The Last Time Oakland Considered Building A Stadium Near Lake Merritt

The Oakland A’s have been making some noise about building a new stadium in Oakland and have picked out three possible spots: Howard Terminal near Jack London Square, a site near Laney College, and a new park next to their current home in the Oakland Coliseum.

Some recent media reports have suggested the A’s are favoring the Laney site, but the team is remaining coy about its intentions.

It’s not the first time the plot of land the site near Laney College is has been considered for a professional sports stadium. Oakland Coliseum was nearly built on that spot, and the Raiders played there until their current home opened in 1966.

Plans for a new stadium started in 1955 after the departure of the Oakland Oaks minor league baseball team to Vancouver, BC.

Vice-Mayor Frank Youell called it a "black eye to Oakland" as he encouraged the City Council to study the feasibility of a municipally-owned stadium, according to the Oakland Tribune.

The Oakland Oaks baseball team in 1911.

In early 1960, Oakland was considering two spots for its new sports complex: one called Peralta Park—south of Lake Merritt where Laney College is now—and another near Oakport Road, where the Coliseum was eventually constructed.

At a Chamber of Commerce meeting in February 1960, the Peralta plan was the favored spot, but meeting participants shifted their focus to the Oakport Road site.

City Planning Engineer Corwin Mocine at the time stressed that the proximity to the downtown area would spur commercial development. The stadium project would have added 7,500 parking spaces to the area, including some under the nearby Nimitz freeway.

Mocine said the site was unexcelled for access because of the nearby freeway and proximity to a planned subway stop on what would eventually become BART.

On November 3, 1960, as the city started planning how to fund the construction, both sites were still in contention. The Peralta site was expected to be a bit more expensive at $20.9 million vs. $17.5 million. By the end of the year, however, the City Council decided to proceed with the Oakport location.

But that didn’t prevent the city from building a stadium near Lake Merritt anyway. When the Oakland Raiders first joined the American Football League in 1960, they were a team without a stadium and forced to play all their games in San Francisco, first at Kezar Stadium, then at the newly constructed Candlestick Park.

Frank Youell Field near Lake Merritt, home of the Oakland Raiders from 1962-1966.

As the Raiders played in front of hundreds of empty seats for their first two seasons, the team threatened to move out of the area unless they could begin playing in Oakland.

With a Coliseum still years away, the city spent about $400,000 building Frank Youell Field, an 18,000-seat stadium where Laney College’s athletic fields are now. The stadium opened in 1962.

It would be a few more years before Oakland could lure a baseball franchise. When the Kansas City A’s moved in, they had an even harder time drawing crowds than they do now, according to Jason Turbow’s recently published history of the A’s.

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