We have just learned that what is now Hilltop Mall will be the new home of the Oakland Raiders.
It’s been no secret that Hilltop Mall has been on the auction block (Hilltop Mall Officially on the Market, March 17, 2016). We just weren’t expecting it to go so soon, but apparently, it’s been in the works for some time.
It turns out that it was simply a matter of the stars being aligned. Hilltop Mall is an obsolete business model that no longer works commercially, but it has a sea of parking and good access to transportation, both of which are critical to a sports stadium. And the price was right.
The new Raiders stadium at Hilltop, scheduled for completion in early 2019, will combine mixed uses, including housing, offices and retail in high rise towers, and will be a much more compact design than what is there now. The surface parking will be consolidated into four multi-story parking structures that will also serve housing and offices, since games are typically on nights and weekends. “In fact, said Planning Director Richard Mitchel, “it will be a self-contained city, largely self-sufficient, but providing enhanced mobility to connect to to the region.”
Artist’s rendition of the new raider’s stadium at Hilltop
For years, the Raiders have cultivated and burnished an outlaw image that seemed to reflect Oakland, but Oakland is changing. With tech companies like Uber moving in, a hot new restaurant scene and the fastest rising rents in America, Oakland is looking more like silicon Valley and San Francisco than home to swashbuckling and bloodthirsty pirates of the Caribbean. It was time for the Black Hole to find a new home.
Richmond, however, still fits the bill.
“With its reputation as a rough and ready refinery town,” said raiders owner Mark Davis, “Richmond is now the appropriate home of Raider Nation. In fact,” continued Davis, “ Richmond is, in many ways, the new Oakland.”
“Of course, the team will henceforth be known as the Richmond Raiders,” added Davis. “Alliteration is always a good thing.”
There were a lot of factors that drove the decision.
“Libby Schaff thinks she is a tough and savvy negotiator,” scoffed Davis, “but she pushed too hard this time. She had us over a barrel and more than tripled our rent. She better not spend it all at once, because she won’t see any more of it.”
The Hilltop location has many advantages. Like the current Raiders stadium, it is located right next to I-80, but unlike Oakland, it also has access to markets east and west. All of the North Bay is just across the Richmond-San Rafael bridge and a short jaunt up the Richmond Parkway. Just a few miles north on I-80, Highway 4 connects to Contra Costa County and the Delta.
They even considered the future Richmond ferry terminal. “We are looking at a fleet of DUKW’s, offered Davis, “ to shuttle fans from the ferry terminal at the Craneway to Hilltop. They can come ashore down by Parchester Village and drive right up the Richmond Parkway and right into the stadium.”
A DUKW in Boston Harbor
BART Director Zachery Mallet is planning a BART extension from the Richmond station north to Hilltop and ultimately to Hercules. “This is great news, said Mallet when he heard about the Raider’s move, “It will definitely accelerate completion of the project by several years.”
It’s also a short shuttle ride from the Richmond station for Capitol Corridor riders, opening up access to the Central Valley.
The final deal appears to have been largely the work of legendary real estate broker John Troughton, who works for Kennedy-Wilson, the owner of Bella Vista at Hilltop, Richmond’s largest (1,000 units) apartment complex. “Kennedy Wilson already has a lot of knowledge of the Hilltop Area as well as a successful investment there, “said Troughton. “We have also been promised a piece of the housing portion of the stadium package.”
“Richmond will not commit any taxpayer money to the stadium,” said City Manager Bill Lindsay, “but we will support it in many ways as a public-private partnership. The City can provide access to low interest revenue and industrial develop bonds, and we can create an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District. Tax credits are available for some of the housing components.”
The Black Hole
Reaction on the City Council was mixed but generally supportive.
“Progressives, by nature, are not professional sports fans,” said RPA spokesperson Marilyn Langlois, speaking for the three City Council RPA members. “We view professional sports as elitist indulgences that the masses can no longer afford, and we are more into social change. However, we have been able to negotiate a deal with the Raiders to provide maintenance, food and beverage jobs to unemployed Richmond residents at living wages, and they will be trained by Richmond Employment and Training Department. Many of them will also be offered affordable homes in the residential units built as a part of the mixed use stadium project. Perhaps the best part is that they will be able to walk to work. That’s a triple bottom line for us.”
Nat Bates was clearly the most enthusiastic. As an outstanding athlete himself who once played pro-baseball, Nat is probably Richmond’s biggest sports fan. “This is the biggest thing to hit Richmond since Chevron came over a hundred years ago. It changes everything.”
Jael Myrick also cut a deal with the Raiders, enticing them into augmenting the Richmond Promise Scholarship. “We will get $1,000 each time the Raiders score a home game touchdown,” said Myrick. “Everyone in Richmond will be cheering for them.”
Vinay Pimple took a keen interest in the legal aspects, confiding that when he first got out of law school, he contemplated a career in sports law. “I’ve looked at this deal from every angle, and it’s a great thing for the City of Richmond.”
A press conference has been scheduled at Richmond City Hall tomorrow to share details with the public.
As for me, I wish you a Happy April Fool’s Day!