Many years in the making, a new Oakland Athletics ballpark is so close you can almost smell the beer-soaked peanuts.
The location of a new stadium is on schedule for announcement this year, according to president Dave Kaval.
He added that the decision continues to be a battle of pros and cons between four prospective sites, including two possible locations near Lake Merritt, one at Howard Terminal and finally the Coliseum. Each, Kaval has said, poses its own distinct advantages and disadvantages.
No matter which path the club takes, the A’s future home will remain well within the limits of the city of Oakland.
Speaking with members of Bay Area media on Friday, Kaval said:
“We’ve committed to this year — that we’re going to announce the site (this year). Obviously, we want to do it as quickly as possible, but we don’t want to endanger the ability for it to be successful long-term by not doing the pre-work.”
Kaval — who was responsible for the development of Avaya Stadium, the lauded home of the San Jose Earthquakes — made a new stadium in Oakland the franchise’s “north star” from the moment he came aboard.
Before any decision is made, though, all questions must be answered. All ducks in a row. All bases covered.
Among the issues being closely examined, the organization is looking into potential transportation and transit plans as they pertain to each location. Currently, three of the locations are well within the proximity of existing BART stations, with Howard Terminal presenting the only significant travel distance from the nearest station, though that site would offer adjacency to the Jack London Square Amtrak station.
The A’s and their president are after a location that would be most convenient for visiting fans, but they also have the thoughts of current inhabitants of the sites in mind.
“We’re trying to connect to the fabric of those different neighborhoods, that’s an important part of the process because our eventual success will only come out of that type of partnership.”
Kaval, who Vice President of Baseball Operations Billy Beane said brings almost too much energy to the board, is examining all options with due diligence, and is intent on preventing the A’s future home from slipping to the back burner.
Through interactions with the fan base, primarily via his weekly office hour, Kaval is hoping to greatly improve the experience at the Coliseum. He has announced several such improvements already, with two full weeks left before Opening Day.
Food and Beverage
No more boring food served on a frozen bun; the team will unveil a completely revamped menu.
“We have all sorts of new items, whether it’s meatball subs, or more vegetarian or vegan options. I think people are going to enjoy the food experience.”
As part of the new offerings, the A’s have beefed up the vegetarian and vegan menus. Each year, PETA grades all major league ballparks on the quality of their “animal-friendly” food options, listing their top 10 parks. The Oakland Coliseum has not been on that list since 2012. Perhaps this renewed approach to veggie-friendly fare will land Oakland on that list once again.
Cleveland native Kaval has also brought in Stadium Mustard — a deli-style spicy brown mustard with no preservatives, sugar and fat — which he joked may not be the best seller, “but it’s OK.”
Food options will also include monthly specials, which will be the products of a Twitter collection put forward by fans using the hashtag “AthleticsFoodie.”
Perhaps more intriguing to the Athletics fan than new food options is lower-priced beer. In place of a $5 12-ounce domestic brew — already below the Major League average, according to the Team Marketing Report — fans can get their sticky mitts on a 20-ounce beer for $8 domestic, $10 premium, or about two cents less per delicious ounce.
Even more tantalizing than the lower price, Kaval said that the Coliseum will now be home to the largest selection of beer the league has to offer, with more than 90 options — 77 on tap.
Cheaper beer cost and better food was a cause championed by Kaval, who said it came directly from his office hours:
“I had so many people come in and say it’s getting more and more expensive to take my family to a sporting event. …I remember growing up and going to the game, in a family of four, that’s part of growing up, that’s part of being a fan of sports.”
The A’s announced Monday they have reached a multi-year partnership with Fanatics, the purveyor of licensed sports merchandise.
Said Kaval, via press release:
“This partnership will provide fans the A’s apparel they want while helping us increase the overall fan experience. Fanatics is the global leader for licensed sports merchandise and the official digital retail partner of Major League Baseball, and we are confident they will help us grow and expand our brand.”
Cole Gahagan, the chief commercial officer for Fanatics, added:
“The A’s are a tradition-rich franchise and we are excited to offer fans ready-access to the largest assortment of merchandise ever available at the ballpark. … We look forward to using our tech-infused retail approach to help boost the overall game-day experience for A’s fans.”
The most obvious improvements to fan experience, through this deal, will be visible in the team store inside the D Gate of the Coliseum, which will feature new lighting, flooring and graphics, including a new 65-inch high-definition television.
Kaval has been adamant that the franchise will go to greater lengths to honor its own rich history, starting with the newly renamed “Rickey Henderson Field,’ to be officially dedicated on Opening Day.
The leadership has no intention to stop there. Reaching into the way-back machine, the A’s will pay due respects to the franchise’s first five World Series titles, each of which coming as the Philadelphia A’s. A quick jaunt around the Coliseum will give long-time fans of the green and gold a brand new experience, as the club recently received 17 boxes of A’s artifacts from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
“Celebrating the Philadelphia history is important, and then all the great things that have happened in Oakland. ‘Rickey Henderson Field,’ a lot of the classic players, whether they’re Hall of Famers or just players that people have an endearing connection to, we want to celebrate that in every possible way. That’s going to be a big thing that people will continue to see more and more about.”
Prior to 2017, the families of A’s players — including spouses and children — had no set location at the Coliseum. Some were scattered in the stands, others set up in a suite at the player’s expense.
The front office has now provided the families with a dual-wide suite, including provided nannies and catering.
Most A’s fans will remember in the hit flick “Moneyball,” when Brad Pitt (playing Billy Beane) rallied for free sodas in the clubhouse. The two are similar, though this act is on a far higher level. Players will no longer be expected to carry out their on-field duties with uncertainty of their family’s safety or well-being.
“It’s just a better environment for them to experience the game. For the players to know that their families are welcomed at the Coliseum is very important.”
The “ballpark guru” also addressed whether removing the tarps on the third deck of seats was a possibility.
As for now, the tarps will remain. Should demand warrant, their removal could remain a viable option.