‘Hands off.’

April 20, 2017 10:10 AM

DAVID HILTBRAND/TOWER

By Brian Howey
Tower Staff Writer

The Oakland A’s are scouting a location for their new stadium, and Laney College may be the perfect spot—but perfect for whom?

In a phone interview with The Laney Tower, Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval listed four possible new stadium locations, including Howard Terminal, a new ballpark at the A’s current site, and two sites in the Lake Merritt area.

“We’re trying to determine, amongst those four locations, what would make the most sense, what’s feasible for traffic, transportation, and financing,” Kaval said.

The Lake Merritt locations are “close” to Laney College and the Peralta District offices, Kaval told The Tower, but in the Lake Merritt area “the actual ballpark location is not finalized.”

However, in a February interview with the East Bay Times, Kaval listed Laney College among the proposed locations for the new stadium.
Where on campus could the A’s build a stadium?

Past attempts to buy or lease portions of Laney’s campus suggest that the most likely location for a ballpark would be the athletic fields between the Lake Merritt Channel and 5th Avenue.

“You have to look at sites that might be hard and complicated because this is a once in a generational opportunity,” Kaval told the Times.
If the A’s actually are eyeing Laney land for their stadium, “hard and complicated” may be exactly what they get.

Raised Eyebrows
Laney students and faculty have a generally apprehensive attitude toward the concept of the A’s building a stadium on campus.

“What good is it to have a baseball team out there?” former Laney Athletic Director and football head coach Stan Peters said in a phone interview with The Tower. “What does Laney get out of it?”

Peters, the head coach of the Laney Eagles for 32 years, said that the negative effects to the campus would be enormous, and that the sheer volume of people attending games would take its toll on the campus.

“Eighty-five days a year, you’re gonna have 20,000-25,000 people coming through the campus,” Peters said, referring to the A’s average of 81 home games a year plus special events held at the Coliseum.

Above, a rendering circa the early 2000s depicts a hypothetical A’s stadium located on Laney campus, with the Peralta administration buildings and Laney’s athletic fields relocated and Laney’s parking lot eliminated. The Laney Field House (interior pictured at top) now sits on that space, the result of multimillion-dollar investments into the college’s athletics program.

Peters showed concern for the detrimental effects A’s fans could have on campus—including an increase in graffiti and litter—and predicted that the Laney community would also lose its parking facilities to fans.

“This community college plays a crucial role in developing young athletes,” said Laney student Immanuel Pride, an English major and offensive lineman on the football team.

Laney Athletic Director/football head coach John Beam was less staunch in his opinion regarding the stadium.

“I don’t want to come in and say ‘No, no, no,’ he said. “What if there’s this great idea where everybody can be happy?”

Beam said that if the A’s were offering to relocate and improve Laney’s athletic fields rather than eliminate them, he would be willing to hear an offer.

But he added that Laney’s athletic fields and teams are vital to the city of Oakland and to lose them would be a disservice to the community.

Laney’s Head Librarian Evelyn Lord offered her feelings towards an A’s stadium on Laney land in just two words: “Hands off.”

Legal Lines
California educational code states that a school system may sell or lease any of its property that isn’t “needed by the district for school classroom buildings at the time of delivery of title or possession.”

In an email to the Tower, Vice Chancellor Sadiq Bello Ikharo reported that the athletic fields are considered “outdoor classrooms.”

In order for classrooms to be considered surplus, the school district’s board of trustees must vote that they be declared as such.

According to Dr. Ikharo, none of Laney’s campus is currently labeled surplus, nor has any land recently been brought to the Peralta District Board of Trustees to be considered for reclassification.

“The land is not for sale,” Peralta Chancellor Jowel Laguerre emphasized.

However, the long past of Laney’s land reveals that portions of the sprawling campus have been declared surplus with their sale or lease considered possibilities shortly thereafter.

Past Battles
In 1992, Kaiser Permanente began negotiations with the Peralta District Board of Trustees to buy the land between the Lake Merritt Channel and 5th Avenue. on both sides of 8th Street.

This land comprised the Laney College athletic fields and its childcare center, as well as the Peralta District administrative center.

Shortly after former Peralta Chancellor Robert J. Scannel proposed the land be sold, the Peralta District Board of Trustees voted to declare the property surplus, or unneeded for academic purposes.

An aerial view of Frank Youell Field, home to the Oakland Raiders from 1962 to 1965. After the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum was completed in 1966, the Raiders played their first game there. The A’s, new to Oakland, played there in 1968. Youell Field was located on what is now Laney’s parking lot.

Had the sale gone through, Laney’s football, baseball, and softball teams would have been relocated to either College of Alameda or Merritt College, summarily ending a large portion of Laney’s popular athletics program.

”It was a secret deal—we didn’t know anything about it,” Peters said about the initial negotiations for the sale.

After catching wind of Kaiser’s proposal, Peters and other members of the Laney and Oakland communities began a string of investigations and demonstrations that ultimately led to the crumbling of negotiations between the Peralta district and Kaiser.

Investigations by the local press soon revealed that Scannel had withheld from the Peralta Comunity College Board critical information about the legal restrictions regarding selling school land.

Under increasing pressure from the Peralta District Board of Trustees, Scannel chose to retire early.

Laney Pro Teams
This is not the first time professional sports teams have eyed Laney land, either.

According to the SFGate, plans for a stadium were submitted in 1960 to the Oakland City Council depicting a “Peralta site” for the Oakland Coliseum.

The artist’s rendering of the proposed ballpark showed an eerily similar location for the stadium to where the A’s may be considering today.

Ultimately, the site was rejected and the Coliseum was built in its current location.

Once upon a time, what is now Laney’s parking lot was Frank Youell field, a football stadium and home to the Oakland Raiders from 1962-1969.

Relief, for now
Neither Chancellor Laguerre nor new Laney President Tammeil Gilkerson say they have been contacted by the A’s in any way related to the stadium.

It appears that, for now, the Laney community need not concern itself about campus land being sold off.

“We are sitting in such a beautiful and strategic area that makes sense for us to keep,” Laguerre said.

“I think it would be dumb for Laney to sell its land.”

An artist’s rendering depicts the “Peralta Site” proposed to the Oakland City Council in 1960.The site would have been located on or near what are now Laney’s athletic fields. The Peralta Site was eventually abandoned in favor of the current Coliseum location.The Oakland A’s are currently searching for a location for their new stadium.In the past, A’s President Dave Kaval has listed Laney College as a possible site.

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