The Coliseum's massive parking lot became a surprising asset for Northern California during the pandemic. Credit: Pete Rosos

Oakland officials held a press conference on Thursday to publicly announce the city had reached an agreement to negotiate with African American Sports and Entertainment Group (AASEG), a private company, to develop the city’s 50% stake in the Coliseum Complex site.

The city first announced it had awarded exclusive negotiating rights for the Coliseum development to AASEG in November 2021 after the arrangement was unanimously approved by the Oakland City Council. But Thursday’s press conference marked the first time that city officials and AASEG representatives have appeared together to publicly discuss the deal.

The city’s deal with AASEG was described as “the largest transfer of public land to African Americans” in Oakland’s history, in the city’s press release.

The agreement approved in 2021 requires AASEG to pay the city a $200,000-per-year fee and $2.5 million in one-time funds to cover city staff time while it negotiates the terms of the development. 

The other 50% of the roughly 120-acre property belongs to the Oakland A’s, who purchased Alameda County’s share of the site in 2019 for $85 million.

The Oakland A’s current lease at the coliseum expires in 2024. The team and the city have been in the process of exploring a new waterfront stadium project for the A’s at Howard Terminal, although the team has indicated it could leave Oakland altogether.

Oakland councilmember Noel Gallo (left) and AASEG’s Ray Bobbitt spoke at a press conference at the Coliseum Complex on Feb. 2., 2023. Source: city of Oakland Credit: Zoom

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. 

AASEG shared few new details of its plans on Thursday. But Bobbitt described AASEG’s vision for the Coliseum development as “a city inside of a city,” that will feature a mix of housing, sports complexes, public administration offices, hotels, and other businesses. 

Among the elected officials attending Thursday’s press conference at the Coliseum Complex were Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao, At-Large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who authored the council’s November resolution to award exclusive negotiating rights to AASEG, and councilmembers Noel Gallo (District 5), Carroll Fife (District 3), Janani Ramachandran (District 4), and Kevin Jenkins (District 6).

“Not all the steps were easy. This was a hard-fought victory, and some said it couldn’t be done,” Kaplan said. “And so we are here to say yes, we can.”

Kaplan said the 200 acres of land to be developed at the Coliseum are among the most highly sought-after in the greater Bay Area. 

“This is a place where we can have housing at all income levels, and we can have quality jobs in the community,” she added. “It’s an opportunity to uplift the community in a way that delivers excitement, positive energy, and delivers tangible opportunity in the community.”

Mayor Thao lauded the deal as an opportunity to revitalize and improve the area for longtime residents living in East Oakland neighborhoods surrounding the Coliseum.

“The best way we can reduce crime is to create jobs, and this is going to bring so many jobs, good union jobs as well,” said Thao. ”We know it is good union jobs that will get our families to stay here.”

Last September, the Oakland Alameda Coliseum Authority, a joint powers agency formed by the city of Oakland and Alameda County to oversee financial decisions pertaining to the Coliseum, approved a non-binding resolution to support a WNBA franchise for Oakland, and the City Council also unanimously approved a resolution urging the WNBA to establish a team here. AASEG has stated its interest in helping to broker such a move, but no formal proposal to the WNBA has yet been submitted.

According to Bobbitt, AASEG doesn’t currently have an agreement in place with the Oakland A’s, and the group is unaware of the team’s plans for developing its half of the land.

As a next step, Bobbit said AASEG will begin having conversations with various community groups and stakeholders to inform the development.

“There’ll be a long process that many people in the community will be engaged with,” Bobbitt added. “That will be a process that we will work hard on.”

Azucena Rasilla is a bilingual journalist from East Oakland reporting in Spanish and in English, and a longtime reporter on Oakland arts, culture and community. As an independent local journalist, she has reported for KQED Arts, The Bold Italic, Zora and The San Francisco Chronicle. She was a writer and social media editor for the East Bay Express, helping readers navigate Oakland’s rich artistic and creative landscapes through a wide range of innovative digital approaches.