Blogs » Minor Lines » The Oakland Coliseum is a dump with a lesson


Many of those who read the Advocate will never get to experience the wonder that is the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

While on vacation in California visiting family and friends, I went with a couple of friends twice to this epic concrete failure of architecture to watch the Oakland Athletics battle their opponent of the day in front of a crowd that could usually be counted on one hand.

When the A's aren't winning, Oakland fans stay home. And based on the surroundings, any person in their right mind can't blame them.

The Coliseum is built in one of America's most dangerous cities, and is located in one of that city's most dangerous areas. Outside the Coliseum's parking lots is thuggery of a near epic proportion, and a walk to the nearby rapid-transit train can be harrowing when made on non-game days.

And the conditions inside aren't much better. Bleacher seats hang off a cliff, a good 20 to 30 feet off the playing field. There isn't a good seat in the outfield, as most of them have obstructed views of the everything that isn't the infield. You can't sit in the upper deck any more -- they've covered those seats with tarps because the A's make no money by selling them. About half of the middle deck seats -- or upper deck for A's games -- aren't even in view of the scoreboards at the Coliseum.

Coliseum attendants are rude wage slaves who act as though they hate their job as much as they hate you. Then again, if you spent your night watching A's baseball, would you be happy?

And then football season rolls around. By mid-August, the outfield will be a groundskeeper's nightmare of dying grass and potholes from seating structure supports. The Oakland Raiders still haunt the Coliseum on Sundays, and their presence can be seen in the waning days of the season as the outfield grass slowly changes to match the color of the infield. It's really a pathetic site to behold.

The Coliseum is among the last of a deservedly dying breed - the convertible cookie cutter, circular in shape with nothing descript about it. Its concourses are so small it makes 15,000 people seem like a lot, but it's seating bowl is so damn cavernous it swallows 35,000 whole (a sellout for the Athletics.)

Right now, Oakland is the only team in MLB that plays in one and has no realistic plans to replace it. Florida will be moving out of its stadium in 2012 into a shiny new stadium built on top of the old Orange Bowl. There are plans, but nothing has been solid.

Yet the Coliseum experience is one many fans need to experience. It's something that baseball fans from newer generations need to see once in their lifetime, that baseball wasn't always played in a theme park with trains and wonderful architecture. That life at the ballpark wasn't always as idyllic as it is at the Juicebox.

Sometimes, the stadium matches the harsh realities of the city it's in and the team on the field. The Coliseum, for all its faults, seems fittingly drab.

Rather, the sport spent the days before steroids wallowing in smelly pits best forgotten. Places built to accomodate more than one sport, and neither one in optimal conditions. The game was played in charmless concrete mazes better off blown up than remembered.

-John Hornberg