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OAKLAND, Calif. — The Oakland Athletics have offered to take over paying $136 million in debt to take ownership of the Coliseum site, where they can build their long-needed, baseball-only stadium.
A's President Dave Kaval recently made the offer to officials of Oakland and Alameda County, who operate the Coliseum, as the team seeks a site for a new stadium in Oakland after being turned down for its first choice downtown in December.
Kaval said Tuesday he has gotten positive feedback already from Alameda County officials and plans to meet with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf on Wednesday to discuss the plan, which he says will save the city and county $20 million a year on debt service on the stadium and assure a professional team remains in the city after the Warriors and Raiders move in the next few years.
"The key thing is we really want to own our own home," Kaval said. "We've been here 50 years. The other teams are leaving. It's important for our long-term success in Oakland to have a place that is ours that we own and control. That is the impetus of making the offer, to assume the debt and to take that burden off the city and county."
After failed efforts to build stadiums in nearby Fremont and San Jose, the A's have been focused of late on staying in Oakland. They announced plans last year to build a stadium by Laney College in downtown Oakland but that fell through when the board of the Peralta Community College District said it had directed the chancellor to discontinue talks about a possible ballpark.
The A's still have interest in a waterfront park at Howard Terminal near Jack London Square but that site is not as accessible by public transportation and the team wants to keep as many options open as possible.
The Coliseum opened in 1966 and is run down and ill-suited as a baseball-only facility. It has had issues with flooding and lacks the money-making amenities in most modern stadiums.
The A's had the second-lowest paid attendance in baseball last season at 18,219 per game as fans have grown frustrated with the outdated stadium and a team that has traded away many of its best players to keep payroll down.
"It's not just the play on the field. It's being able to hold onto our players," Kaval said. "That's something we've had a challenge doing because we've been a low-revenue club. We haven't controlled our own venue, we weren't generating revenue like some of the other clubs. The key to the entire piece is getting the ballpark built here in Oakland and generating revenue commensurate with a large market team."
Kaval said if an economic plan is in place by the end of this year for a new stadium, it could open in 2023. The A's are building their team with young players who they will be able to keep in their control until then.
"I'm excited to work with the A's in their commitment to stay in Oakland and build a privately financed ballpark," Schaaf said. "We look forward to reviewing, analyzing, and considering the offer."
While work on getting a new stadium goes on, the A's added a new feature to the Coliseum this year in hopes of attracting more young fans. They have opened "The Treehouse" above the left-field bleachers. Fans can buy a monthly pass for $29.99 that gives them access to the bars, lounge seating and standing room areas.
"You see that as a trend, people moving away from a physical seat and focusing on these experience areas," Kaval said. "I think it's going to attract a lot of millennials. We need that. We need more fans, especially baseball in general needs younger fans. This is a way to do that."
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