Ballpark Profile: Oakland Coliseum

Name: Oakland Coliseum

Location: Oakland, California

Opened: 18 September 1966

Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Cost: $25.5 Million

Capacity: 46,847

Surface: Tifway II Bermuda Grass

I have to admit up front that I am wracked with ambivalence about Oakland Coliseum.

On one hand, it is -- objectively speaking -- not a great ballpark. It was built more than 50 years ago, well before this new age of enlightenment. The Coliseum had hundreds of millions of dollars of "improvements" in the 1990s (by the Raiders during one of their extended stints of jerking around the Oakland fanbase and taxpayers), those renovations only served to make the Coliseum worse for baseball.

The Coliseum in the 1980s. A lovely vista of the Oakland Hills.

The Coliseum post-renovation. Sad, sad, sad.

 

On the other hand, we -- the co-founders of Ballpark Blueprints -- grew up in the Bay Area and, even though I haven't lived there for more than 20 years, I've still probably seen more games at the (pre-renovations) Coliseum than all the other ballparks put together. We used to take BART down and get "$3.50DOG" tickets: a day-of-game bleacher seat for $3.50. Hot dogs were (and I believe still might be?) $1.00. You could get a full day of baseball for $10 -- and that included the BART ticket.

And - keep in mind - these were the heady "Bash Brothers" days of McGwire, Jose Canseco, Rickey Henderson, Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley . . . and managed by Tony La Russa. These were good days to be an A's fan.

The A's themselves, a scrappy team with a perennial small budget (which is questionable on its own account: the San Francisco/Oakland/East Bay metropolitan area -- and this includes Oakland, obviously -- is the fourth-richest metro area in the US, above everyone except Washington DC, the San Francisco peninsula, and Seattle. So the A's claiming to be a "small market" franchise is a bit disingenuous.)

But the A's team, as assembled by Billy Beane, has consistently punched above its weight, and absolutely deserves a new ballpark.

Which they've been discussing. Forever. There were new ballpark talks when I lived there 20 years ago. I fear there will be new ballpark talks 20 years from now.

They even have a plan for a beautiful new park right down at the waterfront:

That being said, there are plenty of (reasonable) arguments that that land would  better serve the Oakland community by being a public greenspace or any number of things . . . believe it or not, there are more important things to people than a new half-a-billion-dollar place for overpaid athletes to play their little games.

In any event, any forward momentum the new Howard Terminal ballpark had was derailed by COVID-19, and the 2021 groundbreaking/2023 opening day has morphed into a 2021 referendum and possibly a meeting and maybe a vote.

None of which is a profile of the current, existing, Oakland Coliseum.

What can I say? It is what it is. From the exterior, it features a concrete block facade, surrounded by parking lot. It looks like a cold-war-era Soviet prison.

(Albeit, a prison with palm trees!)

 

Inside, it's a 50+ year old multi-purpose stadium. Concrete everywhere. Dark concourses. But the food is good, and there are always plenty of good seats available! (Sadly, though, no longer a $3.50 DOG bleacher seat.)

Because it was never intended for baseball-only, the playing surface is not really suited for baseball, and there is more foul territory in Oakland than in all other MLB ballparks put together*. 

* this is not true, but it's close.

Which makes for a lot of foul popouts. Great for pitchers, not great for exciting baseball. It's also the only park that requires binoculars from the front row, field-level seats.

But -- for all of that -- I'm going to catch a lot of heat from A's fans, who love this place. Hell, I love this place. There are some cities, some teams, some fanbases that might not want a precious, jewelbox of a ballpark. Some places are just this-is-what-we've-got, no-nonsense, we'll make the most of it. Maybe Oakland is  one of those places.

I wish them nothing but success.

(Betcha thought I couldn't do a whole profile of the Coliseum without mentioning that sewage regularly backs up into the clubhouses, didn't you? I showed you!)

Have your own thoughts or memories of Oakland Coliseum? Share below for a chance to win a FREE PRINT from Ballpark Blueprints!

 

PS - I know there's no main image loaded for this post. Software issues. As soon as it's resolved I'll fix that!

87 comments

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