Saturday, July 3, 2021

Losing A's Would Add To Oakland's"Homeless" Problem

 The A’s green-and-gold slogan painted in big, bold letters on the outside of the Oakland Coliseum proudly states “Rooted In Oakland Since ’68.”

Inside the ballpark, however, the body language suggests an uproot is in the works. If you read between the lines outside the lines of the ballfield the message is obvious: The optics are awful.

Though the Oakland Coliseum was opened to full capacity this past week for the first time since the pandemic, the second-place A’s drew crowds of about 5,000 for all three of their home games with the Texas Rangers. Those were the smallest crowds to see any full capacity A’s game in Oakland in 24 years since September 15, 1997 when Brian Lesher was the team’s clean-up hitter.

The A’s had more than 32,000 fans on Friday night yet postgame fireworks was the main draw and 16,297 fans turned out on Saturday though, by the sound of it, most of them were Red Sox fans. Only the Toronto Blue Jays have attracted fewer fans at home this season, yet they have a good excuse. They are not playing at home. The Blue Jays have been playing their home games in Florida and Buffalo and not in Canada.

On the field, the A’s rallied for three runs in the bottom of the 12th inning for a much-needed win that snapped an eight-game winning streak by the first-place Red Sox on Saturday.

Unfortunately, the best hardball in Oakland these days is being played between team ownership and Oakland City and Alameda County politicians in a shell game of posturing over the desire to build a new ballpark, a new ballpark they have been talking about trying to build for 15 years!

Team president and the mouthpiece for ownership David Kavel, whose background is in PR, has been wooing Las Vegas with the A’s the way Al Davis wooed Los Angeles with the Raiders. Kavel’s directive is clear: If Oakland and the County of Alameda don’t give me what I/we need/want, I’m taking me/we and my/our team and going someplace that will. And they now have Major League Baseball’s blessing to do just that.

City and county officials, meanwhile, who have been dragging their feet for years are now digging in their heels, proclaiming to protect their coffers and taxpayers by not entering into any agreement – or $12 billion Howard Terminal at Jack London Square development project – centered around a new downtown/waterfront ballpark that will strap them. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who has seen Oakland lose the NBA Warriors and the NFL Raiders in the past two years, has vowed to keep the A’s and is hopeful a new 45-year non-relocation deal with on- and off-site affordable housing plan plus single infrastructure financial district ballpark proposal will be in the place by July 20 when the Oakland City Council votes on the matter.

The opposing parties in this pissing contest basically have the same strategy: Make the other side look evil while making it appear they are doing everything humanly – or PR – possible to make them look good. Or seem like they care.

Poor, loyal A’s fans are stuck in the middle, between a rock and Mount Davis. They are victims of circumstance. Since the A’s opened the Coliseum in 1968, the Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers have both built THREE ballparks, yet Oakland can’t build a new one. A’s fans have faithfully followed a low-budget franchise through thick and thin in a shit stadium that at least twice has literally reeked of sewage leakage breaks in the dugout. The A’s best chance to build a new ballpark is right next door in the parking lot where they have played for more than 50 years. They have the land. They have the infrastructure in place. They have a great need. 

A’s fans deserve better, but they are being treated rotten. It’s hard to be motivated to come to the games when the fan experience features team ownership that wants to ditch you, politicians who don’t listen to you and now customer service that don’t wait on you properly as they are understaffed and being trimmed to the barebones as if the team is about to pack up and move.

The A’s and their fans have been treated like second-class citizens ever since they built “Mount Davis” in 1996 as part of an Oakland Coliseum renovation project that catered to the Raiders in their second go-round with Oakland. The massive triple-deck symbol of that renovation – Mount Davis – robbed A’s fans of its single-deck bleacher section and magnificent open-air view of the East Bay hills and made the A’s the secondary tenant in the building. 

Mount Davis, now adorned by green tarps to cover unused empty nose-bleed seats, is a monument to mismanagement and the gigantic eye sore of Oakland sports. The only thing that could change that image is to build a new downtown/waterfront ballpark, but Donald Trump had a better chance of getting Mexico to pay for the wall and Kaval has had of convincing Oakland to give him what he wants. His plan calls for a $123 million transportation project to erect a gondola to cart A’s fans from the Oakland Convention Center BART stop over Interstate 880 to Water Street in Jack London Square.

As one A’s employee said, “This isn’t fuckin’ Disneyland.”

No, this is Oakland. The city that lost the Raiders twice and the Warriors forever. The A’s are their last chance, their last stand … their last major league team if someone doesn’t come to their senses.

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