49ers and Raiders stretch before their exhibition game on Saturday night. (Photo: Samuel Lam)
After going to my first ever football game at the Coliseum on Saturday night, it became really clear to me that both Bay Area NFL teams need a new home. The 49ers are close to getting theirs. Can the Raiders do the same?
Growing up in the East Bay, the Coliseum had always been a place for me to watch baseball. I am not a Raiders fan, so I had no reason to watch the football games there. But every late August and early September, the Coliseum would go through transformations to a football field; then back to baseball afterward.
In my mind I had never thought much of it since I never watched the Raiders play in the Coliseum. Last night I got a glimpse of the Coliseum and it was clear to me that the Raiders need a new place to call home.
My first game to the Coliseum for a baseball game happened when I was a kid. I don't remember what age I was but I remember the stadium being Mount Davis-free with a gorgeous view of the Oakland hills. The Raiders were in Los Angeles at the time. Ever since then I had attended over 50 games at the Coliseum to watch the Oakland Athletics. So to me, the Coliseum is for the A's.
So on Saturday night when I made my way to the Coliseum, it was a little strange for me to see it turned into a football field. And having to sit in the press box the entire game (which was a first for me as well) allowed me to get a great view of the entire field. Walking in through the different hallways inside and through the locker rooms was a very memorable experience since it was the same hallways that the baseball players use.
However, it was very apparent that the Raiders need a new place to play. Even though the Coliseum was built for football in 1966 and then later used as a multi-purpose complex when the Athletics arrived in 1968, it is now outdated as a place befitting both teams. These teams deserve a better stadium to play their games. The fans do too.
Both the San Francisco 49ers and the San Francisco Giants shared the same complex at Candlestick until the opening of Pacific Bell/SBC/AT&T Park in 2010. The Giants now have a place to call their home. And if everything goes according to plan, the 49ers will have their new stadium in Santa Clara ready by 2014. Both these franchises understood that they needed a new stadium and were able to get it done.
The Giants now play right in the heart of downtown San Francisco and the 49ers will be playing in a stadium right next to their team facility in Santa Clara. Those are both pretty good situations to be in.
Looking at the Oakland teams, it has been clear for the past decade that a new stadium is in need. For the A's, it might not be that bad if Mount Davis was taken down and the stadium was reverted to what it was back in the 60s. For the Raiders, they would need a place where it can be used strictly for football. In fact, a new stadium for both teams would be nice as well.
Every September I go watch the A's play and the field is just filled with dead grass patches and yard markers from the football games. At the same time, the infield dirt on a football field just isn't right. Quarterback Alex Smith said that when he got sacked, the first thing he was concerned about was whether or not the infield dirt would scratch up his arm. That doesn't seem like a concern any football player should have to worry about.
The Miami Dolphins and the Florida Marlins will soon part ways with their shared stadium. The Marlins will have their own ballpark in a couple seasons and that would leave the Raiders and A's as the only team in to share a multi-sport complex in America.
I'm not into all the technical numbers of the finances and what potential measures need to be passed for it to occur. But as a fan, and as a fan who has found agreement from other fans, the A's and Raiders need a new place to play. Maybe the A's do move to Fremont and the Raiders can stay at the Coliseum. Or it could be the other way around and the Raiders find a new home while the A's stay. I'm not even too sure whether a new stadium built in Jack London Square or in San Jose are real possibilities.
In any sense, as a fan, I would like to see the Coliseum used for only one sport. I don't want football players worrying about getting hurt on the infield dirt and I don't want to see outfielders twist ankles on dead patches of outfield grass. Even though getting the ball rolling on a new stadium is difficult, a change needs to be made.