Tell me if you couldn’t see this one coming about three or four years ago.
No sooner does word begin to leak about a final decision on the Expos home than news also begins to leak about a decision on a new A’s stadium. The A’s are apparently going to try to get a new stadium built in the Coliseum parking lot.
I think what this really means is that Orioles owner Peter Angelos is not going to get a bucketful of cash for the Expos moving to the DC area. If Angelos had gotten a settlement, then that would have set a price that the A’s could have paid the Giants for moving to San Jose. No DC price, however, no SJ dice.
The whole A’s ballpark issue has always been contingent on the Expos issue. A’s owner Steve Schott had been hoping, hoping, hoping for a precedent that would allow him to move his cash registers to Silicon Valley. But now he’s stuck in Oakland. Sniffle, sniffle.
The Coliseum site was viewed as the second-best East Bay site by a city-funded HOK study. The best site, in downtown Oakland, has been designated for a housing project. It’s a shame, because that site, with an abandoned classic movie theater, would have been a really cool place to put a ballpark. The architects could have had a field day with all those ballpark quirks carved by necessity from the surrounding neighborhood.
Parking lots have no quirks. This is my biggest concern with the Coliseum site. Well, that, and the question of where the money to build this thing is going to come from, but that’s just a minor detail, right?
Like it or not, the A’s are competing with the Giants for the Bay Area baseball entertainment dollar. SBC Park has San Francisco Bay to form its quirks, complete with fabulous views. How can the A’s compete with that?
Obviously, the architect would need to emphasize the view of the Oakland Hills. The view won’t be as fabulous as SBC’s, but it would be nice.
But the A’s need to have something that’s better than SBC. To do that, they’d need to take advantage of SBC Park’s flaws.
SBC Park is beautiful, but it’s cramped. The concourses are narrow, and it’s hard to walk around. Being so cramped and crowded, it’s not particularly accomodating to families. In contrast, you’d probably want the New Coliseum to have spacious, comfortable concourses. You’d want a large New Stomper Fun Zone where the kids can be free to run around, perhaps like the “Park in the Park” in San Diego. Then you’d have something to offer baseball fans that’s better than what the Giants have.
As for the quirks, well, I don’t know how to solve that problem. In a parking lot, it would be hard to come up with quirks that wouldn’t be transparently artificial. Perhaps if you go all Frank Gehry postmodern on the place, you can get a funky style to fit into the site somehow, and give it that extra bit of coolness, the sense of place that would make people want to experience being there. But that would require a brilliant architect, and a client who cares for aesthetics beyond just the beautiful sound of a cash register.
As brilliant as the A’s are in running their finances and building their ballclub, I haven’t seen much evidence that any sense of aesthetics runs in the A’s blood. They’re an organization that’s more about science than art. I fear the A’s will make a New Comiskey-type mistake, and just start counting the luxury boxes. We’ll end up with a bland, out-of-place, run-of-the-mill retropark, and the A’s won’t be much better off financially than they are right now, because the ballpark will flop.
I sure hope that won’t be the case. I’ll be making some noise if it is. Stay tuned.