OAKLAND — Dave Kaval thinks he’s got a grasp on what A’s fans would like in a new ballpark.
The team’s new president still talks like a fan himself.
He toured all 30 major league stadiums back in the summer of 1998 and wrote a book about the experience. Since then, he’s served as the San Jose Earthquakes president and spearheaded the construction of that team’s soccer venue, Avaya Stadium, which opened in 2015.
Now the energetic Kaval, announced as the A’s new president Thursday, is taking over as the point person of the A’s long-standing search for a new ballpark.
A self-described “ballpark guru,” Kaval plans on having an open-door policy to get feedback from A’s fans about the stadium search.
He plans to set up an office at the Coliseum in December and says fans can drop in and share their thoughts every Tuesday from 3-5 p.m.
“We need to find a place to bring this community together,” Kaval said at a news conference at the Coliseum. “The other teams (Raiders and Warriors) look like they might be leaving. We might be the only team left. I think it’s critical that we carry that banner of Oakland both now and in the future.”
Kaval, who will continue to serve as the Earthquakes president, is gathering all the information he can to get up to speed on the A’s search. But he reiterated that the A’s are still considering multiple sites in Oakland, including the Coliseum site itself.
Wherever the A’s eventually decide to build, and there are signs they could choose a site before spring training arrives, he stressed the importance of constructing a unique venue that might serve as “a new dawn of ballpark construction.”
Avaya Stadium, for example, includes what the Quakes promote as the longest outdoor bar in North America.
But Kaval also stressed that the ideal new venue would be the centerpiece of a “ballpark village” type environment, with lots of surrounding attractions to draw fans besides the game itself.
“I think there are challenges at every location and I think there are great opportunities at all the locations, and I think you need to balance it,” Kaval said. “I think the types of things we’re looking at are transit and looking at creating a vibrant, urban feeling around the stadium — bars, restaurants, the excitement, the hustle and bustle that I think is what a ballpark is all about.”
That description would seem to best fit with a downtown Oakland location such as Howard Terminal, which A’s majority owner John Fisher toured with other team officials in August. The A’s have been linked to other locations near downtown too, including sites adjacent to Laney College.
But Kaval said that he thinks a surrounding ballpark village idea could potentially work at the Coliseum site too, citing the rise of San Jose’s Santana Row as a comparison.
“That was basically a parking lot and they kind of turned it into a European downtown,” Kaval said. “I think it can be done in all the locations we’re looking at.”
Kaval is taking the reins from Mike Crowley, who had served as the A’s president since 1997. Crowley is staying on as a senior advisor for the A’s and will continue to serve on the EArthquakes’ board of directors.
“I’ve worked closely with Dave at the Quakes and I know he’ll bring tremendous energy to the organization as the team continues to pursue a new venue,” Crowley said in a statement. “He has an undeniable passion to carry on our goals of fielding a competitive team and engaging our community through the game of baseball.”
Think of Kaval’s open-door policy sort of like a college professor’s office hours. He’s done the same thing with the Quakes, and told a story about a Bulgarian soccer fan who visits him regularly and tries to convince to play with 14 players.
Kaval and Billy Beane, the head of the A’s baseball operations, will both report to managing partner John Fisher, who assumed those duties Thursday as it was announced that Lew Wolff is stepping down from that role.
Asked whether the A’s might consider boosting their payroll, Kaval said it’s a possibility, although he made it clear that Beane remains the unquestioned leader on the baseball side of things.