A’s owner Wolff almost sorta kinda says R-word about Oakland Coliseum

Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff is interviewed in the new Athletics Magazine — man, wonder how they got that scoop, huh? — and had this to say about the team’s stadium demands:

We continue to respect the desire of the Raiders for a new football-only venue, while we of course would like to play in a new or vastly improved baseball-only venue.

That’s tantalizingly close to saying he’d consider a renovated Oakland Coliseum, though he doesn’t actually say the word “renovated.” But you don’t say “or vastly improved” to your own house organ if you don’t want to at least leave a door open.

What could possibly be done to the Coliseum to improve it? Newballpark.org proprietor Marine Layer has some ideas, including either tearing down the Mount Davis seats installed for the Raiders or incorporating them into a new seating bowl. (I think ML has neglected the setting sun being in batters’ eyes in that plan, but maybe the geography isn’t quite what I think it is.) I’ve previously noted that I’m an unabashed fan of the Coliseum, particularly if Mount Davis were removed, so it’d be interesting to see what, if anything, Wolff has in mind here. Mayor Libby Schaaf, can you ask him next time you see him and report back? Thanks, we’d all appreciate it.

24 comments on “A’s owner Wolff almost sorta kinda says R-word about Oakland Coliseum

  1. Yeah you have the geography wrong. The batters would look out on the Oakland hills to the East/North East. The sun sets roughly behind home plate, maybe halfway towards the third base side.

  2. There is no chance the Coliseum is going to be renovated to be baseball only, even if the Raiders were to vacate it. Nor would a renovation be satisfying to anyone, the fans or the organization, in the long term. It’s new and designed for baseball only from the beginning (with private money funding it), or nothing.

  3. JK: That’s not right, either. Mount Davis (centerfield) is currently ENE. If that were made the third-base line, then CF would be pretty much due south, which isn’t ideal.

    Anonymous: Why do you say that? I know it’s what Wolff wants ideally, but if offered a decent renovation plan, it would at least be better than another decade or two of the status quo, no? Not to mention cheaper.

  4. If you use the Marine Layer idea of using the Mount Davis section as the new third base line, you’re putting the plate facing due south. While this is not unheard of, as Comerica Park uses this setup, it puts the sun in the faces of the high-price ticket holders down the line.

    I think the bigger problem is that the club seats on that side are 46 rows from the field, with no overhang (they had to be built that way for football to be permanent seats and still fit center field inside under the current setup). So those would be just plain awful as club seats.

    I think the best you could realistically do is to tear out Mount Davis, tear off the upper deck if need be, and rebuilding the lower deck to add rows down the lines a la Shea Stadium. But you can’t really expand the concourse because the back walls are the foundation for the upper deck, and the second deck is still far from the field down the lines. So many of the current “problems” are still going to exist.

  5. It would be only marginally better than the status quo. Going back to a setup sort of like what the place had before the Raiders’ return from LA would be better than what is currently in place, but it would still be worse than almost every other ballpark with the possible exceptions of the Trop and Rogers Centre. And yes, it would be worse than The Cell. If they get a “new” stadium (i.e. were to do a remodel), they’d be massively screwing the fan base, giving them a stadium that is still in the bottom 3 in the league on the day it opened.

  6. Club seats down the lines don’t matter that much anymore and I think the Marine Layer idea is really interesting. That said I think the new Braves stadium is going to change the game and it’s hard to imagine a renovated Coliseum being modern enough to compete.

  7. Neil

    You’re right. I was just considering the current layout and didn’t understand that the ML proposal was changing the orientation of the field. My bad for not following the link.

  8. You had me for a brief moment when the first r-word in the article was respect.

  9. My guess is that renovating, even a massive renovation, saves time and money by reducing environmental impact studies and that sort of stuff.

  10. This argument mostly boils down to “will Wolff accept money to address some of the the coliseum’s age and amenity related deficiencies”, or “will Wolff stamp his feet and hold his breath until he turns blue unless someone gives him all the money to build what he wants but would rather not pay for”.

    Wolff has expended considerable effort (and political capital) to try and get a market for free. That didn’t work. So now he has to do what he should have been doing from the beginning, get the best deal he can out of Oakland.

    I get the feeling that the new administration in Oakland is willing to work with the A’s a great deal more than the old one was (how much of that was down to them and how much is down to Wolff refusing to talk about anything with the word Oakland in it, I don’t know).

    There is a deal to be made in Oakland, I believe. It’s a better deal if the Raiders leave, but even if they stay Wolff could be a lot better off with a heavily renovated facility in Oakland than in the existing one (which appears to be his only current option).

    Some of the basic configuration issues cannot be addressed reasonably. But $60-100m in improvements could go a very long way.

  11. Yeah, $60-100 million could go a long way towards transforming it from a sewage treatment plant to just a regular dump. You don’t spend that kind of money (or more) to renovate a venue that will still be the worst (or damn near the worst) in the league after renovations are done.

  12. What John said. I doubt Wolff would sign a 30-year deal to stay at a renovated Coliseum, but another 10-year extension, maybe? The guy’s 80 years old, you have to think he’d like to get *something* out of this while he’s still on this earth.

    This may all be reading too much into a throwaway comment, sure. But I don’t think Wolff chooses those words if he doesn’t want to leave himself a possible option.

  13. The A’s ownership group is the 4th richest in MLB. Oakland is short hundreds of police officers and not all the already built fire stations are staffed. Never mind the horrible condition of the school system. I just don’t see how these basic needs trump a public subsidy to a billionaire ownership group by the City. Or Alameda County as well.

  14. Diceshooter: They don’t trump those needs. Wants never should… but in the present environment? There is no need greater than a whim your city’s local sports owner expresses.

  15. Anonymous:

    With all due respect, you seem to be confusing maintenance issues with amenities. The coliseum has never been a sewage treatment plant. If you look at it’s history, those kinds of backups happened in the 1970s too (when the building was fairly new).

    It has some design deficiencies that need to be corrected. It lacks some modern amenities that can be added, and some that can’t. Just like Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.

    My 13 year old car is a bit like the Oakland-Alameda coliseum. It’s old, and it lacks some of the features that a new Lamborghini would offer. Since I can’t afford a new Lamborghini, and since it seems no-one else will buy one for me, I guess I will have to choose between spending some money on my old car or buying a newer (but maybe not new) one. I guess I could keep driving the old beater as is until someone is so embarrassed for me that they buy me a new Ferrari or 911 at least. I mean, really, everybody has a newer car than poor me…

    But I’m not sold anyone will do so. And at some point somebody might order my present car off the road.

    I guess I’m just like Mr. Wolff really.

  16. “The A’s ownership group is the 4th richest in MLB.”
    How nice of them not to build the thing themselves. Just another reason why I despise the A’s. They’re going to keep harping for free money as long as they think they can. The Coliseum isn’t the horrible dump everybody makes it out to be.

    “There is no chance the Coliseum is going to be renovated to be baseball only, even if the Raiders were to vacate it. Nor would a renovation be satisfying to anyone, the fans or the organization, in the long term.”
    That’s a pretty generalized statement that has no source. Sounds like a comment from A’s ownership, more likely. Nobody *needs* a new stadium. As long as you have a diamond & seats, that’s all you really need.

  17. What are you on about? The A’s haven’t asked for a dime from the City of Oakland or Alameda County to fund the construction of a potential new stadium on the Coliseum site.

    And yes, the Coliseum absolutely is a horrible dump. It is, by a wide margin, the worst facility in any of the big 4 sports (plus MLS) in the US or Canada. There’s no reasonable way to defend it as a facility when one of its occupants is willing to fund its own new stadium on the site without a public subsidy for the construction.

  18. It’s not a construction subsidy, which is specifically what I said. Even if in a perfect world teams paid every cent of every single thing related to their venues, anyone that’s actually trying to be realistic about stadium/arena construction knows that in the end that’s not going to happen. Nobody walks around talking about how the police needed at venues is a public subsidy, but at it’s core, that’s what it is. Nobody talks about how cities having to build infrastructure at least to the edge of the site is a public subsidy (because they do that for every building), but it fundamentally is on some level.

    You go ahead and find me the stadiums and arenas in the US whose construction costs were 100% private, because there aren’t more than a few at best. Hell, there aren’t even that many where the majority of construction funding was private. So even if the A’s want a free chunk of land, a privately constructed venue vastly outweighs that and is a better deal for taxpayers than you would get in 95%+ of other cases of new pro sports venue construction.

  19. “Nobody walks around talking about how the police needed at venues is a public subsidy, but at it’s core, that’s what it is.”

    Judith Grant Long does. She wrote a whole book so that she could account for these and other hidden subsidies.

    Yes, Wolff’s demands (what we know of them so far) are less egregious than the average stadium deal. That doesn’t necessarily make them worth it for Oakland — might be, might not, but “better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick” isn’t really good government decision-making strategy.

  20. I think a better value for the taxpayers of Oakland is a fully staffed police force, a fully funded fire department, public schools that aren’t war zones, infrastructure that is up to date, et al. Even though Cities and States cower to team owners requests for tax subsidies, it doesn’t mean that Oakland should fall in line because there’s no construction subsidy. Let the A’s move to wherever if they don’t like it. And the Raiders too, for that matter. Why should my elderly parents help support the 4th richest ownership group in MLB with their property tax dollars?

  21. Ben, I think we’re all looking forward to seeing how the “Atlanta” stadium uses innovative methods to package empty seats and indifferent baseball fans to create amazing profits.

  22. Give the land to Fisher/Wolff to develope in exchange for retiring the outstanding debt.