When the A’s released the map for this year’s FanFest, I was curious as to how traffic would flow in the expanded footprint. Last year, the event was held entirely inside Oracle Arena. The stage was placed on the event floor, with queues at the corners for autographs and other lines along the concourses for photos, the World Series trophies, and other attractions. This time around, the A’s utilized parts of the stadium and the whole of Champions Plaza (between the venues) to create more queueing space. Did it work?
For the most part, spreading the crowd out accomplished its goal. Unlike last year, the crowds were much more bearable in the afternoon, with fewer choke points along the lower concourse. But there were still huge jams in the lower club, and the lines to get autographs and the clubhouse tour easily ran 45 minutes at times. The lines are a product of the 10,000-strong crowd, and there may not be much that can be done about it. Even the upper level of the arena was used for autograph lines. In the future, it’s probably best to move the whole thing back over to the stadium side. That may be difficult for the Coliseum Authority to do because the stadium holds the only annual Northern California stop of the AMA Supercross tour. Eventually, it’s all a matter of money.
I arrived at the arena too late to watch the player introductions, which were reportedly quite energetic. A blogger interview session was set up to start at 1, after the regular media interview session. This time we had Bob Melvin, David Forst, and Mike Gallego. We were also supposed to have Jarrod Parker. Unfortunately he was ill. No matter, as Melvin was his engaging, confident self. Forst gave all of us some roster and draft nuggets to chew on (hint: think college players), and Gags had great anecdotes about Loma Prieta and Walt Weiss. (BTW, Gallego is my spirit animal.)
One particular advantage of the stadium is that it has two clubs of 20,000 and 40,000 square feet. Even the smaller of those, the West Side Club, is bigger than the two clubs at the arena combined. The one thing the stadium doesn’t have is the auditorium-like setup with the stage and the beautiful new displays at the arena. It’s nice, not a must-have.
There will always be a scheduling conflict regarding the Supercross event as long as it’s held in the stadium. The event has to be held after the last possible home playoff game for the Raiders (seriously), but with enough time for the grounds crew to clear everything out and start planting grass for the baseball season. At the same time, the organization wants to ensure player availability for the event, which can be difficult because players start reporting to camp in mid-February (the ones that aren’t already in Arizona). That leaves about a two-week window for FanFest to be held. The Giants appear to have left Supercross behind, choosing to maximize baseball operations once their bowl game is over in December. Speaking of which, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl will be played in Santa Clara starting in 2015. The 49ers stadium may eventually be the best place for Supercross in the future because of fewer potential conflicts on its schedule.
The Warriors are on a 4-game roadtrip around the Great Lakes, which explains why there’s no basketball floor visible in the picture above. Also, tomorrow is a scheduled concert by the band MUSE at the arena, so the arena had to be ready for a conversion to the end-stage configuration, in which a much larger stage would occupy the “open” end. This exposes the outline of the ice rink, which extends from the permanent seats on one end to the back of the retractable sections on the stage end. The first row above the retractable sections is row 17, 15 feet or more above the ice surface. If you’re wondering how compromised that would look for hockey, there you have it. Basically, if you’re at the retractable end behind the row 17, you’ll have trouble seeing the goalie or anything happening around the net.
Overall, there was a great sense of excitement and optimism this year that wasn’t present last year. Let’s all hope there’s even more reason for people to come back for next year’s FanFest.
Note – Wonder what the Coliseum looks like during a Supercross? Here’s a peek.