In an effort to show its commitment to not relocating to another city, the Oakland Athletics offered to pay a $136 million debt in order to secure operation of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The plan — should city and county officials allow it to proceed — is to build a much-needed baseball-only stadium on the site.
A’s President Dave Kaval says the arrangement would save the city and county $20 million a year on debt service, according to the Associated Press. It also will keep the A’s in Oakland long after the NBA’s Warriors and NFL’s Raiders follow through on planned moves.
“The key thing is we really want to own our own home,” Kaval said. “We’ve been here 50 years. The other teams are leaving. It’s important for our long-term success in Oakland to have a place that is ours that we own and control. That is the impetus of making the offer, to assume the debt and to take that burden off the city and county.”
Efforts to build a baseball stadium at other sites in the Oakland area have fallen through, and some observers believe the Coliseum site is the best option.
The Coliseum opened in 1966 and is the only remaining stadium in the United States shared by professional football and baseball teams. In 2006, the stadium made news when the A’s covered the entire third deck with a green tarp, reducing capacity to about 34,000 — the smallest in all of Major League Baseball at the time.
Citing fans’ demand, Kaval had the tarp removed last seasonand sold third-deck seats for $15. In some cases, half the proceeds from sales of those seats went to local charities. Nevertheless, the A’s finished the 2017 season with the second-lowest paid attendance in all of baseball (18,219 per game), as fans still expressed frustration with poor team performances and a run-down outdated stadium that lacks amenities and is prone to flooding.
“It’s not just the play on the field. It’s being able to hold onto our players,” Kaval said. “That’s something we’ve had a challenge doing because we’ve been a low-revenue club. We haven’t controlled our own venue, we weren’t generating revenue like some of the other clubs. The key to the entire piece is getting the ballpark built here in Oakland and generating revenue commensurate with a large market team.”
Meanwhile, Kaval is doing what he can with limited resources, as the AP reports: “While work on getting a new stadium goes on, the A’s added a new feature to the Coliseum this year in hopes of attracting more young fans. They have opened ‘The Treehouse’ above the left-field bleachers. Fans can buy a monthly pass for $29.99 that gives them access to the bars, lounge seating and standing room areas.”
“You see that as a trend, people moving away from a physical seat and focusing on these experience areas,” Kaval said. “I think it’s going to attract a lot of millennials. We need that. We need more fans, especially baseball in general needs younger fans. This is a way to do that.”