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?