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Mayor retracts on Dubai connection with US city development

oakland_coliseumCity|TAP Special| The Mayor of Oakland, California, caused a stir last week claiming that Dubai crown prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum has partnered with the developers of a sports and entertainment centre at Oakland Coliseum complex.

According to a report in Oakland Tribune, Mayor Jean Quan, however, retracted her claim a day later. The Mayor’s spokesman said one of the developers did have connections with the crown prince, but Sheikh Hamdan was not a partner.

The paper said the inclusion of Dubai crown prince would have lent credence to the mayor’s claims about the viability of the multibillion dollar development, which could include new stadiums for both the Oakland Raiders and Oakland A’s, as well as a hotel, shops and homes.

The mayor has come under fire for misrepresenting crime stats and Oakland police staffing, but city officials fear this mistake could complicate a major project.

City leaders discussed Quan’s comments Friday with its development partners. They were told to be “as careful as possible in terms of not wanting to overstate where we are before we’re there,” City Administrator Fred Blackwell said.

Quan unveiled the Coliseum City concept two years ago in hopes of drumming up private investment for new sports facilities to keep Oakland’s three teams from moving elsewhere.

For a year, there was little progress, but last October, the city signed up a new development team composed of Colony Capital, the world’s third largest private real estate company, and Hayah Holdings, a firm headed by Dubai-based businessman Rashid Al Malik, the paper said..

It is unusual for the crown prince’s name to be brought up in connection with business activities, said Jim Krane, a Persian Gulf Specialist at Rice University’s Baker Institute.

Even with an infusion of cash from the Middle East, Coliseum City would face many challenges. In an interview last month, Blackwell said that a proposed Raiders stadium faces a $500 million to $600 million funding shortfall. And, at this point, the A’s only want a long-term lease extension while still hoping to get Major League Baseball’s permission to move to San Jose.

The project is predicated on private developers being able to make enough money from hotel, housing and retail development to offset the costs of the stadiums. Economists have been dubious about its viability, and the city has turned to the Persian Gulf region, where, Krane said, governments have been willing to bankroll unprofitable projects that improve their reputation in the U.S.