Short of fancy renderings and sleek fly-through videos, the Oakland A's have something much more important when it comes to building a new ballpark: a plan.
As the A's look to vacate Oakland Coliseum, considered one of the least attractive venues in the MLB, the multi-year effort to find a new home—whether in Oakland or elsewhere—has finally landed at what is known as the Peralta location, the current home to warehouses, parking lots and administrative offices for Peralta Community College District. But by 2021, the A's plan—if they can navigate through the political and permitting process—to break ground the new ballpark, opening in time for the 2023 season.
Oakland recently hired four firms—Sasaki, Snøhetta, Studio T-Square and HOK—to lead the design process for the urban design and ballpark at the site. HOK and Snøhetta will collaborate on the design of the new ballpark. Catherine Aker, A's vice president of communications & community, tells Baseball America the club will spend one year involved in "community engagement."
"We are hosting town halls, listening sessions, workshops, etc. to understand the needs of the entire community," Aker said. "It also provides us an opportunity to answer questions from the community."
"Our goal is to create the best ballpark experience for our fans, players and community. It is critical for our ballpark to truly integrate into the fabric of Oakland," Oakland A's president Dave Kaval said. "All of the firms are industry leaders and have reputations for leading award-winning transformative and cutting-edge projects. We look forward to working with them to develop a project that works for our entire community."
Snøhetta is known for the design of museums, Time Square's pedestrian plaza and the National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion at the World Trade Center while HOK has a long history of stadium and ballpark design, including the recently opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Little Caesars Arena in Detroit and a new Triple-A ballpark for the Las Vegas 51s in Summerlin, Nevada.
The plan in Oakland will merge a stadium into an urban neighborhood around the ballpark with new housing, open space and small-business retail. Views of Lake Merritt, Oakland's downtown skyline and nearby East Bay Hills will define the location that the club calls one of the warmest weather locations in the Bay Area, ideal for fan comfort. The 13-acre site accessible from BART transit—and walkable to downtown—will mix with the preexisting neighborhood close to downtown, offering up a different vibe for the area than currently available at the coliseum location.
"The Peralta site being right in the heart of the city is a great way to connect to the vibrancy of the city civic core," Kaval said.
The Oakland A's and the team's ownership group will privately finance the stadium and ancillary development. While they go through the design and community engagement phase ahead of the planned 2021 groundbreaking, the A's will put $4 million into the Oakland Coliseum this season to upgrade it for use for the next few years.
"With its new home closer to downtown Oakland, the project will re-invigorate the relationship between the A's and the city as a new kind of ballpark that acts as a center for sport, wellness and culture," Craig Dykers, Snøhetta partner-in-charge said. "We look forward to working with the team and the residents of Oakland to create a vision that will not only continue the rich legacy of the A's, but also strengthen communities, foster healthy habitat and build a vibrant new cultural heart for the city."
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.