By Ryan Leong
The Oakland Coliseum is the only facility left that serves as a home for baseball and football. Both tenants, the Raiders and Athletics, know that the 46-year old structure is outdated and each are seeking a new home.
When Al Davis owned the team prior to his passing in October of 2011, many of the Raider Nation still feel betrayed he left Oakland back in 1981 when the team moved to Los Angeles and stayed there for 14 years playing in the older but larger Memorial Coliseum.
When the Oakland Coliseum was first erected back in 1966, it was modern in both design and function. Built 22 feet below sea level, the manner in which it was constructed gives an illusion as to its height from street level. Fans entering the stadium are walking on to the main concourse at the top of the first level of seats.
This, combined with the hill that was built around the stadium to create the upper concourse, means that only the third deck is visible from outside the park. This makes it appear like a short stadium from the outside.
For years when both teams shared the structure from 1968-1981, there were two different configurations for football. When baseball was still being played simultaneously, the football configuration went east-west. Fans sitting in what would be foul territory for A’s games was sideline seating for the Raiders.
Once baseball season concluded, the stadium would revert back to a north-south configuration as it is now. But when the Raiders left for Los Angeles, Davis wanted luxury suites and club seating, something the Oakland Coliseum did not offer.
When the team returned in 1995, the following spring, the east side was reconstructed. Three levels of luxury suites and a new upper deck was built to accommodate 10,000 additional fans. The new upper deck obstructed the view of the Oakland hills and was derisively nicknamed “Mt. Davis.”
In recent years since the success of the San Francisco Giants’ downtown ballpark, AT&T Park, the Athletics have publicly stated for years their desire to move out of the Coliseum and to Silicon Valley. But the Giants claim territorial rights to the south bay and Major League Baseball has yet to decide on the fate of the A’s.
The Raiders are also dissatisfied with the stadium, saying that it has poor sight lines for football and conversion from football to baseball and vice-versa is costly and inefficient.
Tuesday, at the NFL Fall meeting in Chicago, owner Mark Davis told NFL Network the Raiders are not interested in sharing a stadium like the New York Giants and Jets do.
“I give the 49ers all the credit in the world for getting a shovel in the ground in California,” Davis said. “That’s phenomenal. But we’re trying to get our situation right. It’s not easy to do.”
Davis says the team plans to build a stadium in Oakland or Dublin.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell agreed that the Raiders need upgraded facilities.
“I think there is a very strong recognition that they need a new stadium,” Goodell said. “That’s going to be something they have to have in that community to be successful going forward. Everyone is working toward finding out how to do that.”
One proposal is Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s Coliseum City. The project would create separate facilities for the A’s, Raiders, and Warriors along with a convention center, hotel, and retail strip. Although the Golden State Warriors are currently in the planning stages of building a waterfront arena on the Embarcadero in San Francisco.
Coliseum City would not need redevelopment funds because the city and county own the land. In any case, Oakland is currently the only Bay Area city to boast three major sports franchises. It would be a shame to see any of them leave the area, particularly the Raiders, given their history and connection to the city.
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.