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A piece of Raiders history: Baseball team wants to buy Coliseum bleachers

OAKLAND, Calif. — The new Oakland Ballers independent baseball team is hoping to incorporate a bit of Oakland sports history in its renovated ballpark as the club prepares for its opener next month.

An expansion team in the independent Pioneer League, the “B’s” are inquiring about purchasing some or all of the approximately 5,000 unused bleacher seats that formerly were brought in for Raiders games at the Oakland Coliseum. The bleachers have been stored outside near a parking lot on the southeast side of the formally dual-purpose stadium since the Raiders’ departure for Las Vegas after the 2019 season.

Ballers co-founder and CEO Paul Freedman sent a letter Tuesday to Oakland City Councilmember and Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, who is chair of the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Authority JPA Commission. It is a joint powers agency established by the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda.

“This is an innovative and worthwhile idea that I am excited to pursue with the Ballers and with my colleagues at the coliseum authority,” Kaplan said in an email. “Being able to put the previously used seats into positive and productive new use to serve the community would be a win-win example of recycling and creative reuse. I’m glad the Ballers are proposing it, and that they are dedicated to being rooted in Oakland.”

Seats added to lure Raiders back

In 1995, the Raiders built a new upper deck section of seats called Mount Davis after late owner Al Davis in a move to lure the team back from Los Angeles to Oakland — but these seats took away picturesque views of the Oakland Hills.

The moveable bleachers added for game days were part of the transition.

“These seats are pretty significant for folks who follow Oakland sports. For me, these are the seats that started it all, like started all the downhill,” Freedman said in a phone interview. “These are the seats that were brought in because the Raiders made a ton of promises about what was going to happen, these are the seats that contributed to, I think, diminishing the Coliseum.”

The Ballers will play their first two weeks on the road before they host the Yolo High Wheelers in their home opener on June 4 at Oakland’s Raimondi Park. The team has invested $1.6 million into renovating the park to accommodate 4,000 fans and upgrade the surrounding area — including a playground — for youth baseball, softball and other activities such as movie nights.

The Coliseum seats would be incorporated for next year, the club’s second season. Temporary grandstands and infrastructure are going up for the inaugural season.

“As we prepare for Year 1, we are at the same time looking ahead to our long-term future. We hope to continue playing at Raimondi Park after our inaugural season and are planning for what the ballpark will look like in subsequent seasons as we establish our permanent home,” Freedman wrote in the letter, viewed by The Associated Press.

“To that end, we think there is a great opportunity to repurpose these seats for our future seasons at Raimondi Park. While we anticipate that some of the seats may have experienced deterioration over the years due to exposure to the elements and lack of use, we believe that many seats remain functional. We see the installation of these seats at Raimondi Park as an excellent opportunity to pay tribute to the legacy of Oakland’s major league teams while ensuring that a part of their history lives on.”

How much are seats worth?

The Ballers are prepared to pay $45 per seat, minus removal costs, after conducting research on the value, Freedman said, and they checked with the new Oakland Roots soccer team and it didn’t have a use for the seats.

“Additionally, this initiative presents the Commission with the opportunity to realize several significant benefits, including generating revenue from the sale of the seats, which could be reinvested in enhancing public safety in the area, and eliminating the public eyesore that the seats have become,” he wrote.

Major League Baseball owners unanimously approved the A’s relocation to Las Vegas in November, and the team plans to move into a new stadium on the Las Vegas Strip in 2028. The A’s are scheduled to play the next three seasons in Sacramento, from 2025-27.

The B’s announced their new team last November, with a similar font to the A’s and plans to carry on the city’s green-and-gold color scheme.

Freedman can’t wait to see his team continue to honor Oakland’s proud history — with acquiring these seats being another part of that process. He knows they might generate mixed emotions in fans.

“We can bring them back and make sure baseball is watched in those seats,” he said. “For those who follow the details of the Oakland sports saga, these seats have a specific significance and thus it’s really important for us to try to reclaim them as part of the belief baseball needs to continue in the town.”

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