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Wolff Lifts Veil on Ballpark Plans
2005-08-12 16:50
by Ken Arneson

The details are starting to filter in on Lew Wolff's presentation to the Coliseum Joint Powers Authority.

KRON has the best photos, although they're small.

NBC 11 has the best video. (It only works on IE for me, not Firefox.)

And of course, Marine Layer is staying on top of it all.

My impressions:

  • Lew Wolff knows what he's doing. He seems to know what people will go for and not go for. He seems to say all the right things without being dishonest.

    The masterful part of this is that he was worked within those realistic limitations, and somehow come up with an amazingly bold plan.

    That takes vision, persistence, and guts. I think this plan can happen, because I think people will follow him. I think there's something about Wolff that makes people want to follow him.

    Wolff looks to me like a true Level 5 leader. A combination of humility and willpower that Jim Collins identified as the most effective kind of CEO in his book Good To Great:

    They are somewhat self-effacing individuals who deflect adulation, yet who have an almost stoic resolve to do absolutely whatever it takes to make the company great, channeling their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It's not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious—but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution and its greatness, not for themselves.

    There's an awesome team in Oakland now, both on the field and in the front office.

  • The ballpark proposal is too enclosed. Oakland has the best weather in the major leagues: it's rarely too hot or cold, too wet or windy. The ballpark needs to take advantage of that.

    Don't put the entire second deck in the shade with a large overhang. Don't completely block the view of the Oakland Hills with a series of large structures in the outfield. Open things up a bit more, let the park breathe.

  • Bye, bye, foul territory. If you want to preserve some of the historical character of the team (and I think you should), you have two basic choices: a large foul territory, or a view of the hills. I'd rather see the hills and be closer to the field.

    You can still make the ballpark a pitchers' park, even with a small foul territory. There's a park like that just across the bay.

    Please, don't build a bandbox. They're negatively correlated to championships. Billy Beane must be able to appreciate that.

    A corollary to that: all new ballparks should be built with adjustable outfield seating. This is to avoid situations like like Detroit, where they had to move the fences in away from the seats, or Philly, where they're stuck with fences too close to home plate. If you make first few rows adjustable, you can change the park without messing up the aesthetics. If you build a bandbox, just remove a row of seats. If you build a pitcher's dream, add a row of seats.

  • I love the intimacy of the seating bowl. Even the top row looks close to the field, rather like the old-timey parks like Tiger Stadium and Wrigley Field.

    From the pictures, though, I can't even see a suite level. Surely there's a suite level?

    Also can't see: bullpens and hitter's eye.

  • I like the Triangle thingy in the outfield. It reminds me of Fenway and Wrigley.

    In fact, I'm fine with all of those buildings out there, as long as we don't get all of those buildings out there. Like I said, I want to see the Oakland Hills.

  • Many of the reports have said that Wolff wants a new BART station between the Fruitvale and Coliseum stops. But if the ballpark is built right on 66th Avenue as depicted, you don't really need another BART station. It would still be within reasonable walking distance.

    It's only if the ballpark gets built further north, around where the flea market is right now, that you'd really need a new BART station.

  • Jon Carroll wrote about Jon Miller today:
    He has gravitas. He also has whimsy. Go try to find that combination anyplace else.
    On a similar note, I ask: where's the Stomper Fun Zone? My kids will want to know. It doesn't look like there's a Coke-bottle slide or giant mitt or any sort of just pure silliness. This is a place where a game is played. The proposal has gravitas. It lacks whimsy.
  • New ballpark! Yippee-yi-yay! Woohoo!

    (That was supposed to represent whimsy. Whimsy ain't as easy as it looks.)

2005-08-12 18:16:34
1.   Sam DC
Ken -- was this designed by HOK, or do they let other firms design ballparks too now?

I second the kid fun zone. They have an amazing climbing sliding playground thing in Phila. While there was much dadly grumbling about missing two and a half innings because the thing was so fun, the thing was, after all, so fun. And there was a beer car adjacent so the dadly grumbling was rather muted.

2005-08-12 18:32:08
2.   Ken Arneson
I'm not sure, but since this was just a concept, not a full plan, so I don't think HOK was involved at this point. My guess would be that this work was done by Gensler, whom Wolff mentioned before as being involved in the process:
2005-08-12 18:39:26
3.   Sam DC
Thanks. The new HOK park coming to DC is about 7 blocks from my house, so I'm pretty interested.

re 1 -- beer cart, not car, though a beer car sounds very Philadelphia.

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