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Oakland’s last sports hope? City makes sweetheart deal to keep orphan pro franchise

A real estate giant most known for being Amazon’s landlord swooped in to preserve the Roots' world-class HQ.

a group of fans cheer on a team
The minor league Oakland Roots Soccer Club has become a point of civic pride for the city as its number of pro sports teams has dwindled. | Source: San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images

With few things for Oakland sports fans to celebrate lately, city leaders are looking for anything to rouse local spirits. Enter scrappy, beloved minor league soccer club the Oakland Roots, who were just handed the keys to the former headquarters of the NFL's Raiders.

On Tuesday, citing the team as a rare beacon of hope, the Oakland City Council voted 8-0 to approve the sale of the former Raiders headquarters to industrial real estate giant Prologis, which will in turn lease the state-of-the-art facility to the Roots for at least the next 10 years, The Standard has learned. The sale price was $24 million, roughly 33% less than the city's initial asking price of $36 million. 

At face value, the move seems highly unusual for a city contending with a potential budget crisis. But the sale was approved under the condition that Prologis—which is most known for being Amazon’s primary landlord—commit to the soccer club's long-term use of the facilities. It's a rare bright spot in a blighted sports landscape with the beloved Raiders having left for Las Vegas in 2020, the Golden State Warriors decamping to San Francisco in 2019, and the A's threatening their own to move to Las Vegas.

A spacious, modern gym with various exercise equipment, weight racks, and motivational slogans on walls.
The Roots transformed the Raiders' former headquarters in Alameda into a state-of-the-art soccer facility. Industrial real estate giant Prologis has agreed to keep it that way for at least the next 10 years. | Source: Courtesy of Oakland Roots

To keep the Roots—well, rooted—the city turned down two other higher-dollar bids that would have seen the Roots relocate from the headquarters at 1220 and 1550 Harbor Bay Parkway the team has occupied since 2021. The two-building facility, which includes offices, locker rooms and multiple grass training fields, was vacated by the Raiders when they left for Las Vegas.

“I think this is a wonderful win for the City of Oakland,” District 3 Councilmember Carroll Fife said at Tuesday’s meeting. “I’m definitely committed to being a partner with [the Roots] all throughout this process for what it means economically, but really what it means for Oakland’s young people.” 

The city will net around $11.5 million from the sale and unload the cost of maintenance and upkeep on the property. However, the “win” for the city is more of a moral victory than a major financial coup, at least for the time being.

The Roots, while a compelling brand with an ownership group that includes Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and sports stars Marshawn Lynch and Jason Kidd, is still a community-funded business trying to find its footing. 

Last year, in a cash crunch that forced it to offload key players during the season, the team was forced to open a crowdfunding campaign that raised $3.1 million in six weeks

A grassy area with a colorful graffiti wall in the background, featuring the phrase "#KNOWYOURROOTS", near an airport tower.
While the Roots are still trying to find their footing financially, their training facility is a jewel in the soccer world. Last summer, the Mexican and Jamaican national teams used the location to train ahead of games at Levi's Stadium. | Source: Courtesy of Oakland Roots

But by keeping the former Raiders HQ in the hands of the Roots, the city is also betting the previously vacant facility will be an attractive training ground for visiting national teams coming to the Bay Area for the upcoming 2026 World Cup, which could the city hopes could bring millions of dollars in economic activity for the area.

Before the Roots inherited the former Raiders headquarters, it bounced its home base between community college campuses and public parks, giving the team an undeniably minor-league feel. Now, it has facilities to rival the nation’s best pro soccer teams—giving the team added prestige for recruiting players and investors. 

The team currently plays its home games at California State University East Bay in Hayward, but is in the process of developing a privately financed 10,000-seat stadium at a site adjacent to the Oakland Coliseum. Team President Lindsay Barenz recently announced that the team was targeting March 2025 as a potential opening date, assuming permitting and financing are in place. The estimated cost for the stadium has not been disclosed.

A rendering of Oakland Roots' proposed 10,000-seat modular stadium to be constructed on a lot adjacent to the Oakland Coliseum.
A rendering shows Oakland Roots' proposed 10,000-seat modular stadium to be constructed on a lot adjacent to the Oakland Coliseum. | Source: Courtesy Oakland Roots

For Prologis, the company continues to grab valuable land while the market is down with the idea of finding a use for it later or potentially selling it at a higher price. 

It pulled off a similar gambit in Santa Clara when it purchased the land under California's Great America for $310 million in 2022. As it did with the Roots, the industrial giant agreed to let the theme park keep its doors open for another decade. 

A Prologis spokesperson declined to comment on the pending sale. 

Kevin V. Nguyen can be reached at knguyen@sfstandard.com