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Oakland Says It Awaits Raiders-Irwindale Failure

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Times Staff Writers

The chairman of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Commission said Thursday he is ready to begin talks with Los Angeles Raiders owner Al Davis to get the football team to return to Oakland as soon as he is told that the Raiders’ plan to move to Irwindale is dead.

George Vukasin, the Oakland stadium official, denied reports, as did Raiders officials, that Oakland and the Raiders have been secretly negotiating the team’s return to a renovated Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum as early as 1990.

Nonetheless, Vukasin’s statement that he is ready to talk to Davis and his remark in a recent interview with Business Week magazine that “the Raiders have a home if they want to come back” have struck a new note of Oakland interest in seeking the team.

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The Oakland stadium chairman confirmed in a Times interview that he has recently been approached by several intermediaries offering to set up talks with Davis but that no meetings have been held.

Vukasin also said: “We have no intention of talking to the Raiders until the deal with Irwindale is definitely off.”

Irwindale Move Stalled

The new flurry of reports that the Raiders may leave the Los Angeles area and return to Oakland comes at a time when Irwindale’s attempt to obtain financing for the proposed $150-million stadium project in the San Gabriel Valley city reportedly is stalled.

“To our knowledge, they’ve (the Raiders) given up on Irwindale,” said Richard Riordan, president of the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission, who hopes to keep the Raiders. The Raiders continue, on the record, to remain loyal to the Irwindale plan.

But a Raiders source said Thursday that one of the team’s special projects people recently told him that:

- The planned move to Irwindale was doomed.

- He did not think Davis would talk to officials of the Los Angeles Coliseum, where the Raiders’ lease runs out in 1991.

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- There was nothing to reports of talks with Sacramento, but that there was another option he did not name.

John Herrera, the Raiders official in charge of the Irwindale project, insisted Thursday that the commitment to Irwindale continues, but added:

“We’ve done nothing not to honor our agreement, but we can’t stop people from coming to us and putting things in front of us.

“To this point, we are firm in our resolve, but at some point, Irwindale has to produce,” Herrera said.

Meanwhile, Xavier Hermosillo, official spokesman for the city of Irwindale in the Raiders matter, told The Times that he was “just amazed” that so much attention is being given to speculation that the team might move to Oakland.

‘We’re Making Progress’

Of Irwindale’s progress in trying to obtain financing for the Raider stadium there, Hermosillo said: “We’re in the same place we were a couple of weeks ago. We’re making progress. But we’re not going to have our hand forced and reveal where we are in the negotiations. . . .

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“We’re OK,” Hermosillo said. “Somebody is trying to force our hand, and we’re not going to allow that to happen. We and the Raiders are together every day and they know exactly what’s happening. They know it would be counterproductive now to circulate reports about Oakland.”

Raiders executive assistant Al LoCasale, denying the reports about Oakland negotiations, said:

“I’m not aware of any negotiations with Sacramento, Oakland, New York, Ensenada or wherever else. The only awareness I have is of the ongoing situation with Irwindale.

“I can’t spend a lot of time replying to the move-of-the-week story. . . . This is a non-story and I don’t want to perpetuate a non-story.”

Vukasin, discussing the possibility of talks with the Raiders in the future, however, said he was optimistic that Oakland could have at least a “mostly remodeled” stadium, including 90 to 100 luxury boxes, and be well under way with expanding seating from 50,000 to 65,000 in time for the 1990 season.

Qualified Denial

In one respect, the Raiders’ denial was qualified.

In his earlier denial to the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, LoCasale had struck a different tone, adding to his assertion that he knew nothing:

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“But as managing general partner, Al Davis has a fiduciary responsibility to the limited partners to listen to presentations that may be advantageous financially to the partners.”

There have been recent indications that the Raiders may want to strike out in a new direction.

The Thursday reports of secret negotiations appeared in the Herald Examiner and the Oakland Tribune, and on Los Angeles’ KCBS-TV. The reports said that the two sides were in contact through an intermediary.

The intermediary was unidentified but, in the Bay Area, speculation immediately centered on Dr. Robert Albo, a physician and a friend of Davis. Albo’s son, Doug, is a Raiders official working out of the team’s Irwindale office. He is in charge of construction projects.

Neither Davis nor Dr. Albo could be reached for comment Thursday.

The Herald Examiner, quoting a “Bay Area source,” said that the negotiations “could come together within 3-6 weeks,” and that the team might be able to play in Oakland by the 1990 season.

Times staff writer Steve Springer contributed to this story.

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