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Tarp Troubles
2006-08-13 09:24
by Philip Michaels

The San Francisco Chronicle raises my hopes the other day...

The tarps are coming off the upper deck at the Coliseum...

...only to dash them by the time I got to the next clause:

...but it's only temporary.


This current homestand concludes the period of the season in which A's fans can look at the field of play and see a lush, verdant grass that conjures up instant memories of care-free summer days. After the Athletics dispense with the Mariners next Wednesday and fly off to Kansas City, the Coliseum staff will go to work, converting the stadium for Oakland Raiders' preseason games. When the A's return to the 510 on August 28, they'll be greeted by a field criss-crossed with hashmarks and endzone lines, plus a giant swath of dead grass out in center field where the football stands were erected.

Oh, and there'll be another homey touch this time around, according to the Chronicle...

While the A's are on their next road trip, the Raiders also will be holding their Raiders Nation celebration on Aug. 27, the day before the A's play Boston at the Coliseum. Because the Raiders need to be able to show the seats to potential season-ticket purchasers that day, the tarps can't be replaced until the morning of the 28th.

Putting on the tarps takes almost twice as long as taking them off, so, [Director of Stadium Operations David] Rinetti said, the work will not be completed by the time the A's and Red Sox take the field, and it might not be done by the next day, either.

So imagine the scene on that Monday -- Oakland and Boston, two teams that are likely to figure into the playoff race until the bitter end, take the field in what is sure to be a tightly-contested three-game series... only to find a brown patch of dirt in the outfield and the inspiring message of "HOME .F THE ..KLA.. AT..L..ICS" displayed proudly in the upper deck.

No, public address announcer Dick Callahan can assure the fans, the A's weren't secretly relegated to the Pacific Coast League overnight. Though, admittedly, it's getting harder and harder to tell.

I was not a fan of the organization's plan to tarp off the third deck when it was announced; I'm even less of a fan after seeing it in practice for two-thirds of a season. I've never really believed ownership's stated reason for the move -- "to create a more intimate fan experience!" -- believing it to be a euphemism for "Let's cut operating expenses to the bone until we can leave this hellhole for some taxpayer-funded pleasure dome!" The once-abundant $2 Wednesday tickets have become so scarce they might as well not exist, obliterating a convenient low-cost way for me to take in a mid-week game above and beyond the ones I attend as part of my season-ticket package. And if the reduced capacity has allowed the A's to better concentrate their staffing resources, it's news to me -- lines at the concessions stands (the ones that are open anyhow) move about as quickly as they did a year ago. If the A's are putting the extra manpower into security, I can assure you it's not being done in the right field bleachers. For the second time in as many games that I attended with my wife, we wound up moving to another part of the stadium when our section was over-run by foul-mouthed drunkards and security was nowhere to be found.

And now add to that list the likelihood that the stadium will look like some sort of decrepit Hooverville during the stretch run of the pennant race.

Now I suppose I could offer a suggestion or two to Lew Wolff on how to remedy this aesthetic nightmare -- some sort of radical notion like "Hey why not just leave the damn tarps off for the remainder of the season instead of yanking them down every time the Raiders need to use the place?" -- but since none of my ideas involve using baseball team ownership as a way to build highly-profitable condos, I doubt he'd listen. Instead, let me suggest that the A's go in the opposite direction, to complete the look-and-feel of a stadium with brown grass and a half-tarped-off upper deck.

• Put a rusted '74 Chevy Impala up on cinder blocks in the left field alley and alter the ground rules so that any ball hitting off it remains live. Eat your heart out, Yankee Stadium monuments!

• Replace the A's green-and-gold home uniforms with bib overalls. Also, the players are prohibited from wearing shoes.

• Erect a still behind plate. Nick Swisher and Joe Blanton will thank you! Reportedly.

• During pitching changes and other breaks in the action, have the scoreboard display a "Gone fishun'" message.

• Build a beer can pyramid on top of the visiting dugout.

Sure, these may seem like small, unambitious changes by themselves. But taken together, they can help complete the Coliseum first envisioned by Lew Wolff when he got the idea to tarp off the upper deck.

2006-08-13 10:09:56
1.   bearlurker
The tarps have been pretty much a disaster. The A's have a team that is superior to last year's squad, yet attendance is down an average of 3,000 a game. That's about 180,000. Had the upper levels been open, the A's would have sold an extra 20,000 each game against Boston, New York, and S.F., and likely a few more thousand against the Dodgers. Reducing the $2 seat availability certainly has not helped, although I'm too lazy to attempt to quantify that right now.

Now the A's rank 27th in attendance v. 21st last year.

I agree with your observations about the concession lines--some stands haven't even been open. And what's with the aggressive ushers not letting folks switch seats?

I'll try to make it out to more games to support the beloved A's, but I don't think management has done much on the fan friendly front this year.

2006-08-13 11:04:08
2.   Ken Arneson
I've said this before, and I'll say it again: attendance statistics are as irrelevant as productive out percentages. The only number that matters is revenue. Calling it a disaster based on attendance figures alone is not a fair argument.

If attendance goes down and revenues go down, that's a disaster. But if the average price per ticket goes up while the attendance is dropping, you can still make money on the lower volume with the higher margins.

The only people who know whether revenue is up or down are only answering the question with a vague "we're happy with it" and "it's about what we expected".

And something else--and this comes up with the analysis of the Moneyball draft, too--sometimes the experiment may not be the great success you hoped, but the things you learn from the failure can be of great value in the future. John McCurdy may have been a Moneyball draft flop, but if from the experiment you learn how to identify the John McCurdys and don't draft them anymore, the experiment pay itself off over and over again down the line.

Before this year, the A's didn't know what the effect of scarcity would be on revenues. Now, they have a much better idea. So, when they design the next ballpark, they'll have a better idea whether to add 30, 35, or 40,000 seats. Even if they lose a few million dollars in revenues this year, it could pay off dozens of times over in the future, by having a stadium size which optimizes their revenues.

2006-08-13 12:34:40
3.   jmoney
The tarps were ridiculous from the start, and I found the PR spinning the A's front office did to be borderline offensive. Ken has pretty much had the situation pegged from the start. But reading the other stadium suggestions gtve me an idea:

The A's should erect an iron fence around the '74 Impala, and people could buy tickets to watch the game from "Da Yard." It would be like the swimming pool at the BOB in Arizona, except the A's could set up a barbecue pit next to the Impy and sell ribs, chicken, blunts, and 40s of O-E. Now THAT would be some genuine Oakland flavor.

2006-08-13 16:52:39
4.   Linkmeister
3 And there should be dogs in "Da Yard," à la the old Municipal Stadium in Cleveland with its Dog Pound.
2006-08-13 17:41:26
5.   jmoney
Rottweilers and Pit Bulls
2006-08-13 17:57:47
6.   xbhaskarx
of course the sensible comment is from ken. i liked the site better before the new guy started writing...

"believing it to be a euphemism for Let's cut operating expenses to the bone"

actually, wolff has repeatedly said that one of the reasons was to cut operating expenses.
the a's job isn't to provide you with absurdly cheap ticket prices, but to have a good team and run a profitable organization.

and don't worry, most of the foul-mouthed drunkards will be gone once the a's move out of oakland...

2006-08-13 18:09:22
7.   Philip Michaels
6 "i liked the site better before the new guy started writing..."

So did I.

2006-08-13 18:27:22
8.   Philip Michaels
And while xbhaskarx and I reminisce about the good old days back when he wasn't forced to read me on a free weblog, let's just reiterate that the point of the above rant was not that the A's aren't fulfilling their non-existent duty to provide me with absurdly cheap ticket prices, but rather, to observe that the ol' ballpark experience that I am getting in exchange for my ticket has been noticeably wanting this season. That's an obligation Lew Wolff kinda sorta oughta care about, at least if they have any interest in retaining repeat customers.

But it's much easier posting scathing rebuttals when you just pretend someone is arguing something else entirely.

2006-08-13 20:49:11
9.   Ken Arneson
You'd think that someone who has read me enough to like my stuff better would know me enough to realize that nothing annoys me more than compassionlessness.

Mean-spirited cheap shots like #6 are not acceptable. If you want to criticize/argue/disagree, find a mature, compassionate way to do so. Such basic, human decency is my one and only rule on this site:

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