Ste­ward: One as­pect of A’s ball­park plan is right — bolt Coli­seum.

Dis­tanc­ing them­selves from the Coli­seum is the right call, but is­sues at the Per­alta site abound

The Mercury News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Carl Ste­ward Colum­nist

Con­grat­u­la­tions are in or­der to the A’s for up­hold­ing their grand tra­di­tion of mak­ing the most chal­leng­ing site choice pos­si­ble to build a new ball­park. We knew they could do it, and some­where in the Fre­mont bay­side marsh­lands, the frogs and crick­ets are ap­plaud­ing.

In an­nounc­ing the Per­alta site near Laney Col­lege as their No. 1 pref­er­ence, the A’s picked the lo­ca­tion with the great­est ob­sta­cles, the loud­est op­po­si­tion, the least amount of park­ing and the long­est pe­riod of de­vel­op­ment to com­ple­tion. Ex­cel­lent!

Good lord, it sounds like a movie — 2023: A Ball­park Odyssey. Yes, buckle up, kids. It’s go­ing to take us yet an­other five­plus years to get there, so if you have to go to the bath­room, Mr. Kaval says go now. Heck, it could take a year or two be­fore we can even run down to the hard­ware store and buy shov­els.

That said, we sin­cerely wish the A’s all the luck in ex­e­cut­ing their lat­est vi­sion, be­cause they re­ally do have the right idea. That would be a com­plete change in ball­park think­ing, right down to the ad­dress, for Oak­land and the East Bay.

It’s not hard to dis­cern what about 98.6 per­cent of you dear read­ers are think­ing about this de­ci­sion: Why are the A’s aban­don­ing the Oak­land Coli­seum grounds for this postage stamp of a site when they fi­nally have acres and acres for the tak­ing at their cur­rent lo­ca­tion?

Fair ques­tion. The War­riors are leav­ing. The Raiders are leav­ing. All that land. All that avail­able park­ing. The easy free­way ac­cess and the BART stop. Far fewer en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact has­sles. No an­gry neigh­bor­hood groups. A quicker fin­ish to what we all want to see — a glo­ri­ous new ball­yard for the Ath­let­i­cals.

While all of those things hold true, the logic is flawed that the Coli­seum plot is made in the shade for the A’s be­cause, in truth, it’s a fu­neral plot. A cozy lit­tle fam­i­lyfriendly ball­park is sim­ply not go­ing to work on that vast ex­panse of land in that par­tic­u­lar area.

A lot of peo­ple just don’t get it about the Oak­land Coli­seum com­plex. It’s an old, de­cay­ing bron­tosaurus of a place, and while it has lived a good long life, its time has passed. It’s a place no one wants to go to ex­cept that they have no choice if they want to see their fa­vorite sports team, and, at least with the A’s, a lot of folks would just pre­fer to stay home and watch on the tube. There is no aura, no sense of his­tory there un­less you’re into nos­tal­gia about con­crete. When Gertrude Stein said there is no there there in Oak­land, she must have been chang­ing a tire on 66th Av­enue.

That’s the rub. Even more than the struc­ture it­self, the sur­round­ing Coli­seum area might as well be the sur­face of Uranus to a sports fan. It’s an armpit of noth­ing­ness. Com­merce is so grim in that part of Oak­land that even Wal­mart, which was lo­cated right across the 880 free­way, shut­tered its doors in early 2016 and got out.

Try find­ing a good restau­rant in the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity. Francesco’s, once an in­sti­tu­tion of old­school Ital­ian fare on He­gen­berger Road and a postgame hang­out of Raiders owner Al Davis among other sports per­son­al­i­ties, closed in 2016 af­ter 47 years of re­ally good food and strong busi- ness.

Ho­tels? The Edge­wa­ter Hy­att, which used to be lo­cated right across the free­way, housed many of the vis­it­ing teams for years and it had a lively bar scene … par­tic­u­larly when Billy Martin or Kenny Stabler would stop by. But it’s long gone, re­placed by a car deal­er­ship. There’s a Hil­ton down the way on He­gen­berger which even has an at­trac­tive sports bar, but it serves mostly out- of-town­ers who want to be close to the Oak­land air­port.

Fun for the kids? There used to be that LeMans track ad­ja­cent to the Coli­seum’s south park­ing lot, and if mem­ory serves, there was a minia­ture golf course there, too, at one time. No more. His­tory stepped hard on the gas pedal and went else­where.

For­get find­ing a bar any­where nearby, at least one where you don’t need to pack a Bowie knife. Gro­cery store? Nada, un­less it’s gas sta­tion min­i­mart. It’s an in­dus­trial zone and an en­try/exit point for the air­port now. A great place to get a die cast for your ro­totiller mo­tor, but that’s pretty much it.

The Coli­seum has been called the Mau­soleum for years, and the sad fact is, if you in­cor­po­rate the sur­round­ing area there is a lot more ac­tion hap­pen­ing around most mor­tu­ar­ies. Lit­tle won­der then, like the An­i­mals song, that the A’s came to the fol­low­ing con­clu­sion: “We’ve got to get out of this place!”

De­spite the seem­ing ad­van­tages, it’s ex­ceed­ingly dif­fi­cult to en­vi­sion a quaint, at­trac­tive baseball- only fa­cil­ity at the Coli­seum lo­ca­tion. But it’s even more dif­fi­cult to en­vi­sion any­thing grow­ing up around it, and therein rests the key prob­lem of stay­ing there. There has to be more to the ex­pe­ri­ence than Billy Beane’s lat­est on-field cre­ation.

The Per­alta site has many is­sues to solve, but at least the A’s will feel — for the first time ever, maybe — like they’re ac­tu­ally part of the city. And maybe the city will ac­tu­ally feel like the A’s be­long to them for the first time, too.

Take it from some­one who cov­ered the Gi­ants for years at Can­dle­stick. You never felt like you were in San Fran­cisco. You felt like you were in Bris­bane (or worse yet, Colma) and not only was there was ab­so­lutely noth­ing in the sur­round­ing area to keep you there be­fore or af­ter a game, you couldn’t wait to get the hell out. But it all changed in­stantly with the move to China Basin.

It’s the same deal now with the Coli­seum lo­ca­tion. It might have worked for the Raiders had they cho­sen to stay be­cause they only would have played 10 times a year there, and the vast park­ing lots ac­tu­ally would have been an as­set for game- day tail­gat­ing.

But for 81 dates of baseball, peo­ple want and de­serve more in this day and age, even be­yond a bet­ter-look­ing ball­park. The fact that the A’s draw their big­gest crowds for fire­works shows tells you all you need to know. At most ball­parks around the coun­try now, you can go out be­fore or af­ter the game for a meal or drinks. There’s gen­er­ally a shop­ping dis­trict nearby, or some other el­e­ment of cul­ture such as a mu­seum or mu­sic venue.

Face it, that sce­nario is never go­ing to be a re­al­ity at the Coli­seum, at least in our life­times. Coli­seum City was more far­fetched than Oz. So again, to the A’s: Good luck at Laney, and fail­ing that, sharp minds must get to­gether to solve the ac­cess is­sues to Howard Ter­mi­nal/Jack Lon­don Square, which in truth is the most at­trac­tive and all- en­com­pass­ing site.

The Coli­seum site? Quot­ing the late, great A’s broad­caster Lon Sim­mons, we should all just tell it good­bye. With that in mind, we’re set­ting the alarm on our Ap­ple Watch for April 5, 2023, wher­ever that new ball­park ul­ti­mately takes root.

JANE TYSKA — STAFF AR­CHIVES

The site with Or­a­cle Arena and the O.co Coli­seum will be va­cant once the War­riors, Raiders and A’s move to a new arena, city and sta­dium.

ARIC CRABB — STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

A’s president David Kaval is pitch­ing the Per­alta site near Laney Col­lege as the pre­ferred lo­ca­tion for a new sta­dium.

LIPO CHING — STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

The A’s are propos­ing a new sta­dium at the Per­alta Com­mu­nity Col­lege Dis­trict head­quar­ters near Laney Col­lege in cen­tral Oak­land. Team of­fi­cials, who have sev­eral hur­dles to clear at the po­ten­tial site, are tar­get­ing a 2023 open­ing date.

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