Digging in the dirt

It used to be that during the early part of the NFL regular season, Raiders home games had a special form of home field advantage. Thanks to baseball and football seasons overlapping for 6-8 weeks, both the Raiders and A’s had to play under less-than-ideal conditions. The A’s dealt with football cleats trampling the grass, whereas the Raiders had to overcome a football field which was largely dominated by the dirt baseball infield. A few years after moving back to Oakland, the Raiders drafted Florida State kicker Sebastian Janikowski, whose impressive left leg could power kickoffs and long field goals regardless of the quality of surface. Other teams’ kickers who usually kicked on well-manicured grass or ever perfect artificial turf often couldn’t adjust, ruining their accuracy and/or distance.

Last night, the dirt infield bit the Raiders more than once. Longsnapper Jon Condo was inadvertently kneed in the head in the 2nd quarter, forcing the Raiders to use backup linebacker Travis Goethel as the longsnapper (teams carry one due to specialization). Goethel, who hadn’t done any longsnapping since high school, proceeded to botch two snaps to All Pro punter Shane Lechler, causing Lechler to be unable to get off two punts, which then translated to good field position and eventual field goals by the Chargers.

The NFL has long known about the suboptimal field conditions, and has made it clear that it wants the Raiders in a football stadium in the future, not a multipurpose stadium. That may seem like a no-brainer, but you have to think that the league was taking notes, with an eye towards really pressing the case when it talks to Oakland and Alameda County officials in the future. At the very least it gives the Raiders some ammunition to advocate to cease the stadium-sharing agreement with the A’s once both teams’ leases end in 2013, and really, could you blame them if they did?

The A’s will also have something to say about this, since they have complained loudest about the field. That puts the Coliseum Authority in the unenviable position of trying to cater to both teams while they are at odds over this very basic, fundamental problem. Key to this is the cost of doing the frequent conversions from baseball to football and back. To get a better understanding of what this entails, watch the video below from several years ago, when Brodie Brazil was working for KICU-36.

The conversion from baseball to football and back costs $250,000 every time, and the cost is borne by the Coliseum Authority, not the teams. Chances are that the Authority, looking to reduce its operating costs while it services $20 million per year in debt for Mount Davis, will want either or both teams to chip in for the conversions. During a calendar year we can count on the conversion happening at least four times, twice in preseason and twice during the regular season. With the A’s making a pennant run, there’s the distinct possibility of a fifth conversion happening this year: October 21 for the Raiders game vs. the Jaguars. The late October date is even more sensitive than September or early October because it aligns with the deep postseason for MLB. According to MLB’s postseason schedule, 10/21 is the date of Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. And since seven game series are in a 2-3-2 format, it’s likely that a Game 6 in Oakland would also be knocked out. The conversion process takes 24-48 hours to complete just from one sport to the other, so if we get to the point of watching the A’s in the ALCS (knock on wood), MLB and the NFL will have a scheduling nightmare on its hands. That is unless the A’s enter the playoffs as a wildcard, in which case they wouldn’t have home field advantage past the wild card playoff game and would only play Games 3, 4, and 5 at home.

If you’re wondering why the conversions cost so much, consider this: crews come in and effectively build a 4,000-seat temporary stadium inside the Coliseum every time, then dismantle it. Add the extra effort to replace grass, remove/replace tarps, and paint/repaint lines on the field. Cranes and bobtails run all over the Coliseum’s B Lot, moving and arranging the individual seating section pieces. After watching some of the work in seeming slow-mo, I’m surprised it doesn’t cost more.

25 thoughts on “Digging in the dirt

  1. Two snaps bouncing in the dirt and a punt blocked, too. I have to wonder if the recent “Oakland loves its sports teams” press conference was prompted by that secret NFL-Oakland meeting not going well, with the NFL wanting to know what the city could do for the Raiders and the city having to respond, of course, not much, since there is no public $$ available.

  2. re: At the very least it gives the Raiders some ammunition to advocate to cease the stadium-sharing agreement with the A’s once both teams’ leases end in 2013, and really, could you blame them if they did?

    The A’s will also have something to say about this, since they have complained loudest about the field.

    …Yikes. Two teams unhappy in the same stadium, no new facilities in sight – at least not in Oakland. Not a recipe for the city to seek rent hikes from either team.

  3. Figures one of the hardest to and most expensive to convert stadiums that hosted both sports is one of the last two still in use. And Toronto has been talking in the last year about kicking the Argos out, locking their “paired swivelable circular section lower deck” down for good and replacing their artificial turf with grass.

  4. It seems like a pipe dream, but I would love if the Authority kicked the A’s out of the Coliseum. I would love to have this fall right at Bud Selig’s lap and be done with once and for all. At this point, the A’s have absolutely nowhere to go, and Oakland should probably go all in with the Raiders.That’s where it seems their loyalties are anyway, and that park will never be conducive to baseball ever again.

  5. Way to be Blevins!!!

  6. I’m kind of hoping the same thing happens myself. At least it would force the issue.

  7. OT also on Warriors deal–love the ironic quote of Jim Weyermann who was in charge of SJ Giants when they filed the lawsuit for S4SJ to keep the A’s out of SJ—

    “This is one of the most selfish acts I’ve ever witnessed in my life,” said Warriors President Jim Weyermann. “It’s in total disregard for the economic benefits and well-being for Santa Cruz and it’s in total disregard for the overwhelming support that exists for this project.”

  8. Does anyone know how much Oakland is still in debt over the Mount Davis “renovation?”

  9. Isn’t the authority having trouble refinancing because none of the teams is on long-term leases? Raiders and A’s up next year and Warriors can leave in 2017?

  10. @ML: Do you know how the Coliseum’s conversion costs/time compared with other multipurpose stadia? LIke Candlestick for instance?

    • @pjk – Yes.

      @Briggs – It’s not even remotely comparable. As one of the crew in the video says, most other stadia had seats that either retracted or swiveled (or both), making the conversion process easy and quick to do. The only one of the “cookie cutter” stadia whose conversion resembled the Coliseum was the late Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. It also had grass.

  11. I would love to see the alternate designs for Mount Davis. I wonder if a more baseball-friendly configuration was ever considered.

  12. Most of the circular cookie-cutter stadia had seats that were added in the end zones (Shea, Riverfront, RFK, Astrodome) that were not a part of the baseball configuration. I’m not sure where these seats came from, but I imagine they were added in a similar way as these, only on a smaller scale.

    @Briggs, supposedly if there had been another year to build Mt. Davis (i.e. the Raiders could’ve moved somewhere else for the 1996 season), they could have at least made the 100 level seats pull-outs, like a high school gym’s seats (this was also done at the Metrodome). So there would be no need for the cranes and all that. I would think something like Mile High Stadium, where the entire section moves in for football and out for baseball, could’ve made those seats not so crappy for baseball and more convertible.

  13. Again, the city of Oakland should go all in with the Raiders, especially considering the Mt. Davis debt payments out to 2025. Perhaps a naming rights partner can provide $300-500 million for another round of football-only renovations at the Coliseum for Da Raiders!
    A’s in San Jose and Raiders forever in Oakland…sweet!

  14. …just looked at the 2013 sked: Unless I’m missing something, the A’s only play the Giants 4 times, not six. One soldout home game gone from the schedule.

  15. ML, Qualcomm/Jack Murphy/San Diego Stadium also had a similar piece by piece conversion as well. But of course that’s been locked in football configuration for over 8 years now. Oddly all 3 (Atlanta, Qualcomm, Coliseum) had or have grass.

  16. OT- Regarding the Santa Cruz tent arena possibly being stalled. I wonder what their back up plan is if they can’t play in Santa Cruz this year…

  17. Dan from what I heard it sounds like they would become a traveling road team. But would see if they could get deal somewhere close temporarily.

  18. $250K in annual field conversion costs equates to a capitalized contribution of up to $25M towards new ballparks without having to raid the current net revenue. Capitalized value is the amount of principal you would need to have to earn $250K. You would need $25M if you desired a 10 percent return.

  19. @BG – Not $250k annually. $250k per conversion. It’s upwards of $1 million per year.

  20. @ML–We are talking $100M that could be contributed to the Raiders and A’s for their stadia. Very interesting.

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