The recent announcement from the Oakland Raiders that they will be reducing seating capacity at the Coliseum by close to 10,000 next season is a stunner.
The team said that it will block off sections 335 thru 355 as well as 300-303, 331-334. Those 4,800 or so Raider fans who looked forward to scaling the heights of Mt. Davis for home games will be relocated to the upper deck on the west side of the stadium.
I went to the Raiders website to see how they positioned this piece of news. It wasn’t listed on their top ten stories nor was it featured when I went to their ticket section.
So, why would the Raiders cut their Coliseum seating capacity from 63,132 to 53, 250?
[REWIND: Raiders to block off Mount Davis]
1) TV Blackouts:
In 2011, the Silver & Black sold out every home game. In 2012 seven of their eight home games were televised with the exception of the Browns on December 2nd. There were large swaths of empty seats in many of those sold out games, but because of the NFL’s 85% rule for lifting blackouts, teams can televise without having to sell 100% of available seats.
Teams package large numbers of seats to sponsors and broadcasters at group discount pricing to make sure they can air their games.
2) New stadium strategy
The Raider organization has made it clear that staying in Oakland is their preference. The Raiders have lost leverage with the 49ers. If they had made a decision to move south a few years ago they could have shared in significant revenue streams at the Santa Clara stadium. It is clear that the NFL would prefer to have both bay area teams playing in one stadium although Commissioner Roger Goodell hasn’t laid down that law yet.
If they should ultimately decide that Santa Clara is their only option they will be looking at being nothing more than a tenant. The financial wherewithal to build a new stadium in Oakland is a mountain much more Everestian than the mountain they are vacating. If for some reason they are copying a page from the A’s Tarp Playbook, that particular strategy hasn’t exactly been a winner.
[RELATED: Ratto -- Tarps won't change dire stadium situation in Oakland]
3) Shrinking season ticket base
With the number of full season ticket holders under 30,000, the Raiders want to try and create some sort of artificial supply and demand equation. If and when they turn their on-field performance around, the low season ticket total will increase rapidly, especially if there are fewer seats available in the overall inventory. The Coliseum will now have the smallest capacity of any stadium in the NFL.
4) Political leverage
Based on their desire to stay in Oakland, the franchise will have to negotiate a very complex and financially risky deal for both the team and elected officials of the city and county. Oakland isn’t exactly sitting on a mountain of disposable cash for its sports teams. With the Warriors intended move to San Francisco and the A’s ongoing Silicon Valley envy, the Raiders political leverage is strong. How they utilize it will be critical for the team, its fans, the NFL, and the leaders of Oakland and Alameda County.
5) Cost savings to Raiders
With Mt. Davis closed the team will pay less on a game by game basis for ushers, security, cleaning and other associated stadium operations cost.
6) Cost savings to fans
All third-deck season ticket prices have been reduced to $250. This may save some fans as much as $360. This is a positive pocketbook motivator for those relocated fans and new ones who don’t mind being up high.
[RELATED: Raiders CEO Amy Trask -- "We want to stay"]
Unfortunately the timing of this decision had to come in the offseason, but with the 49ers' magical journey to the Super Bowl, this business and marketing move makes the Raiders look like they are waving a white flag when it comes to trying to win the hearts and minds of bay area football fans.
Unfortunately the current market conditions in Bay Area sports are “Go Big or Go Home.” The Giants are World Series regulars, the 49ers are ready to bring back their sixth Super Bowl for the trophy case and the Warriors and Sharks are playing well with clear paths to the playoffs. The Raiders' shortcomings on and off the field are highlighted by a Golden Age of team success that is reminiscent of the late 1980s.
This seat shrinkage at the Coliseum is a business black eye that no patch is going to hide.