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.Coliseum’s New Life Advances

Sale to local group marks historic change

music in the park san jose

On June 12, the Oakland City Council unanimously approved an initial agreement with the African American Sports & Entertainment Group to purchase the city’s 50% share of the Coliseum property for $105 million. This clears the way for development rights of the city’s largest public land site to an Oakland-based, African American development group—a first in the city’s 170-year history.

Yet despite this announcement’s historic nature, mainstream media coverage focused almost entirely on what continues to be characterized as a bailout measure for the city’s struggling finances. 

Ray Bobbitt, AASEG’s founder and managing member, sees it differently. “Sometimes the significance of history can be upstaged,” he said in a phone interview. “This is an inspirational moment.” 

Bobbitt noted that AASEG has negotiated with the city for years to advance this sale, and that this will drive growth and create jobs for Oakland. The agreement includes development of thousands of new units of affordable housing, increased outdoor space and “the preservation of the Oakland Arena as a vital entertainment hub for the East Bay region,” according to a city release.

AASEG and the city now move on to final legal negotiations, but terms have been agreed upon. Once that process begins, “We will shift our attention to negotiations with the A’s,” Bobbitt said. AASEG intends to purchase the A’s 50% of the Coliseum, something increasingly likely as the team prepares to leave. Talks up till now have been “productive,” he said, and a sale “is in everyone’s best interest.”

Talks also continue with Oakland Roots and Soul. “We have had a cooperative agreement about the Malibu Lot,” Bobbitt said, referring to the 8.8-acre site adjacent to the Coliseum complex. Roots and Soul SC want to build an interim 10,000-seat stadium on the site, which will double its current match-day capacity. “They have been very supportive of us, and we have been very supportive of them,” he added.

Bobbitt also spoke enthusiastically about the aspect of the sale mandating a “community benefits package” that potentially would include agreements with local labor organizations, contracts with local businesses and workforce training. From its inception, AASEG has focused on community and spent hours of time reaching out to community groups, neighborhood councils, homeowners’ associations and small businesses in Districts 5, 6 and 7—something it remains committed to, he said.

All of AASEG’s principals, which besides Bobbitt include Shondra Scott, the CEO of 360 Total Concept, and former Oakland city manager Robert Bobb, among others, are Oakland natives, Bobbitt emphasized. “This is our home. We are all engaged in the community at a very high level,” he said.

A unique example of this commitment is AASEG’s program with East Oakland’s Castlemont High School’s Sustainable Urban Design Academy. “For the last three years, we have been their ‘client,’” Bobbitt said. This means AASEG participates in three steps: the client interview, a field trip to the Coliseum for a walk-through of the facilities, including such things as water sampling of Lion Creek and, finally, a showcase of ideas and designs for families and community.

Asked if any of the students’ proposals could be incorporated into plans for the Coliseum’s revitalization, Bobbitt said yes. “We could merge our ideas,” he said. “This is a group of very active, very committed young people.”

Their activism and spirit, he said, is part of why he believes, despite the barrage of negative news Oakland has endured recently, that a new vitality is emerging from the city’s grassroots. “It feels like Oakland is shifting to an Oakland-centric attitude, led by the private sector. People are taking a different view of leadership,” he said.

He doesn’t dispute that the city, especially its African American population, is suffering, pointing to a recent disparity study revealing that demographic is the most highly impacted by violence and homelessness. This demographic is also the most unlikely to participate in civic actions, such as voting, he said.

But that is why, Bobbitt said, the realization of AASEG’s dream for the Coliseum and surrounding area could be so important. The group’s homepage states: “Our aim is to utilize our development model as a catalyst to fully implement the [2015] Coliseum Specific Plan for the benefit of Oakland’s most underserved communities in East Oakland.”

Bobbitt added, “We will be part of a new beginning for Oakland.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. This has been a long time coming. I’m proud of the AASEG’s leadership and their vision for their city. The community economic focus is amazing!! They said, why not us, it’s our town and we deserve it!!! This is such a groundbreaking movement, I hope all of us get on board!!! This is life changing transformative stuff!!!

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  2. Lots of good news, but hopefully Oakland’s beloved legend Dave Stewart can become involved too.

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