I just finished a summary of the A’s current ballpark situation for OaklandClubhouse.com (scout.com). They’ve also posted the piece on Yahoo! Sports. Oh dear, I really need to proofread my pieces a little more thoroughly…
Since I live within a 20 minute walk of Diridon South, I decided to do a fairly in-depth amateur study of the site. One distinctive aspect of the site its shape: it’s not a typical square or rectangular city block. The site was formed by city planners who, decades ago, decided that parallel one-way streets were needed in the area. The streets, Autumn and Montgomery, converge just north of Park Avenue. Los Gatos Creek also comes in from the northeast to encroach on available thoroughfare space.
It occurred to me that I had seen a shape similar to this near-trapezoid before. Then it hit me. When Wolff announced his Oakland plan (drawn up by 360 architecture) there were many comparisons to Fenway Park, from its simple two-deck design to the eerie similarities to Fenway’s right field corner. So I did a little playing around with Google Earth and came up with the following photos:
Diridon South Concept (click picture for larger version)
It just so happened that I was trying to figure out how the PG&E substation at Diridon South could be reconfigured to stay on site, and the picture above has in my opinion the most likely scenario, at least when we’re talking about raw land requirements (nearly two acres for the substation). At the same time, I tried to incorporate as much as I could of what I interpreted was in 360’s model. It’s a fairly tight fit, but it seems to work. It is quite a coincidence that Diridon South is shaped similarly to Fenway. The only other urban ballpark that bears a passing resemblance to Fenway is Jacobs Field in Cleveland, and Jacobs was shoehorned into its 12 acres in a different manner and into a more aggreable lot shape for a ballpark. China Basin has the arcade/promenade act like a mirror image of the Green Monster, but the rest of the park has little in common with Fenway.
Wolff/360 Architecture/Gensler concept
Obviously, some modifications would need to be made to adapt 360’s non-site-specific model to Diridon South, but they aren’t major. The left field building is cribbed from Petco Park, but it’s simply an element that can be easily moved. I find it curious that 360’s concept evokes images of Fenway so strongly. Yes, it is in all likelihood a coincidence. But if they wanted to create one that could fit pretty easily into the Diridon South footprint, they’re probably 90% of the way there.
Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment, the group that owns the Sharks and manages HP Pavilion, has entered talks with San Jose and Santa Clara about building a 27,000-seat soccer stadium somewhere in either Santa Clara or San Jose. What does this have to do with the A’s? One of the sites mentioned as a possible home is Diridon South, though it appears to be down the list a bit.
San Jose City Council member and mayoral candidate Dave Cortese brought up Diridon South as a backup plan if a ballpark doesn’t materialize. Considering the cost of acquiring the land – which could be more than the cost of constructing a soccer stadium – it may be a tough sell. The Quakes have only 20 home games per year, which makes it a more difficult anchor for downtown restaurant/bar businesses.
The preferred sites for the stadium are in Santa Clara, all near Great America. They include the overflow parking lot across the street from the 49ers headquarters. Ironically enough, this was once considered the prime site for the A’s when Steve Schott tried to move them to Santa Clara a few years ago. The site is also close to a new youth soccer park, making it a prime candidate. Another site is on another existing parking lot at Great America, which was also a ballpark site at one time. Yet one more possibility is land near Mission College. Though the exact land wasn’t specified, it may very well be a small part of the college property between the athletic fields/tennis courts and the Mercado shopping center. As a person who grew up in the neighborhood just to the west of Mission College, I can say that this site would bad because of the noise coming from night games and scarce parking.
The upshot here is that if San Jose/Santa Clara can put together a deal to keep the Quakes in the area permanently, it would eliminate one group of potential ballpark non-supporters: those would want to keep the Quakes in San Jose above any attempt to lure a baseball team. Depending on what the proposal looks like, San Jose will need as many supporters of its ballpark plan as it can get.
The Chronicle’s A’s beat writer Susan Slusser confirmed the drop of View level season tickets, exactly for the reasons I cited in Tuesday’s post. What was not clarified was the status of the View level for single game tickets, to which A’s VP of marketing David Alioto said, “It would be premature to talk about it.”
It was revealed that “Double Play Wednesdays” would still remain in effect for 2006, though it’s unclear what that means. Is that for tickets? Hot dogs? A possible BART fare discount?
Ironically, the closing of the View level probably wouldn’t be necessary if the 1995 improvements hadn’t taken place, because the Coliseum would still have only two concourses (instead of 2 1/2) and few of the staffing issues they currently face.
Here’s an idea that might work: tarp the first 2-3 rows of the View level. It would ease circulation since the patrons walking along the aisle at the front of the deck won’t have to compete for space with fans in seats, who already have a miserable experience because they’re constantly getting their view blocked by the walking patrons. That should cut some 1200-1800 seats out of the total, contributing to ticket scarcity and enhancing the View level experience. View level regulars know that the best view comes above the vomitory (access tunnel), though that changed when the place was rebuilt. Get above the 4th row and you’re usually okay.
Merc sports columnist Mark Purdy weighed in on the San Jose plan. Like his employer, he endorses it, though he uses a different rationale:
From the day I moved to San Jose in 1984, I was mystified about one thing. I could never understand why city officials had never set aside land for future big projects — a stadium, an arena, a convention center, museums, a world-class park, whatever.
What San Jose is doing is an effort to not only control the land for a future proposal, but also to rein in acquisition costs and required time that can easily spin out of control in this era of stadium-building.
Not surprisingly, the San Jose Mercury News came out in favor of the Stephens Meat site acquisition and other preparatory work being undertaken to secure the Diridon South site for an offer. In the op-ed is a mention of the progress brought on by the Arena project. The paper argues that it is of utmost importance that the city keep the public involved in the planning process and debate, which the city hasn’t done so far.
The San Jose City Council approved the purchase of the former Stephens Meat plant and a $600,000 environmental impact study to be done by HOK on the Diridon South site. This is expected to be one of many steps that need to be taken for San Jose to secure the entire site.