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Parking lot problems are a concern


Parking lot problems are a concern

Ready or not, here come the Oakland A’s fans.

As early as noon on Thursday, fans are expected to begin lining up to enter the parking lot at the Coliseum, but many won’t actually buy a ticket to the A’s Opening Night game against the Cleveland Guardians, a sign of protest against the team’s pending move to Las Vegas in 2028.

While 26,805 people went to the team’s opening game at the Coliseum last year, almost as many are planning to show up to the parking lot Thursday while boycotting the actual game, said Bryan Johansen, founder of A’s fan group Last Dive Bar and one of the organizers of the boycott.

“This is going to be like Burning Man,” Johansen said. “But we’re not going to set anything on fire.”

He has been organizing fan events such as Fans Fest, a celebration of Oakland sports teams in Jack London Square last month, and last year’s reverse boycott, which also took place in the A’s parking lot before fans eventually packed the Coliseum with almost 28,000 people on a Tuesday in June.

This time, though, there’s a big problem: The A’s appear to be staging a protest of their own.

While last year they opened the parking lots four hours before the season-opener, and Johansen said they’ve opened as early as six hours before the game in years past, this year the A’s aren’t playing ball.

They plan to keep the parking lot gates closed until two hours before the 7:07 p.m. PT game, a plan that could present serious public safety concerns if cars are stuck in line, potentially blocking the freeway exit and creating miles-long traffic jams.

Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan said on social media Wednesday that she’s encouraging fans to take public transportation and is also asking the A’s to open their parking lot earlier “and not harm community health and safety by creating a backup.”

It remains to be seen what the City of Oakland and the Oakland Police Department will be able to do to prevent such a mess. Attempts to reach the Oakland A’s and OPD were unsuccessful on Wednesday.

“With our social media platform, we have received numerous messages that people are going to come as early as 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock to line up,” Johansen said. “We foresee the line to get in the stadium is going to be all the way to the freeway at 1 or 2 o’clock at the earliest.”

Making matters trickier, there will be a concert next door to the Coliseum at Oakland Arena, where The Love Hard Tour featuring Keyshia Cole and Trey Songz will be starting at 8 p.m.

“We’d like the A’s to open the gates earlier,” Johansen said. “Regardless of the situation with fans and ownership, we’re still the fans, we’re still the ones who have supported this team for 55 years. It’s our Opening Day, too. Whether we go in the stadium or not, we deserve the same respect as far as gate opening times that we’ve had every single year since the stadium opened.”

Johansen and other leaders of A’s fan groups have made one thing very clear for every event they’ve hosted: They’re showing up to celebrate Oakland sports, not to express anger or hatred towards anybody. They’re frustrated with the A’s for the way the team has handled its pending departure, but they have no problem with any fans who choose to attend Thursday’s game and buy a ticket.

Johansen is hoping even fans attending the game will feel welcomed to the parking lot celebration, which he expects to feature prize giveaways, food, drinks, T-shirts, air horns, cowbells and vuvuzelas as the fans make as much noise as they can from the parking lot.

“Just give a night of reprieve for fans to voice their frustration in a creative and vibrant way, not in a violent way,” he said.

Johansen is asking boycotting fans to use the money they would’ve spent on tickets as a donation to Schools Over Stadiums, a political action group formed by a Nevada teachers’ union that’s trying to stop $380 million of public funding from going towards a ballpark in Las Vegas.

Schools Over Stadiums representative Alex Marks said the organization will have a tent in the A’s parking lot on Thursday and plans to collect donations, while a major donor in the Bay Area has promised to match all donations up to $100,000.

Schools Over Stadiums will present oral arguments on April 9 in a courtroom in Carson City, where the teachers hope they’ll be able to finalize a petition that, with enough signatures, could send the public funding to a ballot in November.

“We’ll be ready to hit the streets with our volunteers either way,” Marks said.

Some of the 7,850 fans at the Coliseum for Monday’s exhibition game between the A’s and San Francisco Giants said they were also concerned about the potential chaos on Thursday and would not be attending the game or parking lot.

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