BOSTON — A’s president Dave Kaval believes the team has the ideal location to build a new ballpark.
He’s also confident the A’s current core of young players will become the seasoned group of veterans that ushers in that new ballpark, which is slated to open for the 2023 season if all goes according to plans the A’s unveiled Wednesday.
“I think the biggest thing you’re going to see, and it’s something (V.P. of baseball ops) Billy (Beane) has talked about, is really signing the nucleus of young players,” Kaval said in a phone interview Thursday. “We’re aiming to have them through the arbitration, and even the free agent years. We want to have those players together as a unit as we break ground and then move in.”
Figure that group could include players such as Ryon Healy, Matt Olson and Chad Pinder (who’ll all be eligible for free agency leading into that 2023 season), Matt Chapman (2024) and perhaps others. Those baseball-oriented decisions will come with time. Before they do, Kaval and the A’s have to push the ballpark project down the road from concept to reality.
That’s far from a given. The A’s settled on a site in Oakland currently occupied by the Peralta Community College District headquarters, just off Interstate 880 and down the block from Laney College. They need to negotiate a deal to buy the land; satisfy the concerns of the surrounding business owners and residents near the potential site; complete environmental impact reports; and get construction underway. The A’s don't plan for the first shovel to hit dirt until 2021.
“There’s a long road ahead of us,” Kaval said. “There will be good days and bad days. We’re celebrating and at the same time rolling up the sleeves.”
Though the A’s will be moving from the relative isolation of the Coliseum complex into a more urban setting on the edge of downtown Oakland, they aim to keep the game-day experience similar in some respects.
Many fans are curious about whether there will be areas for tailgating. Kaval says yes: Some in traditional parking lots, some in picnic areas that will be located near parking structures.
“Obviously the space won’t be as big as the Coliseum, but I think we can do it where it can be a win for everybody,” he said, noting that fans will have dining options within walking distance of the new ballpark that don’t exist at the Coliseum.
The nod to some of the franchise’s all-time greats will carry over, with the playing surface at the new venue to be called Rickey Henderson Field as it is now. There’s also the possibility of an A’s Hall of Fame.
As the A’s were considering multiple sites to build around Oakland, one concern over the Peralta/Laney site was a lack of parking in the immediate area. The A’s plan to build parking structures, but Kaval also thinks an advantage of being closer to downtown is that there will be more parking available around the city, and with cars likely to be spread out more, traffic congestion will be lighter.
Weather also played a key role in the A’s choosing Peralta. Candlestick Park-like conditions were feared at Howard Terminal, right on the water. Peralta isn’t subject to the marine layer that can sometimes require fans to bring jackets to Coliseum night games.
“Peralta really was the Goldilocks site with the weather — not too hot, not too cold,” Kaval said.
While still calling the Coliseum home for the next five seasons, the A’s will keep making upgrades to the aging facility as they have in 2017.
“We have a lot of that on tap for next year as well,” Kaval said. “And every year here we’ll continue to do that, to make sure people have a reason to come here now, and to test things (for the new ballpark). We may learn something here.”