On October 11, 2012, an over-capacity crowd of 36,393 filled the O.Co Coliseum to watch the Oakland A’s take on the Detroit Tigers in Game 5 of the ALDS. That night, you would have been hard pressed to find a louder stadium with rowdier fans. Despite the season-ending 6-0 loss, supporters remained until the very end, saluting and applauding their players for an incredible run to the AL West Division title.
Fast forward to April 1, 2013, when the Coliseum played host to another sellout crowd of 36,067 for the A’s home opener versus the Seattle Mariners. The atmosphere carried over from the postseason, with fans looking to feel the magic of 2012 again.
So then explain this: on the nights of April 2 and April 3, the A’s played in front of crowds of 15,315 and 15,162, respectively. Both games were against the Mariners, and both were part of their Opening Series of the 2013 regular season.
I know what you’re probably thinking: what the hell happened to 20,000 fans?
The one and only plausible explanation for the A’s lack of attendance (the fourth worst in 2012) can be attributed to their ballpark.
The A’s play their games in a run-down, hideous garbage dump, also known as the O.Co Coliseum. It may have been fit to host a sporting event back in 1974, but in this day and age, it is the most outdated professional stadium in America.
For starters, what do you see when you first settle into your seat? The dominating, annoying structure beyond center field nicknamed “Mount Davis,” constructed in 1996 by the late Al Davis. For some reason, Mr. Davis thought it would be cool to add an additional 10,000 seats that nobody would ever sit in (the upper deck is tarped off), as well as eliminate the view of the Oakland hills that had been the stadium’s backdrop for 30 years and the only scenic view that it offered.
Next, we turn to the technology in the stadium, or lack thereof. Every single word the PA announcer utters is echoed around the Coliseum, so we get to hear, “Now batting…now batting…number four…number four…Coco….Coco…Crisp!…Crisp” a million times, which becomes irritating after a while. The DiamondVision screens located on either side of the stadium are beyond outdated; you can clearly see how dirty and old the monitors are, and the text that displays the batter’s name, batting average, etc. look like words coming out of a typewriter.
Finally, the Coliseum lacks in the most important aspect of any stadium: the bathrooms. Men: how many of you can remember the last time you had to urinate into a tub shared with two other people? If you miss that experience, just head on out to an A’s game. I don’t want to creep you out with more details, so I will leave it at that.
Another reason that people like to give for the A’s punitive attendance figures is the actions of owner Lew Wolff. Wolff has made it clear that he would like to build a stadium in downtown San Jose and move the A’s to the heart of Silicon Valley. The only reason that hasn’t happened yet is because the San Francisco Giants have refused to waive their territorial rights to San Jose, and the issue has been passed on to the commissioner’s office to resolve. Thus, many fans are appalled that Wolff would “betray” Oakland by moving the club.
That is an absolute BS excuse for not showing up to the ballpark on a daily basis.
If the A’s were to move San Jose, they would still be called the Oakland A’s (re-naming them the San Jose A’s seems unlikely and unethical), and would it really kill you to make the half hour drive down to the new ballpark? Plus, based on everything I just spilled out about the faults of the Coliseum, don’t we all agree that a new ballpark is exactly what this team needs?
Despite the run-down ballpark and the intentions of ownership, it still puzzles me as to why the A’s don’t draw larger crowds.
First of all, they are located right next to Oracle Arena, the home of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. If even the Warriors, a perennial losing franchise, can draw a sellout crowd for most games, surely the defending AL West Division champions and four-time World Series champions can fill their stadium to more than 45 percent capacity.
We can also look across the bay to AT&T Park, which has sold out every single game since the run to the 2010 World Series. Sure, the Giants have had more recent success and a much nicer ballpark, but the bottom line is: these are two professional baseball franchises separated by a small body of water. How is one team routinely catering to capacity crowds while the other can’t even fill half the number of seats in the stadium?
The Bay Area is a sports-crazed region, with all of its teams achieving recent success with fans except for the A’s (yes, even the Raiders, who share the same stadium as the A’s).
So why is it that the Oakland A’s continue to rank among the bottom feeders in attendance year after year?
Other than the ballpark itself, that question is one that mystifies me, and even after writing this piece, it will continue to perplex me.