Caption for photo: The new stadium complex for the Oakland Raiders, floating off the San Francisco waterfront for a night game on a calm winter evening.
Rendering of the new stadium complex for the Oakland Raiders, which will float off the San Francisco waterfront for a night game on a calm winter evening. Image: courtesy Bjorn Toulouse

Update, April 2, 12:45 a.m. This was indeed an April Fools’ Day story. We hope you enjoyed!

Original story, April 1, 11 a.m. At a surprise press conference at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard this morning, Mark Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders, announced a new plan to keep the team in Oakland. Or more accurately, to keep the Raiders in the San Francisco Bay. Only some of the games will be played in Oakland.

Despite the recent contract extension, and despite talk of a new “Coliseum City,” the Raiders will proceed with plans to abandon the aging Oakland Coliseum after the 2015-16 season. But instead of the proposed joint venture with the San Diego Chargers, which calls for the two teams to share a new $1.7 billion stadium in Los Angeles, the new venue will float in the Bay.

“Hull-based structures can always be built on much shorter lead times,” explained Davis. “No building permits, no land use issues, no traffic plans, no zoning, no EIR. All we need is classification by American Bureau of Shipping, and a few Coast Guard inspections, and we’re good to go. The shipyard promises a launch date early next year, and the tow across the Pacific from China will take less than 45 days.”

The stadium will be a very large floating structure, borrowing on technology developed for offshore oil platforms. Measuring 950 feet long by 620 feet wide, its draft will be shallow enough to berth at waterfronts from Redwood City or Alviso in the South Bay to Vallejo or Benicia in the north. “In time, the floating stadium will become the beloved home field for every community with a place to tie the thing up,” said Peter Moss, mayor of Albany. “Just imagine the excitement this will bring to our lackluster waterfront park when our town hosts an NFL play-off game at the Albany Bulb.”

“It will not be the longest floating structure ever built,” said Lee Kee, via a Skype video link from the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai. “But in terms of square meters, or length times width, it will be larger than any existing ship. We are honored to have been selected as the constructing shipyard.”

“The floating stadium concept offers some unique challenges, but also some interesting opportunities,” added Davis. “For example, we can start the game in San Francisco, perhaps right here at Hunters Point, and then spend the afternoon in a slow downwind drift across the Bay to the Oakland Estuary. People will have to take public transit to and from the game, because if they drive, their cars will be on the wrong side of the Bay when the game is over.”

“That whole thing about the shared stadium in Carson was just a diversion, a feint,” explained Raiders star quarterback Bart Carr. “I mean, like, did you really think we’d want to live in LA? Or share a field with the Chargers? Get real. I’m amazed no one saw through the ruse when it was first announced.”

Bjorn Toulouse, president of the architectural design firm that developed the concept and prepared the preliminary plans, described a future scenario in which the team owners can continue to play one local community off against another as cities bid for the stadium to be brought to their shores for important games. “But it makes perfect political sense, even without the graft,” he asserted. “More importantly, we are creating a new cultural landscape. As the nation’s first movable historic district, the stadium will be listed in the National Register of Historic Places — and also on the National Register of Historic Ships. We believe this will be the first structure to receive Landmark designation before it is actually built. Between games, the field will serve double-duty as an off-leash dog park, thereby insuring support from the most powerful advocacy group in the East Bay.”

The floating complex will include marina berths for visiting yachts, a ferry dock, an artificial beach, and a protected habitat area for endangered shorebird species.

“Because of the difficult access by private auto, it lends itself perfectly to water transportation,” Toulouse said. “We expect games played here to have a significantly lower total carbon footprint than games played in any other major stadium.”

Helen Highwater, also from the design team, pointed out that the structure “will still be hosting football games in 2070 and beyond, long after every land-based stadium in every coastal city has been inundated by rising sea level.”

Asked about a possible Berkeley connection, she stated that the stadium can easily connect to the Berkeley Fishing Pier. “We do not anticipate any negative traffic impact at the Berkeley Marina, because everyone in Berkeley is so anti-auto,” she said.

Roxanne Shoals, representing the Jack London Soccer Mom’s League, expressed concern that the floating structure would have to be very carefully ballasted when it hosts youth events, especially if the seats on one side of the stadium fill up while the other side is mostly empty. “If there is any heel or trim, our youth will not face a level playing field,” she asserted.

Chargers’ CEO Dean Spanos was not available for comment, although it is rumored that a similar floating stadium is in the works for San Diego Bay.

Paul Kamen runs the website for the Coalition for Diverse Activities on Water, Grass and Sand, and serves on the Berkeley Parks and Waterfront Commission.

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