The owner has formed a venue development committee involving two team executives -- President Mike Crowley and Wolff's son, Keith -- and three outside firms, including 360 Architects, Gensler Architects and International Facilities Group.
Committee members have toured several newer ballparks, plus Boston's Fenway Park, and plan to check out other pro sports facilities, including basketball arenas. The mission is to gather information to be better prepared to design a new home, if it gets that far.
"They'll come up with a prototype, and they're thinking outside the box," Wolff said. "With venues, you want the next new one to be better than the last new one."
Wolff isn't as interested in building a park on the Coliseum parking lot and said a downtown site is "probably not in the cards," but he did say he's more open than ever to locations in and around Oakland, preferably with BART access. Public help, he added, is necessary.
Let's pick apart the statements made here.
- Touring existing facilities comes with the territory. Part of the process is evaluating the designs and architects associated with them, and crib some of the best ideas. Fenway is an unusual example of a refurbishment that is ongoing.
- Looking at basketball arenas is a good move. Philips Arena has a unique design with the suites stacked on one side of the building and the seating bowl cantilevered around them, making for better, lower sight lines. 360 designed Miami's American Airlines Arena, which is notable for a special innovation: floor suites. Jacobs Field in Cleveland has a version of this in their Dugout Suites, covered front-row seats between the dugouts at the same elevation as the dugouts. Behind the seating area are the individual suites, below the lower seating bowl. This type of seating would most certainly demand a premium.
- Gensler has a wide ranging portfolio, but little sports venue experience. My guess is that they'll work on concourses, public spaces, and fan-oriented areas. In an effort to escape the drab gray that dominates the Coliseum, a new ballpark would be bright and full of color.
- "With venues, you want the next new one to be better than the last new one." - The standard-bearer currently is Petco Park, though it's likely that the new DC and Minneapolis ballparks will be completed in the next 3+ years. Better also often means more expensive, which could drive up the price of the project. I can see Wolff trying to limit the amount of concrete that's poured, while maximizing revenue within the space as much as possible.
- The Coliseum's out based on the power lines issue and conflicts with the Raiders and Warriors. It may also be because he saw the limited development potential and balked, thinking the cost wasn't worth the return. Saying Downtown is not in the cards really means the Uptown site is not feasible. That's probably because it's too far along the development timeline to scrap it.
- What does that leave? The Estuary site for starters. Then perhaps the OUSD and Laney College sites. All 3 have been profiled here, and all 3 have development issues to overcome. The Kaiser Convention Center just closed down so it may become available, but the site's too small to house a ballpark unless other land is acquired. Howard Terminal is locked into a long-term lease agreement.
- The old Army Base in west Oakland is a possibility, but it would require a new BART station, site cleanup, and a buyer for the required property. Based on the activity that occured after the closures of Treasure Island, Alameda NAS, and the Presidio, it's not the most expeditious process.
- There are also sites that may be available that are currently active or in use, such as some of the light industrial area that lines I-880 between Downtown and Jack London Square. Acquisition costs for such properties would be the big issue there.
- I don't know what to make of the "public help is necessary" comment. I'll ask the reporter myself about that.