A’s attendance buoys hope for new ballpark


O.CO COLISEUM — Deep in right field, the fans in Section 149 are waving flags and beating drums.

And they have company.

Though their section is one of a few that is constantly chock full, it wasn’t long ago that the Oakland Coliseum hosted only 5,000 fans on a typical Wednesday.

Oh, how times have changed.

It couldn’t be more clear that attendance has ballooned for the A’s, and the team continues to draw more and more. One parking attendant told SFBay before Wednesday night’s game against Houston:

“It’s been a calm night. Only 22 — thousand.”

Wednesday, the game drew over 28,000.

During a 2012 September game versus the Texas Rangers, the first A’s clincher in years, the attendance couldn’t match today’s totals. For a clinch game.

Wednesday there was ice cream, and Oakland plays the worst team in the American League West. Not a rival. Not a potential playoff contender. The struggling Houston Astros drew more than a half-packed house.

In 2009, the team had its worst attendance average since 1998, drawing just over 17,000 fans per game. The next year, almost the same draw, a mere 119-person jump. And the A’s won 81 games that year.

Since then, the team has seen a steady increase. 18,000 to just over 20,500. Then over 22,000. The 2014 season average is over 24,000 per game. And that number increases with every win.

The fans in right field Section 149 are waving their flags, beating their drums, and they have company. The section is one of only a few, despite the attendance jump, that is constantly chock-full.

So full that there remains a possibility that the team decides to remove the upper deck tarp before October. Perhaps the most important result of a continued attendance boost is an increase willingness for A’s ownership and city government to work out building a new stadium.

If the A’s can draw like the Giants, a loan would make sense. If the team drew 30,000 fans — and charged an average of 20 dollars per ticket — that’s nearly $50 million in gate receipts, and a jump in parking revenue for the city as well as jobs for the community.

And then, the merchandise. It seems fathomable based on the cost of AT&T Park and adjusted for inflation, that the A’s could build a stadium for betwen $500 million and $1 billion.

And if the team took a loan from Oakland — which still seems unlikely given the current state of politics — both sides benefit. If the team took a loan from a private company, they’d still get a good rate, and the city still benefits.

Most of the debate has been rooted in minor details. Cents, not dollars.

It’s less about the want of both sides wishes, though both sides are also not too willing to pony up a whole lot of cash. If the A’s were a big draw, that could change.

Just one week ago, the Oakland city council amended a lease agreement that was already approved by the club and Alameda county. All they did, at least in their opinion, was clean up contract language.

But councilman Larry Reid voiced his feeling right after the vote:

“They’re never going to approve what we just did.”

With increased financial opportunity for the city, team and community, these back-and-forth sessions could become positive steps towards progress. Ultimately, it could become a new ballpark.

Follow @SFBay and @JLeskiwNFL on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Athletics.

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