In a mere 31 days, the Oakland Coliseum will commence its 47th straight baseball season when the Oakland Athletics play host to the Cleveland Indians on Monday, March 31.
Excluding the 1996 season when the A’s were forced to play their first six games at Cashman Field in Las Vegas due to renovations at the Coliseum, the Coliseum will again serve as the A’s home.
Despite winning teams, attendance has sunk every year under the existing ownership of Lew Wolff and John Fisher. During the five-year period before they took over, the average annual attendance was about 2.1 million. The A’s game average of about 26,000 was in the middle of the pack in the American League.
During the glory years of Haas family ownership, the seats were saturated with fans in green and gold. In 1990, the A’s drew 2.9 million people, second in the league.
Wolff and Company have done nothing to encourage fans to come out to the Coliseum. He’s campaigned since Day 1 for the team to move, initially to Fremont and more vehemently for San Jose. As of now, the Coliseum will remain home through 2015 and baseball has, at this point, denied ANY move to San Jose citing territorial rights by the San Francisco Giants.
As a life-long A’s fan since their arrival in 1968, it’s difficult to imagine the team playing anywhere else, but the time may have come to leave –but without having to leave Oakland.
The triple deck structure off Hegenberger Road and I-880 is the only multipurpose stadium left to serve as a full-time home to both a MLB team and NFL team. It is also the fourth-oldest stadium in the league but it would be unfair to compare it to the other three as Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Boston’s Fenway Park, and Dodger Stadium in L.A. are baseball icons.
Since the 1996 renovations, gone are the splendid views of the Oakland Hills, replaced with the god-ugly and unusable Mount Davis structure in the outfield. Faded tarps now line the once cost-kind (and occupied) third deck. The fan-friendly bleachers – REAL bleachers where home runs went to land, where the once Henduland and Reggie’s Regiment resided, where fans were close to interact with players who could rob possible HRs – are gone, only to be replaced and marred by a multi- deck structure for fans and 15-foot jagged walls.
The “Mausoleum,” as it was first nicknamed by players of the 70s, is showing its age and obsolescence.
In July both clubhouses and the umpires’ locker room were flooded with raw sewage. Another big sewage flood took place last September, following heavy rains in Oakland. Concession areas block the stream of fans in the breezeways, scoreboards lack definition and detail compared to other parks, and the public address sound is marginal with the speakers only on the west side of the field.
The Athletics have needed a new home for quite some time as other teams have built grand cathedrals with amenities, comforts, and conveniences for the average fan. Anyone who’s been to the newer ballparks can easily see these issues aren’t a factor with high-def scoreboards, close field views as fans have easy access to off-set concession areas and special viewing zones without disturbing flows of movement. The new parks all have character of the city they play in with their individual architecture, taking advantage of views, and public and private partnership in financing.
Several options exist for the team and the City of Oakland. Several sites for a new stadium have been discussed – all viable – which is a total other column in itself.
The right thing to do is for Wolff to sell the team to a local investor willing to invest in the team’s success. Part of that success includes collaborating with city officials for a new ballpark and the financial triumph that comes with it.
The other option not explored is to allow the Raiders the financial burden of a new stadium, perhaps on the land across I-880, and for the A’s, City of Oakland, and Alameda County to consider a baseball-friendly renovation to take advantage of the existing convenient parking, BART access, and easy freeway approach. (Angel Stadium of Anaheim – the fifth-oldest in MLB – was renovated to a baseball-only in 1996)
It’s only a matter of time before MLB steps in and control and destiny is lost for a team rich in heritage in Oakland.