Is this the last Opening Day for the Oakland Athletics at the Coliseum? Is it their last Opening Day in Oakland?
Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is April 7. The A’s have a new manager in Mark Kotsay and are coming off an 86-76 season. They made the playoffs from 2018 to 2020.
But the biggest topic surrounding the A’s is their future home.
This is a saga that dates back to 2005 (yes, really).
The latest chapter involves the A’s wanting to build a picturesque park along the Oakland Inner Harbor, near the SF-Oakland Ferry Terminal and Jack London Square. There would be water a long foul ball away from the first-base line.
However, the Seaport Planning Advisory Committee, which controls the use of Howard Terminal, the A’s proposed site, voted 5-4 to keep the spot for port activities earlier in March, citing a belief that the rate of incoming cargo for the port will increase.
The good news for A’s fans who want to keep the team in Oakland is that their decision isn’t binding. The next step is for the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission to accept or reject the recommendation.
That vote won’t come until June 2. By then, the A’s will be 50 games into their season.
The bad news for Oakland sports die-hards is that where the Raiders went, the A’s could easily follow. Las Vegas beckons as the A’s new home if a deal to keep the team in Oakland falls through.
Always been a problem
The Oakland Coliseum opened in 1966 to host both the Raiders and A’s. It was part of a boom at the time to have multi-purpose stadiums for professional teams.
The A’s first started making noise about leaving the beloved (by some) but ugly (by most accounts) Coliseum in 2005.
The A’s won World Series in 1972, 1973 and 1974. They were the “Swinging A’s” and featured Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson in his prime and garish green and gold jerseys.
There was a view of the Oakland Hills beyond the center field. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was Oakland.
But the Raiders were unhappy. Raiders owner Al Davis wanted a bigger, more updated stadium and market. He moved the Silver and Black to Los Angeles in 1982, leaving a hole in The Black Hole (the Coliseum’s nickname for Raider games).
The Raiders then returned to Oakland in 1995. The structure of the Coliseum was changed to accommodate them. Gone was the view of the Oakland Hills. In was “Mount Davis” a tiered structure of seats that loomed over center field for the A’s.
Now the stadium was too big for the A’s and unsightly. The A’s felt like second-class citizens in their own ballpark with good reason. When the Raiders left for Las Vegas for the 2020 season, the A’s were stuck.
What’s wrong with the Coliseum?
Officially it’s now the RingCentral Coliseum, but no one in Oakland calls it that. There’s nothing significantly wrong with the stadium, except that it’s become a relic. It’s old. It doesn’t fit the modern style of a 21st Century ballpark. It has plumbing problems and drainage problems.
Attendance has waned. Even though the A’s have played good baseball, Oakland ranked 29th out of 30 teams in attendance in 2021 (there were some limits on attendance due to COVID). But in 2019, the team ranked 24th in attendance, 27th in 2018, 29th again in 2017 and 2016.
The stadium needs an upgrade.
The Las Vegas A’s?
The ballclub’s official lease at the Coliseum expires in 2024. The franchise has reportedly put out bids of interest in four tracts of land in Las Vegas.
Team President Dave Kaval has said the A’s first choice would be to build a new stadium by the waterfront.
“This is where we feel our future is,” he told the East Bay Times.
There has been discussion over the years about completely renovating the Coliseum site, tearing down Mt. Davis and re-building a baseball-only park, but that would come at a significant loss of time. Time the A’s don’t have.
Are the A’s using Las Vegas as a threat or is there significant interest? It’s hard to tell. You know MLB would love to tap into the Vegas market. The Raiders built a world-class stadium there to rave reviews.
It would be somewhat fitting for the A’s to follow, but Oakland hasn’t lost hope yet.