Oakland Coliseum Complex: The Admirable Failure

I have two copies of Paul Goldberger’s recent book Ballpark: Baseball in the American City in my possession. One is a hard copy, the other a Kindle version. The book goes through the history of ballparks, from before baseball was properly organized in the late 19th century through the pre- and post-war periods to the under construction Globe Life Field and the planned Howard Terminal ballpark.

In chapter 7 (“Leaving the City”), Goldberger makes the following observations about Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, built in boom year of 1950:

Memorial functioned reasonably well for baseball despite its football-like appearance. Reportedly football fans in Baltimore believed the stadium’s layout  favored baseball, which further underscores the paradox most devoted of the multi-purpose stadium: it is never ideal for any sport, and the most devoted fans of one sport, frustrated by the facility’s shortcomings, are likely to think that the design favors the needs of another sport over their own.

A couple weeks ago, the Coliseum underwent its final football-to-baseball conversion, marked by numerous comments about how baseball has it better there. This sentiment was echoed most vociferously by former Seahawk and Cal Bear running back Justin Forsett, who said:

The last Raiders game planned at the Coliseum on December 15, followed by the intense construction period that has marked the last two winters in which baseball or fan-related improvements are installed within the stadium bowl. There isn’t much need to change the field, though the rumor of moving the bullpens is still out there. A Monster Jam event will be held in mid-February, followed by the ritual of resodding of the grass at the Coli.

The Coliseum uses stadium technology that mostly dates back to the 60’s and it shows. Whether we’re talking about the low overhangs, the lack of functioning elevators or escalators, or the notches in the lower seating bowl, the Coliseum stands as a mid-century marvel, though it clear isn’t fetishized like an Eichler. The field remains below sea level, plagued by a poor drainage situation (a game during the last homestead was delayed at the start due to standing water). It’s not a field designed to wick away a foot of rain in an hour. It is, at its essence, playable in ideal conditions. And it has held up despite being replaced twice a year, trampled by 300-pound men and construction equipment, even families on fireworks nights or the occasional concert crowd.

Newer stadia with grass fields have done a better job of obscuring the dirt infield with temporary sod. Artificial turf looks more like real grass with each passing generation. Innovation will continue to leave the Coliseum in the dust, and whether the A’s move to Howard Terminal or a new stadium next door, there’s little reason to consider revamping the grass field when it’s doing fine with routine maintenance. It should do even better without the frequent football changeovers, harkening back to the pre-1995 Haas era of baseball prominence.

From behind the backstop earlier this season

In hindsight, it makes me wonder about the role of the multi-purpose stadium in American sports history. Goldberger devotes two chapters to the phenomenon, starting with Cleveland Stadium in the 30’s and taking the reader through the cookie cutter era and the last purpose-built multi-purpose stadium, SkyDome/Rogers Centre. Was it a necessary step to accommodate a growing pro sports industry and economy? How much did suburbanization and car culture impact stadium development? Most of these stadia got the wrecking ball and with it were relegated to the dustbin of history. Yet while the old cookie cutters were around, how truly bad were they? The most favorable thing often said about these venues was that they were serviceable. Cities tried to concentrate all of the major sports activity in one place or complex. Kansas City, South Philly, and the Coliseum remain examples. But Kansas City recognized the benefit of separate stadia long ago, after the A’s left for Oakland. Philly decided to ditch the old Vet and build separate football and baseball stadia in the same complex. Pittsburgh followed the same path with Three Rivers, as did Cincinnati with Riverfront.

Yes, there is an impressive list of ballparks built during the 20-year HOK era that are shining examples of bringing baseball back downtown: Camden Yards, Progressive Field, Coors Field, T-Mobile Park, Oracle Park, PNC Park, and Petco Park. Oakland remains thirsty for its own urban transformation, while Kansas City continues to flirt with moving the Royals downtown. Bringing a team downtown is no magic bullet, as the Pirates remain woefully small market and the Reds’ Great American Ball Park is ho-hum at best.

The recent trend of building more ballparks in urban areas was followed by a mini shift towards revisiting suburbanization, as practiced in Arlington and Miami. On that trend’s heels is the neighborhood-ization of the ballpark, which the A’s dabbled in a decade ago. This approach tries to create a great sense of place around a ballpark, while providing a large palette of different types of ancillary development to help pay for the venue itself. Globe Life Field (successor to Globe Life Park) will have an adjacent village. The Angels continue to negotiate development rights to the area surrounding their home in Anaheim. The days of a stadium surrounded by a sea of parking are waning, though this is more prevalent in baseball as opposed to football. Cubs ownership owns much of the real estate surrounding Wrigley Field, and the Giants are soon to start their commercial development on the parking lots to the south of Oracle Park.

While the Rangers will move to a similarly named ballpark next door in a few months, the “old” Globe Life Park will remain a functioning venue. An XFL franchise will start play there next spring. GLP will be reconfigured to house football as such:

XFL configuration at Globe Life Park

Remember that pro sports in Arlington started with an expanded Texas League park named Turnpike Stadium over 50 years ago. Once expanded, Arlington Stadium barely qualified as sufficient for the major leagues. When George W. Bush became Rangers owner in the early 90’s, he helped engineer the deal that resulted in GLP. The City of Arlington’s extremely sports- and business-friendly environment eventually attracted Jerry Jones, who abandoned Texas Stadium in Irving for JerryWorld, within spitting distance of the ballpark. Now that Globe Life Field will open in 2020, there will be three venues mere walking distance from each other, two with retractable roofs (one huge, one medium-sized), the third without a roof but okay for hosting events outside of the summer months. That isn’t so much a complex as series of purpose-built venues built near each other to take advantage of available parking.

Rendering of a Ghost Town

When Coliseum City was unveiled in 2015, I opined that the vision was too ambitious in trying to accommodate the Raiders at the expense of the other tenants. Apparently that wasn’t Raider-friendly enough for Mark Davis, who was unwilling to give up parking acreage for a neighboring ballpark or ancillary development. The Dubs were already looking across the Bay, while the A’s had to regroup after being rejected on San Jose. Still, this concept of a mega-development with three venues and increased year-round activity was sold as the savior, the panacea for Oakland. The Coliseum complex, as shown in the rendering above from last year, has a mostly deconstructed stadium and an arena with a tenant for six weeks per year and limited opportunities to pay to keep the lights on.

Of course, Oakland is not like Arlington in many respects, so it would be foolish to attempt to take the North Texas sports economics model and transplant it into the East Bay. Now the new panacea, as it’s being pitched, is a model that utilizes an industrial site next to a commercial site (Howard Terminal and Jack London Square, respectively) and use the Coliseum to help fund the ballpark. Parts of the Coliseum would be filled in by a mix of uses, effectively throwing East Oakland a bone. Alameda County negotiated with the A’a a buyout of their share of the complex, while the City of Oakland remains a holdout.

There are few remaining sports complexes in use. The Coliseum is one though it only has one tenant left once the Raiders leave. The 50’s and 60’s were the time for the baby boom, suburban expansion, the Interstate highway system, the socioeconomic ills all of that would cause in later decades, and sports complexes. Some examples:

  • South Philadelphia Sports Complex (1926) – Anchored at first by Philadelphia Municipal (later JFK) Stadium, which briefly hosted the Eagles, AFL Quakers,  and WFL Bell, along with numerous festival concerts. The Eagles moved to Franklin Field on the UPenn campus, then back to the complex for Veterans Stadium (1971) and Lincoln Financial Field (2003). The Phillies moved to the Vet in 1971 after calling Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium home, then moved back to the complex for Citizens Bank Park (2004). The 76ers and Flyers were housemates at the Spectrum (1967) for its entire life, before moving to its replacement in 1996. Ancillary development included a now-demolished aquarium and a Comcast-developed retail-entertainment district. Future plans include an e-sports arena.
  • NRG Park (1965) – Anchored by the Astrodome and Astroarena (1971). The Dome hosted the Oilers and Astros until the Oilers left for Tennessee and the Astros went downtown. The Arena was considered too small for major indoor sports. A convention center continues to operate. The Dome still stands, unused, with an uncertain future.
  • Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (1966) – Currently houses the A’s (through at least 2023) and Raiders (through 2019). Previously hosted the Warriors, Golden Skates, Rhinos, and Oaks.
  • Truman Sports Complex (1972) – Separate venues built for the Royals and Chiefs after the A’s left KC. Both charter tenants remain.

Later versions:

  • Meadowlands Sports Complex (1976) – Originally hosted the football Giants only. New venue MetLife Stadium hosts both the Giants and Jets. Purpose-built arena on premises abandoned by Nets and Devils, who moved to Brooklyn and Newark, respectively.
  • Jacksonville Sports Complex (1995) – Home of the Gator Bowl (1927), which was razed and rebuilt as the home of the expansion Jaguars. An arena and a minor league ballpark also exist nearby.
  • Dignity Health Sports Park (2003) – Soccer stadium for the LA Galaxy, part of a public-private partnership between Cal State-Dominguez Hills and venue operator AEG. The stadium temporarily hosts the Chargers while they wait for their new Inglewood stadium to be completed. There is also a velodrome and the park will host multiple events as part of the 2028 Summer Olympics.

After teams left the Astrodome, Kingdome, Metrodome, and the cookie cutters for purpose-built facilities, the few multi-purpose stadia left were iconic of an era that time passed by. Some of the goals were ambitious: large capacities and even larger adjacent parking lots, downtown locations in many cases, and updated technology such as electronic scoreboards and luxury suites. Time marches on, though. Even as 50,000-plus fill the Coliseum on Wednesday evening, there will be constant reminders of how past its prime the venue is. Is there room for a multi-purpose stadium in the future? Well, sort of. There is a coming glut of ultradomes, NFL stadia designed to host a rotating college football playoff or bowl game, the Super Bowl, a college basketball tournament regional or final, and perhaps a premier soccer exhibition or boxing/wrestling every so often. What was once a 50/50 football/baseball split is now closer to 90/10. Bowl game? Sure. No housemates that play baseball, though. Or basketball or hockey. Fans want venues right-sized for their sports teams. Or at least the team owners want those venues, no sharing.

All in all, the Coliseum complex saw over 50 years of use and 10 world championships during that time. While it’s not yet time to send in the demolition crews, it’s not a bad moment to assess the complex’s impact on Oakland, the East Bay, and the Bay Area as a whole. More than anything, the Coliseum served its purpose. It did so a little brash with some bash. It put Oakland on the map. It’s still mostly efficient to visit, convenient, and centrally located. It is not by any means sexy. The Coliseum attracted, but did not keep, several pro sports franchises. Better to have loved and lost, I suppose.

Chase Center non-preview

Arenas are utilitarian. There aren’t huge tomes written about the history of arenas as there are for ballparks or football stadia. Arenas are designed to efficiently house a crowd of 15-20,000 for roughly 2.5 hours, the length of a basketball or hockey game or the headliner portion of a concert. Then you’re just as efficiently whisked out of the shiny building and sent on your way. That’s why Chase Center, like most modern arenas, provides no public tours. The Warriors admit this quite plainly in their Visitor Info page:

Tours

Does Chase Center offer building tours?

Because of the number of events that Chase Center hosts each year, there are no public fan tours offered at this time.

There’s nothing wrong with this. Staples Center and SAP Center do this. It’s hard to know what areas are okay for touring when whole sections are closed off for maintenance or prep. Arenas are the equivalent of a Swiss Army knife or a utility man in baseball. Only on rare occasions do arenas get the kind of poetic treatment often given to ballparks, and that’s usually when they live long enough to earn it. Most of the time, arenas are remembered for two things: the number of banners hanging in the rafters, and the memorable concerts that played there in the past. The Oakland Arena checks both boxes, thanks to the Warriors’ championships in four NBA seasons, and the venue’s place as a Bill Graham’s large indoor venue of choice in the 70’s and 80’s.

Main entrance to Chase Center. Photo: Gregory Varnum (via Wikipedia)

Is that much different from American Airlines Arena, which opened in 1999?

Photo: John O’Neill (via Wikipedia)

Or what about Staples, which also opened in 1999?

Photo: Prayitno (via Wikipedia)

Golden 1 Center in Sacramento has a series of garage doors that open up to a plaza, so that’s an innovation of sorts. Nevertheless, there’s a recipe here:

  1. large glass-walled cathedral-style entrance
  2. prominent signage
  3. metal exterior surfaces
  4. slightly different roof and wall angles to hide the fact that the edifice is a large toilet bowl oval

Don’t get me wrong. I love arenas nearly as much as I love ballparks. Before the Oakland Coliseum Arena was closed and gutted, I once received a media pass and came to a Dubs game early to full explore the building before opening tip. I hiked to the top of the upper bowl and gazed out at the Nimitz Freeway through the west windows, experiencing some slight vertigo along the way. I understand, however, that I’m a rare bird. Given the lack of books about arenas, it stands to reason that not many would wax romantic about the subject. The Coliseum Arena’s gracefully undulating arc of the upper bowl was replaced by the blocky new bowl that killed the views while adding 5,000 seats. It helped the team compete, and not many people missed the views the way A’s fans still bemoan the loss of Leona Quarry because of Mt. Davis. Basketball and hockey are fixed stage sports with set dimensions. Baseball is more pastoral and lends itself to a wandering eye because of its pacing and rhythms, as well as the sport’s lack of standardized outfield dimensions.

In Inglewood, Steve Ballmer unveiled renderings of a new home for the Clippers, just blocks south of both The Forum and the new football stadium at Hollywood Park. I applaud the attempt to minimize height and make the whole thing more human-scaled, though I suspect that, like the football stadium next door, it will resemble a translucent hill. Now take in the presence of a new basketball-specific arena for the Clippers, the old Forum converted to a premier concert venue up the road, and an enormous football dome between them. Add to that the two MLB parks, two MLS stadia, the LA Memorial Coliseum, Rose Bowl, and other smaller venues in the region, and it’s easy to see how LA won the 2028 Summer Olympics. A new light rail extension is being built nearby, including a downtown Inglewood station a mile or so north of the three venues. From there a people mover-style tram will run from the new station to all three of the venues. That is, if funding can be found for it. If not, there will probably be shuttle buses. Or people can always walk.

From: City of Inglewood

Chase Center is getting an expanded light rail station, similar to how VTA did the same for the Great America light rail station before Levi’s Stadium opened. Rides on the Muni are included with each event ticket, which is sort of a necessity when little parking was built for the arena. The events scheduled for the first few weeks act as a dry run for everything from transit to the arena’s air conditioning and concessions. Warriors and A’s fans familiar with the dread dual-event scenario already ran into that once this month thanks to the proximity of Oracle Park.

Is Chase Center better than the Oakland Arena? In many ways, yes. It has 1,500 fewer seats and a better distribution of suites. The roof is lower to approximate the noise level of the old home. That’s a tall task, largely because like Levi’s Stadium, much of the crowd will be in the clubs or in bunker suites throughout every concert or game, places where their noise will be muffled. Plus the optics of empty-but-paid-for seats, like those in Santa Clara, loom large. Will the Dubs hire seat fillers like an awards show?

It’s tragicomic how Oakland Arena evolved from a ho-hum arena and nice piece of modern architecture to a ho-hum renovation that housed one of the fiercest home crowds in sports. Next year, it will be home to six home games for the Oakland Panthers, the new Indoor Football League franchise co-owned by Roy Choi and Marshawn Lynch. Like most arenas, it will become obsolete and steadily decay, while the Warriors compete for more banners across the bay. I sincerely hope that the Panthers and the IFL can stick it out for the long haul. Arena football doesn’t have a reputation as one of the more stable sports out there.

Meanwhile, Seattle, which lost its basketball team a decade ago, failed to get a replacement NBA team due in part to a lack of a new arena. Instead, the old Seattle Center Coliseum/KeyArena is being renovated a second time in order to host an expansion NHL team in 2021. Funny how life works.

News for the week: Tommy Boy Edition (1/16/16)

While Mark Davis drowns his sorrows with some beer and wings, pondering his next move, we should consider what else has been happening this week. After all, unless either the Chargers decide to stay in San Diego, Davis is more-or-less stuck in Oakland. He could conceivably apply to move to a vacated San Diego or San Antonio, but that require going through this rigmarole again with a much smaller payoff. So we’ll let whole football thing settle down for a few weeks. If you want to understand what Oakland is getting ready to offer the Raiders, read my post from November.

Matier and Ross reported earlier this week that Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is pushing Howard Terminal hard for a new ballpark, which is no secret. Included was this nugget:

The city would probably also have to come up with at least $90 million in infrastructure improvements, including funding for a car and foot bridge connecting Howard Terminal to Market Street east of the railroad tracks.

That $90 million figure is no accident. Schaaf is offering the Raiders the same amount for infrastructure at the Coliseum. She’s trying not to play favorites with either team. Of course, there is the danger of spiraling costs, and Oakland is putting itself in the position to carry the debt burden all by itself, since it’s nearing a deal to buy out Alameda County. As costs rise, the question will linger over how much Schaaf is willing to support before the projects become untenable. At least her staff has acknowledged the need for an overpass at Market Street, which was a major issue for me. Frankly, I think they need two overpasses because of Market Street’s location well away from Jack London Square. If you want to get reacquainted with Howard Terminal, read my various posts about the site.

Other news:

  • The City of St. Petersburg’s City Council approved by a 5-3 vote to allow the Rays to explore other stadium sites outside the city limits. That includes all of Pinellas County (St. Pete is the county seat), and neighboring Tampa and Hillsborough County. It’s too early to tell whether this will ultimately lead to the end of the Rays’ tenure in St. Pete, but proponents are at the outset painting this as the team’s best chance to stay in the 4.3 million-strong Tampa Bay Area, which has proved poor for attendance and excellent for TV ratings. As always, the biggest issue is figuring out how to pay for it. Head over to Noah Pransky’s Shadow of the Stadium for complete coverage.
  • The Warriors are pushing back the opening of their arena to 2019 to accommodate the legal challenge by the anti-arena Mission Bay Alliance. MBA also sued UCSF’s Chancellor and now has two lawsuits against the arena project in different jurisdictions. It’s a legal Hail Mary that will largely depend on whether the arena will be afforded an expedited legal review. (SFGate, LA Daily News)
  • The new arena near the The Strip in Las Vegas has a $6 million per year naming rights deal with wireless carrier T-Mobile. (Las Vegas Review Journal)
  • Hartford’s downtown ballpark is delayed and has $10 million, for which no one has figured out how to pay. Thanks to the delays, the AA (Eastern League) Yard Goats will be forced to play on the road for the first six weeks of the season. (Hartford Courant)
  • Walmart announced a slew of store closures, including a store in south San Jose and the Oakland store on Hegenberger near the Coliseum. The store will close Sunday, which led @fanpledge to wonder if it could work as an A’s ballpark site.

Most importantly, the In-N-Out in the northeast corner can stay intact. I’ll cover this site in greater depth later.

Giants encroach upon Coliseum property with celebratory billboards

I heard about sightings of Giants ads at the Coliseum last week. I thought it was crazy, then I heard about the context. I asked for Twitter followers to take some photos if they saw such ads, and they didn’t disappoint. Behold:

Thanks to @OaktownMojo capturing those.

If you’re wondering who created those ads, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

The Giants wouldn’t dare create an ad only celebrating their own title and put it into ad inventory for the Coliseum grounds, but put in the a salute to the Warriors and they have a clever way to get a dig in at the neighbor A’s as well. And there’s little the A’s can do about it.

Ads on the Coliseum property not within or attached to the venues are controlled by Outfront Media (check out that caption), the big billboard company that used to be called CBS Outdoor/Viacom. Everything from those tall kiosks to rotating signage above the parking lot entries to the electronic billboards facing the Nimitz are fed data by Outfront. The JPA contracted the signage to CBS Outdoor more than a decade ago, bringing in nearly $1 million a year.

Reactions to the ad ranged from incredulous to foaming-at-the-mouth hostile, as you can imagine. It’s one thing to have a billboard on the Bay Bridge touting rings over splash hits, which the A’s did a while back. Putting the Giants at the Coliseum, regardless of the intent, is a bridge too far. If the Giants want to make it about the Warriors, make it about the Warriors, and reserve your other ad for somewhere other than 7000 Coliseum Way. Like this:

All’s fair in love and baseball, however. I mean, there are territorial rights, but those only cover where a stadium’s built, not where ads go, or team stores, or where local radio or TV affiliates are located, or anything else related to location for that matter. It’s like the current Giants to capitalize on whatever they can to increase their hegemony, and attempt to get involved in seemingly every other sports operation in the Bay Area.

It’s unclear how these ads are vetted. They may require some clearance by the teams, probably not. Maybe the JPA sees all of them, maybe only some. Whatever the amount of review, this is a mistake by whoever cleared these, especially if they’re gonna have the ads within sight of a bunch of Giants-hating A’s fans tailgating during a homestand.

After all, this is Oakland, the city that was worried so much about SF stealing the Warriors’ victory parade, despairing over Steph Curry appearing at a Giants game to the point that Klay Thompson had to show up at an A’s game two days after. Most outsiders will never understand the Bay’s unique form of provincialism. As a person born in SF, brought up in the South Bay, with the A’s the only Bay Area team I follow, frankly I’m amused by it. Then again, there’s nothing the Giants can do about this:

Seems like a good Photoshop opportunity, no?

Warriors to hold victory parade in Oakland on Friday

Shortly after the Warriors finished off Cavs in Game 6 of the NBA Finals tonight, Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears sent out this tweet:

There you have it. A parade in Oakland, a nice route to traverse through downtown, uptown, and Lake Merritt. It should be savored, for not only is this the first Warriors’ title in 40 years, this will be the first parade in Oakland in 34 years. The somber tone that came with Loma Prieta’s interruption of the 1989 World Series led to no parade to celebrate. The 1975 Warriors’ championship was not only played at the Cow Palace due to scheduling conflicts with an ice show at the Coliseum Arena, the championship parade was held in downtown San Francisco. That makes the last Oakland championship parade the one that followed the last Oakland Raiders Super Bowl win, in 1981.

Then, like now, the champions intend to leave Oakland. Though the preferred destination for the Dubs is only across the bay and not Los Angeles, there is a palpable tentativeness to the situation that has created tension among some of the region’s fans. The same goes for the Raiders and A’s. Thankfully, that can all subside as the celebration continues throughout the summer.

Normally a momentous occasion like this gives a host city a boost of political will that can be used to push a stadium campaign. Not in the Warriors’ case. The Dubs are taking all the goodwill and using it for their own political fight against arena opponents in San Francisco. It’s not unlike the 49ers, who used a string of playoff appearances to solidify the ticket base enough to fund Levi’s Stadium. Then again, the new stadium honeymoon period sometimes isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, ask the Niners.

It’s fitting that the parade route will end at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, an old building that lays dormant while developers figure out how to rehabilitate the landmark and make it profitable. HJKCC was an occasional alternate home venue during the Warriors’ first few years in San Francisco, before the Warriors started playing games at the Coliseum Arena. The Dubs permanently moved there in 1971. Now they’re planning to move back to SF. It all seems so cyclical, doesn’t it?

Oakland Sports Forum, Wednesday October 29, 6-8 PM

Oakland has had a slew of mayoral candidate forums and debates, all leading up to the election on November 4. Surprisingly, there has been little coverage of the sports franchises and their impacts, save for the occasional easy-to-dodge question here and there. Thankfully, Zennie Abraham has seen fit to host his own forum. Named the Oakland Sports Forum, the event will be held this Wednesday, October 29, from 6 to 8 PM at Lakeshore Baptist Church in Oakland.

Abraham, who does a lot of video in addition to blogging, will be livestreaming the forum on YouTube as well. If there’s a Game 7, you may have to multitask.

A set of four questions will be posed to mayoral candidates who show up. So far 12 of the 15 have confirmed. Here are the questions:

  1. Wild card question from audience submitted beforehand, asked by that person. (1 min per candidate, then 10 minute conversation period with moderators.)
  2. The Golden State Warriors are working to build an arena in San Francisco. Some say the deal is done and its too late to stop it. But others say that the Warriors belong here in Oakland, still owe Oakland and Alameda County rent that would pay off the bond that was issued to pay for arena renovation in 1998, and should not be allowed to skip town. What is your take? (1 min per candidate, then 10 minute conversation period with moderators.)
  3. The Oakland Raiders and the Oakland A’s need new stadiums. As I speak, Coliseum City is in the early planning stages, but could progress better – financing has not been completely secured. Is Coliseum City the right approach, and if it’s not, then what would you push for as Mayor? The ballpark waterfront proposal? (1 min per candidate, then 10 minute conversation period with moderators.)
  4. The Oakland / Alameda County Joint Powers Authority was formed to provide a government issuing body for the Raider Bonds. Lately, the JPA has been the focus of strained City and County relationships, and I’m presenting that in an open-ended fashion. What, if anything, should be done with the JPA, and as Mayor what will you do to make that happen? (1 min per candidate, then 10 minute conversation period with moderators.)

It’s a good set of questions which should keep the candidates from being too vague in their responses. The responses will be scored – how very sports – and a winner will be announced at the end of the proceedings.

It’s been eight years sense the “Choose or Lose” forum prior to the 2006 election. This shapes up to be a more substantive event than the last one. Maybe there will even be an adult conversation.

Welcome to the Toto Neorest Center

The Warriors and Snøhetta continue to provide sketches and renderings of the planned Mission Bay arena. Socketsite showed them first. The overwhelming impression most everyone gets from these renderings is that it looks like a toilet. A fancy toilet, to be sure, but a toilet nonetheless. The “back” with its two wide supports definitely doesn’t help.

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For reference, here is the product I referenced in the post title.

neorest_600

Toto Neorest

It used to be that most arenas were simple ovals or circles with some sort of façade. No more! In order to accommodate the growing need for auxiliary spaces inside each arena (offices, practice facilities, special hospitality areas, restaurants), just about every new arena has had a side section or wing grown onto it. The “appendage” trend started with Staples Center.

Staples Center with administrative building “appendage”

Architects have to solve the problem of integrating such structures into the arena footprint. Inevitably it all looks like some variant of an oval with something on the back. From the top Staples Center kind of looks like a record player. The new arena in Edmonton (architected by 360 Architecture) looks like a skillet. And then there’s the Warriors’ arena, whose resemblance to a toilet is rather uncanny.

new-edmonton-arena

Rogers Place in Edmonton is warming up for an order of sunny side-up eggs.

A big reason why a fairly up-to-date arena like Oracle is being dumped for a new home is this. And there’s a consistent effort to make such buildings less monolithic, a hallmark of many 60’s-80’s arenas. Different materials, surfaces, glass, and angles are designed to soften the appearance while making it an object of demand (if not desire). Most arenas are utilitarian in nature and don’t bring up the kinds of feelings of nostalgia or place as ballparks do so successfully. Really beautiful, transcendent works are few and far between. Even though Staples is only 15 years old, every time I pass by it I feel that it has aged 25 years.

Perhaps the role of an arena is to be of an era, to represent a time. I only hope that Snøhetta somehow gets rid of the unintentional comedy element in this design. There’s still time to do so.