Riding high to the proposed new A's ballpark

The Oakland A's are exploring if a huge attraction in its own right might be just the ticket to bring people to a ballpark in the Port of Oakland, a high flying proposal.

If the A's were to relocate to the Port of Oakland's Howard Terminal, the team is considering an aerial gondola system to take game goers from Oakland's City Center to the new ballpark.

"You want to make sure that we look at all the possible solutions, whether it's rubber tire trams, whether it's a BART station or whether it's an aerial gondola," said A's President Dave Kaval.

The ballpark gondola system would carry 4,000 and 6,000 passengers per hour; 20 passengers per gondola. Cost: $50 to $100 million. Who would pay for it is not yet determined, nor is the price, for game goers to ride it. It would have to pass well above the Nimitz Freeway and the railroad yard between downtown Oakland and the Port, requiring aerial easements from the City, Caltrans, the railroad and the Port of Oakland.

"There are new systems out there that we're evaluating that we thing can move a lot of folks and it's one of the potential transportation solutions for a Howard Terminal privately financed stadium," said Kaval.

This would not be a West Coast first. Oregon's Portland Aerial Trams, haul passenger two-thirds of a mile, 500 feet in the air, between Portland's South Waterfront and the campus of the Oregon Health & Science University; eight people at a time, $4.70 a round trip.

Last year, the Oakland Zoo opened its brand new $5 million tram that hauls passengers between the Zoo's Visitor Center and the restaurant at the top of the Zoo property where other exhibits will soon open.

In a word, for zoo visitors, it is a "hit. "What a cool way to see the city. I think it would be great and a ton of fun. Yeah." said Mae Koerner.

"And, also to get places a little faster but  also have a little fun while riding it," said her young son Cael. The zoo is thrilled with the reception the system is getting. "The gondola here behind me is one of the only urban gondolas in northern California. It has become an incredible attraction for visitors; not just for young kids but adults alike," said Nik Dehejia, a zoo executive.

A ballpark gondola would be an even bigger hit. "You don't have to drive. You don't have to park. So, it's a nice ride," said zoo visitor Natasha Bobinaoux.

There is international precedence for this. There are very large gondola systems in London, England, Hong Kong, China, even in Frankfurt, Germany. All of them have become tourist attractions onto themselves. And considering that you won't be going just to a baseball park, but an entertainment center that's going to have restaurants, bars, restaurants and other attractions and housing, this system could actually work very, very well.