30 October 2006

A suggestion: Build the museum ASAP

Last week I drove by Pacific Commons and went to Brandin Court, where a front company for Maritz-Wolff bought much of the cul-de-sac. I noticed that one of the buildings was vacant, so I decided to do a little research. The building's address is 5070 Brandin Ct. (assessor's map in PDF), and according to this listing it has over 53,000 square feet of space.

According to the listing the building is "Under New Ownership" and has "Exterior and Interior Renovations in Progress" even though I didn't see any cars out front. It has an
anonymously blah exterior, as would be expected of most Silicon Valley office parks. As a structure designed to hold both office and light industrial/manufacturing operations, much of the building does not have windows.

The Fremont office market is not hurting too badly at this point, so the owners should be able to find a tenant at some point if they haven't already. If/when the land deal for the rest of Pacific Commons is done, there's a particularly novel application just waiting if no tenant comes:

Use the building as a tentative site for a baseball museum.

Why not? Yes, ownership would undoubtedly lose money at first, but it's an extremely good way to build a rapport with existing and future fans. I went to the
Baseball as America exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California last year, and as impressed as I was with the collection, I also came away asking myself, "Why isn't there a local baseball museum?" Sure, the A's have been criminal for not adequately touting their history, but the Giants don't have a museum either even though they're constantly talking about their own history. In fact, not only is there no baseball museum in California, there's nothing west of the Rockies. The Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum had been trying to get a home in San Francisco since 2002 but little has come of their efforts (Citgo is working with the HoF on a Latin American traveling show). Are you as surprised as I am that no baseball museum exists nearby? The Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame is well-intentioned but its plaques and monuments are spread out all over the Bay Area.

In March it was reported that a
baseball museum would be part of the A's Pacific Commons development. That little heralded nugget may be the best part of the package because it would present the A's a unique opportunity to finally acknowledge the franchise's rich, 106-year history (38 years in Oakland) with something tactile and permanent. 5070 Brandin Court would of course be a temporary home until a proper museum could be built closer to the ballpark. In the meantime, the intervening years could be used for fundraising efforts, to gather collections, and to focus the scope of the museum properly. Consider the possible categories:

  • A's franchise history
  • The old Pacific Coast League
  • Bay Area baseball legends and notables
  • WWII and its effect on baseball
  • Broadcasting wing with nods to Bill King, Lon Simmons, Bill Rigney, et al
  • How technology has changed baseball and how we experience baseball
  • Sabremetrics
  • The usual kids exhibit - "Physics of a curveball" and other topics
  • Existing Cooperstown exhibits
If you visited Baseball as America you'll see that some of these ideas were covered by the collection shown, so I'm not exactly covering new ground. But wouldn't it be nice to have something permanent and at the same time more expansive? The only limitation is the amount of depth that the A's want covered. Some intriguing issues:

  • How is the steroids era treated?
  • Is the museum A's-only?
  • Do the A's attempt to work with the Giants?

The Rangers operate their "Legends of the Game" museum as an all-encompassing collection rather than one that trumpets the team's history (admittedly, the Rangers/Senators history is not that rich). Having a museum open well before anything else would be a fantastic way to get people into the Pacific Commons area early. Not only would they see A's tradition on display, but ownership could have a development sales office next door (if anyone's interested in buying a condo). I'd be willing to help out (with the museum, that is).