As summer drags on, the deadlines for Coliseum City continue to slip. Whether it’s the EIR or commitments from teams, the multi-billion dollar project moves further into the pipe-dream category than anything resembling real progress. Talks between Oakland, BayIG, and the Raiders (ostensibly) continue at least through October, with BayIG expected to produce real working agreements at that point.
A’s owner Lew Wolff has made himself into something of a foil of Coliseum City. He has never bought into the plans because of the enormous complexity and cost, not to mention the placement of the A’s as a Phase III addition off to the side, scheduled for 2022 or thereabouts. Now Wolff has been in talks with the JPA about an alternative to Coliseum City, which would pay off the Coliseum and Arena debt, which currently total $191 million. Presumably that would be in exchange for rights to free or discounted 120 acres of Coliseum complex land. Should Coliseum City meets in demise and Wolff be given the opportunity to develop at the Coliseum, there are numerous things that can be done to improve upon the ideas first explored with CC. The goal would be to make a more truly attractive, cohesive neighborhood, as opposed to a mega-development with every kind of building crammed into every conceivable open space.
When I first saw renderings for Coliseum City, I liked the idea of a spine running through the complex that connected the BART station to the venues and surrounding development. However, when I looked through the master plan released earlier in the spring, I noticed that the spine, or concourse, also acts as the only park in the entire complex. In the 120 acres, what you see above is the only open space. For some that’s fine given the urban context, but it’s also an odd choice given that the anchors are sports facilities. Shouldn’t there be a ballfield, basketball/tennis courts, or something else where residents (yes, there will be residents) can play? Or will everyone in Coliseum City have gym memberships? Not to mention the fact that the concourse will be 30 feet or so above the parking lot or street level. That makes accessibility tough for everyone except for people coming off BART.
Then there’s the placement of the ballpark. Off in the furthest corner of the A lot, fans would take a redone BART bridge from the station, then descend from the concourse and walk 2-3 blocks to the yard. That would miss a major opportunity to integrate the ballpark in a way that not only features the venue, but also invites people to visit.
Speaking of that redone BART bridge, that’s part of the opportunity. For decades now A’s, Raiders, and Warriors fans have gotten desensitized to the concrete-and-chainlink cage that takes them from the BART station to the venues. The biggest compliment anyone can make about the BART bridge is that it’s serviceable. Otherwise it’s generally a negative. It looks foreboding, especially the part over the railroad tracks where the chainlink completely covers you. At 20 feet wide, it’s subject to frequent foot traffic jams, usually caused by vendors taking up a third of the walkway on either side. And it ends with Joe Fan face-to-face with Mt. Davis’s hulking backside. It’s not particularly pleasant. The experience is conducive to simply walking as fast as possible. Rare is the leisurely stroll across.
Coliseum City’s infrastructure plan calls for up to $22 million to be spent on a redone BART bridge. The bridge is 800 feet long. At that length, $22 million can go a long way (hopefully not the way the Bay Bridge East Span went). The bridge will eventually be widened to prevent those large crowd traffic jams. There’s also an opportunity to make the plaza much friendlier, with places to stop along the way, see the ancillary development under construction, and appreciate the view. What view, you ask?
Imagine this: You’re coming to your first game at a new A’s ballpark on BART. You see the familiar lights off to the side as the train stops. The lights are a little different, somehow less distant. You take new stairs that bring you directly to the bridge, instead of having to go down then back up. The stadium lights continue to guide your way. As you get closer bits of the ballpark are revealed. First it’s the RF grandstand in the distance, then the scoreboard. Then you get little peeks inside the ballpark. You arrive at a huge, 20,000 square-foot public plaza with monuments to Dennis Eckersley, Joe Rudi, and Chief Bender. The center field gate, to your right, beckons.
But you know better. You know the history of the Coliseum. You know to keep walking along the plaza to the smaller right field gate. Immediately outside that right field gate is a huge bronze statue of Rickey. You know the pose. 939. The statue is placed exactly where third base was in the old Coliseum, only 60 feet higher, maybe because it seemed like Rickey lifted that base 60 feet in the air. That’s the gate you use. That’s the gate you teach your children to use.
When you’re inside, one old friend has returned: the Oakland Hills in left. No longer blocked by a concrete wall of suites and football seats, Leona Quarry, now partly developed, comes back into view. There’s something in front of it, though.
Somehow you missed some pretty great architecture that you were walking on. You must’ve been really excited to the see the ballpark, eh? Well, you can take in the new view of the bridge and the hills from your seat. Life’s pretty good.
P.S. – I almost forgot – there’s a football stadium too. Like the Coliseum City plan, there’s space set aside for it just as there was for a ballpark. The stadium flanks the plaza the same way the ballpark does. Some fans in either stadium will have views into the opposite venue. I can’t say how it would be financed or what size it will be, whether it will have a retractable roof, or any other details. The point is, the space is there. It’s up to Mark Davis, the NFL, and other investors to figure the rest out.
Notice in the overlay I put together that the combination of the two stadia, even with the plaza in between, is only slightly larger than the old Coliseum, which covers 20 acres (Levi’s Stadium has a 17-acre footprint) . Despite placing two stadia there, only 1100-1200 parking spaces are lost. Those could be recaptured by reclaiming space after the arena is demolished, though I would prefer to keep the arena there if there’s a way to operate it without running deeply in the red after the Warriors leave.
P.P.S. – Now I’m sure you have a lot of questions. That’s good, because I left out a lot of details. Fire away.