That most hated of phrases, territorial rights, is in the media again. And with it has come yet another news media cycle where the storyline is that the A's home ball park is a dump. I am vehemently opposed to that story line because it's a lazy and ignorant talking point, and it's also an overstatement.
That may sound like I'm some avid fan of O.Co, but I'm not. The stadium has quite a few problems. It could use better food, the bathrooms are nasty (maybe kinda old-school fun, but also nasty), and the place just looks run down. But it also has some great sightlines and the BART station provides an excellent way to get to the game. It's mediocre. That's all. Mediocre, somewhere below average, but not a "shithole", as I've often heard it described. Yet that's the storyline we here. I sat down and ruminated on why that storyline developed, and would like to share some observations. Would also like to here some rational fans debate me on this, but please leave your empty O.CO SUX posts at the door.
Yep, the Coliseum's pretty old. So's Fenway, but people love that place. An extensive renovation of the Coliseum would most certainly pull it out of the perennial near last-place ranking of MLB parks. Obviously any money spent would be more profitably invested in improving the eventual new ballpark. But that's the main problem here. Money. The basic stadium design is perfectly acceptable. No dome, no turf. It's a decent layout for a ballpark. Fix some basic things up (bathrooms, ect.) and many fan complaints/horror stories would disappear.
Investment in a home park doesn't make sense if a team is leaving. But we haven't left. When Wollfe promised a San Jose move in 2005, in was speculated that we'd have a new park as soon as 2012 (in an alternate dimension we'd be in SJ TODAY). It makes perfect business sense to focus efforts away from the old stadium and focus on the new one. But it's been seven years since those efforts began, and those seven years of neglect are part of what makes the A's home park seem so run down. It the seven years of recent neglect. When Haas was running the show the ballpark was thriving. The team was winning. Oakland ranked as high as 2nd place in AL attendance during the late 80's, not all that long ago.
It's a thing of the past. Baseball-only stadiums of course are superior when compared to multi-use stadiums. We’re the last multi-use franchise left, and being alone on that front we look worse off than we actually are. It's something of an unfair standard to judge by. Because so many other teams have opened parks in recent years, a higher bar for sports venue has been set. The Coliseum suffers from these increased expectations of what an outing to an MLB park should be. The intimate, baseball only parks have a shiny glamour, which makes our so-so place look quite dull by comparison.
4) The Neighbor.
Look across the bay and there's AT&T Park. It’s one of the most popular home ballparks in MLB. The A's fan base suffers from a bad case of ballpark envy. And rightly so. It's like we're driving an old Honda Civic and the guy next door just parked a Ferrari in the driveway. Suddenly that Civic looks like a piece of junk, even though it does its job efficiently. Did you know
Our ballpark is outdated. We're stuck with it because of the territorial rights issue and it'd be great if ownership gave the fans something to tide us over. Erect a massive slide for the kids in the unused upper deck? Renovate something. Bathrooms? Concessions? Please do anything to acknowledge that we're stuck with old O.Co for a few more years. But I’m sick of the attitude that we’re somehow stuck in stadium squalor. We're not. We have a below-average but perfectly functional stadium.
On a related note, let's briefly talk attendance:
In our championship run during the late 80’s the A’s ranked 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in AL attendance. In the 90’s attendance fell across all MLB in the wake of the strike. The mid-90's A's were awful and Oakland fans were accordingly slower to return than most. But they slowly starting coming back. Then the Giants built Phone Booth Park and Barry Bonds started shattering home run records. Suddenly 40,000 people a night were Giants fans. Really bad timing to go on our own run. Despite the huge draw in SF, Oakland attendance still jump from around 15,000 pre-Big Three to about 25,000 during the early 2000s run (good for 6th to 7th ranked AL attendance). Recent teams have been very boring, ownership has clearly lost interest in maintaining O.Co, and we trade away any guy who dares become a household name in the Bay Area. That’s why attendance has tanked. Please stop blaming the stadium alone.
Y'all want that last paragraph graphically?
Boom. Er, sort of. Sorry I couldn't make it bigger or flashier of slicker. Who am I, David Fung? If someone wants to try for a better version of this, I would love it. Lots of great talking points in there. Note how the '68 A's move split Bay Area baseball fans just about in half. There's the 70's WS run where Finley couldn't market his team at all well and they drew horribly for a three-peat WS team. The 2008 dip is interesting. Bad economy, or just bad teams? (I say the latter) All sorts of good stuff in there.
OUR STADIUM DOES NOT TOTALLY SUCK. Oh, and f*ck the Giants and the park they rode in on.