Could the Oakland Roots football team play a role in the future of the Coliseum?

OAKLAND — The Roots SC, a popular men’s soccer league franchise, wants to return to Oakland, a city that is represented in the team’s name and logo but is not where soccer games are currently played.

City officials on Tuesday will begin reviewing the terms of a deal that will allow the Roots to build a temporary, 10,000-seat stadium in a largely unused parking lot in Malibu, a triangular space immediately adjacent to the giant Coliseum complex deep in East Oakland.

After forming in late 2010, The Roots became a major attraction in the community and until recently played at Laney College in Oakland, south of Lake Merritt.

But earlier this year, the club left town for Cal State East Bay, citing a last-minute snafu that occurred on the pitch at Laney Field. He currently plans to remain a half-hour drive south in Hayward through the 2024 season.

In the meantime, the team hopes to conduct negotiations with the city as well as handle the logistics of building a large soccer stadium and associated infrastructure on a vacant concrete plot next to the Colosseum.

“We are hopeful that the negotiation timeline will move relatively quickly and that we will reach a full lease agreement in the coming months so that we can begin implementing our plans for the Malibu Lot in 2025.” – said Tommy Hodul, a spokesman for Roots, in an interview.

Site plan of the proposed Oakland Roots Soccer Club stadium at 8000 South Coliseum Way in Oakland. (HOK Architecture)

Following Tuesday’s discussion by a committee of City Council members, the city’s exclusive negotiating agreement with The Roots could be scheduled for full council approval in the coming weeks.

However, Malibu Flight isn’t necessarily Roots’ endgame. The team says it wants to build a permanent stadium with almost twice the area in ten years.

Whether the Roots can simply stay put when that time comes and build their long-term stadium right there on the Malibu Lot could be influenced by whoever ends up owning the Coliseum complex, which includes the ballpark, arena and all the venues parking in between.

Last week, a local development group offered to buy half of the A’s interest in the Coliseum property in hopes of acquiring the entire site for a large-scale redevelopment. The A family rejected this offer, leaving the future of the Colosseum in limbo.

Technically, the Malibu Lot where Roots wants to build is not part of the Coliseum complex; it is located behind the huge parking lots “B” and “C”, used by concertgoers and ball game goers. The southern end of the Malibu property is adjacent to a Denny’s location and a barbershop.

At first glance, the sprawling, nearly 9-acre plot – which currently stands empty – doesn’t scream live sports. But city documents describe how Roots wants to build modular structures that can be easily moved, such as bleachers, portable porta-potties and shipping containers where vendors could sell food and goods.

If the property is not ready for occupancy by the 2025 season, there is another short-term backup option. At Friday’s meeting, city and county officials who oversee the Coliseum will discuss in closed session whether the Roots could pay for use of the A’s baseball stadium in the meantime. But team officials said their focus is on Malibu.

Fans celebrate Kaytlin Brinkman's goal for the Oakland Soul in a 1-0 win over Olympic Club during the USL W League opener at Pioneer Stadium on the Cal State East Bay campus in Hayward, California, on Saturday, May 13, 2023. (Ray Chavez/ Bay Area News Group)
Fans celebrate Kaytlin Brinkman’s goal for the Oakland Soul in a 1-0 win over Olympic Club during the USL W League opener at Pioneer Stadium on the Cal State East Bay campus in Hayward, California, on Saturday, May 13, 2023. (Ray Chavez/ Bay Area News Group)

Key Oakland leaders, including Mayor Sheng Thao, are eager to support Roots’ goals, especially as the city goes through a long divorce from the A’s, the last major professional sports team.

“This (agreement) would help ensure that (Roots) remains rooted in Oakland with related economic activities and contributions to civic pride, provide a new venue for smaller-scale events, generate sales tax revenue for the city and become active with a vibrant use of property otherwise used for vehicle parking,” the city report states.

The temporary stadium was also scheduled to host its affiliate women’s team, the Oakland Soul, which is owned by the same franchise and began playing in amateur competitions earlier this year at Merritt College in the city’s hills.

Hodul, the Roots spokesman, said the Soul is expected to enter the new women’s professional league in 2025. Perhaps both teams, if they played in a temporary stadium, would have to schedule their games based on live events and A’s baseball games being played on the grounds of the Colosseum.

The stakes are high for the Roots, who may not have the option to remain in Hayward beyond the 2024 season as Cal State East Bay prepares for major construction on its football stadium.

Time will tell whether the franchise – whose tree-themed branding echoes Oakland’s cultural insignia – will find its way back to the community it once called home.

“There’s very little land and a lot of people in Oakland,” Lindsey Barenz, the team’s general manager, said in an interview last year. “It complicates real estate development here.”

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