View from A’s new stadium: ‘A magnificent backdrop’

OAKLAND — The elephant has left the room.

After months of speculation, the A’s announced they want to leave their Coliseum home of 50 years for new digs near Laney College, promising fans a short walk to BART and stadium views of the Tribune Tower, the Oakland Hills and Lake Merritt.

The historic baseball ballpark relocation toward downtown — something city leaders have talked about for decades — would leave the Coliseum empty; the Raiders and Warriors having already made plans to exit Oakland.

An excited A’s President Dave Kaval, in a team video released Wednesday, said the franchise “wants to build a ballpark bigger than baseball, a gathering place to bring our community together” akin to Camden Yards in Baltimore and Fenway Park in Boston.

“The weather at that location is very nice. Oakland baseball is about being in the sun,” Kaval said. “And it’s really a magnificent backdrop.”

But the team’s bold proposal to plop a 35,000-seat stadium near a community college and neighborhoods that are home to renters and a sizable immigrant population, drew a lukewarm response at best from two city leaders and immediate push back from neighborhood activists.

Kaval, in an interview Wednesdsay, cautioned the long-awaited pronouncement is no shovel-ready, done deal. It’s the start of a conversation, first on the list is a land deal negotiation with the college district and talks with neighbors who will live in the shadow of the park.

Political support?

The Peralta Community College site was not on the top of the list for all Oakland politicians. Mayor Libby Schaaf was a consistent voice for Howard Terminal, near Jack London Square, while Councilman Abel Guillen, whose district includes Peralta, favored staying at the Coliseum.

At a Wednesday morning City Hall press conference, the pair said the A’s decision has its complications, mainly the potential for displacement of “vulnerable” residents of Chinatown, Eastlake and San Antonio.

The neighborhoods surrounding the ballpark location are lined with mom-and-pop businesses and a sizable population of non-English speakers. In the Eastlake neighborhood centered along International Boulevard east of Lake Merritt, 90 percent of households are renters, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

Asked if she would help the A’s sell the stadium to the community, Mayor Schaaf hedged, noting gentrification concerns and saying her job is to ensure the project benefits the neighborhood.

“I’ve not said that this is the best place for the A’s but I respect that they are privately financing their ballpark,” Schaaf …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports

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