Thursday, May 6, 2010

Victory Court - Part 1

Proponents of moving the A's out of town like to say that Oakland has had no plan and is unprepared to work with the A's and MLB on a stadium. This is untrue. For nearly a year, Oakland officials have worked very diligently with Major League Baseball on addressing the needs of a new A's ballpark in Oakland, and they came up with three excellent waterfront sites. The three parcels, which include two new sites near Jack London Square, stack up very well with other new stadiums around Major League Baseball.

It's been 14 months since Commissioner Bud Selig appointed a three-person committee to study A's ballpark options. In the coming weeks, we're going to study the Oakland sites, too.

I'll start with my personal favorite, Victory Court. I believe that Victory Court has the least amount of potential headache, partly because one of its strengths is its proximity to several transit options. Also, it is within a redevelopment zone and Oakland's Lake Merritt Station Area which is located on the other side of 880 freeway and is being prepared by city officials for a big redevelopment push. Also the site is close to existing development, such as Jack London Square and the soon to be started Oak-to-9th project.

The first issue to study: How the heck are we going to get there?

For a detailed map of the area, click here.

As you can see, the map attempts to highlight the many access points to the Victory Court site. It is accessible by not just I-880, but also by the 980/24 and 580 freeways. Also, I circled (in teal) the public transit options in the area. The Lake Merritt BART station is threee blocks away. Amtrak is one block a way. Oakland's Ferry stop at Jack London Square is just four blocks away, and numerous bus lines cross the area. It is hard to estimate how many people will be taking transit as opposed to driving. The Giants estimate that 60% of their fans arrive via transit. That number may be attainable in the future for the A's at Victory Court, but even if just 30% of A's fans took public transit at first, it would .

Lets start with driving. In the map above, I color-coded the routes based on where people were coming from. Red represents Bay Bridge traffic. Orange Represents the I-80 corridor. Yellow represents Contra Costa County residents taking the 24 freeway. Blue is fans from Dublin/Pleasanton/Castro Valley traveling on I-580, and green represents fans taking the I-880. One of the great benefits of downtown Oakland and the Victory Court site is that they're not dependent on just one freeway or off-ramp. Fans coming from eastern Alameda County (Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore, Castro Valley, etc) would take I-580 west. They could travel to I-980 and then get off at Jackson. Or, they could get exit I-980 at 11th, or 14th, to access downtown lots or restaurants in Old Oakland. They could get off on I-580 west at Lakeshore or Grand avenues and trvel around Lake Merritt on either side of the lake to access downtown to have dinner, park or walk. Fans coming from the east (I-80 corridor -- Berkeley, El Cerrito, Solano County and further northeast to Sacramento) could travel to I-980 and get off at Jackson, but they could also stay on I-880 and get off at Broadway. San Francisco fans can either take I-980 and get of at 11th or 14th street or also get off on Broadway. Fans from south of Oakland taking I-880 north into town, may use the 5th Street and Oak Street off-ramps.

While there may need to be infrastructural adjustments around the area, especially for the 5th Street and Oak Street off-ramps, there is plenty of freeway access to lessen traffic in the area on gamedays and nights. In other words, there won't be just one access point.

Parking is another strength for the Victory Court site. There are over 15,000 available parking spaces within a 3/4 mile radius of the park. I got this information from the following 2 sources:

CEDA Downtown Oakland Parking Data
JLS Parking Information

Also, Laney College has over 1,500 spaces located directly across the I-880 freeway from the ballpark site, creating a total of about 16,000 spaces in the area. Spread out parking, like this site provides, allows greater pedestrian traffic to pass by the many businesses in the area. This pedestrian vibe also will increase the potential of underutilized Oakland streets to attract new businesses.

In conclusion, I feel that the ease of access to this site will best serve Oakland, the A's and fans alike. It's easy to get there and the buzz it will bring to the Jack London and downtown areas will be a significant boost to the local economy. In further posts, I will attempt to examine how this will be an economic boon, and how Oakland is in a great position to attract corporate sponsorships with a new venue. Oakland has the economic strength, political will and the desire of its citizens to make this happen. A year ago conventional wisdom had the city of Oakland left for dead in the battle to keep the A's. As usual, conventional wisdom was wrong.

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