Itinerant Fan

Oakland Coliseum

The Oakland Coliseum doesn’t have many nice things said or written about it these days. It is an aging concrete stadium full of problems. It’s the last stadium in the U.S. that houses both an MLB and an NFL team — and neither franchise wants to play in it much longer. It was once considered a nice little park to watch baseball until a mid-90s renovation that lured back the NFL turned it into a hideous Franken-stadium and introduced the term “Mount Davis” into our sports vocabulary.

Clearly the Coliseum’s days are numbered, as soon as the city of Oakland and the A’s and Raiders figure out what their next steps are. So why go and see a game there? Well, whether it’s baseball or football, you’ll meet some of the most passionate and knowledgeable fans sports has to offer, even if recent hard times have left them a little jaded. And hey, look hard enough and you’ll see that it has a few charms, too.

I dropped in on a recent daytrip to the Bay Area to see for myself how the old place was holding up. Turns out it’s still standing — just don’t expect anything too fancy.

  •   The Approach

    Look at it on a map and you might think to yourself that the Coliseum isn’t a hard place to get to, and you wouldn’t be wrong. The stadium sits on a plot of land officially known as the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Complex, which also includes Oracle Arena (which itself was once known as the Oakland Coliseum Arena — confusing, huh?), and the two venues lie alongside Interstate 880, the major freeway that runs through Oakland and leads to the Bay Bridge crossing into San Francisco. So driving is pretty direct — take 880 to Hegenberger Road — though traffic in that area around the time fans would be trying to get to games is always a crapshoot.

    One of the definite positives of the stadium is its proximity to public transit — both BART and Amtrak have stations at the Coliseum’s doorstep, and the stations are conveniently named “Coliseum” so you can’t get confused. From the BART station, just walk across a pedestrian bridge and you’ll be there, though for A’s games you’ll want to walk around the perimeter a bit since the gate you’ll see first is at center field and usually not open for baseball. BART fares can get a little pricey depending on where you’re coming from, but it certainly beats the cost of parking should you chose to drive to the game.

    If you’re coming straight from the Oakland Airport, about a mile away, you can get to the Coliseum for free, technically. Use the BART train from the airport to the station — you just need a fare ticket to get through the turnstiles, but you won’t be charged unless you depart the system somewhere besides the Coliseum station.

    Parking at the stadium in one of the Raiders’ official lots costs $35, but is already completely sold out for the 2016 season. There are a few lots in the area managed by third party companies where you might be able to drive up and find a spot.

    If you’re not concerned with price and want to ensure that game-day goes smoothly, you might want to prepay for a parking spot through Parking Panda. Their website allows you to compare parking options based on price and location. You can reserve a guaranteed spot ahead of time and drive to the stadium with peace of mind. Take a look in the window below:

     
  •   The Build-Up

    Booking.com

    A’s fans don’t usually come to the Coliseum in droves, but they sure know how to party — the Coliseum is one of very few places in Major League Baseball in which you’ll find tailgating on a regular basis in the parking lot. It being the NFL, the tailgating scene is ratcheted up for Raiders games.

    If you’re looking outside the stadium grounds for pregame merriment, your choices are meager. There’s a Denny’s down the street and a shopping center on the other side of the freeway on Hegenberger that includes, among other things, an In-N-Out Burger, a Panda Express and a Chipotle. And sometimes you’ll see vendors with mobile grills selling what’s known as a Danger Dog along the BART pedestrian bridge. If those options don’t appeal to you, well, it’s probably best that you eat before you head over.

  •   The Ambiance

    The Coliseum tries to be a football stadium and tries to be a baseball stadium, yet compared to its peers is ill-fitted for both (which, frankly, was the case with most multipurpose stadiums built in the same era). The addition of Mount Davis, that portion of the stands that hovers over the rest of the stadium, may have been a slight boon to the Raiders when they returned from Los Angeles in 1995, but it sorely diminished the experience for A’s fans, who beforehand at least had the Oakland hills to look out to during breaks in the action.


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    These days attendance at both A’s and Raiders games can be sparse as their futures remain up in the air. For their part, the A’s try to make the atmosphere more intimate by tarping off most of the upper deck and nearly all of Mount Davis — though most outsiders would see that as an admission of waning popularity, the remaining seats do offer decent vantage points. Famously, the Coliseum’s round shape creates the most foul territory of any venue in the majors, so don’t be surprised if you feel farther removed from the action than at most ballparks.

    The old concrete edifice has its dank corners and dark alleyways, but its main concourse has concession stands at nearly every turn and viewing areas where you can keep tabs on the action as you’re walking along. Just don’t expect anything fantastic in those concession stands, though. You’ll find most stadium staples there — burgers, chicken tenders, sausages and the like — but quality might be an issue. I went for garlic fries and received the saddest order possible, with wilty spuds topped by garlic fresh out of a can. I managed to eat most of it, though.

    Raiders fans may carry a certain reputation, what with their outlandish garb and “Black Hole” seating area, but A’s fans are decidedly more genteel, there to watch good baseball and support their team through thick and thin. You’ll see this spirit most clearly in the bleachers behind right field, where the most fervent fans display signs, wear costumes and beat drums.

    Those who turned out for this weekday matinee were in for a treat, the A’s turning in a 1-hitter in a victory over the Rangers. Which just goes to show that no matter how far behind the times a stadium is, people will come to see major-league feats.

The Particulars

Home Teams
Oakland Athletics
Oakland Raiders

Address
7000 Coliseum Way
Oakland, CA 94621

Year Opened
1966

Capacity
35,067 (baseball)
53,200 (football)

Upcoming Events
All times local
Atlanta Braves at Oakland Athletics
Friday, June 30, 2017
7:05 pm
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Atlanta Braves at Oakland Athletics
Saturday, July 1, 2017
1:05 pm
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Atlanta Braves at Oakland Athletics
Sunday, July 2, 2017
1:05 pm
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Chicago White Sox at Oakland Athletics
Monday, July 3, 2017
6:05 pm
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Chicago White Sox at Oakland Athletics
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
1:05 pm
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