The Oakland port is another saga in the story as long as time itself for Oakland residents. The story about the Oakland A’s and the search for a new stadium while they play in a stadium that is constantly called the worst in baseball.
“They don’t even have straws anymore,” A’s fan Rick Silva said to the San Francisco Chronicle. “We asked for straws, and they said they don’t have any.”
That is just one of the minor issues inside the storm of the Oakland A’s. To speak about these issues, we need to talk about their current home: the Oakland Coliseum.
The Coliseum opened up in 1966, 58 years ago. It was intended as a multipurpose stadium to house the Oakland Raiders and later the Oakland A’s. Right across from the stadium was an arena where the Golden State Warriors began to play. The A’s moved in 1968. Time went on. The A’s won three straight championships in the 70s, the Raiders won a championship in the 80s, and shortly after, the Raiders left for LA. This left the A’s all alone in the stadium.
However, the A’s didn’t want to stay in the coliseum as the stadium was not maintained well. A low point emerged in 1979 as only 653 fans showed up to see the A’s play the Seattle Mariners in what is believed as the lowest paid attendance in MLB history, and a nickname was given to the stadium: the Oakland Mausoleum.
The original A’s owner: Charlie Finley was attempting to sell the team at this time, and it was planned to sell the team to Marvin Davis. Davis made plans to move the A’s to Denver but with the Raiders gone, the city didn’t want to lose another sports franchise. Oakland refused to let the A’s out of its lease with the coliseum, and the deal fell through. The franchise was later sold to Levi Strauss & Co.
The 90s rolled around, the A’s won another championship, and the Raiders came back into the picture. In Preparation to set up their home back in the Bay, the Raiders demanded more seats in the coliseum, and this led to a point in time where a lot of A’s fans say the franchise took a turn. 10,000 seats were added to the upper deck, obstructing the view of the Oakland hills. This addition to the stadium, also called a monstrosity by most A’s fans, was dubbed Mt. Davis after the Raiders owner. “Mt. Davis” is barely used for A’s games, only being opened up a handful of times most recently in the 2019 wild card game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
In 2012, the stadium became the last to host both NFL and MLB games. This wouldn’t hold up for long as, finally, in 2017, the Raiders submitted a plan for relocation to Las Vegas. It was approved that year and the Raiders would leave town in 2019 for a massive stadium adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip. The A’s neighbors: the Warriors, would also leave town in 2019, leaving for a new arena in San Francisco: the Chase Center. This left the A’s as the only Oakland sports franchise.
To talk about the aging coliseum is one that can gross one person out and leave another scratching their head as to why professional sports teams still play here.
Sewage has been a constant issue with the stadium. In 2013, the stadium suffered an extreme sewage backup. This left parts of the stadium three feet below sewage water forcing the A’s and Mariners, who were playing, to use the Raiders locker room and showers. This wasn’t the first time sewage had been an issue at the stadium. During a sewage backup, the Los Angeles Angels complained about fecal matter and bacteria in the visitor’s training room. Even one of the many A’s owners found out while trying to dine at the coliseum that food was delayed due to sewage. Backups reportedly occur even when the stadium isn’t in use.
Animals have had their fair visitation of the stadium. On Dec. 19, 2018, during a Raiders game, a janitor said the following loud enough on a radio to shock all attendants.
“There are two dead mice in the soda machine,” Ann Killion, reporter for the SF Chronicle later tweeted.
Beyond that just this year, feral cats have invaded the coliseum site. Yes, what’s estimated to be between 50-100 feral cats have invaded the field according to ABC7 News and reportedly are gaining due to … well you know natural reproduction. At least the A’s have some sort of answer to the mouse issue even though it wasn’t planned.
If you think you’re done with the issues at this point, you’re wrong because we haven’t even covered the actual team and their marketing yet.
The A’s have been minimizing their promotions, discounts, and season ticket benefits. Season ticket holders used to be able to get 25% off all gear and half off all beverages and food. Now, that’s gone.
“You used to get a Round Table Pizza coupon on the back of your parking ticket. Now nothing,” A’s fan Marcia Partch told the SF Chronicle.
At best, the A’s concession stands are described as mediocre, often ranked near the bottom of people’s MLB concession stand rankings. They often serve burned hot dogs and lack of choices throughout the stadium. Options are bland and lacking compared to the across the bay neighbors at Oracle Park, who serve Ghirardelli ice cream, freshly made smoothies (with a produce garden behind it), and carne asada burrito bowls. As a reference, Thrillist (an online website that covers food and entertainment) ranked Oracle Park as having the fourth best concessions in the league. The A’s were ranked 30th. The only saving grace for the coliseum is the food trucks that show up in the championship plaza, but even they don’t want to stay at the aging stadium as they usually leave early into the game.
On top of all of this, the A’s have doubled the price of season tickets from last season. For example, a left-field bleacher seat was $456 for a season ticket now it is $840.
The A’s have also removed their fan-favorite A’s Access program, a flat fee that also had discounted food, beverages, and parking. Now, if you want to park at the stadium even as a season-ticket holder, it will cost you $30.
“Just crazy to see raised prices that much with no investment in the team, fan experience, or commitment to stay,” Bryan Johansen, a longtime season ticket holder, told Mercury News.
There’s one more thing to add on top of this mess. The actual team. The A’s missed the playoffs for the first time in three years last year due to an epic collapse of the team. So the A’s did what the A’s have done numerous times in the past: blew it up. Out went pitchers Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea, first baseman Matt Olson, third baseman Matt Chapman, and center fielder Starling Marte. All traded for prospects and picks. Any star players that the A’s had were gone. Any hopes for the A’s to bounce back were gone. A team that just needed to add to make the November dance diminished all chances of that.
“I’ve got about 15 (A’s) jerseys and it’s hard to find one that’s still on this team,” said Silvia to the SF Chronicle.
The A’s are notorious for doing this as many fans have come to expect their fan favorites and star players to eventually get traded or leave just a couple of years after they burst onto the scene. It’s happened with stars Jose Conseco, Mark McGwire, Rickey Henderson (multiple times), Catfish Hunter, and other numerous stars that have impacted the franchise. Some call it the A’s way.
With all of these things adding up, there’s limited things attracting A’s fans and baseball fans to games. According to ESPN, the A’s have the worst attendance, averaging around 7,715 fans each game. For comparison, the Dodgers at the top of the list are at 49,057 on average, and Oakland’s neighbor: the Giants average around 32,360. It’s worse than that though as the A’s set two records for some of their lowest attendance ever. In a series against the Baltimore Orioles in April, the A’s had 3,748 fans in the second game of the series. This was the smallest crowd the team had played against since 1980 when a game against the Texas Rangers had 2,443 fans in attendance. The next game however against the Orioles was a smaller number of 2,703. A lot of fans are boycotting the team with constant issues going on with the team and the stadium resulting in attendance that hasn’t been seen since 1980.
So the Colosseum is reaching its end, the team isn’t good, and fans aren’t showing up. What will fix all these issues? The simple answer is to get a new stadium. However, that’s a simple thing to say but a hard thing to do. The A’s have been trying to get a new ballpark for quite some time. San Jose was a great option at a point in time until it was shot down by the U.S. Supreme Court and the San Francisco Giants. The city of Fremont was even an option complete with a ballpark proposal. That failed due to residents of the city being concerned about pollution, traffic, and noise. Now the A’s look to what looks to be their best hope ever to have a new stadium.
The A’s proposed plan is to build on Howard Terminal which is right next to Jack London Square (where the A’s have held fan events countless times) in Oakland. It would include the 35,000-capacity stadium complete with a sleek modern look that hasn’t been seen in baseball before. The A’s would also build offices, retail space, a hotel, and residential space. In addition to this, the A’s would revamp the coliseum site, turning the stadium into a community ballpark. The A’s would also build housing, a skills center, community gathering spaces, offices, and restaurants. The Oracle arena would stay and be repurposed as an events center. The A’s boast that the new stadium would produce 6,119 permanent new jobs, $7.3 billion in economic benefits, increase infrastructure to battle rising sea levels, and give back bay views to the citizens of Oakland. It seems almost too good to be true. The A’s and the city of Oakland have been trying to break ground on Howard terminal since 2017. Now in 2022, no ground has been broken even with progress being made with the staff of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission stating that the land that the A’s plan to build on is not needed by the port of Oakland.
“(This) report is great news for Oakland and our region,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement. “The best use of a dormant Howard Terminal is to convert it into a thriving waterfront ballpark neighborhood.”
“This is really the last location that can work in Oakland,” A’s team president Dave Kaval told KPIX 5.
Even with this news, the A’s still have a long way to go with two lawsuits being filed against them by the Union Pacific Railroad Company and East Oakland Stadium Alliance.
The other option for the A’s that some believe is inevitable is the relocation of the franchise to Las Vegas.
“The Oakland Coliseum site is not a viable option for the future vision of baseball. We have instructed the Athletics to begin to explore other markets while they continue to pursue a waterfront ballpark in Oakland. The Athletics need a new ballpark to remain competitive, so it is now in our best interest to also consider other markets,” the MLB said in a statement.
Las Vegas is already home to the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and Oakland’s old NFL team: the Raiders. The two teams have been very successful, and Oakland fans fear that the A’s aren’t too far from joining their old co-owner of the coliseum.
Kaval and A’s ownership has made numerous trips to the city. Most infamously while the A’s were playing a game, Kaval was busy in Sin City watching a Golden Knights playoff game.
“Things really soured for me when he (Kaval) went to Vegas last year to go to a Golden Knights playoff game,” said season ticket holder Will MacNeil to the Mercury News.
“I think that’s a negotiating ploy,” said A’s fan Max Pringle when the Mercury News asked him of Kaval’s visits to Las Vegas. Pringle added that he thinks the A’s have done their share to get a new stadium.
“I cannot understand how anyone would think we would spend $2 million a month to develop this new stadium at the waterfront and all the effort and time,” Kaval exclaimed to the Mercury News. “Why would we do all those things if we wanted to leave? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Either way, you lean, the temptation of Vegas is there. The two sports teams that currently reside in the city have nice sparkling new arenas and stadiums. Another point in favor of moving to Las Vegas is being closer to one of their farm teams: the Las Vegas Aviators. The Aviators have been selling out their games recently as the city shows that baseball has fans in the city.
Back in Oakland, the team isn’t doing so hot this season. They are 12-19 and are at the bottom of the AL West. The team is bottoming out in attendance, and fans are protesting and boycotting owners John Fischer and Kaval.
“An owner that would trade or/and let fan favorites walk. An owner whose team still plays in a stadium with sewage problems. A stadium that still has horse troughs as urinals in the restroom. An owner that has sent his president to Las Vegas last offseason for research on relocation. Why would an A’s fan go to a game when they just raised tickets after trading all their stars? Why would an A’s fan buy a jersey of a player that is guaranteed to be gone in two years? It’s not that A’s fans don’t exist. They’re tired of the BS. It’s a boycott” CBS sports MLB producer Danny Vietti tweeted out about the issue.
It’s an issue that has gone so far that even the MLB has had enough of it. For A’s fans, they’ve seen it countless times before. After three or so years of competitiveness, the team sells off everything, and ballpark issues become the main talking point again. This time feels different, though. This time really feels like it’s a new stadium in Oakland or Vegas. So much so that players around the league are talking about it.
“I hope they move to Vegas. Oakland was special to me, but you can no longer play in the Coliseum,” former A’s player Robbie Grossman told the Detroit News’ Chris McCosky “And if they can’t build a stadium within a year or two, there’s no reason for them to be there.”
Grossman went on to say it’s a shame that the team is in the position they are in with its long history and the great fans in Oakland.
It feels like the A’s have finally had enough. So much so to even drive fans away with the product on and off the field. The Howard terminal feels like the last chance the outlandish Oakland A’s have in their current city. It’s either the beautiful waterfront stadium on Howard terminal in Oakland or they go where the past Coliseum team has gone: the desert and flashiness of Las Vegas and the strip. It really feels like the motto Dave Kaval has been saying: Oakland or bust.