Authority—“the City could use it to help close the current shortfall,” wrote city spokesperson Karen Boyd in an email.

Henry Gardner, the Coliseum Authority’s executive director, said he expects the agency will return the full $10 million to Oakland.

“This comes at a time when the city and county are bleeding red ink,” said Gardner.

The money comes from a reserve fund set up by the Coliseum Authority in 2019 after the Warriors basketball team left Oakland for a new arena in San Francisco. The Warriors’ owners no longer wanted to make multimillion-dollar debt payments owed on the Oakland Arena. Oakland successfully objected and a neutral arbiter ruled that the team still owed the money. But the Warriors’ sued in a higher court, and after losing in that venue, appealed the case all the way to the California Supreme Court. 

In December, the highest court in the state sided with Oakland.

All the while, the Coliseum Authority was putting the Warriors’ contribution toward its debt payments into a special account, just in case the team prevailed and the money had to be given back to the Warriors’ owners. Over the past two years, the city and county had to pay extra money owed on the debt that the Warriors weren’t covering. 

Now, the city and county are set to be refunded from the reserve account.

“When the supreme court denied the hearing, that was the end of the show,” said Gardner.

Kaplan said the funds could be used for multiple purposes, one of which could be reversing the controversial deactivation of three fire engine companies.

The Coliseum Authority’s board will vote in February to return the funds to Oakland.

Before joining The Oaklandside as News Editor, Darwin BondGraham was a freelance investigative reporter covering police and prosecutorial misconduct. He has reported on gun violence for The Guardian and was a staff writer for the East Bay Express. He holds a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017. He is also the co-author of The Riders Come Out at Night, a book examining the Oakland Police Department's history of corruption and reform.