Sometimes the best things in life really are free

We’re two weeks from the first spring training pitch, and the month is going according to form with little in the way of ballpark news. That’s not a big deal as I have a feature (not news) that will be posted in the next few days. The good news is that hope springs this time of year, even if it’s not eternal (A’s season ticket sales are up 50%!). Despite the paucity of action, there are occasionally really good little stories that pop up that make me glad to be a fan.

LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke just wrote one of those pieces. He describes his favorite lunch spot in LA not as a really fancy place or a well-reviewed hotspot. Instead, his favorite locale is a place where he brings his lunch in a brown bag:

My favorite lunch spot in Los Angeles takes no reservations because it has no tables. It has no menus because it charges no fees. It requires no parking validation because parking is free. It has no waiters because, well, it doesn’t even serve food.

All you need is a brown bag and a giant imagination and, on this, the quiet final winter weekend before the loud return of the NBA All-Star game and the start of the Lakers’ spring push and UCLA’s rush toward March Madness, I figure it’s a good time to celebrate our simplest of pleasures.

I do lunch in the upper deck of Dodger Stadium.

I love to sit alone in the blue seats and munch on my midday meal while staring out over the field and mountains and memories.

He goes on to explain how any local can have the same experience by driving to the stadium’s gift shop on an off day. As I am not a local, I had no idea anyone could do this, but going back through my few experiences at Dodger Stadium it makes perfect sense. Hopefully the next time I visit, this tacitly approved option will still be available.

In either downtown Oakland or San Jose, we’ll have a different situation. The ballpark won’t be built into a hill, so there won’t be a chance to drive to the top and check out the upper deck gift shop. Instead, I can only hope that there will be a public space that will be open year round, where fans, tourists, and locals can soak in the atmosphere and let their imaginations run wild. Chances are that such a public space will be in the outfield, not behind the seating bowl. That’s just fine. PETCO’s Park-in-the-Park is beautiful, expansive space that sits on valuable Gaslamp acreage yet feels oh-so laid back and quintessentially San Diego. Miller Park has the Friday’s Front Row restaurant just beyond the left field fence. AT&T Park has the knothole area, but there’s no place to sit. The pre-Mt. Davis Coliseum had views through slats in the chain link fence, but it also had the occasional security guard to shoo people away.

In the Cisco Field (Diridon) renderings, the place for this kind of public space is beyond the bullpens in center field. Let’s take a closer look at how it’s laid out.

To make it a usable public space while maintaining security, a few gates would have to placed at the entrances to the seating bowl and colonnade. No big deal there as this is common to many stadia, including the Coliseum. Even better would be a way to “open up” the batter’s eye. You may remember that in the Fremont concept, the batter’s eye was to be a sort of garage door that opened up before and after the game, allowing a great view of the field from the public area beyond center field. A garage door isn’t feasible in this case, but a motorized shade is. With the shade rolled up, the batter’s eye would be an empty frame, allowing for great views from those umbrella-covered picnic tables behind the batter’s eye. A shade would be much better than blinds.

I’ve advocated for a public space within whatever ballpark is built since this blog started in 2005. At Diridon there’s an opportunity to create an urban oasis that helps connect the Diridon/Cahill area to the rest of downtown. At Victory Court there’s an opportunity to beautify Lake Merritt Channel and make it a place that fans and residents can enjoy year-round. A neighborhood bar or restaurant was a dream for me. Honestly, I’d just as soon have a plaza where I can brown bag my lunch. All I want is a chance to experience what Plaschke does on a regular basis, except as an A’s fan in an A’s ballpark. It’s not too much to ask for, is it?

12 thoughts on “Sometimes the best things in life really are free

  1. Those Cisco Field renderings are still gorgeous! I can feel the warmth of the San Jose Sun and taste the cold brew already.
    I’ll definetely make that Plaza my home away from home during the off season and non-game days.

  2. ML, pardon any repetition here, yet will mention it for anyone not already aware:
    the efforts to “beautify” Lake Merritt are already in progress via measure DD, and could be finished by 2014. The first phase is about 30-40% complete, based on the timeline; the second phase, which includes improving the LM channel, will be key to Victory Court being a water transportation stop. Whether it be from boaters coming from the staging area at Lakeside Park, or a kayak-rider from either direction on the estuary, there could be hundreds of people wanting to dock their boats behind VC. I am not exactly thinking McCovey Cove, although having water access makes it similar.
    In any case, the Lake will be beautified ecologically, with much higher oxygen levels; from an environmental point of view, I like this alot.
    Here’s the blog link for the phase 1 “12 Street Project”. There are more than enough pics, yet date by date, alot of work has happened since last May’s beginning.

  3. As someone who currently eats two lunches a week sitting in the “Park at the Park” next to PETCO Park, I cannot agree with ML more on this. It’s a great experience that every city should be so lucky to have.

  4. After 40+ years, the A’s community are long overdue for something like this. Even though I fully support the SJ movement, Victory Court would be much more convenient for me. Ultimately it doesn’t matter where the ballpark is built as long as the A’s around physically brought into the community.

  5. I am surprised by Plaschke’s comments about sitting up at the top deck at Dodger Stadium and enjoying his lunch there consideing all the negative comments he has made about Dodger Stadium in the past few years. I hope the new ballpark the A’s will occupy ,be it in Oakland, Fremont, or San Jose, have that kind of space for the public just as the Dodgers do at Dodger Stadium. It is a great place for some peace and quiet believe me.

  6. right with you. i just want a new park ANYWHERE in the bay area at this point, don’t care where it is. at this time i think the chances are that a park being built in sj are more realistic than oakland or anywhere else here locally and this coming from a life long oaklander.

    a’s and a’s fans deserve a new park but god knows when it’s gonna get built.

  7. Does anyone know why Pleasanton/Dublin was dismissed as an option? Every time I drive past that big plot of land just north of the freeway next to the BART station I shrug my shoulders and wonder.

  8. @Bill: I don’t know any of the particulars of that proposal, but I think I can speak for a lot of Peninsula A’s fans and say that Dublin/Pleasanton is too far. Sure, someone could make a day of it but it’s not the sorta location a typical fan could zip over to on a Tuesday night and still make it home at a reasonable hour afterwards. That said, I do not have any idea of how the A’s fanbase is spread across the Bay Area/N. CA.

  9. Looking at these Diridon Cisco Field renderings, I’m eager to see the next round. One thing that struck me about these renderings was how they’re less gilded than the Pacific Commons or Coliseum North models/renderings– such as not having banners or detailed decorations. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of eye candy if this version of Cisco Field ever gets built so I can’t wait to see the next round of updates. I’d like to see the concourse behind LF remain open year around. I assume it’d connect the transit hub with CF Plaza/Autumn Prkwy. A covered but through marketplace with shops that’s open year-round wouldn’t take long to take on its own personality. During gametime, it’d be like that piece of the neighborhood invited to the game.

  10. After walking by AT&T Park on a non-baseball game day, it would have been nice to have a lot of full time retail along King St. I realize that during game day, that whole stretch would be busy with getting their tickets and stuff. When games aren’t being played, that area just seems empty with no reason to really walk by the stadium along King St.

    As for Cisco field, full time food places or restaurants next to the plaza behind center field would be great. I would also think the stretch behind left field would also be filled with full time retail because the whole area between the HP Pavilion and Cisco Field is planned to be buildings with dining / entertainment on the ground floors with about 8 stories of offices above.

  11. Agreed. Not to puff up PETCO Park even more but that’s one of it’s better features as well. There are several restaurants bordering on the Park at the Park and right across J street and also some on 7th and 10th Ave across from the stadium itself so there is always traffic around at least 3 sides of the ballpark even on non game days.

  12. @Dan: I’m definitely envious of you. I’ve only gotten to see PETCO from a distance and during the off-season at that. Whether it’s VC or Diridon, it’ll be the first time the A’s have been a physical part of the community since … KC? In any case, it’s been since well before many of us were even born.

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