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Oakland A’s unveil plans for new ballpark at Howard Terminal

Finally, the stadium announcement we’ve been waiting for.

Photo credit: Courtesy of BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group

The Oakland A’s interminable quest for a new ballpark took a significant step forward on Wednesday. The team announced plans for a stadium at Howard Terminal, set to open in 2023. As part of the project they will also redevelop the current Coliseum site for the benefit of the local community.

The new facility, designed by Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), will hold a total capacity of around 34,000. The location is downtown near Jack London Square, right on the waterfront, and the whole thing will blend seamlessly into the greater urban area in ways that extend beyond gamedays — the team refers to it as a “ballpark within a park.” Most importantly, the stadium will be privately financed.

Here are a few images illustrating an artist’s renderings, provided by the A’s and BIG.

Seating will be closer to home plate, eliminating much of the extra foul ground for which the Coliseum is infamous, and the word “intimate” is used multiple times in the press release to describe the layout and atmosphere. According to Matier & Ross of the S.F. Chronicle, there will also be an aerial gondola to transport fans to and from the park, helping account for a lack of BART access. Read the rest of their writeup for more details on the specific features, and also visit the A’s official stadium website.

Here is what Ingels himself has to say about the plan, via the team’s press release:

“Our design for the A’s new home at the heart of Oakland’s revitalized waterfront seeks to return the game to its roots as the natural meeting place for the local community. An elevated tree-lined promenade frames the ballpark on all sides, dipping down to meet the public square and open the field to the water and city views. The perimeter park connects a cascade of social spaces for the fans to enjoy the sport on game days and extends the urban fabric with a neighborhood park to be enjoyed 365 days a year. In other words—we are putting the ‘park’ back in ‘ballpark.’”

This news is a long time coming. The A’s have spent more than a decade trying to secure their geographic future, with no shortage of twists and turns along the way, and fans have grown weary of the process and jaded about its prospects of successful completion. After spending years considering moves to nearby locales like San Jose or Fremont, in 2017 the team at least publicly committed to staying in Oakland.

To be clear, a lot needs to happen to turn this proposal into a reality, or even to put shovels in the ground. This is not a done deal, and A’s fans have been disappointed before by potential progress that turned out to be a mirage. Last year they named land near Laney College as their preferred site but had that plan unexpectedly scuttled within a couple months, resulting in an embarrassing false start. Laney had been identified at the time as one of three possible locations within Oakland, along with Howard Terminal and the current Coliseum complex.

The press release addresses what must happen next (edited for format):

As a next step in this process, the A’s will embark on a “120-Day Action Plan” focused on five key items:

1. Gathering additional community feedback

2. Beginning the environmental review process at Howard Terminal

3. Negotiating an agreement with the Port of Oakland

4. Developing a framework with public officials for the Coliseum redevelopment

5. Developing a framework for an economic and community benefits agreement

Also: A few more questions from Kimberly Veklerov of the S.F. Chronicle.

In addition to the new stadium, the club also plans to repurpose the Coliseum site. With the NFL’s Raiders leaving to Las Vegas, the NBA’s Warriors heading to San Francisco, and the A’s moving downtown, the area will be transformed from a major sports venue into a general community center. Team president Dave Kaval calls the whole project “bigger than baseball.”

Oracle Arena will remain for concerts and other events, but the Coliseum itself will be stripped down into a more open park. Rickey Henderson Field’s diamond will stay in its current spot as part of an amphitheater setting, and a host of new affordable housing, offices, retail, restaurants, and other public spaces will be added to help revitalize the neighborhood that the club called home for half a century. The A’s offered to purchase the complex earlier this year and negotiations are ongoing, though no sale has been finalized.

The Coliseum portion of the project is “more of a framework right now,” says Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf (via Marcus Thompson of The Athletic), so pay more attention to the general concept than the precise details. Here are the initial artist’s renderings, also via A’s/BIG:

This is all a lot to take in. Granted, no single piece of the plan is particularly surprising or unexpected, but it’s a huge project even relative to other pro stadiums and seeing it all officially announced is undeniably exciting. Furthermore, while the last plan fell apart almost immediately, this new version appears significantly more substantial and more advanced than the Laney idea ever was, and with more public and political support from the get-go.

None of it is real until a shovel hits the ground, but this is the closest we’ve ever gotten to realizing the dream of a new park in Oakland. Best yet, it satisfies all of the club’s promises, including the location, the private financing, and the target date for opening, all while making a serious effort toward community improvement and engagement. Three tentative cheers for President Kaval!

For more details, watch the press conference from this morning, embedded below.