A's Redevelopment Double Play

Plans for site of current ballpark would help build proposed waterfront home

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: November 28, 2018

Renderings show the proposed Howard Terminal ballpark and a reuse plan for the current Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. (Courtesy Oakland A's X5)

Major League Baseball’s Oakland A’s did more than reveal renderings of a planned 34,000-seat ballpark at the downtown Howard Terminal waterfront site on Wednesday. The team also showed off plans to redevelop the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum site, helpful in ensuring a connection with the community of East Oakland.

It’s also an opportunity to support the private financing of the Howard Terminal site.

“The coliseum development certainly makes the odds of the Howard project working higher,” said A’s President Dave Kaval. “It is not a do-or-die type of situation, but something that could help enhance the community benefit and viability. At the same time, we heard from East Oakland that they didn’t want the site abandoned, so it is achieving multiple goals.”

The A’s, working with Bjarke Ingels Group on both master planning and ballpark design, created plans for the two proposed projects simultaneously. The firm, which has headquarters in Denmark and New York City, “did an exceptional job thinking that through,” Kaval said. “We had their assistance about what should go where and making sure we could create a suite of community benefits and amenities for Oakland to enhance the project viability and success.”

While neither is a done deal, the likelihood of both has never looked so good for a team now playing in the 50-year-old coliseum. The A’s are in exclusive negotiations with the Port of Oakland to buy or lease the Howard Terminal site and have made a $137 million offer to buy the coliseum location.

The Howard Terminal ballpark would be created in a late-1800s style but contain a fresh perspective on modern ballparks. The 55-acre site also allows for development.

Both sites will include housing and commercial real estate, but the exact uses would vary based on the neighborhoods. For example, 20-story high-rises next to the new ballpark could afford views into the stadium for condo owners or commercial real estate, while a grocery store might make perfect sense at the 111-acre coliseum site.

Having the coliseum as a second development options gives the team “a bigger expanse and a bigger tapestry for more options,” Kaval said.

Joshua Boren, director of business development for RCLCO, a real estate consulting firm, said targeting a large urban infill site for redevelopment could be a shrewd strategy. “Many times, and the coliseum is certainly an example of it, former stadiums sit on large sites in already infrastructure-rich and conveniently accessible locations which ideally position these locations for redevelopment opportunities,” he said. “In the case of Oakland, a site of that scale hasn’t existed in decades and would be hugely attractive to anyone in the development community.

“As the cost of these venues continue to escalate, finding creative answers to offset costs via real estate development, especially redevelopment, could provide a sustainable solution both in terms of long-term economic viability and land and infrastructure reuse.”

The A’s will also offer a unique perspective at the coliseum site through a plan to keep the playing field and portions of the lower bowl as a public park. The sports amphitheater will sit next door to Oracle Arena, which is losing the NBA’s Golden State Warriors to San Francisco and the Chase Center next year.

Parks will play a key role in the new stadium, too. The “ballpark within a park” concept is what Kaval dubs an intimate stadium nestled carefully into its urban surroundings. The 34,000 seats sit as close to home plate as possible and a tree-lined elevated park wraps and frames the bowl, coming down to meet the waterfront.

“We are taking some of the original ethos of baseball and adjusting it into a 21st-century representation,” Kaval said. “Having a park on the roof of the stadium allows us to capture incredible views of the game, the waterfront, the Oakland skyline, the estuary and San Francisco. It will be a tremendous amenity we think people will love and create a tourist destination people will want to go to and hang out at.”

Ticketed on game days and open to the public otherwise, the concept works to tie the stadium to the new neighborhood around it. Kaval said to expect a porous environment, even on game days, with narrower concourses that could spill onto the street. “People will love it and it will feel like a street fair,” he said. “It will be a game changer.”

Akin to Wrigley Field or Fenway Park, the “jewel box” design looks to dip back into ballpark history by blurring the line between stadium and neighborhood and move away from the more recent retro-styled parks that use a façade as a fortress wall.

“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,” said Ingels in a statement. “We are putting the ‘park’ back in ‘ballpark.’”

“We want an intimate experience, and 34,000 is a good way to do that,” Kaval said. “We want to make sure that the people there have a great experience and make sure the stadium nestled into the location on the waterfront in an appropriate way.”

As the A’s move forward with a planned 2021 groundbreaking for the Howard Terminal ballpark and an opening date in 2023, they are using their current home as a testing ground for ideas to incorporate into the new stadium. From the Treehouse concept in left field to the food trucks in Championship Plaza and from tabletop seating to terraces, Kaval said, the coliseum allows the A’s to showcase and try new things.

“Not all will work and some will fail, and we won’t put those in the new building,” he said. “We will use the coliseum as a prototype and learn as much as we can from our community.”

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: November 28, 2018