Laney, Peralta, and Howard: It’s a ballpark not a horse race

Last Saturday I spent most of the day (and night) at a Derby party. One of the hosts is from Kentucky, so the party had great authenticity all the way down to me taking a nap in the front yard after a group photo. That’s my authenticity, at least. During the brief lucid state I was in as we feverishly bid up horses, I started to feel a sense of familiarity to the whole affair. That’s because ever since the Dave Kaval-led A’s narrowed potential ballpark sites down to four in and around downtown, fans and observers everywhere placed bets on their own favorites. I’ve gotten no shortage of requests to handicap the four sites. While I’ve pointed to the Raiders-less Coliseum as the easiest, fastest site due to work already done and reduced complexity, there are far more interesting sites out there, sites that could prove more compelling to the A’s.

Peralta is the site between Laney (red) and Brooklyn Basin (light blue)

Kaval has been careful to not tip his hand. In public interviews and private conversions, Kaval praised all three sites, pointing out advantages for all three. If you’re gleaning some sort of favorite from him, it’s probably your own bias at play. Nothing wrong with that, just acknowledge it and understand that the team has a process it’s trying to follow.

That didn’t stop Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf from opining that the A’s have narrowed down the sites to Lake Merritt (Laney College) and Howard Terminal. Today, Robert Gammon expanded on that culling, explaining that the A’s are worried about getting 35,000 fans across the active railroad tracks running through Jack London Square. Brooklyn Basin, or the part of it that was being offered, is no longer under consideration. I suspect this is because they couldn’t assemble all of the needed land. Lake Merritt is actually two sites, the Laney fields and the Peralta Community College south of East 8th Street. Gammon’s scoop is that the A’s may be focusing on the Peralta site. That’s a bit of a surprise because most observers and Laney site fans have been fantasizing about those fields forever. Assuming that Laney wanted to keep its athletics program, bringing in the A’s is a nonstarter. Peralta is smaller, is further from BART, and rather close to 880. Peralta’s also smaller, with at most 10 acres available. Or does it?

Peralta parcel map

In the above map the word “College” has “16.70 Ac.” That nearly 17 acres includes all but 4 acres of the Laney College parking lot across Lake Merritt Channel. And because the ballpark is next to the Channel, a large buffer will be required along each bank for flood control and recreational purposes (Tidelands Trust). The buildable area is a square measuring roughly 600′ x 600′. That’s less than 10 acres in footprint, which would make the A’s park by far the smallest modern venue in baseball, while also leaving precious little room to build anything else. I wrote last October:

If the Peralta site is chosen, the administration offices and support for all four campuses in the district would have to be relocated. Perhaps a solution could include a large parking structure with offices atop. That could help serve parking needs for Laney, Peralta, and the A’s. It could also be crazy expensive on its own.

Peralta in bottom center, Laney fields upper right, BART tunnel begins bottom right

Since the undivided parcel includes the parking lot, any land deal could be a little easier if it’s confined to the 16.7 acres, though with the Channel removed only 4 acres are left to build a multi-level garage, the replacement district administration buildings, and other offices. A pedestrian bridge over East 7th Street would also be in order. That doesn’t leave much land to build a ballpark village unless the A’s buy or the city/college volunteer additional land in the area.

There’s also an old rail easement immediately south of the Peralta parcel, plus a corp yard butting up against the Nimitz. Those could prove useful in the future. It’s not realistic to expect any street grid changes or other infrastructure to help support the ballpark other than revamped on/off-ramps. This is little more than a thumbnail sketch of the Peralta site. We’ll surely find out more in the coming months.

Unusual Peralta lot boundaries

The Coliseum was mentioned as the third-place site in the Gammons piece, which is not a problem from a process standpoint. With the Raiders leaving, the Coliseum is not going anywhere and can also serve as a fallback position if the need arises. Then again, MLB has often said it prefers downtown ballparks, yet two of the last three parks (SunTrust, Marlins) were not built downtown, and the Rangers’ replacement will also be built in the suburbs. Only Target Field is downtown, lacking an adjacent ancillary development. Commissioner Rob Manfred’s seems to be conflating “downtown” with “ballpark+development,” truly a perversion of the traditional definition of downtown.

24 thoughts on “Laney, Peralta, and Howard: It’s a ballpark not a horse race

  1. that article also pointed out that the a’s org were worried about getting 35k fans across the train tracks at howard terminal? did they give away the capacity for the new baseball park they’re going to build at 35k?

    i’ve thought 34k-37k is the perfect size park for the a’s. they don’t need a big park over 40k nor do i think they could fill it as they couldn’t fill the coliseum at all even during their peak years from 1988-1992 when their largest single season attendance was 2.9 million during the 1990 season. that’s an average of 35.8k per game that season which sounds a lot but 35.8k in a 48k capacity venue you’re still seeing a lot of empty seats. the largest attendance #s the a’s have had since the haas glory years was in the early 2000s when the a’s drew over 2 million five years in a row from 2001-2005. the single highest season for attendance for those five seasons was 2.21 million in 2003, about 27.3k per game.

    it’ll also be nice to have a smaller intimate ballpark after all these years at the coliseum especially when mt davis was built in the mid 90s and capacity for the park shot up towards into the mid 55k. granted the “official” baseball capacity was listed at 43.6k starting up in 1998 after all the renovations were done and without opening up mt davis for baseball and before they started to tarp off the 3rd deck beginning during the 2006 mlb season.

    although i think most expected the a’s to build a park in the somewhere in the mid to high 30k range at best. kaval has mentioned numerous times in many interviews he’s done in recent months that he wants to replicate what the cubs and red sox have with that intimate ballpark experience. both of those parks are on the smaller scale with fenway having a 37k capacity the 4th smallest in mlb right now and wrigley has a capacity of 41k which is the 12th smallest although when compared to past parks before this new mlb park boom that started in the mid 90s wrigley i think wrigley was one of the smallest mlb parks along with fenway in baseball for many decades.

    wasn’t the rumored capacity for the cisco field venue down in sj around 32k so the a’s were always looking to build a small baseball park which i have no problem with.

    a 35k baseball park would it one of the smallest mlb parks. the smallest parks currently are tropicana field in tampa bay has a 34k capacity and progressive field in cleveland has a 35k capacity. but both of those parks have decreased their capacity over the years as tropicana when it first opened had 45k capacity in 1998 before they started to tarp off their seats too and progressive had a 42.8k capacity in 1994 and at it’s peak had a capacity of 45.5k in 2010 so they’ve lopped off 10k seats in the last seven years due to the many renovations they’ve made recently.

    the two smallest of the newer parks built have been marlins park in miami which has a 36.7k capacity and my favorite mlb venue pnc park in pittsburg has a 38.5k capacity.


    would there any pushback in regards to a new park being potentially built right up against the lake merritt channel which has helped revitalize lake merritt and the area there as a whole?

    now there will be some distance or a “buffer” between the channel and the park itself if the a’s were to build at this location. i’d guess the park would be built more adjacent to 5th avenue than it’ll ever be to the channel itself.

    but i could see many bringing up some concern what the impact of a new park along with what comes with it as an issue for that area environmentally.

    • Huge pushback. Read up on the Tidelands Trust.

    • That would be a non starter.

      They would need to keep a buffer, probably a public park like green space. I think that’s actually a pretty cool thing, really. Much like Petco’s “park in the park.” It’d be a thing that all of Oakland could use for all but 85 or so days most years.

  3. Capitol corridor grade separation? Add another 250 mil to Howard Terminal, see the cost of grade separation on the other side of the Bay,

    Click to access Grade+Separation+Update.pdf

    Probably will happen in the _too distant_ future when the state belatedly decides to convert that system to BART 2. Way too distant though.

  4. I would like to know the least favored of the proposed A’s new ballpark sites, from the Giants point of view. Whichever one that may be is the one that the A’s should ultimately select. I would tend to believe that either of the two proposed Laney sites would be most objectionable to the Giants. They would not want competition from a ballpark with beautiful views of Lake Merritt and its environs, not to mention being in very close proximity to BART/Freeway access connections to the Greater Bay Area, including Santa Clara County.

    • @ llpec

      Well one thing we know for sure, is that if Laney is the San Francisco Giants least preferred site then it would certainty have to be there second least preferred site, next to any site in San Jose. (South Bay)

      • @ llpec

        Because, and I think most of us (if not all), would agree that the San Francisco Giants most preferred site for the Oakland A’s to build a new ballpark on would be anywhere outside of the Bay Area, hell outside of California to be real about it.

      • i feel like if the A’s can pull off a Laney park with amazing views of the lake, thats a grand slam.

      • @Lakeshore/Neil,

        I just heard that Commissioner Manfred is considering the Giants’ just now request to include in MLB’s constitution to prohibit any MLB ballpark from being built within a one mile radius to Oakland’s Lake Merritt.

      • if and when the a’s open up their new park, likely to be just before the regular season happens i hope the a’s play a team other than the one across the team in the bay bridge series the two teams usually play after they fly up from az after spring training?

        why? i remember when at&t opened in 2000 and they decided not to play the a’s in the first ever game played there even though it was an exhibition game as they decided to host the brewers that night? did they not want to “share” the experience of the first ever game of their new park with the a’s back in in march of 2000?

        if that is the true reason why that happened and they’re that petty and we all know about their bull**** astroturf opposition groups they helped funded in the past, i hope the a’s do the same and open their new park with another big league team or heck play a minor league team like the ports in that first ever baseball game at their new park be it at laney or howard terminal.

      • Since the gints weren’t able to force A’s out of area I believe they regret their who anti-SJ strategy- that was all based upon A’s being forced to leave if SJ was a no go- no business owner would willingly choose to have 2 franchises 12 miles apart-competing for same customers. To this day still makes me wonder what kind of pictures the gints have of selig/manfred

      • @GoA’s

        My theory isn’t that the Giants had something on Selig, but that he shared a vision of the A’s leaving the Bay Area entirely. He tipped his hand when he called the A’s moving to to the region a “terrible mistake” that hurt the Giants and A’s business on multiple occasions. It’s also why, despite fraternity connections, it didn’t surprise me that he did nothing on San Jose. The Giants argument, however specious we think it is, was that allowing the A’s to move down there would harm their business model. Selig cut his teeth in an era when you could make a plausible case that the A’s hurt the Giants business in a substantial way.

    • I figure the gints will fire up their astroturf opposition groups once the A’s announce. I like the A’s approach in beginning to market/rattle the gints cage a bit- the large A’s hat in downtown SF was awesome. We were way too passive before.

      A’s will also need to push hard on marketing to South Bay (BART access is huge)- it’s all about TV money these days- how many viewers do I have that shell out for cable sports- much more so than butts in the seats-

  5. Holy crap!!!! I just realized something… news is happening again and we are getting more and more dispatches from my favorite writer on the internet. Thank you, ML!!!!!

    • Just wanted to second this – I stumbled onto this site in (I think) 2008. Never figured 9 years later the site would still exist. Not that I necessarily thought the A’s would have a solution, I just wouldn’t have thought someone would still be giving this level of analysis to the situation. There’s not a better, more well-rounded place to go for stadium information, not just in Oakland but pretty much anywhere.

  6. seems like some in the media don’t get that the a’s would not build and displace the entire laney college campus if they were decided to build the park at that location but just the administrative buildings and parking lot. at worst they’d take away the athletic fields.

    watched a replay of the “happy hour” on nbcsba earlier this morning which is basically the show that has replaced sports talk live, and in their last segment of the hourly talk show, they discussed this recent news of the a’s park that laney/howard terminal are the two possible landing spots for the team. seemed like the three hosts in ratto, papa, and johnson think the a’s would basically bulldoze the entire laney college and build the park there and were really surprised such an event would take place.

    i would thnk ratto would’ve known the specifics of the story that the a’s wouldn’t displace laney college as a whole but after the two other hosts brought up losing the school ratto if he did know the truth didn’t correct them. ratto probably is the one local reporter who has more knowledge of the situation than most here, at least the “big name” sports columnists in the area. i think for the past handful of months he’s gone on record saying that he believes this new a’s brass wouldn’t want to build at the coliseum and would end up at howard terminal.

    • The Raiders need to go like yesterday. These talking heads still haven’t redirected their attention from the Raiders to the As yet.

    • @letsgoas It’s pretty much a given that if Greg Papa brings up the A’s, he’s going to badmouth them. He’s still smarting from being fired from them several years ago.

      He’s fine doing radio for the Raiders. Outside of that, he’s just a jerk. Rude, condescending, sexist with ice cold takes on just about anything. He’s happy to spread misinformation re the A’s. After all, he still holds a grudge and does tet post-game for the GNATS.

  7. If the Warriors win the ship and get a parade around lake Merritt again, Kaval should fly a drone over to get sense for traffic flow in the area

  8. Hi, I am the editor of the Oakland Conduit ( I really like your piece, and I was wondering if we could rerun it in an upcoming issue? Or, would you be interested in partnering on a story about how a new stadium will impact each of the neighborhoods under consideration? Let me know. Information below.

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