The Coliseum features an underground design where the playing surface is actually below ground level (21 feet/6 meters below sea level). Consequently, fans entering the stadium find themselves walking on to the main concourse of the stadium at the top of the first level of seats. This, combined with the hill that was built around the stadium to create the upper concourse, means that only the third deck is visible from outside the park. This gives the Coliseum the illusion of being a short stadium from the outside.
Planning and construction
Business and political leaders in Oakland had long been in competition with neighbor San Francisco, as well as other cities in the West, and worked for Oakland and its suburbs (the greater East Bay) to be recognized nationally as a viable metropolitan area with its own identity and reputation, distinct and separate from that of San Francisco. Professional sports was seen as a primary way for the East Bay to gain such recognition. As a result, the desire for a major-league caliber stadium in the city of Oakland intensified during the 1950s and 1960s.
By 1960, a non-profit corporation was formed to oversee the financing and development of the facility (rather than city or county government issuing taxpayer-backed bonds for construction). Local real estate developer Robert T. Nahas headed this group (which included other prominent East Bay business leaders such as former US Senator William Knowland and Edgar F. Kaiser), which later became the governing board of the Coliseum upon completion. It was Nahas' idea that the Coliseum be privately financed with ownership transferring to the city and county upon retirement of the construction financing.
Robert T. Nahas served 20 years as President of the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum Board. On the death of Nahas, the San Francisco Chronicle's Rick DelVecchio quoted Jack Maltester, a former San Leandro mayor and Coliseum board member, "If not for Bob Nahas, there would be no Coliseum, it's really that simple." Nahas had to be a diplomat dealing with the egos of Raiders owner Al Davis, Athletics owner Charles O. Finley, and Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli.
Preliminary architectural plans were unveiled in November 1960, and the following month a site was chosen west of the Elmhurst district of East Oakland alongside the then-recently completed Nimitz Freeway. A downtown site adjacent to Lake Merritt and the Oakland Auditorium (which itself, many years later, would be renamed the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center) was also originally considered. The Port of Oakland played a key role in the East Oakland site selection; The Port swapped 157 acres (64 ha) at the head of San Leandro Bay to the East Bay Regional Park District, in exchange for 105 acres (42 ha) of park land across the freeway, which the Port in turn donated to the City of Oakland as the site for the Coliseum sports complex.
The Oakland Raiders of the American Football League moved to Frank Youell Field, a makeshift stadium near downtown Oakland, in 1962, and the Coliseum was already being heralded in the local media as the Raiders' future permanent home. Baseball was also a major factor in the planning of the Coliseum. As early as 1961, the American League publicly indicated that it wished to include Oakland in its West Coast expansion plans. In 1963, American League president Joe Cronin suggested that Coliseum officials model some aspects of the new ballpark after then-new Dodger Stadium, which impressed him, though these expansion plans seemed to fade by the middle of the decade.
After approval from the city of Oakland as well as Alameda County by 1962, $25 million in financing was arranged. Plans were drawn for a stadium, an indoor arena, and an exhibition hall in between them. The architect of record was the San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (with Myron Goldsmith the principal design architect) and the general contractor was Guy F. Atkinson Company. Preliminary site preparation began in the summer of 1961. Construction began in the spring of 1962. The construction schedule was delayed for two years due to various legal issues and cost overruns; the original design of the Coliseum had to be modified slightly in order to stay on budget. (For details on the indoor arena, now known as Oracle Arena, refer to that facility's article.)
In 1965, it was rumored that the Cleveland Indians might leave Cleveland for a West Coast city (such as Oakland), but the Indians ended up remaining in Cleveland. Charlie Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics, unhappy in Kansas City, impressed by Oakland's new stadium and personally convinced to consider Oakland by Nahas, eventually got permission after several unsuccessful attempts and amid considerable controversy, to relocate the Athletics to the stadium for the 1968 season.
In its baseball configuration, the Coliseum has the most foul territory of any ballpark in Major League Baseball. Thus, many balls that would reach the seats in other ballparks can be caught for outs at the Coliseum. The distance to the backstop was initially 90 feet (27 m), but was reduced to 60 feet (18 m) in 1969.
From 1968 through 1981 and in 1995, two football configurations were used at the stadium. During Raider preseason games and all regular season games played while the baseball season was still going on, the field was set up from home plate to center field (east/west). Seats that were down the foul lines for baseball games became the sideline seats for football games, which started up to 120 feet away from the field (most football-only stadiums have sideline seats that start around 60 feet away). Once the A's season ended, the orientation was switched to north/south: i.e. the football field ran from the left field line to the right field line; seats were moved from behind first and third base to create corners for the end zone to fit into (these seats were then placed to fill in the space that was normally behind home plate and near the foul poles for baseball games). Temporary football bleachers were then added in front of the baseball bleachers to form the sideline on the east (visitors') side, and the baseball bleachers were not sold. Raiders season ticket holders would thus have two season ticket locations in different parts of the stadium that roughly corresponded to the same location in relation to the field. Since stadium expansion in 1996, the field has run north/south throughout the season.
Stadium name changes
McAfee Coliseum Logo (2004–2008)
Overstock.com Coliseum Logo (April–June 2011)
O.co Coliseum Logo (2011–2016)
For more than its first three decades (1966–1998) the stadium was known as Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum.
In September 1997, UMAX Technologies agreed to acquire the naming rights to the stadium. However, following a dispute, a court decision reinstated the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum name. In 1998, Network Associates agreed to pay US$5.8 million over 5 years for the naming rights and the stadium became known as Network Associates Coliseum, or, alternately in marketing and media usage as, "the Net".
Network Associates renewed the contract in 2003 for an additional five years at a cost of $6 million. In mid-2004, Network Associates was renamed McAfee, restoring its name from before its 1997 merger with Network General, and the stadium was renamed McAfee Coliseum accordingly.
McAfee was offered a renewal of the naming contract in 2008, but it was declined. The name reverted to the pre-1997 name of Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum on September 19, 2008. The stadium retained its original name until April 27, 2011, when it was renamed Overstock.com Coliseum via a 6-year, $7.2 million naming rights deal with online retailer Overstock.com.
The Coliseum was renamed O.co Coliseum on June 6, 2011, after Overstock.com's marketing name. However, due to a contract dispute with the Athletics regarding the Overstock/O.co naming rights deal, the A's continued to refer to the stadium as the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum in all official team communications and on team websites.
Overstock opted out of the final year on their naming rights deal on April 2, 2016, and the stadium once again became the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum.
The Athletics dedicated the Coliseum's playing surface "Rickey Henderson Field" in honor of MLB Hall of Famer and former Athletic Rickey Henderson as part of Opening Day on April 3, 2017.
The A's then-new owner Lewis Wolff made the A's first official proposal for a new ballpark in Oakland to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority on August 12, 2005. The new stadium would have been located across 66th Avenue from the Coliseum in what is currently an industrial area north of the Coliseum. The park would have held 35,000 fans, making it the smallest park in the major leagues. Plans for the Oakland location fell through in early 2006 when several of the owners of the land proposed for the new ballpark decided not to sell.
The Coliseum in 1981 before construction of the Mount Davis structure (top) and Mt. Davis during baseball season in 2006, with tarp-covered upper deck (middle); the structure during football season. (bottom)
Throughout 2006, the Athletics continued to search for a ballpark site within their designated territory of Alameda County. Late in 2006, rumors began to circulate regarding a 143-acre (58 ha) parcel of land in Fremont being the new site. These rumors were confirmed by the Fremont city council on November 8 of that year. Wolff met with the council that day to present his plan to move the A's to Fremont into a soon to be built ballpark named Cisco Field. Wolff and Cisco Systems conducted a press conference at the San Jose-based headquarters of Cisco Systems on November 14, 2006 to confirm the deal, and showcase some details of the future plan. However, on February 24, 2009, after delays and increased public opposition, the Athletics officially ended their search for a stadium site in Fremont. The Athletics later took their Cisco Field plan to a site in downtown San Jose located near SAP Center (home of the NHL's San Jose Sharks). The San Jose plan was opposed by the San Francisco Giants whose territory San Jose is in and on October 5, 2015, the United States Supreme Court rejected San Jose's bid on the Athletics.
During that time, the City of Oakland continued to propose new ballpark ideas that ranged from a proposal to build on a waterfront site in the Jack London Square area called Victory Court to a three stadium proposal called Coliseum City on the Coliseum site. Both plans went nowhere.
The Athletics signed a 10-year lease to stay in Oakland and at the Coliseum on July 22, 2014. The deal required that the team look into a new stadium, but only in the city limits, which made it more difficult for the Raiders to tear the Coliseum down for a football-only facility. The A's began talks with an architect on August 6, 2014, to build a baseball-only stadium at the Coliseum site, according to Wolff.
Going into 2016, John J. Fisher took majority control of the team and made Dave Kaval team president and the person in charge of the stadium hunt. On September 12, 2017, it was announced that a site near Laney College and the Eastlake neighborhood had been chosen for the new ballpark (tentatively called Oakland Ballpark) with the A’s proposing to construct a 35,000 seat stadium on the site of the college's administrative buildings which the A's would relocate to a spot of the college's choosing. However, the Laney College Board of Trustees abruptly ended talks with the Athletics in December 2017. The surprised A's were forced to look at alternatives for a new stadium location.
On November 28, 2018, The Athletics announced that the team had chosen to build its 34,000 seat new ballpark at the Howard Terminal site at the Port of Oakland. The team also announced its intent to purchase the coliseum site and make the site into a tech and housing hub, preserving Oracle Arena and reducing the Coliseum to a low-rise sports park as San Francisco did with Kezar Stadium.
The Raiders proposed a 50,000-seat stadium in the same spot of the Coliseum in 2013. It would have cost $800 million, with $300 million coming from the Raiders, $200 million coming from the NFL's stadium loan program, and the final $300 million coming from the city..
After the failure of the stadium plan, Raiders owner Mark Davis met with officials with the city of San Antonio on July 29, 2014, to discuss moving the Raiders to the city in time for the 2015 season; they would have temporarily played home games at the Alamodome until a new permanent stadium was built.
On September 3, 2014, the city of Oakland claimed it had reached a tentative deal to build a new football stadium in Oakland, which would have resulted in the Coliseum being demolished. The claim was met with silence from the Raiders, who continued to explore San Antonio, and opposition from Alameda County.
On February 19, 2015, the Raiders and the San Diego Chargers announced plans for a privately financed $1.7 billion stadium that the two teams would have built in Carson upon being approved to move to the Los Angeles market. Both teams stated that they would continue to attempt to get stadiums built in their respective cities. The stadium was approved by the Carson City Council but was defeated by the NFL who voted in favor of building Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park and relocating the St. Louis Rams back to Los Angeles with the Chargers as the second LA team.
In January 2016, Mark Davis met with Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson about building a domed stadium on the UNLV campus for the Raiders and the UNLV Rebels. The stadium location was later moved to a site across Interstate 15 from Mandalay Bay. After the approval of $750 million from the state of Nevada and backing from Bank of America after Adelson pulled out of the project, the Raiders submitted papers for relocation to Las Vegas in January 2017, and on March 27, 2017, the Raiders' relocation to Las Vegas was approved. The team planned to continue to play at the Coliseum through the 2019 NFL season and relocate to Las Vegas in 2020. In December 2018, the city of Oakland sued the Raiders and all of the other NFL teams for millions in unpaid debts and financial damages, which prompted Raiders management to declare that the team was leaving after the 2018 season.