O.co Coliseum: A local’s guide to enjoying a road trip to the home of the Oakland A’s

Ben Koo
Big League Stew

Have a baseball road trip coming up? Well, in a bid to help you with your upcoming journeys, Big League Stew has solicited the help of the locals. Over the next month or so, we'll be hitting up our usual guest blogger crew to feature 10 tips for enjoying each of the 30 ballparks like the locals do. Have a suggestion in addition to the ones listed here? Make sure to list it in the comments below.

Up next is our good friend Ben Koo of Awful Announcing and Bloguin.He wrote the 10 best things about being an A's fan for us last season.

Congratulations on not letting your significant other’s puzzled look when telling him/her that you booked a trip to Oakland deter you from visiting O.co stadium this summer. Yes, O.co, no ‘M’ needed at the end. It’s part of the partially failed rebranding of the popular website we all use daily, overstock.com.

I would say it’s wise for you to knock out this trip for historic purposes of seeing the last multi purpose baseball-football stadium in use before the team moves, but Bud Selig seems intent letting on waiting until there are a baker’s dozen Fast and Furious movies before giving a final decision on a relocation to San Jose.

Before digging into your visit, let’s set some expectations. You’re visiting the worst stadium in Major League Baseball. That’s more of a compliment to the other 29 teams, as O.co isn’t overly decrepit. Other than having 40 percent of its seats tarped off, lacking any views of the surrounding area, possessing no modern day amenities, being aesthetically bankrupt, being somewhat of an empty cavern at times, and having so much foul ground that most seats require good eye sight or binoculars, it’s actually a unique and often cheap way to have some fun. The team that plays there these days is pretty good, too.

With that in mind, let’s give you the rundown of how to maximize your experience.

1. Getting There. Most of the Bay Area has BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and a stop is conveniently located just outside the parking lot. BART is cheap and at times can attract some colorful characters, but is by far the most efficient way to get to O.co.

That said, I would stress that there is no real neighborhood or commercial area to grab a drink or a bite at before the game. If you don’t want to go in early or tailgate in the parking lot then there really is no real need to get to the ballpark earlier than you need to be.

If you want to take a vehicle, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that parking is about a third of the price at O.co as compared to the bourgeoisie prices across the bay for the Giants. The bad news is that you’ll have to take 880 to get there which is a commuter hell that regularly ranks as one of the worst commutes in the country. Compounding the daily carmageddon is that two freeways that are ranked in the top 10 most congested highways in the country all converge within miles of O.co and 880.

Go to a day game or weekend game and you should be mostly safe. Go to a night game, and I would advise to get there very early and planning on an aggressive and elongated tailgating strategy.

2. Wear Layers. You could go 30 miles in any direction of O.co and the temperature could be plus or minus 20 degrees. For instance you could be staying in Pleasanton and have it be 90 degrees and get to the stadium as the sun is beginning to go down and have it be 70 degrees. On the other end of the spectrum you could be in Pacifica or Tiburon and deem it a chilly 65 only to go to Oakland and have it be 85 degrees.

Bay-area weather is known to change quickly, with a lot of wind being the norm, so be smart and wear layers. It’s not only smart but it’s fashionable these days I’m told!

3. Don’t overpay for tickets: There is a lot of stuff to do in the Bay Area and any money you can save on tickets can be put to work elsewhere. That’s why it’s good to understand the lay of the land of A’s ticket demand.

The A’s essentially never sell out Monday- Thursday unless they’re playing the Giants, Yankees, or Red Sox or it’s the final two weeks of a playoff run. In fact to combat the lack of ticket demand there are regular promotions like $2 Wednesdays and free parking Tuesdays which certainly should be taken advantage of when applicable.

Basically if you click on “best available” and you’re not driving a luxury car, you’re kind of a sucker as you can buy a cheap seat and sit in a much better seat. On any given weekday night you’re looking at a half-filled lower section and less than half filled second level (hence a tarped off third level), so it’s not really much of a challenge to upgrade your seating location. The ushers know there is little they can do and truth be told they have other things to keep an eye on.

For weekend games, popular promotional day, or a big series, there are still some pretty economical options. The second deck, especially behind home plate, is a pretty good place to sit. The A’s also offer food and drink bundles with tickets on Friday nights which are good deals in addition to having a Value Deck, which is the only third deck tickets available and offer money back from your ticket on food and merchandise purchases. The A’s also have a pretty lively bleacher section if you’re up for some intense cheering or ribbing depending on whom you are supporting.

4. Get crazy tailgating: The Giants don’t really have tailgating. Their alternative is drinking on the train and hoping to avoid getting arrested upon getting off of it. The Dodgers don’t even allow tailgating. But in Oakland, you’d better gear up for what’s in store.

A combination of a massive parking lot built for two venues (one of which hypothetically serves a “full” Raiders stadium), a modest regular A’s attendance base, the popularity of BART for transportation, mostly good weather, and people’s preference to arrive early to avoid rush hour all converges for quite the perfect storm of tailgating circumstances. The end result: a fun oasis of a massive mostly empty parking lot under the California sun filled with rowdy but well behaved fans, surrounded by the standard Oakland gridlock and urban ambience or (lack thereof).

Want to play wiffle ball? Go ahead! Want to incorporate beer into the game aka Louisville Chugger/Dizzy Bat? By all means!

Want to setup an obnoxiously large tent and a beer pong table taking up six parking spaces? Nobody is stopping you and nobody is going to charge you for it. I’ve probably played more sports in the O.co parking lot than most kids get in full year of gym class.

This is a fun crowd that usually starts to accumulate around 5 p.m., right as rush hour gets dicey. This leaves you with two hours of time to regress to a college version of yourself.

A word to the wise though: The A’s, Raiders, and stadium folks are in some type of, uh, pissing match in regards to who has to pay for extra porta potties in the parking lot. You can easily spend up to half of your tailgating time walking and waiting to go to the bathroom depending on your bladder. A more natural option exists for those who park on the Northwest corner of the parking lot which is lined with shrubbery and even a creek for those who really embrace the banana republic nature of the A’s parking lot.

5. When in need, just head up: There are 2 concourse levels at O.co. One is between the 100 and 200 levels and is highly trafficked. The second is between the 200 level and the tarped off 300 level. With the 300 level being tarped off and the 200 level usually mostly empty, you can imagine that this is the go to place for food, drinks, or a bathroom trip. Even getting in and out of the stadium, this is a smart bet to utilize.

If you’re keen on not missing too much of the game and aren’t particularly interested in bumping and grinding with your fellow fans, you can avoid a lot of that by either walking up an extra level from the 100 deck or just fighting your natural instinct to walk down from where you entered if you are sitting in the 200 deck. At times you can cut down your length away from your seat by 15-20 minutes by doing this.

Heading up the 200 concourse also affords you the opportunity the check out the West Side clubhouse, which is actually a pretty impressive area of flat screen TV’s, higher quality food, and a sprawling bar and dining area.

6. Know the promotional schedule: The A’s really get after it in terms of selling tickets. I’m not even talking about free parking or $2 ticket days which occur every week.

Special promos are nothing new, but I have a feeling the A’s are a little bit more assertive on this front and it would be smart to see what’s on tap for your visit and plan accordingly.

Afraid of dogs? Well probably not smart to go on dog day.

Like root beer floats and want them served to you by A’s players? Well you’d be a dope not to attend on Root Beer Float Day.

There are your standard bobblehead days and a BeerFest that is pretty epic, albeit as crowded as a rush hour Manhattan subway ride. You can even get a free haircut this year as well.

There are a plethora of solid incentives to come out for a game, so find the one that appeals to you the most and make it happen.

7. Be wary of buying merchandise: About twice a month I get an email about some sale of A’s merchandise. Impulse buys are fun and sometimes necessary if you didn’t wear layers. That said you can probably shop around or get a discount at a later time.

More importantly, it’s a wise decision when it comes to the A’s to NOT buy player specific merchandise.

In the magical Moneyball year of 2002, I spent over $300 on some snazzy jerseys for Miguel Tejada, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, and Eric Chavez. The majority of them were gone in two years and not too long after they were all gone.

Subsequent purchases of Nick Swisher and Ryan Sweeney shirts also deemed to be ill advised.

To put in perspective, most fans would deem it wise to buy apparel of a player who won Rookie of the Year. The A’s have had four winners of this award over the last 15 years. Three of them were traded with their average tenure with the A’s being under three years. In a nutshell, Moneyball = don’t buy merchandise or get too attached to any player, no matter how solid the future looks for them in Oakland.

8. Come out for a fireworks night: Four times a year, the A’s put on a pretty spectacular fireworks show. Accompanied by music and some theme, it’s always a great time for families and young bachelors and hooligans alike.

While fireworks nights are nothing too special, I’d imagine the A’s are the only team that invites their fans onto the field to take them in. I don’t think we can really be close if field access, fireworks, and music doesn’t tickle your fancy.

9. When waiting, check out the radio pre- and postgame shows: Waiting sucks but sometimes it’s part of being an A’s fan. No I’m not referring to Bud Selig and the A’s potential move to San Jose but rather the traffic and frequent parking lot gridlock before and after games. Fans often can also find themselves waiting for BART trains after games as well.

All this waiting can wear on you, but if you’re smart you’ll tune into the 95.7 pre and post game radio shows. I’ve found it to be very calming and informative and a nice distraction from the logistical issues at hand.

After big games, rather than moving at 1mph towards the parking lot exit, it’s not a bad idea to have a beer if not driving that night and just listen to the recap with your friends before heading home.

10. Gamble on random games: Keep your eyes peeled to the jumbotrons as the A’s have a handful of fun games in between innings.

When deciding who should get the beer, pay for the beer, say hello to a group of ladies, etc, it’s not a bad idea to settle any of these pressing issues by wagering on the jumbotron games.

Guessing the attendance, dot races, BART races, what hat is the ball under, and general trivia gives you something fun and competitive to do with your friends. There is nothing “more Oakland” than screaming and yelling and scaring people around you for thinking you’re crazy. If you’re lucky, your friend might end up paying for your $2 ticket.

What are your favorite tips for attending a game at O.Co Coliseum?

Previous parks: Citi Field, Marlins Park, Great American Ball Park, Petco Park,Comerica Park, Progressive Park, AT&T Park, Rogers Centre, Wrigley Field, O.Co Coliseum, Yankee Stadium, Coors Field, Minute Maid Park, Fenway Park

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