Monday, July 6, 2009

Justin's Review: Oakland Coliseum

Ballpark Design:  The Oakland Coliseum opened in 1966 as a multi-purpose stadium, designed to host both baseball and football games.  Like the other dual use stadium we’ve already seen on this trip (in Miami), the Coliseum’s multiuse design renders the ballpark impersonal, ugly, and unfit for baseball.  However, while Miami’s stadium is actually not the worst looking place ever, just about everything in Oakland feels cold and almost prison-like.  From the pedestrian bridge covered in chainlink fence that leads from the subway to the  ballpark, to the dimly lit concrete concourses, to the monstrous section of stands looming above center field (which are closed for baseball games), the stadium just does not seem like a place that you would go to watch a baseball game.  Maybe it’s appropriate for football, but when compared to the intimate and friendly parks that most teams have, such as the one right across the bay in San Francisco, the Coliseum is clearly inferior.  Now, there certainly are a few positive aspects to the ballpark – for example, there is a club located on the second level right behind home plate, clearly used as an exclusive members-only club during football games, which the A’s have opened to all fans.  It offers tables that have amazing views immediately behind home plate, along with food options and a long bar.  We bet having an area like that to get away from the dreariness of the rest of the stadium makes coming to the Coliseum regularly much more tolerable for A’s fans.  Additionally, the field itself is not awful – unlike in Miami, it doesn’t look like a baseball field crammed onto a football field.  The dimensions look fairly normal, and there are no eyesores such as folded up football seats or fake walls.  It’s hard to really improve the overall feeling of the ballpark, but things like this make it borderline tolerable as a baseball stadium.  Finally, the stadium simply feels gigantic, and the fact that the upper deck is always closed for baseball games makes the ballpark feel empty even when it’s full. F

Scoreboard/Soundtrack: Like in Miami, the scoreboards are clearly designed to be located over the end zones during football games.  Unlike in Miami, however, they are angled in towards the infield of the baseball diamond, and are more or less in appropriate places for baseball.  Each one has a video screen and matrix board – neither is large, but both are at least adequate for providing information.  Short strip matrix boards along the facing of the upper deck act as auxiliary scoreboards.  The out of town scoreboards are manual boards located in the left and right field walls – while they don’t give a ton of information, the old-fashioned quality of them is one of the few things to give any true baseball character to the ballpark. B-

Food/Drink:  The stadium has only two concourses, and only the lower one had a significant number of concession stands open.  I didn’t eat much, but from what I saw, it looked like there was certainly a bit of variety.  However, the fact that only 2 stands in the upper concourse were open made the lower one extremely crowded.  C

Fans:  Despite normally not showing up in great numbers, it’s pretty clear that the Oakland fans who do go to games regularly (and there are a lot of them) are very passionate fans.  This particularly game was certainly not representative of most games at the Coliseum – the A’s were playing the crossbay rival San Francisco Giants, so the stadium was almost sold out, and there were a significant number of Giants fans (although not nearly to the degree that we saw Dodgers fans in Anaheim).  The fans were in to the game, if not as loud or energetic as some others we’ve seen.  Most notably, the fans really created their own atmosphere in a way you don’t see often, with large groups of people waving flags, a guy drumming in left field, and plenty of cheering that wasn’t prompted by the scoreboard. B+

City/Stadium Neighborhood:  I can’t say I’ve actually spent time in Oakland, other than driving and taking the train through it, and I don’t want to expound assumptions that I don’t know for sure to be true.  But from what we saw and heard, Oakland did not seem like the loveliest or most exciting city.  The stadium neighborhood itself does not seem to be located near much, but is easily accessible from the BART subway system, which is great.  City: C-/Neighborhood: B-

Game:  The game wasn’t particularly interesting, as the A’s came out swinging and won the game 5-1.  The Giants opened up the scoring in the second with a home run from Travis Ishikawa - the only long ball of the game.  The A's took the lead with 2 runs in the 4th, and tacked on insurance runs in both the 6th and 8th.  The Giants couldn't put together a rally at the end of the game, and Oakland held on to win.  B-

Overall:  It’s unfortunate for Oakland fans, who clearly are passionate about their team, that the complete awfulness of their stadium is causing the franchise to consider moving out of the area.  For the sake of those fans, as well as for the sake of everybody who ever wants to go to an A’s game, I hope they find a way to build a new ballpark somewhere in the Bay Area.  But for now, we can’t say it’s a place we’d recommend going to see a game. C-

1 comment:

  1. That upper deck is new, when I went to the park in 1994ish? it wasn't there and Oakland was one of the nicer parks on the west coast. (keep in mind this was the days of Jack Murphy in SD, and Candlestick in SF and before disney's renovation of the big A)

    Still had the cavernous foul lines, but the view was much better...