04 March 2009

Learning to love Mt. Davis

Well, since no one took me up on my offer from February 20, I took it upon myself to figure out a unique way to reuse the Coliseum in a cost-effective, yet modern (in ballpark terms) manner. I've been in nearly every inch of the Coliseum as a fan or media person, yet there's always something to learn when doing an exercise such as this.

One common refrain I've heard from fans is, "Knock down Mt. Davis and bring the Coliseum back to its pre-1995 glory and everything will be just fine for the A's." There's nothing wrong with tying a little nostalgia to wishful thinking. Still, it's one of the more unrealistic notions I've ever heard. Oakland and Alameda County still have $22 million in debt service due on the renovation for the next 18 years. Foul territory and sightlines would still be bad, the stadium would be ADA-deficient in many ways, and the stadium would continue to be a poor revenue generator. That's a bad situation for the A's and all fans except the hardcore type. If hardcore fan interest were enough, this blog wouldn't exist.

I suppose the foul territory problem could be remedied a bit by constructing a new set of field level sections which hug the foul lines more closely. It doesn't solve the curvature of the seating bowl, but it's a start. Of course, you do that and you get something that looks like this:

Ah yes, Shea Stadium. We know what happened to Shea.

How then, to leverage the investment made in 1995 to make it work for the A's? The seating bowl sucks and has to go. The regular bowl suites are crap compared to other ballparks. There's a dearth of club seating. For a place this big, how could it be this... cramped?

The answer is to utilize the one part of the renovation that is modern and spacious. That's Mt. Davis. Not the whole thing, mind you, just the parts you need. At the same time, use just a portion of the old seating bowl, from dugout to dugout. Before I get to that, I have to explain why Mt. Davis is a good thing.

Embrace the space

Compared to the original Coliseum, the Eastside stand is downright cavernous. It has high ceilings, wide concourses, separate access for club seaters and suite holders. All 90 suites are on their own concourses. The Eastside Club is 40,000 square feet of fairly well appointed, perfectly usable and rentable space. The Eastside has all of the things a modern ballpark needs, more than enough in fact. There are three levels of suites. One level can be converted into the minisuite concept Lew Wolff likes so much, the other two can be kept as regular suites. Some can even be expanded into XL sized suites. The upper seating sections of the Club can be converted into restaurant seating, making for excellent views of the field much like the old Westside Club.

Even better, those temporary football seats can be replaced with something that works better for baseball. Knock out those block seating sections and you have an open concourse. It's easy to build in good ADA compliance while getting rid of those aluminum risers. As the new baseball-friendly lower seating sections get built, all of that space underneath can be utilized for a new A's clubhouse, batting cages, and other team facilities.

There remains the Mt. Davis upper deck. Those seats are about as useful as teats on a bull. Nothing wrong with removing those sections completely along with their connecting ramps. It'll reduce the stadium's height, making it far less imposing and removing forever the unfortunate toilet bowl overhead shot from any future broadcasts. Excess seats could be donated to local colleges and high schools for their own use. US Cellular Field underwent a similar kind of renovation in 2004.

What would this redone Coliseum look like? Here you go:

It's pretty simple. The bullet points:
  • Keep Mt. Davis.
  • Keep the Plaza level seats behind the plate, along with the press box, Westside Club, and a handful of suites that'll be turned into party suites.
  • Everything else gets knocked down, including the tarped-off upper deck.
  • Put in new bleachers and bullpen locations with ice plant behind them.
  • Build half of a simple, new two-deck grandstand with a new press box and new exclusive club areas behind the plate. No suites needed.
  • Turn the old press box into an A's Hall of Fame Museum and preserve the broadcast booths.
  • Add a kids play area in the outfield.
  • Update the fixtures and technology throughout.
The big weakness in the concept is the field orientation, just east of true south. It's not what the makers intended, but it shouldn't be a problem as long as the new grandstand was constructed in a way that properly blocks the setting sun. That shouldn't be a problem. The sun also won't be in the batter's eyes as he won't be facing the setting sun and a midday sun should be pretty high in the sky.

The concept seats 34,000 with plenty of space for more. More importantly, it manages to preserve many of the best features of the old Coliseum and complements them with truly modern ballpark elements. The cost? The best comparison is the Kaufmann Stadium renovation, which cost $250 million.


Jeffrey said...

I kind of like it. Only kind of.

I imagine I woudl liek ti even mroe if it was tweaked a bit. $250 million is a lot cheaper than $450 to $500, but I wonder if the "not new" aspect of it would make it harder to do PSL's, or any kind of TIF.

J Canseco said...

I like it. However, you said knocking down the top level of Mt. Davis is "no problem." To me that seems almost as unrealistic as removing Mt. D completely. I don't know much about this stuff though. Also, does this plan assume the Raiders leave?

Jerry said...

Creative. The assumption is that the Raiders are on to a different stadium? I'm not an engineer so I can't comment on the realities of such a project but I think that the Cellular Field and Kaufman Stadium remodels are not enough of a remake to use as a yardstick for this very grand task. While the Coliseum location is optimal from a mass transit and highway access standpoint, I say this plan, as creative as it is, would fail to garner *any* support from city/people of Oakland. I'm holding my breath for the A's to move to San Jose.

dmontero said...

This is great work that takes actual business considerations into account, namely that Mt. Davis is the newest part of the Coliseum and therefore the least likely to be torn down. That said, this plan looks REALLY ugly (entirely the fault of Al Davis, not Marine Layer). Also, do any other ballparks face South?

I really hope it doesn't come to this specific plan, but I'm starting to suspect the A's will be playing somewhere in the Coliseum complex for many years to come. OK by me; I live in the East Bay!

Brian said...

Very interesting idea, and definitely thinking outside the box.

Regarding the orientation, John Thurman Field in Modesto faces due south, and it is annoying to sit out there on the third base side. It has identical bleacher sections on the first and third base sides there, and during the twilight hours, the first base bleachers can be packed and there will be next to no one on the third base side (it usually evens out a bit after the sun fully goes down).

Comerica Park comes the closest among major league stadia to facing due south, as it is rotated 20-25 degrees to the east. Not sure how night games are there but you do have an upper deck to block the sun which you don't have in Modesto. I can't help but notice that there is a gap in this design between the pink new upper deck and the blue old plaza level (where sections 321 and 322 are currently) which is right where the sun sets in the summer (anyone who sits in the RF bleachers knows what I mean). That would get obnoxious in a hurry.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't lefties be batting into the sun or is the Coliseum high enough to block it out at that time of day?

Marine Layer said...

Jerry, I think we can safely rule out PSL's anywhere in the East Bay.

J Canseco, the nice thing about removing the upper deck is that you don't have to remove anything structural, except for lopping off the columns that hold up the deck.

Jerry, the Raiders would be elsewhere. The Coliseum would cease to be multipurpose. This would probably be more expensive than Kauffman, but there are similarities. At Kauffman they had to pour lots of concrete just to expand the concourses, redo the outfield, and add the team offices. They didn't have to build a new grandstand, but they had to build a bunch of new restaurants and other features that the Coliseum already has in place.

dmontero, I make no aesthetic claims.

You're right Brian, there is a gap there. It could be closed by either extending and turning the new grandstand, or by preserving an additional plaza level section.

Anon - lefties would not be facing the sun.

Oakland Si said...

Glad you've been able to find the time to work on this -- most of us can't.

I think all creative ideas need to be considered, including this one.

Anonymous said...

It's difficult for me to imagine this being pulled off in a way that doesn't look like two separate stadiums sewn together like some kind of Frankenstein's Park. It would also suffer from remaining in a bad location: the middle of a parking lot in the middle of an industrial area.

bartleby said...

Very creative, a noble attempt. But still, ugh.

Aesthetics are very important. Without state-of-the-art, aesthetically-pleasing-new-stadium buzz, and without a move to a more desirable location, I just can't imagine this would generate enough additional attendance (and more importantly, premium seat sales) to justify the investment.

Even building a new ballpark in downtown Oakland would be a major gamble, given the mediocre support for the team in Oakland over the years. Still, I believe a $500 million investment in a new yard in any of downtown Oakland, downtown San Jose, or Fremont would bring a much greater return than a $250 million remodel of the Coli, even with the cost savings.

BleacherDave said...

I ran across this interesting data.....

Retail Consumer Spending, 2007 & 2012
2007 2012 %
Consumer Retail Consumer Retail Change
Spending Spending (Est.) 2007-2012
Alameda County $18,189,871,357 $21,989,750,148 20.9%
Contra Costa County $13,889,633,016 $17,262,028,424 24.3%
Lake County $753,720,822 $970,135,673 28.7%
Marin County $3,920,107,434 $4,650,877,996 18.6%
Mendocino County $1,028,912,449 $1,270,575,012 23.5%
Napa County $1,723,957,941 $2,166,829,423 25.7%
San Francisco County $10,135,825,085 $12,050,964,948 18.9%
San Mateo County $9,667,911,014 $11,359,700,901 17.5%
Santa Clara County $22,927,266,309 $27,494,500,416 19.9%
Solano County $4,907,878,659 $6,161,848,456 25.6%
Sonoma County $6,167,746,657 $7,551,931,147 22.4%
San Francisco DMA $93,312,830,743 $112,929,142,544 21.0%
Source: IMark Online, Claritas 2007

Alameda County's retail consumer spending alone is only slightly less than SF and San Mateo counties combined. Alameda and CoCo counties combined is massive, far outstripping Santa Clara county.

Anonymous said...

Bleacher Dave--interesting--what is powerful is the combination of Santa Clara County (largest) added to the second largest, Alameda, supplemented by San Mateo--

Ballpark in San Jose would provide for this!

Brian said...

No one in San Mateo County is going to go to the A's in San Jose. Everyone has loyalties to the Giants already, looks down on SJ because they consider themselves part of SF, and except for Menlo Park, is not any closer to SJ than SF.

No, the comparison would be Santa Clara and southern Alameda County vs. Alameda, CoCo, and whatever slice of Santa Clara the A's get now.

dbackman said...

It is definitely worthwhile considering the reuse of the Coliseum. All that poured concrete represents a truly enormous amount of labor and materials. A structure like this cannot simply be thrown away, just because both its teams are sick of it.
Nevertheless, it needs a complete transformation in order to be a viable sports venue in the long run. I am not one for stop gap measures. If they are going to renovate this stadium they should go all the way. It has the structure and the capacity to be a great park. Be fearless in gutting the aspects of the Coliseum that weaken it, and use it as a foundation and centerpiece for a vastly expanded and modernized sports complex.

Anonymous said...

And here in northern Santa Clara County ( Palo Alto ) , being a season ticket holder of the Giants and a fan since the days of Atherton resident Willie Mays - I know very few ,if any ,neighbors who are A's fans (or Raiders fans either).

Many of my neighbors were intrigued by an A's stadium at Pacific Commons ( just across the Dumbarton from us ) mainly for the after game entertainment/shopping aspect of the Ballpark Village for our kids' sake .
Driving to an A's ballpark in Sanazay in a dodgy neighborhood surrounded by a bunch of train depots ...mehhh.
The only reason people in Palo Alto ever drive SOUTH is if their job is that direction ( or to go to Stevnd Creek to buy a car or shop at Santana Row ,LOL )

Anonymous said...

Anon--ignorance is bliss---lots of "Palo Alto" types of towns down here in the south bay--Los Gatos, Saratoga, Willow Glen--just to name a few---and lots of us like going to the "dodgy" neighborhood in downtown San Jose to take in a Sharks game--have dinner and a few beers---and more than willing to financially support a ballpark also--happy to hear you spend your tax dollars in San Jose--and that you work in San Jose---thats all we really want you for--

No one's asking Giants fans to give up their allegiance to the Giants--but since your point is that the South Bay/San Jose doesn't matter than Giants shouldn't worry about territorial rights---and than we can see how many San Jose A's fans really exist--

dbackman said...

No matter how much a city or a group of investors want a baseball team as a feather in their cap, it really comes down the fans. Do the A’s potential host cities have a fan base to sustain the team? Will the A’s be embraced in by San Jose fans? I don’t know too much about South Bay sports, but I assume that if the Giants own the territorial rights to the region, then the majority of baseball fans there will be Giants fans. If that’s the case, will the A’s win them over because of new found proximity? Somehow I doubt it. Did all the Oriole fans in DC instantly switch over to the Nats? Probably not. We are not working with a blank slate expansion team here. Moving into another team’s market has consequences. Oakland’s fan base may have been weakened by the games of the last few years, but the East Bay still remains the stronghold of A’s fans. Can the ownership afford to alienate this group based on the risk that San Jose fans will switch allegiances?

Anonymous said...

is it just me or does anyone else feel like san jose is the most greediest city in the country??

oh wait...the very same forbes magazine that list san jose as the richest also feels the same way. i guess you gotta be greedy to get rich??

too bad this is about the LOVE for the game of baseball and tradition, not always about the money.

hey lew...are you listening to the real baseball fans out there???

"Latest Forbes List - San Jose Greediest City
By Victor Solanoy
March 31st, 2008 @ 10:35 AM News, San Jose, Silicon Valley

San Jose City HallAccording to a new list compiled by Forbes, San Jose ranks #1 in the list of greediest cities. I’m not sure what criteria was used to rank each city. To be fair, Forbes identified Silicon Valley as a city, which includes the cities of San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara.

Personally, it doesn’t suprise me one bit. Living in San Jose most of my life, I’ve definitely noticed a change in both the city and its people… in a not so positive light. A few of my friends and co-works have commented on what we figured was a sense of self-entitlement with people in the area… ironically, we all work in technology — whose generalized affluence helped give San Jose the not-so-flattering title."

FC said...


You'd be surprised as to how many fans there really are here on the peninsula. I'm a season ticket holder, and I sell a lot of my tickets to buyers who live in SM county.

Also, I don't get the sense that any of my friends or neighbors look down on SJ. On the contrary, most of us hate the "city", and dread having to drive up and around there.

Marine Layer said...

I'm SOOOOOOO happy that this Coliseum remodel thread has been hijacked by commenters who want to get into a city vs. city pissing match.

Sadly, it proves that so many out there have no solutions, just vitriol. Crawl back to your caves for god's sake.

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree. Why don't we actually discuss positive ideas about the current issue...which is about where the A's are and will be playing for awhile.

ML, I thought you idea was very clever. I also really liked your idea about the Broadway Auto Row (27th/Broadway triangle) site. I think if the city can come together and come up with some creative plans that could actually bring your ideas to fruition, it would be amazing!! You should try and get on the board of Operations for the Coliseum. I bet you could get something going!

Jesse said...

LOL, I'm grinning like a split watermelon looking at youre drawing of the new Coliseum. VERY NICE, it aint gonna happen, but I like it.

dbackman said...

Sorry to get off track there, its hard not to get caught up in the rivalry. To me, this is really a conversation about infrastructure. A fanbase is a sort of social infrastructure and thats why I was curious about the fanbase in San Jose. But really the strength of the Coliseum is its physical infrastructure. While the experiental quality of the place is extremely lacking, the underlying organization of the Coliseum complex is strong. It gives us a base to work on, with the fundamental needs such as two existing sports venues, multiple transit connections, ample parking and basic services already in place. This is bigger than the renovation project of a single building. Marine Layer, the changes you have suggested would definitely be an efficient way to transform the Coliseum into a more pleasnt, baseball only park. But in my mind, it more productive to consider the transformation and augmentation of the entire complex, which would play host to a brand new A's ballpark to the north of the site, while remodeling the Coliseum into a football only venue for the Raiders.

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree with dbackman. I really feel like until the Raiders lease is up in 2010 and Wolff makes any kind of public decision on what he wants to do with the A's, we won't really be able to get a clear sense of who's going where or when.

However, it has been really interesting looking at the current situation optimistically regarding the A's since most of us (including the San Jose partisans) can agree that they will be staying put in Oakland at least for quite a while now.

So what can discuss regarding how to improve their current situation before jumping the gun and start putting cities against each other about who's better than who??

I really think building on or renovating at the current site makes the most sense for now for all the obvious reasons. But I do also like your Broadway/27th site idea as well. ML, is that site pretty much dead or do you think that it could still be a possibility?? Also I'm curious as what your top 3 sites right now for the A's are given all the facts and where they are now?

Like Anon 11:19 says, have you ever considered getting on the Coliseum Board of Operations? I do know someone who works for the city and mayor Dellums and could have them contact you if you were interested??

Jeffrey said...

I am nto ml, but my top 3 sites are:

1a. Coliseum Parking Lot
1b. Diridon
2. Broadway Auto Row (only because it looks cool and somewhat like Uptown)

Marine Layer said...

Thanks anon for the recommendation, but I'm fine where I am with both the day job and the blog. Besides, I wouldn't know the first thing about running a venue.

I like the Broadway Auto Row site. I just don't think there'd be any political backing for it. Nancy Nadel doesn't like it and for all the people who want to marginalize her, it is in her district. I'm certain that Adams Point residents would be just as vigilantly NIMBY as their counterparts in Fremont.

Oakland Si said...

I don't live too far from the Broadway Auto Row site, and I wouldn't mind a ballpark there at all. I don't know that anyone has ever done any kind of neighborhood survey about having a possible ballpark, and I wouldn't say for certain either that it would come out for or against.

In this economic climate it just seems that plans that make best use of already existing infrastructure (ballpark, transportation, etc) might be most attractive. But to be honest I don't see any plans for construction happening anywhere until there is a better sense of economic possibilities.

In any event as a season ticket holder I'm expecting to continue to watch the A's play in the coliseum for the forseeable future.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you Oakland Si...

I actually live by lake merritt and I think that Broadway site would be very cool! I've got a feeling that most people in the area would love a new ballpark for the A's as long as there was enough parking in the area and getting to the nearest freeway wasn't too difficult which I know it wouldn't be.

I've been living there for a little over 3 years now and with the way all those areas (Downtown Oakland, Jack London, Lake Merritt etc.) having been sorta of been up and coming with a lot of new condos, the new Cathedral at Lake Merritt, new restaurants etc. make a great area for people to see all the beautiful sites that Oakland has to offer!! Plus I hear Jack London's farmers market is supposed to be getting a new overhaul in the next couple of years which is suppose to rival the SF Ferry Building and Seattle's Pike Place Market.

"Lets go OAKLAND!!!!!"

dbackman said...

I would love to see the A's build a new stadium on Auto Row. It would be a truly urban ballpark that would enhance street life and spur development on this underutilized stretch.

But, as much as I like this proposal from a baseball and an urbanism standpoint, it is not only unrealistic, but irresponsible. In my previous post I commented on the great value of the Coliseum's existing infrastructure. Even if it is not currently successful, everything you need to have a successful stadium is already in place.

But with the Auto Row site, we have the opposite situation. All the land would have to be purchased piecemeal from a variety of home and small business owners, at least some of whom will surely oppose the project. The transit connections are relatively OK, but not good enough for a ballpark. Lots and lots of parking would have to be built. The cost of the civic infrastructure necessary to support a new stadium on a dense urban infill site would be enormous.

It is very nice to imagine a ballpark sitting on a site like that. It almost reminds me of Fenway, with the adjacent medical center, even. There would be lots of cool bars and restaurants to drink at before and after the games. People would fill the streets and we would all have a great time. But the area is not a blank slate and an intervention of this sort would be highly disruptive. And not just disruptive in the loud and trafficky sense. The construction of a stadium there would wreak havoc on the whole district.

The Uptown site was the A's one chance for a ballpark in this area, and both the City and the Team blew that one. Everything about that site, at 20th and Telegraph, would have made for a better ballpark. But Jerry Brown wanted housing and that's what he got. Given all the condos that sit empty in Uptown and Downtown Oakland right now, sure would have made a lot more sense to have a regional attractor to develop around instead of a few hundred more units.

If Oakland was prepared to take a visionary approach to this project, I would be %100 behind it. But as it stands this is the least viable of the A's Oakland options. If the A's were to leave the Coli but stay in Oakland, my preferred site would be in the area between Oak to 9th, Laney and Jack London.

Anonymous said...

The coliseum is 22 feet below sea level and thus the ability to move the seating closer to the field would require a lowering of the entire seating bowl to allow necesary sight lines and the cost would be prohibitive.A nice idea, but not practical.

Marine Layer said...

The concept would not require changing the level of the field or any of the concourses. Existing infrastructure such as ramps and elevators could still be utilized.