The Mercury News

Oakland Roots soccer team may be left with no home to train in

- By Will McCarthy wmccarthy@bayareanew­

When the Oakland Raiders decamped for Las Vegas in 2020, they left behind a state-of-the-art training facility. That complex, which is co-owned by the Oakland and Alameda County, has been used for the past two years by the Oakland Roots, the city's newest soccer team.

But soon that arrangemen­t may be ending. When the 16-acre location on Bay Farm island is put up for public auction in July, one of Oakland's last remaining profession­al sports teams may be out of a home.

“We're working towards other training facility options, but nothing is concrete,” Roots spokespers­on Tommy Hodul said. “We would definitely be interested in making the facility a mid- to long-term home.”

The public auction has a minimum starting bid of $36 million. If the property sells — and city officials are confident it will — the Roots could try to negotiate a lease with the new owners, but there's no guarantee that the new owners will be interested in keeping the site as is.

Spencer Hsu, a Bay Area real estate expert, said investors are usually only interested in the land. He pointed to Candlestic­k Park, which was bought and then demolished, as a prime example.

“99% of the time, the equipment and stuff is worth very little,” Hsu said. “It's about the land and what you can do with that land.”

Hodul emphasized that the club was very grateful to the city and county for making the building available in the first place. The Roots first signed their lease at the end of 2021, and the team trained at the otherwise empty facility in 2022. Recently, they extended their lease through 2023.

Hodul said the facility has been a major boon for the team, which previously trained at Las Positas College in Livermore, a 40-minute drive away. Now the team has access to an NFL-quality training center that is considered one of the very best in its soccer league.

“It's led to our ability to get higher-profile players, without question,” Hodul said.

The training facility, located at 1150 Harbor Bay Parkway, originally was constructe­d in 1995 to entice the Raiders to return to Oakland from Los Angeles. If the Raiders ever left, the condition was that ownership of the property would revert back to Oakland and the county.

Larry Gallegos, a program manager with Oakland's Office of Economic and Workforce Developmen­t, said the city went through California's Surplus Lands Act process prior to planning the auction.

As part of that process, the old training facility was offered to public agencies and affordable housing developmen­ts.

“We cleared that all through with the state before we went through this process,” Gallegos said.

The city is letting Alameda County, which could not be reached for comment, oversee the public auction process. After the auction, 50% of the sale will return to Oakland, and the City Council will be tasked with determinin­g how to use it.

According to Gallegos, there has been a lot of interest on the property so far. He said the Roots were welcome to submit a bid, but the club has yet to do so.

The question remains, however, how much potential bidders will want to pay for a property that directly abuts the Oakland airport. Planes fly overhead every few minutes, and the fence of the complex backs up to the airport's own.

But it has served the Roots' purposes. They've hosted local youth soccer players at the facility as part of their Project 510 program. They've trained and educated women and minority coaches to help them get their coaching licenses.

They're investing in Oakland, Hodul said.

“The club for us is about purpose and community off the field,” Hodul said. “We're open to partnering with potential investors to acquire it, but right now our main priority is working toward a stadium.”

 ?? RAY CHAVEZ — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER ?? Oakland Roots Soccer Club President Lindsay Barenz is seen at the team's training facility, formerly the Oakland Raiders' training facility, in Alameda in December.
RAY CHAVEZ — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER Oakland Roots Soccer Club President Lindsay Barenz is seen at the team's training facility, formerly the Oakland Raiders' training facility, in Alameda in December.

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