The area adjacent to Oakland’s Laney College is a near-perfect site for the A’s to build their new ballpark.
It’s easily accessible by highway and BART, and it’s easy to imagine the possibility of new bars, restaurants, and stores in the ballpark village surrounding the A’s new home.
The A’s want to build on that site. They want it so bad. The people who own the land — the Peralta Community College District — they are less enthused, so on Tuesday, its governing board ordered the Laney College chancellor to stop talking to the team. A community group, the Stay the Right Way Coalition, is planning a march Wednesday to demand that the chancellor make a commitment to not negotiating with the A’s.
While there is a chance — a faint one, but a chance nonetheless — that the A’s and Laney come back to the negotiation table over the 13-acre plot by Laney, but the team’s dream of building a new ballpark on that site currently has no pulse. I cannot stress this enough: the people in the neighborhood (full disclosure: it’s my neighborhood) and PCCD really do not want that ballpark.
Plan B — something that team president Dave Kaval has said, on the record, doesn’t exist — is likely the much-ballyhooed Howard Terminal site. But that’s not a viable option for the city of Oakland or the A’s — the lack of nearby public transportation makes it a non-starter.
So the A’s, barring a minor miracle, aren’t going to get their sexy new downtown ballpark.
But that doesn’t mean the team can’t get the park it needs.
It’s time for the A’s to move to Plan C: fixing the Coliseum.
Yes, the Coliseum is far less desirable than Laney or Howard Terminal — frankly, there’s nothing sexy about it — but it’s looking like it’s that area or bust for the A’s.
After all, the city has no money to help the team (it’s lack of money is a hindrance), Alameda County wants nothing to do with the A’s, and the possibilities of moving to Fremont or San Jose have been extinguished.
Outside of moving the team to a new market, the A’s have one practical option currently available to them: their current ballpark.
Kaval’s pitch for the Laney site was dripping with political vibes — he (and, by extension, the team) views this new ballpark not just as a money-making venture but also a public service to Oakland.
What better public service could there be than fixing up a city-owned ballpark and area that was set to be abandoned in the new decade?
It’s time to put Kaval’s “Rooted in Oakland” slogan to the test.
It might take a while to let the sting of this Laney defeat wear off, but when Kaval and the A’s come to, they might notice that their current digs are not only salvageable but pretty advantageous.
In 2012, Dodgers spent $100 million to refurbish the interior of Dodger Stadium, built in 1962, and the ballpark could pass for brand new (save for the outfield bleachers).
The A’s were keen to use private funds to build a brand-new $650 million park on the Laney site — can you imagine what they could do with even a $500 million commitment to renovating the Coliseum?
They could tear down Mt. Davis (though they might have to help the city pay off the debt — the payments on the estimated $95 million debt run through 2025 — though I still think the city should find a way for the Raiders or NFL should pay for it) and restore the view of the Oakland Hills. Maybe they’d cut off some of the upper deck after that’s done. The A’s could refurbish the concourses, restrooms, clubhouses (and the plumbing), and the walkway from the BART.
Piece-by-piece, one section at a time, the Coliseum could look new again. I swear, it can be the retro-modern ballpark the A’s desire. But that’s only possible if the team commits the energy and money to make the Coliseum their home for the next 30 years.
With Laney off the table, I think that’s their best option.
It’s a strong backup plan: The area around the Coliseum — it might not be the Laney College area, but it’s ripe for new development and the "ballpark village" the A’s want, and you won’t have to worry about tearing much down to make it happen — just start building in the parking lots.
The Coliseum is already right next to the BART, right next to the Amtrak, and right next to 880 — if it didn’t already have a ballpark on site, it’d be considered a great spot to build a new ballpark. Frankly, it should be considered a bonus that a ballpark (and an arena — who knows what will happen to that once the Warriors leave) is already there — you don’t have to build from scratch.
Beyond that, if the A’s stay, the fans won’t have to say goodbye to the place where so many great memories happened.
Again, it’s not sexy, but it can work.
Laney looks dead. Howard Terminal should never be truly considered. It’s time for the A’s to admit the team’s best option is their current home.