Dave Kaval

Kaval: 'Signing the nucleus' of A's young talent will be key for new ballpark

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USATI

Kaval: 'Signing the nucleus' of A's young talent will be key for new ballpark

BOSTON — A’s president Dave Kaval believes the team has the ideal location to build a new ballpark.

He’s also confident the A’s current core of young players will become the seasoned group of veterans that ushers in that new ballpark, which is slated to open for the 2023 season if all goes according to plans the A’s unveiled Wednesday.

“I think the biggest thing you’re going to see, and it’s something (V.P. of baseball ops) Billy (Beane) has talked about, is really signing the nucleus of young players,” Kaval said in a phone interview Thursday. “We’re aiming to have them through the arbitration, and even the free agent years. We want to have those players together as a unit as we break ground and then move in.”

Figure that group could include players such as Ryon Healy, Matt Olson and Chad Pinder (who’ll all be eligible for free agency leading into that 2023 season), Matt Chapman (2024) and perhaps others. Those baseball-oriented decisions will come with time. Before they do, Kaval and the A’s have to push the ballpark project down the road from concept to reality.

That’s far from a given. The A’s settled on a site in Oakland currently occupied by the Peralta Community College District headquarters, just off Interstate 880 and down the block from Laney College. They need to negotiate a deal to buy the land; satisfy the concerns of the surrounding business owners and residents near the potential site; complete environmental impact reports; and get construction underway. The A’s don't plan for the first shovel to hit dirt until 2021.

“There’s a long road ahead of us,” Kaval said. “There will be good days and bad days. We’re celebrating and at the same time rolling up the sleeves.”

Though the A’s will be moving from the relative isolation of the Coliseum complex into a more urban setting on the edge of downtown Oakland, they aim to keep the game-day experience similar in some respects.

Many fans are curious about whether there will be areas for tailgating. Kaval says yes: Some in traditional parking lots, some in picnic areas that will be located near parking structures.

“Obviously the space won’t be as big as the Coliseum, but I think we can do it where it can be a win for everybody,” he said, noting that fans will have dining options within walking distance of the new ballpark that don’t exist at the Coliseum.

The nod to some of the franchise’s all-time greats will carry over, with the playing surface at the new venue to be called Rickey Henderson Field as it is now. There’s also the possibility of an A’s Hall of Fame.

As the A’s were considering multiple sites to build around Oakland, one concern over the Peralta/Laney site was a lack of parking in the immediate area. The A’s plan to build parking structures, but Kaval also thinks an advantage of being closer to downtown is that there will be more parking available around the city, and with cars likely to be spread out more, traffic congestion will be lighter.

Weather also played a key role in the A’s choosing Peralta. Candlestick Park-like conditions were feared at Howard Terminal, right on the water. Peralta isn’t subject to the marine layer that can sometimes require fans to bring jackets to Coliseum night games.

“Peralta really was the Goldilocks site with the weather — not too hot, not too cold,” Kaval said.

While still calling the Coliseum home for the next five seasons, the A’s will keep making upgrades to the aging facility as they have in 2017.

“We have a lot of that on tap for next year as well,” Kaval said. “And every year here we’ll continue to do that, to make sure people have a reason to come here now, and to test things (for the new ballpark). We may learn something here.”

A's players applaud ballpark announcement, but how many will get to play in it?

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AP

A's players applaud ballpark announcement, but how many will get to play in it?

BOSTON — The A’s announcement of a location to build their ballpark made Wednesday a potentially pivotal day in franchise history.

But with a five-year timeline, at minimum, before that stadium would open, the news wasn’t exactly the talk of the A’s clubhouse before Wednesday’s game against the Red Sox.

Shortstop Marcus Semien, a Bay Area native, expressed happiness for the A’s organization, their fans and the city of Oakland at the announced plan to build a venue near Lake Merritt, just down the street from Laney College.

But knowing how often the roster turns over, he wondered who on the A’s current team might still be wearing an Oakland uniform by the proposed grand opening, set for the start of the 2023 season.

“I don’t know when it’s gonna be finished, but hopefully some of us get to experience playing in it,” said the 26-year-old Semien, who is eligible for free agency after the 2020 season. “Maybe some of the guys in the minor leagues might be able to. It depends on who’s here and who’s not. But either way, (it’d be great) if we can play in it — for the A’s or for someone else.”

Outfielder Matt Joyce shared the same sentiment, saying he was happy for fans but admitting it was tough to get too pumped about a plan that’s so far down the road.

The A’s built in that five-year cushion to complete an expansive to-do list.

They’re aiming to buy a 13-acre plot of land that currently houses the Peralta Community College District headquarters. Before the first shovel hits dirt in 2021 at that location, team president Dave Kaval anticipates taking one year to continue meeting with Peralta officials as well as local residents and business owners, many of whom have expressed skepticism about building a ballpark in the area.

Another two years is expected to acquire all the needed permits, complete the necessary environmental reviews and finalize ballpark design.

The upshot is the A’s are looking at another five years playing at the Coliseum. And given that, it’s worth taking into consideration what changes and improvements the A’s might aim to make to their current home. They’ve already made attempts this year to improve the fan experience at the Coliseum, adding food trucks and opening Shibe Park Tavern inside the stadium.

It’s a solid bet they gradually look to improve things from a team and player perspective. Earlier this season, Kaval told NBC Sports California that after the Raiders leave for Las Vegas, he has designs on possibly taking over the Raiders’ locker room space and making it the A’s new clubhouse.

Manager Bob Melvin would be a big fan of that idea.

“That would be great,” he said Wednesday. “Look, I’m a Raider fan, and I don’t want to see them go. But the fact of the matter is they are gonna go, and there is more space at our ballpark for us to be able to take advantage of, whether it’s training room space, whether it’s weight room type space, whether it’s expanding the clubhouse. Those would be important things for us, and we would have the ability to do that once the Raiders leave.”

The Raiders’ lease runs through the 2018 season, but owner Mark Davis has mentioned a desire to possibly play at the Coliseum in 2019 before his team’s Vegas stadium is ready in 2020.

The 2023 target date means A's will go at least three years fully naked

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AP

The 2023 target date means A's will go at least three years fully naked

So the A’s have picked their site for a new stadium, and the neighbors are pissed.

And the surprise is . . . well, I’m waiting.

And no, this isn’t about the old “you can’t get anything done in California” cliché, or the “those baseball bullies don’t care about regular people” canard. It is okay to assume, at least this once, that at least for the first two days everyone is expressing themselves sincerely and honestly.

There. That moment’s done.

It is, however, more telling that the A’s are giving themselves six years rather than the traditional three – almost as if they are banking on the neighborhood, the politics and the general difficulty of horning into someone else’s place to equal the time spent on construction.

By selecting a target of April 2023, the A’s are going to go at least three years fully naked, as in without the cloak of revenue sharing, in the old concrete graveyard on 66th. They are relying on this roster rebuild being accomplished with minimal failures along the way, because they’ll need a bridge to the new building with a new team that people want to see, in a town that has become accustomed to avoiding the charms of daily baseball.

It also increases the chance that owner John Fisher, whom you never see, and president Dave Kaval, who you always see, will get frustrated at the sluggardly pace of developments and apply for relocation with Major League Baseball -- the same way the Flames are trying to threaten Calgary with Seattle or Quebec City because the city won't kick in on a $1.4 billion arena.

This is mostly tinfoil hat stuff – there is no indication that baseball is any more eager to do the A’s a solid than they were when Lew Wolff was running point – but the Warriors ended up needing six years to complete their bloodless colonization of Mission Bay because they underestimated the power of a citizenship scorned. In that way, six years is the new three.

Frankly, if I were Kaval, I’d spend every day between now and the end of the season sitting in a storefront at 8th and Alice with a sign that says, “Ask Me Why The A’s Are Good For The Neighborhood.” If it has to be while sitting on a dunking chair filled with gravy, then that’s how it has to be. He is the supplicant here, and he needs to do the thing rich folks usually hate doing – he has to take the knee to regular folks until his cartilage and tendons burst into flames.

He has to act like the A’s didn’t declare their divine right to the Laney site, but just expressed a preference that they are willing to back away from if, as happened in San Francisco, they get told no.

But at least he has six years of abuse from strangers and snark from vile media types ahead of him, if that’s any consolation.