The Oakland Athletics’ long-anticipated announcement is here. On Wednesday, the A’s made public their plans for a new stadium to be opened in 2023.
The stadium that was referred to as a “jewel box” will be located on the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal, neighboring to the north of Jack London Square. Ground is expected to be broken in late 2020 for a target debut of Opening Day 2023. It will be designed by the Danish architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group and will house 34,000 seats.
A publicly accessible roof deck will allow fans to take in views of the surrounding Bay Area. The stadium will be meticulously incorporated into the current urban landscape. The A’s have alluded to it as a “ballpark within a park.” As part of the project, the updated urban landscape will feature newly-constructed housing and office buildings, some reaching twenty stories high with the ability to look down onto the field of play.
Team president Dave Kaval also indicated that the ballpark will be open and accessible to the public even when games are not being played.
“It will be a reason to live in the community, activate Jack London Square, and become a great landmark in the Bay Area.”
The A’s are aiming to integrate their new ballpark into the surrounding community and place an emphasis on the neighborhood theme just as other ballparks before it. This neighborhood atmosphere is most easily seen in ballparks such as Wrigley Field, PNC Park, and Petco Park to some extent. All of those parks have broad reputations of being some of the best ballparks in baseball.
This is where Oakland is headed, establishing an identity of a more tight-knit community. The organization believes that particular location is the best way to create excitement, sell more tickets, and ultimately pay for the stadium itself.
Getting to this point in the plan did not happen overnight. The announcement on Wednesday followed an aggravating multi-year process that saw the A’s miss out on sites in Fremont, San Jose, and at Laney College, where the team’s proposal was shot down by the college district.
The hope on the part of the A’s is that the ballpark will be completely funded by private money. Kaval claimed that control of both the 55-acre Howard Terminal site and the twice-as-large Coliseum site is necessary to achieving this goal.
There has been no clear estimate of the cost of the project yet. However, an estimate should become clear after an environmental impact review is conducted. That assessment will start later this week and last roughly a year. Meanwhile, the A’s have until April to negotiate and agree on a lease or purchase of Howard Terminal which is currently owned by the Port of Oakland.
In the past, it’s been widely agreed upon that the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is one of the worst Major League Baseball Stadiums out there and has long been due for an upgrade. The A’s are looking to flip that narrative and create the best ballpark experience for their fans.
Part of the deterrent is that the stadium is more tailored to football than it is to baseball. Having to share playing facilities is a terrible burden. The A’s and Raiders will be the last professional baseball and football teams to do so.
The A’s have played in the Coliseum since 1968 and will transition from a 63,000 seat stadium (47,00 during baseball games) to a 34,000 seat stadium. 34,000 seats will be the smallest stadium by capacity in all of Major League Baseball.
Last year, in a year when MLB attendance dropped off drastically, the A’s were ranked 26th with an average attendance of 19,427. Therefore, while the new stadium will have significantly fewer seats, it will also further concentrate fan seating. This will make A’s games appear more well-attended and intimate in contrast to previous years of scattered spots of fans in a sea of Coliseum green.
It’s also important to note that the stadium project has a supplementary aspect that is expected to have a substantial impact on the health of the community. The A’s plan to leave their former home nicer than they found it.
With the migrations of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas and the Golden State Warriors to San Francisco in 2019, The A’s will be the last remaining pro sports team to play on the large plot of land off I-880. Upon leaving, they will transform the land into a beautiful park.
The Coliseum will be stripped down to a low-rise sports amphitheater and Oracle Arena will still be maintained to host concerts, events, and other shows. The peripherals will also include a tech hub, affordable housing, youth sports complex, light manufacturing, and a shopping strip.
The A’s have already put in an offer to buy the Coliseum site for $137 million. While the deal is not set in stone, the organization is willing to work with public or private entities to develop the site.
There are still extra details to be worked out regarding the design around the ballpark. The organization still needs to figure out the answer to the question of fanbase transportation. The A’s took to Twitter to clear up these concerns:
“There will be on-site parking. Apart from traditional logistical improvements like parking, traffic flow, and public transportation, we’re also looking into a gondola, a ferry stop, and pedestrian bridges.”
The aforementioned gondola is rumored to transport 6,000 fans per hour from downtown Oakland over Interstate 880 and the railroad tracks to Jack London Square, a short walk from the stadium.
That’s not all that the A’s cleared up over their social media. They responded to fans questions about positioning of the ballpark, bullpens, a batter’s eye and the unique house-looking features atop the ballpark.
The A’s organization has committed to being the epitome of loyalty to the city of Oakland. In the wake of the Warriors’ and Raiders’ departures, that should only make the community embrace them even more. The catchphrase #RootedInOakland holds significant value to those within the organization and this design proves that even more. The A’s are positioning themselves as Oakland’s team, Champions of the community. And as for what this project means to the East Bay, we’re looking at the revitalization of the City of Oakland that will impact public identity for generations to come.
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