Opened nearly 50 years ago, the Oakland Coliseum Complex has aged well. It was built at a time when Professional sports were moving away from the central city and towards the suburbs, near the freeways. Was the home of the San Francisco Warriors who relocated from the old Civic (now Bill Graham) Auditorium next to San Francisco City Hall.
Six miles down the road was the home of Oakland Raiders who was playing at Frank Youell Field where Laney College stands today. Two years after the Coliseum Complex opened,The Kansas City Athletics relocated to Oakland sharing the field with the Raiders.
A Winning History
The Oakland Athletic club has won nine World Series championships, the third most of all current Major League Baseball teams. Four (1972, 1973,1974 and 1989 at the Coliseum) The Oakland Raiders one two of their three Super Bowl Titles (1976-1980) and the Golden State Warriors won two Championships in Oakland (1975-2015)
When Good Isn’t Good enough
Adjacent to the freeway with Public Transit stops inside the complex and connected to Bart, The Coliseum Complex is arguably one of assessable complexes on the west coast.
After nearly 15 years at the Coliseum the Oakland Raiders were nearing the end of its lease at the Complex. General Manager Al Davis asked for changes at the stadium in the form of improvements to the locker room and the public address system. He also wanted to luxury boxes and expanding the capacity of the stadium.(1) His request fell of deft ears.
These improvements would cost the citizens of Oakland and Alameda County millions. The truth was, county didn’t have the funds, it still owed millions on the current complex.
Even though Al Davis loved his fans and lived in Oakland at the end of the day he was a business man.
In 78′ the Los Angeles Rams left the old antiquated Los Angeles 92,000 seat Memorial Coliseum for newer digs in Anaheim. In 1982 the team relocated to Los Angeles to the Memorial Coliseum with promises of major upgrades.
When the Arena was opened in 1966 with 15,000 seats it was one of the largest arenas on the West Coast. By the mid nineties it was one of the smallest. In 1996, the interior was completely removed. Luxury boxes were added and nearly 5000 extra seats were carved out making the Oracle arena the largest NBA Arena on the West Coast..
In 2018, the Warriors will open the season in its new home in a smaller arena in the Mission Bay area of San Francisco.
Outside: Mount Davis
The Raiders returned to Oakland in 95. The county approved $220 in stadium improvements including the addition of 10,000 seats and luxury boxes. By enclosing the stadium, fans lost the openness and the view of the hills.
Mount Davis also had negative affect on the Athletics. First, had to play their first six home games in a small field in Las Vegas as Mount Davis was being constructed, when they returned the team lost nearly ten thousand seats making it the smallest stadium in baseball. The Athletic are not happy in Oakland and has been clear about wanting to move south toward Silicon Valley.
October 2015 (Associated Press)
The Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the city of San Jose in its bid to lure baseball’s Athletics from Oakland to the South Bay.
The justices, left in place lower court rulings that dismissed the city’s antitrust claims against Major League Baseball, which blocked the Athletics’ contemplated move to San Jose.
San Jose sued MLB in June 2013 for conspiring to block the relocation. San Jose is in Santa Clara County, part of the San Francisco Giants’ territory under MLB’s constitution. The city said the territory rules violated federal antitrust laws. Baseball has been exempt from antitrust laws since a 1922 Supreme Court decision.
“The court’s decision, while significant, has no impact on our intense and unwavering focus on solving our ballpark issue and providing A’s fans the first-class experience they deserve,” A’s owner Lew Wolff said in a statement.
Wolff has been committed to building a new ballpark and leaving the rundown Oakland Coliseum. The A’s averaged 21,829 fans a game this year, 27th among the 30 big league teams.
“Listen, it’d be great to have a new facility,” said Billy Beane, the A’s executive vice president of baseball operations. “The facts are the facts. We do our best with what we have.”
The Future and Reality
Los Angeles the nations second largest city does not have a professional Football Team. Oakland is competing with St Louis and San Diego. Public financing has become controversial in the last few years. The last NFL stadiums have cost more than a billion dollars. Oakland reportedly owes 100 million dollars on the existing complex.
There are many proposals in Oakland including an ambitious Coliseum city complex that would include residential and commercial development in the new complex that would include a new football ,baseball stadiums and a new arena on the current location, all proposals lacks funding.
In a last ditch effort to keep the Chargers, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. wants to set a referendum on public funding of a new stadium for the Chargers.which could persuade the team to stay in San Diego. The National Football League is testing the waters, all three teams will hold Town hall meetings this month perhaps to check the nation temperature on public funding.
The citizens of Los Angeles has made it clear, no public funding. The two proposed stadiums would be partially finances by the football organizations. The San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raider would share a stadium in Carson, Ca. The Saint Louis Rams proposed stadium would be in Ingelwood.
With over 10 million people the Los Angeles Market is larger than all cities combined. The NFL will decide which team/teams will get the prize by the end of this year.
Oakland stadium wasn’t paid for when the Raiders returned in 96. A larger more modern stadium with reduced rent (considerable less than their Bay Area rivals) wasn’t enough to keep them in town. Professional Sports has never been a good investment for taxpayers. Every 20 years or so cities are blackmailed into building modern stadiums and arenas with taxpayers dollars. The Atlanta Falcons wanted a outdoor venue and in two years the 1.2 Billion Dollar Mercedes Benz Stadium will open. Public Contribution is 200 million coming from the hotel-motel tax in Atlanta and unincorporated Fulton County (3) The twenty two year old 200 million dollar Georgia Dome will be torn down.
The test for the NFL is image. Will they choose to move one of the few teams in the Midwest to the West Coast? The Loyal fans of the Oakland Raiders is legendary and after 56 years the Chargers move north. The money is in the mega cities. Fan loyalty, is in the smaller cities like Green Bay.
As for the Oakland Athletics, its clear they would like to stay in the Bay Area. A large market that could support two teams. The move from Candlestick to ATT Park saw a major increase in ticket sales. Its very possible at move from the Coliseum to a site in or near downtown Oakland could do the same for the A’s The suburban experiment failed for Baseball, unlike Basketball and Football baseball thrives downtown. The wise move is a downtown setting for Oakland. The oldest parks in the league were built in urban settings.
In the near future,high school football may be played on that field. It wont the first. Many cities are littered with these white elephants most,are eventually torn down. If Oakland is denied, it may choose to sue the NFL or the dance will start again in Oakland.
Sources: (1) The Oakland Raiders Encyclopedia (2) San Diego Business Journal (3) Atlanta Journal Constitution