It’s still not fully resolved, but this is going to happen, like it or not.
Major League Baseball owners voted unanimously Thursday to allow the Oakland Athletics to move to Las Vegas, paving the way for the second relocation of a baseball team in the past half-century.
The potential move, which comes after more than two decades of failed efforts to secure a new stadium in the city to replace the aging Oakland Coliseum, needed backing from three-quarters of teams at the quarterly owners meetings. It received unanimous support despite unanswered questions about the team’s near-term future and stadium plans.
“Today is an incredibly difficult day for Oakland A’s fans,” Athletics owner John Fisher said. “It’s a great day for Las Vegas.”
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred echoed Fisher’s sentiments, saying: “I know — I know — this is a terrible day for fans in Oakland. I understand that. And that’s why we’ve always had a policy of doing everything humanly possible to avoid a relocation. And I truly believe we did that in this case. I think it’s beyond debate, that the status quo in Oakland was untenable. Those of you who have been in the building understand what I’m talking about. And I absolutely am convinced that there was not a viable path forward in Oakland.”
The move is not yet finalized. Legal challenges from a teachers union in Nevada regarding the $380 million the state has committed to the construction of a $1.5 billion stadium on the Las Vegas Strip still could scuttle the move, but winning approval from owners marks a significant step toward Oakland losing its last major men’s professional sports team.
Prior to the Montreal Expos moving to Washington, D.C., in 2005, the last MLB team to relocate was the Washington Senators, who became the Texas Rangers in 1972. The Athletics moved to Oakland from Kansas City in 1968 and have won four World Series in their 56 seasons in the city.
After announcing in 2021 plans to pursue a “parallel path” in which it would weigh stadium deals in Oakland and Las Vegas, the team chose Vegas in April 2023, with Manfred saying MLB would waive its relocation fee, estimated to be around $300 million.
In a letter sent to half the MLB owners last week, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said the city had procured $928 million in funding for a stadium and surrounding development and wanted to keep the team.
The Athletics’ lease with the Oakland Coliseum expires after the 2024 season, and the team has yet to solidify plans for where it will play before the Las Vegas stadium is ready in 2028. Manfred said extending the lease in Oakland is an option, though the city — which owns half the stadium, while the Athletics own the other half — has said in order to do so that it would need to keep the A’s name and move to the front of the line for a potential expansion franchise.
“We are disappointed by the outcome of this vote,” Thao said in a statement. “But we do not see this as the end of the road. We all know there is a long way to go before shovels in the ground and that there are a number of unresolved issues surrounding this move. I have also made it clear to the commissioner that the A’s branding and name should stay in Oakland and we will continue to work to pursue expansion opportunities. Baseball has a home in Oakland even if the A’s ownership relocates.”
The lack of a home for three seasons is far from the only reservation about the Athletics’ move. Not only would they be leaving for a smaller media market, but the team would also remain a revenue-sharing recipient, a point of contention in recent years. The new stadium, located at the site of the old Tropicana hotel, is slated to be built on a 9-acre parcel, which would be one of the smallest in MLB. While the A’s released renderings of a Las Vegas stadium, they did not include a dome or retractable roof, which would be necessary to combat the city’s summer heat.
See here for some background. Las Vegas, which like a decade ago had zero major league sports teams, has done spectacularly well with their expansion NHL Golden Knights and the WNBA Aces, and while the NFL Raiders remain a mostly bad team it’s still the NFL, and people will put up with a lot. The soon-to-be Vegas A’s are, I suspect, something else. The owner is terrible, the team sucks and has no clear path towards anything better, and there’s not going to be a stadium for at least the next three years, forcing the team to play in a AAA ballpark in the interim. The long-term plan involves attracting a significant number of tourists and visitors to the A’s home games. There’s still a drive to hold a referendum on revoking the public funds that have been earmarked for the stadium they intend to build. I’m having a hard time seeing how this ends well.
That’s Rob Manfred’s problem. I’m just going to sit here and watch the (likely) disaster as it unfolds. Effectively Wild discusses the impeding move, and there’s more from Joe Sheehan, Yahoo, and ESPN.