When Oakland Mayor Jean Quan told the host of sports talk radio 95.7 The Game last Thursday that the future ruler of oil-rich Dubai had signed on as a partner to a controversial proposal for a new stadium complex, Councilman Larry Reid said, “I pray that what the mayor said is correct,” but then skeptically added, “We'll see.”
She was not.
A spokesman for mayor, Sean Maher, said the next day that Crown Prince Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum was not involved in the Coliseum City project, although one of the developers who is involved knows high-ranking officials in Dubai.
That's not really quite the same, and now supporters of the effort to keep the Oakland football team happy and the baseball team from bolting to San Jose fear the cause may have suffered a major setback. “You just don't throw the crown prince's name out there and say he's in a deal when he's not,” Reid, who sits on the coliseum's oversight board, told the Oakland Tribune.
Quan raised expectations significantly when she told the sports audience that developers “are partnered literally with the prince of Dubai, who is next in line to lead Dubai. And they have capital.” But even if there is some quiet understanding with Dubai, Persian Gulf expert Jim Krane told the Tribune, it's not a great idea to talk about it. “If this was something he wanted to keep quiet for some reason, it might not have been appropriate to use his name.”
The concept for the Coliseum project, which would theoretically house the Raiders, the Athletics and the Golden State Warriors, has been kicking around for a couple of years but didn't appear to gain traction until last October when Colony Capital LLC, the third-largest privately-held real estate firm in the world, and investor Rashid Al Malik became involved. Malik used to be CEO of an aerospace company run by the ruler of Dubai, and Colony Capital has done projects with investors from oil-rich Qatar.
However, the economically beleaguered city has had trouble making the numbers add up. The complex would include two stadiums (one each for baseball and football), an arena, a hotel, stores and housing. It would cover 800 acres and straddle Interstate 880 along the waterfront across from the Oakland Airport.
Besides being woefully short of money for the project, the city faces other challenges. Major League Baseball reportedly supports the A's quest for an extension on its current lease until it can flee to San Jose, although that move is up in the air. The Warriors have talked about building a new arena across the Bay in San Francisco. And the Raiders football team, which played in Los Angeles from 1982-1994, has been the subject of relocation rumors for years.
Mayor Quan has been a lightening rod for criticism throughout her tenure and some political observers think she faces an uphill fight to get re-elected in November. A Survey USA poll last month found only 24% of respondents approved of her performance, while 66% did not.