Oakland A’s talking temporary venue amidst murky stadium future
O.co Coliseum in Oakland doesn’t have many friends. Not the Oakland Raiders, and certainly not the Oakland A's.
The only venue in the U.S. still hosting both NFL and MLB teams full-time, the stadium, which opened in 1966, has the A's begging for more in terms of a home venue. Toward the end of last season, sewage flooded the visitors' dugout and parts of the home team's clubhouse, first in June and then again in September. Back in 2013, A's general manager Billy Beane said that the team was "burdened by our venue." It should come as no surprise, then, that the building formerly known as Oakland Coliseum has the A's exploring the idea of building a temporary venue in which to play.
"I am hopeful of expanding our lease at the Oakland Coliseum for an extended term," A's owner Lew Wolff wrote in a statement. "If we cannot accomplish a lease extension, I hope to have an interim place to play in the Bay Area or in the area that reaches our television and radio fans—either in an existing venue or in the erection of a temporary venue that we have asked our soccer stadium architect (360 Architecture) to explore."
For now, we know the A's will play 2014 and 2015 in O.co Coliseum, but beyond that, things are unclear. The A's had a plan to move to San Jose and build a brand-new stadium, bearing the name of Cisco Field, but gave up MLB-governed territorial rights to the San Jose area to the Giants when San Francisco flirted with a move to Florida in 1992. The Giants have fought Oakland’s move south, and the city and Giants remain locked in a legal dispute, but it doesn’t look good for the A's moving 36 miles down the bay.
With San Jose off the table, at least for now, the A's have turned their sights on getting major concessions and upgrades to their current stadium and deal. Without incentives, the A's don’t want to sign-on long term at O.co Coliseum. But without San Jose in play, that might be the best near-term option, especially since Wolff has already failed at new stadium attempts in Fremont and elsewhere in Oakland.
While Wolff won’t comment on the locations in play beyond his statement, local media reports the team has explored the stadium of the Giants’ Class-A team in San Jose, even though that currently seats less than 5,000, the now-vacated Candlestick Park, and other sites within the local media market. One possibility is the land neighboring the soon-to-be-completed stadium for the Wolff-owned San Jose Earthquakes of MLS, a space sizable enough to hold a temporary baseball venue.
In February, Giants owner Larry Baer said he’d be open to sharing AT&T Park with the A's if it meant Oakland was on its way to finalizing a long-term solution that didn’t include San Jose, such as a revamp of the Oakland Coliseum site, something on which Wolf has lately sweetened.
With the issues surrounding O.co Coliseum and the struggle to fill the 35,000-seat baseball configuration—the A's averaged just over 22,000 per game in 2013—maybe turning to a temporary site proves the first step in a long-term stadium solution. Unless O.co Coliseum can start to make new friends, that is.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and technology for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.