Feral cats, few fans and lewd acts: is the A’s era in Oakland over? | Oakland Athletics

TThe first place New York Yankees, a hit at every box office, invaded Oakland last weekend to take on the last place Athletics. The RingCentral Coliseum turnstiles took on a rare twist, with 93,719 fans attending the four-game series, or 23,430 per game.

However, the A’s are still in last place in the major leagues, with just over 10,000 fans per game this season. That should tell you something not only about the appeal of the Yankees, but also about Oakland as a baseball wasteland.

The A’s are anything but a minor league team, with 56 different players on their roster this season. RingCentral Coliseum, the last of many names for the stadium that opened in 1966 as the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, is a mess—abandoned, outdated, and riddled with critters. A website sells T-shirts calling the place “Baseball’s Last Dive Bar.”

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Just days before the Yankees came to town, the Coliseum attracted the wrong attention when… a couple who appeared to be engaged in a sexual act were photographed sitting in the last row of a nearly empty section during an A game. Authorities promised an investigation.

That game drew 9,314 and the three-game series against the Miami Marlins that followed drew a total of 10,559. The A’s, with a $47 million payroll that is one-fifth that of the Yankees, could use better players, but Oakland could really use a better baseball field.

The A’s want a better baseball field, and so do their loyal fans, but building a replacement wasn’t that easy. A proposed waterfront site at Howard Terminal is preferred, but progress is slow, with a $200 million hurdle over infrastructure funding.

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“I think the fans are exhausted,” Joan Riebli, the president of the Oakland Athletics Booster Club, told The Guardian. “There has been talk of a new park for five years.”

So the A’s are taking what they call a “parallel path,” and are looking long and hard to move to a new stadium in Las Vegas — the same city the NFL’s Oakland Raiders moved to in 2020. The Raiders played at the Coliseum from 1966 to 1981 and from 1995 to 2019.

Dave Kaval, the energetic president of the A, said in a recent interview on A’s Cast Live that the Colosseum is “truly 10 years past its lifespan”. An opossum was observed in the press box, later infested with ants. Feral cats invaded – but at least they solved the rat problem.

“I don’t think there’s been a more serious effort to actually build a stadium anywhere,” Kaval says in the video.

A baseball fan calling himself Jordan the Lion visited the Coliseum in July for an A’s game and gave a video tour on YouTube. “Some people think of an old park as a bad thing,” he said, “but I look at it like going back in time a little bit.”

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That kind of works both ways. There were photos of the four Oakland A-teams that won the World Series and the Moneyball-era team, built on a budget, that won a run of 20 games in 2002. But the structure itself seemed to be crumbling. “Oh Oh! I can feel the floor nodding as I walk!” Jordan said as he toured the stadium.

Kaval did not respond to a request for comment from the Guardian, but said in the A’s Cast Live interview: “We need options. We need a place to play as a franchise. While working as hard as we can in Oakland , and we’re doing the same in Las Vegas to see if we can come up with a plan that works for all parties.”

Just 26 miles away from the Coliseum is a classic example of how a scenic baseball field can help revitalize a neighborhood: Oracle Park, which opened in 2000 as Pacific Bell Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. The Giants attract three times as many fans as the A’s.

“The downtown baseball field would be a huge boon to the city and its reputation in Oakland,” said CW Nevius, a veteran Bay Area journalist who is a columnist for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. “It could breathe new life into the area. The Giants’ baseball field was a huge factor in turning Mission Bay into San Francisco’s most popular neighborhood.

“However, Oakland has a long, sad history of not getting it done. I am concerned that this will be marked by bickering and glacial progress. At some point there has to be a fish-or-cut-bait moment.”

The A’s are owned by a billionaire named John Fisher, son of the founders of clothing and accessories retailer The Gap, who has Kaval do the interviews and, according to Riebli, “has always seen the team as an equity investment.”

In July, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred found himself publicly defending how Fisher ran his franchise, telling the Baseball Writers Association of America, “I think negativity always comes with the situation where players are traded and a club for whatever reason. decides to start over. But I think the bigger picture is, John is committed and has really invested significant dollars trying to get baseball in Oakland on an equal footing, a sustainable foundation in the long run.”

But then Manfred added that an agreement had to be reached quickly on a new stadium in Oakland or the team could move to Las Vegas. Riebli said fans would even love a new stadium at its current location, but Kaval makes it sound like that’s the third option.

“Is there a chance John Fisher will sell? Maybe,” Nevius says. “But the new owner will want results, and I don’t think moving to Las Vegas would be a bluff in that case.”

Riebli has A subscriptions since 1986; she now shares a Sunday subscription with another fan. She says the A’s play hard and fan loyalty remains extremely strong, even though the A’s often commute between Oakland and their top minor league team.

That minor league team just happens to be in Las Vegas. The Aviators play in a three-year-old 10,000-seat stadium 26 miles west of the Strip – not big enough for the A’s to move, even though they only draw so many fans per game now.

“I saw a meme somewhere that said, ‘If the A’s go to Las Vegas, should they contact Major League Baseball for permission to have two minor league teams?’” she says with a chuckle.

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