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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Football Camp to Go On Block

Development: Oxnard leaders are expected to declare the former Raiders facility surplus, clearing the way for its sale.

September 19, 2000|GAIL DAVIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

OXNARD — The site of the Oakland Raiders' former football training camp could go up for sale soon, as the City Council moves toward unloading the property.

The complex, which has sat mostly empty since the team left in 1995, is part of 14 acres the panel will consider declaring surplus property at its meeting tonight. City Manager Ed Sotelo estimated the two parcels are worth $2 million to $4 million.

Property designated as surplus first has to be offered to schools or other public agencies or to developers of low- or moderate-income housing, Sotelo said. If no agency is interested, the land could then be sold to a private buyer.

The two properties are flanked by River Ridge Golf Club to the north and west, the Radisson Suite Hotel to the south and by private undeveloped land to the east, along Ventura Road.

The 14 acres are commercially zoned but could be used for housing if developers obtain the necessary permit, officials said.

The action tonight is the first step toward selling the property, said finance director Stan Kleinman. "We want something to happen with that land rather than let it sit vacant," he said.

Three years ago, the council considered three proposals for renting or selling the land. Former NFL running back Chuck Muncie wanted to use the facility for fantasy football camps, an investment company wanted to rent the field house out for banquets, and the International Foursquare Church wanted to turn the building into a house of worship.

All the deals fell through, however, and the city was still saddled with the $140,000-a-year mortgage, on which it still owes $500,000.

But the surplus property designation could change that. Karen Flock, housing development director of Cabrillo Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit builder of affordable housing, said that while her group does not have plans to pursue the property, she expects its location next to the golf course and near some of Oxnard's pricier homes will draw strong interest.

Real estate developer Dave O. White said if the owner of the adjacent private property had plans for development, that might draw more interest.

"That's an attractive piece of property," White said. "But whether it would be residential or commercial I don't know. Either would be nice there."

It would apparently be better than an unused football camp. Oxnard built the camp--two football fields and a field house--in 1985 for more than $1 million as a training camp for the likes of Howie Long, Tim Brown and other Raider greats. Oxnard charged the Raiders $1 yearly to use the facility, with the expectation that the team would be a tourist draw.

But team owner Al Davis surprised city officials by hanging black tarps around the practice fields, blocking spectators' views and drying up the city's hopes of tourist dollars. The Raiders opened their training camp to the public for only one day each summer.

An added windfall in hotel occupancies for the many journalists who follow the team also never materialized, since most commuted from Los Angeles.

Critics assailed the city for building the camp, and a 1994 staff analysis of city projects ranked the Raiders deal as the worst ever, one city official said. And Mayor Manuel Lopez, who was a City Council member at the time of the deal, said the most the city got was better name recognition.

"We really expected the Raiders to be more a part of the community," Lopez said at the time. "But the Raiders never lived up to that."

The council will meet at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 305 W. 3rd St.

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