The Oakland A’s are proposing an ambitious plan for a new waterfront ballpark just north of Jack London Square. It would include an intimate stadium surrounded by high-rise buildings, and a gondola from the downtown Oakland BART station that would shuttle fans over the I-880 freeway. The team is also proposing to re-develop the Coliseum site in East Oakland. KQED’s Tara Siler and Nina Thorsen discussed the announcement, which was made Wednesday at the A’s headquarters and at www.oaklandballpark.com.
Tara Siler: Describe what this stadium would look like — they’re calling it a "jewel box" — what does that mean?
Nina Thorsen: Well, it's small — 34,000 seats. That’s much smaller than the Coliseum, smaller than the Giants’ AT&T Park, in fact it would be one of the smallest in Major League Baseball. It’s intimate, as you said — all the seats are close to the field, it doesn't have the big foul territory or the high upper deck of the Coliseum. It's a very contemporary design. It’s nothing like the retro brick ballparks such as AT&T that have been fashionable for the last 20 years, although there is a subtle homage to the Athletics’ original home in Philadelphia, Shibe Park. There are some neat features like a “harbor bath” — a swimming pool just outside the ballpark — and a green roof perimeter, so you'd be able to walk in a park-like area all the way around the roof level of the stadium. Some of the iconic Port of Oakland cranes that are on the site now would be incorporated into the design. And there'd be some terraced areas where fans without tickets would still be able to look into the ballpark from outside, sort of like the rooftops that overlook Wrigley Field in Chicago. The idea is it would be a destination and a public space, even when there isn't a game happening.
Siler: What are the A’s saying about this idea for a gondola — how is that going to work?
Thorsen: The gondola is one solution to the problem of how to get people from BART down to Jack London Square and the ballpark, because there’s a freeway and railroad tracks in the way. So this would be an aerial tram that would go from downtown, over the freeway and the tracks, and possibly terminate at one of the port cranes that are being incorporated into the stadium design. But my sense is the gondola isn’t a make-or-break aspect of the design. If it doesn’t work out, or even if it does, there will be other transit alternatives. But this is definitely going to be a transit-first ballpark, not like the Coliseum surrounded by surface parking lots. The A's say there are more than 10,000 parking spaces within walking distance of the stadium already, but relatively few will be built as part of the ballpark development.