Outside the Oakland Coliseum. August 26, 2020. Photo: Pete Rosos

After drawing criticism over having the lowest attendance of any MLB team in the first month of the 2022 season, the Oakland A’s have gone on the offense by documenting a laundry list of complaints about East Oakland’s Coliseum ballpark. 

Feces from feral cats, a moth infestation, mold, a nearby homeless encampment, broken seats, and plumbing and water leaks all made the checklist of problems Vice President of Stadium Operations David Rinetti sent to Coliseum Authority Executive Director Henry Gardner in a letter on May 12. 

A’s president Dave Kaval also raised the concerns to the Coliseum stadium authority board at its May 20 meeting. Kaval called for Gardner to publicly present a report detailing capital expenditures at the Coliseum over the past five years, which Gardner agreed to do. 

“We are working hand-in-hand with Henry (Gardner) on this but they are pretty important issues to determine and ensure that the stadium can stay in a condition that is basically acceptable for Major League Baseball,” Kaval told the stadium authority board. “I wanted to ensure there was a proper sense of urgency on getting these things resolved.” 

Kaval’s remarks and the front office letter follow a month of bad press about dreadful fan turnout at the Coliseum. The A’s are averaging about 7,800 fans per game, the lowest of the 30 MLB franchises.

A’s fans on social media have been quick to point out the deficiencies on and off the field, from the cobwebs, broken seats, and problems at concession stands to the doubling of ticket prices, elimination of perks like A’s Access, and trading away marquee players under billionaire owner John Fisher. 

The eight-page A’s letter included the following complaints: 

  • Seats, which were initially installed in 1996, are in disrepair and while most are fixed on the spot some need more repair and “are sometimes out of commission for several games,” especially in sections behind home plate
  • Plumbing leaks in the A’s arena offices, A’s clubhouse areas, the Eastside Club, the A’s batting cage, and the Shibe Park Tavern/Westside Club
  • “We also continue to experience plumbing back ups in the food and beverage stands, leaking pipes, and leaking sinks,” the team’s letter said. “When these issues happen, we contact the facility engineers to see what can be done. Many times there is a dispute on who is actually responsible. When these issues happen, we usually have to shut down the food stand until fixed, causing customer service issues with our fans.” 
  • “Upticks in (security) intrusions.” “There is one individual (photo attached in the letter) that I am aware has been here at least three times in the last couple of months. He actually was apprehended on Tuesday night the 10th of May. He basically helps himself to whatever is available on the property, but mostly focuses on Aramark items. We suspect that he has stolen well over $1000 of food and beverage items over the past month. We feel the 24/7 security staff should be able to prevent this from continuing to happen.” 
  • Press box windows: Some do not slide open, which creates a difficult situation when there are additional broadcasters up there. 
  • Stadium connectivity: “The stadium continues to have subpar connectivity as compared to other facilities. The A’s have invested close to $500,000 to upgrade the system over the past few years. We recently reached out to AT&T to have them fix the 4G service to the stadium that has been substandard for years.” 
  • Aesthetics: “We feel that more attention should be made to upgrade the outside look of the stadium. I have attached photos of what the outside berm between Gates A and D looks like, as well as the area to the right of 66th Ave. parking entrance. The berm has many areas of open dirt and weeds. The area to the right of the 66th Ave. entrance used to be watered with a more plush lawn. Understanding current drought concerns, maybe there is a possibility for drought-resistant landscape there. 
  • “There is also the homeless encampment issue on Baldwin St. leading into the Coliseum that we have all been working on with the City of Oakland to clean up soon.”
  • Cats: “It is well documented that there is a large cat population on the property. We all want to make sure to contain them without them making a mess inside the stadium. We are still getting many reports through the stadium for cat feces.
  • Moths: “In addition to the cat issue, we also have seen a significant uptick in moths. They are found everywhere inside the stadium and are very present near the stadium light standards on game nights. We are not sure what can be done, but wanted it noted that it has become an issues” 

In closing, Rinetti wrote that he was “asked to see if you are able to provide us with the plan for capital expenditures for the facility for this year and a list of the capital expenditures for the entire facility for the past 5 years.”

The public-private partnership at the Coliseum is one of the last such arrangements in professional baseball: many MLB stadiums are owned and run by the baseball team that plays there, or a private financial group tied to the team. In Oakland, the Coliseum and the neighboring Oakland Arena, once home to the Golden State Warriors, have always been owned and operated by the city of Oakland and Alameda County, dating back to 1966. 

The government agencies formed a joint powers authority years ago to oversee operations on the 120-plus acre property. The Coliseum authority consists of a small staff under an executive director who reports to the authority board, which is made up of Oakland City Council members and Alameda County Supervisors and citizens appointed by each of those governing boards. 

They oversee and approve lease contracts with the teams that have played there—down two since the Raiders and Warriors left—and contracts with facility staff who do the maintenance, run concessions, and book events outside of professional sports games. 

The A’s, under the team’s current lease agreement that expires in 2024, pay $1.25 million a year to rent the Coliseum and are under no obligation to improve the facility, even though they purchased half of the property in 2019. The team is planning on building a new stadium and mixed-use development at Howard Terminal and if that is not approved they are looking to move to the Las Vegas area. 

Gardner, in an interview with The Oaklandside, said he was not pleased that the A’s were pointing fingers at the city of Oakland and Alameda County, which jointly operate the Coliseum complex. Gardner pointed out that on top of maintenance of the Coliseum complex, Oakland and Alameda County are still paying off debt from renovating the stadium in 1995, part of a deal that brought the Raiders back from Los Angeles. 

The city and county each pull $5 million a year from their general funds to pay down the debt, Gardner said.

“The stadium is 55 years old and 25 years ago the city and the city spent $130 million dollars to substantially upgrade it. These facilities don’t last forever but it’s not like it’s falling apart and that’s why they can’t fill the stadium,” Gardner said. 

Gardner plans to do a stadium walk through with members of the stadium authority board. In response to Kaval’s comments at the May 20 meeting, the stadium executive director said critters have called the 66th Avenue area near multiple creeks and waterways home long before a stadium was built there. 

“There is no way to perfectly secure that building that cavernous stadium for critters being able to get in. They are there, they always have been there,” Gardner said.  

David DeBolt reported on City Hall and policing for The Oaklandside. He spent 12 years working for daily newspapers in the Bay Area, including on the Peninsula and Solano County. He joined the Bay Area News Group in 2012 where he covered a variety of beats, most recently as a senior breaking news reporter. During his time at BANG, DeBolt covered Oakland City Hall, the Raiders stadium saga and the A’s search for a new ballpark, as well as the Oakland Police Department and police reform efforts. He was part of the East Bay Times staff honored with the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News for coverage of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire.