As Oakland Raider fans await a decision from the National Football League on the future of their team, let’s take a walk down Memory Lane, when the Oakland Coliseum was the hottest sports ticket in the nation.
Completed in 1966, the Oakland – Alameda County Coliseum and Arena was once thought of as the best professional sports venue in the United States.
Lest we forget, when the Oakland – Alameda County Coliseum and Arena first opened, it was considered to be something of a jewel.
In those days, in fact, the idea of a multi-purpose venue was something to be proud of. It was thought of as an efficient use of space, and a wise way to spend money. How times have changed.
Before the first game was played, there was an open day for fans to inspect the premises.
My father took me, and I will never forget the look on his face when we walked through the concourse and into the open, surveyed the field and the stands, and he said to me, “I can’t believe this is in Oakland!”
It was a proud moment for a city with big dreams.
Not only did the multi-purpose complex provide a spectacular new venue for the Oakland Raiders to play football in.
It also served as the catalyst that successfully lured a string of other professional sports franchises to the town I grew up in, though most of those teams are now all but forgotten.
The Oakland Raiders were joined by the San Francisco Seals of the Western Hockey League, who moved across the bay to Oakland in 1966 and were re-christened the California Seals.
The Seals, which underwent 2 more name changes, joined the National Hockey League the following year. They never managed to attract much of a fan base in Northern California (except for my parents, who were seasons ticket holders), and they left Oakland a few years later.
The San Francisco Warriors started playing a few of their home games at the Oakland Arena in 1966, as well, while continuing to play most of their home games at the Cow Palace in Daly City.
The Warriors flirted with the idea of playing at various sports arenas throughout California.
They finally settled on playing exclusively in Oakland, completing their trans-bay migration in 1971, when they were re-christened the Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors won the NBA Championship in the 1974 – 75 season. Then they went into a prolonged decline.
Despite decade after disappointing decade of lackluster performance on the court, the Golden State Warriors proved very successful at the box office.
Long suffering Warriors fans – who are reputedly the loudest in the NBA – were finally rewarded for their loyalty with their first championship in 4 decades in the 2014 – 15 NBA season.
There was a difference of opinion over where the victory parade should be held. Since the team had already announced plans to move back in San Francisco, the mayor of San Francisco thought that was where the parade should be held.
The mayor of Oakland, however, said the team was still playing in Oakland, and if it won the championship in Oakland, that it where the parade should be held.
Oakland’s mayor prevailed, and the victory parade through the streets of Downtown Oakland drew a crowd of 1.2 million delirious basketball fans. A proud moment for a city whose population just tops 400,000!
Oakland’s collection of sports franchises continued to grow. In 1967, the Oakland Oaks of the American Basketball Association commenced play at the Oakland Arena.
Oakland became the blushing suitor of 2 rival basketball teams – the Warriors and the Oaks. One of basketball’s all time greats, Rick Barry, played musical chairs with the 2 teams.
The Oaks left town after 2 seasons, and the Warriors moved lock, stock, and barrel across the bay. The ABA was eventually absorbed into the NBA.
The same year, the Oakland Clippers of the short lived North American Soccer League brought Oakland its first ever national championship in its first season of play.
Soccer was not yet a force to be reckoned with in the United States, however, and the league was disbanded the following season.
Major League Baseball
By the time the Athletics arrived in 1968, Oakland was playing host to more professional sports teams than any other city in the United States except for New York and Chicago.
Despite having one of Major League Baseball’s lowest budgets, the Oakland A’s proved a spectacular success on the field, winning 4 World Series Championships, 6 American League Championships, and 16 Western Division Championship since moving to Oakland.
But Oakland’s bounty of sports teams was short lived. One by one the teams that called Oakland home left town or the leagues they played in folded until only 3 sports teams were left: the Oakland Raiders, the Oakland Athletics, and the Golden State Warriors.
The Raiders abandoned the city for 14 seasons and threaten to do so again. The Golden State Warriors – who always seemed like San Francisco wannabe’s – seem determined to go West.
The A’s, who seemed determined to move to Fremont or Sacramento or San Jose, seem resigned to their fate. The MLB doesn’t want them to move. Does that mean they are stuck in Oakland?
Maybe so. But they can’t seem to agree with the city of on a venue.
The city that once played host to more professional sports franchises than any city other than New York or Chicago could lose one, 2, or all 3 of its teams.
Time hasn’t been kind to the once state-of-the-art Oakland Coliseum. The once proud diamond in a proud sports town’s crown has lost its sheen. It no longer sparkles.
But if you listen closely enough, you can still hear whispers of roaring crowds, winning seasons, and moments of glory echoing in the shadows of the stadium that was once the hottest sports ticket in the land.
I sure would hate to see that place torn down! There are simply too many memories …