Oakland Coliseum, home of Major League Baseball's (MLB) Oakland Athletics and formerly the NFL's Oakland Raiders, has emerged as a potential venue for the 2024 Men's T20 World Cup, to be co-hosted by the USA and the West Indies. The ICC CEO Geoff Allardice and development head Will Glenwright met with USA Cricket officials in California recently where the idea - rumoured since last year - gained traction.
Though the Oakland Coliseum, which opened in 1966, lacks many of the luxury amenities found in most outdoor American stadiums built since the turn of the millennium, it has two major features which appeal to cricket administrators. The location, in the East Bay of northern California just north of the Silicon Valley, is home to a burgeoning local grassroots cricket scene as well as a deep-pocketed expatriate cricket fan base that administrators are hoping to tap into.
Another attraction is that the stadium could hold up to 53,000 fans, more than twice as many as any currently available purpose-built cricket venues in the USA. Those include venues in consideration for hosting T20 World Cup games, such as Church Street Park in Morrisville, North Carolina, which is slated for an expansion to hold approximately 4,000 fans; as well as USA's two ODI venues located in Lauderhill, Florida, and the Houston suburb of Pearland, Texas, both of which have 10,000 capacity (but which could expand to approximately 15,000-20,000 with temporary seating). Other venues which do not have ODI status but could be in consideration are Prairie View Cricket Complex - in suburban Houston - and AirHogs Stadium just outside of Dallas, which is yet to break ground on renovations since a lease was acquired in 2020.
However, for the Oakland Coliseum to host matches several logistical hurdles will need to be overcome. Its location in the Pacific time zone means it would be unlikely to host an India-Pakistan match because an 8pm primetime start on TV in India would mean a 7.30 am start in California. But the venue could be an ideal choice for the late game in a double- or triple-header on a given day, which could possibly feature another heavyweight clash such as England-Australia to suit UK primetime.
Another obstacle is the June slot currently scheduled for the event, which falls right in the middle of baseball season. It would mean that the Coliseum's availability would be dependent on the Athletics and MLB agreeing to schedule a 10-14 day road trip for the Athletics around that time to allow cricket officials time to ready it for the T20 World Cup, including the installation of a drop-in pitch. That timeline would allow no more than two or three matches at the venue.
This would not be the first time in recent years that a baseball stadium is utilised to host a high-profile cricket event. The Cricket All-Stars T20 exhibition tour headlined by Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne in 2015 was played using drop-in pitches at New York's Citi Field (home of the New York Mets), Houston's Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros) and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Those venues were chosen to lure fans to venues which had seating capacity that far exceeded those at cricket-specific venues such as Lauderhill. All three venues are purpose-built for baseball with limited foul area territory and seats located close to the field, which consequently meant some extremely short boundaries square of the pitch.
However, Oakland Coliseum's original design as a shared baseball and football facility means that for baseball purposes, it has by far the largest foul territory in MLB with the closest seats scaled back a considerable distance from the field. For cricket purposes, it means that square boundaries would be right on the borderline of satisfying the ICC's minimum boundary dimensions of 55 meters. If a more thorough inspection determines that the boundaries wind up just short of the ICC minimum, officials may appeal for an ICC exemption in the same manner as Auckland's Eden Park for what would be a one-of-a-kind opportunity to host an unprecedented number of fans for a match in America.
To demonstrate the viability of Oakland Coliseum, local administrators are exploring the idea of potentially hosting exhibition matches before the end of 2023. If such an exhibition were to go ahead, it would most likely be held in the October-November window following the conclusion of the baseball season, though no firm plans have been made at this stage.