Outside the Oakland Coliseum. August 26, 2020. Photo: Pete Rosos

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The Oakland City Council on Tuesday evening voted unanimously to begin negotiations with the African American Sports and Entertainment Group to develop the Coliseum site. 

Approval of the exclusive negotiating agreement gives AASEG a year to work out a deal to either buy or lease the city’s share of the approximately 120-acre property, which might include bringing a WNBA team to Oakland. 

The vote came despite the city administration asking for more time to research and vet proposals by AASEG and another group led by retired A’s pitcher and Oakland native Dave Stewart and Lonnie Murray, a Major League Baseball player agent. 

Oakland officials received several unsolicited proposals, but AASEG and the Stewart group, both led by Black business leaders with ties to Oakland, emerged as the frontrunners. Long owned by the city and county, the Coliseum and Oakland Arena site lost two of its anchor tenants when the Raiders left for Las Vegas in 2020 and the Golden State Warriors crossed the bay to San Francisco in 2019. 

The Oakland A’s are departing soon as well, either to a ballpark at Howard Terminal on the Oakland waterfront or the Las Vegas area. The team’s Coliseum lease expires in 2024. 

AASEG was founded by Oakland native Ray Bobbitt and includes former Oakland City Manager Robert Bobb, local developer Alan Dones, consultant Shonda Scott, and NBA player agent Bill Duffy, with financial backing from Loop Capital, a Black-owned investment firm headquartered in Chicago.  

The Coliseum property is sought after because of its proximity to BART, Interstate 880, and the Oakland International Airport, and the potential to add entertainment, shopping, and housing to an area of East Oakland large businesses long ago abandoned. Over the years, the city purchased properties surrounding the Coliseum, along 66th, 73rd, and Hegenberger avenues, to complement any development of the 55-year-old sports facility. 

AASEG has proposed building housing, a Black-owned business district, a university satellite campus, and potentially a new stadium to start the NFL’s first Black-owned football franchise. Last month, the group announced former WNBA star Alana Beard would lead their effort to bring a WNBA team to Oakland. 

The Stewart and Murray group proposed to purchase the land for $115 million and turn the Coliseum into a field for youth sports, as well as refurbish the Oakland Arena for concerts and other events. Their plan also included bringing in Black-owned banks to serve East Oakland residents, creating an Oakland Hall of Fame, and building housing, hotels, and retail shops. 

Before Tuesday’s vote, city staff asked the council to delay a decision and stick to the existing plan from July, when councilmembers directed the city to open talks with both developer groups and return in January with a report. 

Economic and Workplace Development Department Planning Manager Larry Gallegos told council more time was needed to complete a review of each group’s development experience and the commitments of their financial partners. Gallegos said the city also has not received confirmation from the state that the city was in compliance with the Surplus Lands Act, which requires publicly-owned surplus land to be considered for affordable housing before it is leased or sold for other purposes.  

Gallegos said the selected group would have to work with the owner of the other half of the Coliseum site. In 2019, the Oakland A’s agreed to purchase Alameda County’s share for $85 million. 

The negotiations with AASEG can be extended another year, under the resolution the council adopted. AASEG will have to pay a $200,000 negotiation fee for each year, and cover the costs of staff working on the project.

David DeBolt reports on City Hall and policing for The Oaklandside. He spent 12 years working for daily newspapers in the Bay Area, including on the Peninsula and Solano County. He joined the Bay Area News Group in 2012 where he covered a variety of beats, most recently as a senior breaking news reporter. During his time at BANG, DeBolt covered Oakland City Hall, the Raiders stadium saga and the A’s search for a new ballpark, as well as the Oakland Police Department and police reform efforts. He was part of the East Bay Times staff honored with the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News for coverage of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire.