Los Angeles Coliseum representatives were scrambling Saturday to formulate a "last-ditch" offer to Raiders' owner Al Davis to keep his football team from moving to Oakland.
Ed Snider, head of Spectacor Management Group and lead negotiator for the Coliseum's private managers, said the offer, if it comes together, will be made Monday morning. Oakland authorities have given Davis until noon Monday to give them his answer on whether he will move the team back to Oakland, where it played until 1982.
Snider, in an interview at his home in Zuma Beach, said that before he makes any new offer, he wants the Coliseum Commission to firmly sign off on a deal to give his firm and its private management partner, MCA Inc., a lease on the Coliseum grounds extending well beyond 2003.
Agreement this weekend on such a lease is vital, Snider said. Otherwise, he said, Spectacor cannot be confident enough of completing Coliseum renovations--including luxury boxes and thousands of club seats it has promised Davis--to go ahead with a nonrefundable advance payment to the Raiders constituting a promise that the renovations will be made.
Under the envisioned arrangement, all Coliseum improvements would be made by the private managers, who would control the property under the proposed lease from the Coliseum Commission.
Snider, saying the Coliseum lease has been stymied by "all of us dragging our feet a little bit," said he had suggested that the commission be called into emergency session this weekend to approve the lease.
On Saturday afternoon, Commissioner Richard Riordan, a member of a special oversight committee, said that there was insufficient time to give notice to the commission's nine members to hold such a meeting. But he said the four-member oversight committee would confer by phone and "is close to signing off on the lease," assuming Snider agrees to reasonable terms.
Commission President Matthew Grossman said he would meet with Snider today, and "I am hopeful that giving him our views would be sufficient to commit Mr. Snider to give the appropriate assurances to the Raiders."
Snider said later that if the oversight committee gives its OK to the lease, that would be enough for him to make "a modest deposit and one that shows our good faith" to Davis on Monday. He declined to give a cash amount.
Snider said this would have to constitute the offer, in lieu of final agreement over precisely what kind of Coliseum renovation would be undertaken. He said, however, that whatever is done, the Coliseum's existing outer walls would likely be retained, even while a substantially new facility was constructed inside.
Snider said he is not optimistic that such an offer will be enough to keep Davis from agreeing Monday to move to Oakland. But under the circumstances, without formal approval of a Coliseum lease, he said it is the best he could do.
"It looks like we're going to lose the Raiders," the Spectacor chief said at one point. "It's a damn shame. I haven't given up, but I fear we're a day late and a dollar short."
However, at another point, he said, "If I could get a meeting of the commission over the weekend, and get a check into Davis' hands Monday, we would save the Raiders for L.A."
Snider spent much of the interview contending that losing the Raiders would be a severe blow to Los Angeles and expressing wonderment that the Los Angeles establishment hasn't been more devoted to preventing it. He called the results of a recent Times poll showing that a majority of those surveyed didn't care if the team left "ridiculous."
As for getting a new pro football team to replace the Raiders, if they move back to Oakland, Snider said, "If you get one (team) ever, you're lucky. If you get one in 15 years, that'll be quick."
He also predicted that if the Raiders left, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling might decide to take his basketball team out of the Sports Arena, too. "Sterling wants to feel he's part of a stadium complex that is going to be state-of-the-art in its entirety," he said.
"Keeping Al Davis here would be a catalyst for building not only a new Coliseum, but a new Sports Arena, too," Snider concluded. "If he leaves, Los Angeles is going to face a whole different picture."