Oakland A’s reveal plans for ‘ballpark within a park’

Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise the Oakland A’s have today (Wednesday) revealed plans to develop a new stadium and revamp its existing Coliseum home, spelling out an intention to put the “park back in ballpark”.

The A’s had been mulling over two possible sites for a new ballpark – the existing Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum and a mooted location at the waterfront Howard Terminal. The latter site had been identified as the preferred option and the A’s today confirmed that they intend to build a next-generation urban ballpark at Howard Terminal, while pursuing a second project to redevelop the Coliseum site.

Oakland A’s president Dave Kaval said: “We are excited to build a bold, iconic ballpark at Howard Terminal. This design will allow us to blur the boundaries of a traditional ballpark and integrate into the surrounding neighbourhood.

“However, this undertaking is bigger than baseball. In addition to developing at Howard Terminal, we plan to redevelop the Coliseum to help that site realise its full potential for the residents of Oakland for the long-term. We look forward to continuing our work with the community to develop both projects.

“We’ve spent the last year engaging in community dialogue with over 100 public officials, 80 community-based organisations, and 500 Oakland residents and community leaders. Our conversations with leaders in business, labour, government, and faith, in addition to neighbourhood residents, have underscored the desire for this project to deliver real economic, civic, and cultural benefits, including job creation and training opportunities; an inclusive approach to economic and community development; and new civic, cultural, and recreational amenities.

“We are also committed to delivering a baseball experience for our fans like no other. Our proposed two-project approach will enable us to deliver on our promises to both our fans and community.”

In August, the A’s hired Danish architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) to lead the design process for a new privately financed ballpark and surrounding development. Designed by BIG, the A’s ballpark at Howard Terminal has a vision to return the baseball experience to the roots of the sport, while reimagining the ballpark anew.

To create the most intimate experience in baseball, plans call for a total capacity of around 34,000-including fixed seats and general admission experience areas-to be arranged in the closest configuration possible to home plate, along with an elevated park that wraps and frames the bowl, coming down to meet the waterfront.

The square block of the ballpark district will sit within the extended urban fabric of Oakland, transforming the ballpark’s concourses into street, and concessions into restaurants. Diverse programming embedded within and around the ballpark will seek to ensure the ballpark, and the park that sits atop it, are active on game days and non-game days alike.

“Our design for the A’s new home at the heart of Oakland’s revitalised waterfront seeks to return the game to its roots as the natural meeting place for the local community,” said Bjarke Ingels, founding partner of BIG. “An elevated tree-lined promenade frames the ballpark on all sides, dipping down to meet the public square and open the field to the water and city views.

“The perimeter park connects a cascade of social spaces for the fans to enjoy the sport on game days and extends the urban fabric with a neighbourhood park to be enjoyed 365 days a year. In other words-we are putting the ‘park’ back in ‘ballpark’.”

Working with public agencies and community residents, the A’s plan to revitalise the Coliseum by pulling the adjacent neighbourhood space into the site, and creating new economic, cultural, and recreational opportunities. The Coliseum has been home to the A’s and Oakland Raiders since 1968, but the NFL American football team is poised to move to a new 65,000-seat stadium in Las Vegas in time for the 2020 season.

Preliminary plans include a large park, surrounded by substantial new housing, including affordable housing, a skills centre, community gathering space, office and retail developments, and restaurants. The new park will be anchored by two focal points of Oakland sports history: Oracle Arena, repurposed as a concert and cultural events centre; and the original Coliseum baseball diamond, preserved in a bid to inspire the next generation of ballplayers.

As a next step in this process, the A’s will embark on a ‘120-Day Action Plan’ focused on five key items. The team said it plans to open its new ballpark in 2023.

Images: Oakland A’s