Oakland sports fans link up to try to keep teams from leaving
on March 20, 2012
Keith Salminen is passionate about his favorite team, the Oakland A’s. He’s the host of an Internet radio talk show called “A’s Fan Radio,” has been going to games since he was 2 years old, and says he regularly goes to 50 or 60 games a year. (The exception was the four years when he was in the Marines, stationed at Camp Pendleton in Southern California, when he only made it to handful of road games.) Last weekend, Salminen had the finishing touches put on his arm tattoo: the A’s logo with the Oaklandish tree behind it.
“Basically, for the last decade I’ve been planning on getting an A’s tattoo because of avid of an A’s fan I am,” Salminen said. He’s such a big fan, he recently became part of a group of committed fans who are working to keep Oakland’s three professional sports teams—the A’s of Major League Baseball, the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors—from leaving town.
While Salminen was living in Southern California, he constantly heard talk of the A’s moving, first to Fremont, and then to San Jose. All three of Oakland’s professional teams’ leases at the Oakland Coliseum expire in the next few years, and the owners of all three teams have explored moving to different cities.
Salminen hated being far away from the A’s and their fans, and wished he could be involved with efforts to keep the team in town. When he returned to the East Bay last year after his stint in the Marines, he immediately regrew his goatee and took his regular seat in the right field bleachers at A’s games. He also joined Save Oakland Sports, a group founded earlier this year that’s committed to keeping all three teams in town. “Now that I’m back I’m definitely happy to be fully engaged in the movement to keep not just the A’s, but the Raiders and Warriors in Oakland,” he said.
The group includes loyal fans like Rob Rivera, the president of the infamous group of Raider fans known as “The Black Hole,” and a former Raider wide receiver, Kenny Shedd. The meetings are chaired by Chris Dobbins, an Oakland Unified School district board member who also sits on the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority board, which wants to keep the teams in Oakland by organizing grassroots support by lobbying local officials and the business community to buy in to the “Coliseum City” plan. The plan, which is supported by Mayor Jean Quan, would transform the area around the Coliseum complex by adding hotel, retail, office and residential space.
The members of Save Oakland Sports met for the first time two weeks ago, the night before the Oakland City Council was scheduled to vote on allocating $3.5 million to begin the Coliseum City plan. Dozens showed up to the council meeting to show their support.
Salminen said it was important the group showed city councilmembers how important it is to the fans to keep the team from leaving. He also fears the teams are already making plans to move. “The worst case scenario is beginning to unfold, but as long as we can get all the fan groups and all the city and county authorities on board, we can make Coliseum City a reality,” Salminen said.
The council ultimately voted to approve the plan, and the next day, Dobbins was being introduced by Mayor Jean Quan at a downtown press conference as she talked about Save Oakland Sports and the importance of public support for the project. “This can’t happen without the support of the fans,” Quan told the press.
Save Oakland Sports held its second meeting Monday night at a conference room at the Red Lion Inn on Hegenberger Road, not far from the Coliseum. Many of the dozen or so members were wearing gear from their favorite teams—mostly Raiders and A’s hats—as they discussed how new stadiums at the Coliseum site could be funded, and an upcoming meeting with Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley to discuss the Coliseum City plan.
Dobbins said he supports the Coliseum City plan, but wishes a stadium project for the A’s had been done 10 years ago. Still, he’s hoping that some grassroots organizing by a committed group of fans can help keep the teams around. Since the land for the Coliseum City project is jointly owned by the city and the county, he hopes to use his position on the board and his connections in the city to help make the project a reality. “With our connections to both entities, we hope we can bring them closer together,” Dobbins said.
Go here for more information on Save Oakland Sports.
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