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MLB owners approve Athletics’ relocation to Las Vegas



© Kelley L Cox | 2023 Apr 28

In what was an expected, if not dreaded formality, all 30 Major League Baseball owners voted in favor of allowing Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher move the team from the Bay Area to Las Vegas.

Thursday morning’s unanimous vote comes despite Las Vegas being the smallest media market in MLB, despite their proposed ballpark being the lowest capacity, despite no plans for where the team will play as the stadium is being built, despite Oakland raising more total public funding and despite the possibility that the A’s staying in Oakland would mean they’d be the only major professional sports team in town.

The 30 owners are likely locking in permanent revenue sharing to the Athletics, and letting the franchise operate the same as it has for years — only in a new, shiny market and with a partially publicly financed park.

Yet after two decades of stalled efforts between the A’s and the city of Oakland to find a new home in the Bay Area, the owners are quitting on the prospect of the Oakland Athletics.

Now, the only obstacle between the A’s and Las Vegas is a political action committee in Nevada — Schools over Stadiums — formed by teachers who are planning to legally challenge the public funds going to building a new stadium.

The A’s moved to Oakland from Kansas City in 1968 and have won four World Series titles in the Bay. Their 55 years in Oakland is longer than the franchise’s stints in both Kansas City and Philadelphia. Leaving Oakland will make the Giants the only team in Northern California, whereas the Dodgers, Angels and Padres have to battle for Southern California.

Oakland will be only the second franchise to relocate this century, with the Montreal Expos becoming the Washington Nationals in 2005 being the other move.

The A’s and Oakland tried to find a new stadium in Laney College, Lake Merritt and most recently at Howard Terminal. The proposed $12 billion project in the Jack London Square neighborhood would’ve featured a waterfront stadium, thousands of housing units, office and retail space and mixed-use public space.

Oakland mayor Sheng Thao has said that she felt the two sides were nearing a deal when Fisher and A’s president Dave Kaval struck a tentative deal to move to Vegas. The Howard Terminal deal, although unfinished, appeared more fleshed out than the half-baked Vegas proposals the A’s flipped through.

Thao urged the owners to reject Fisher’s move in the Thursday vote, as did Oakland-based advocacy groups who sent materials to owners, including a documentary.

Since the Athletics’ new stadium in Las Vegas won’t be ready until 2028, they could still play games in the Bay Area in the interim. To maintain regional sports broadcast revenue in Northern California, they could strike a deal with the Giants to play some games at Oracle Park. They have a Single-A stadium in Stockton for their affiliate or could temporarily use their Triple-A park in Vegas.

Their lease in the Coliseum expires after 2024, and the city of Oakland — led by mayor Sheng Thao — is expected to drive a hard bargain.

No matter where the A’s play in the next few years, attendance will be low because of the de-investment from ownership into payroll and a general hostility towards fans. Last year, the most memorable moments in Oakland came in “reverse boycott” games, when thousands of fans gathered to chant “Sell the Team” and prove they’re really still out there.

Commissioner Rob Manfred, who once supported keeping the A’s in Oakland, has curried favor for a move from Oakland to Vegas in recent years. He recommended that the owners — his bosses — vote in favor of the move, and they followed suit.

It’s now nearly fait accompli that the A’s join the Raiders and Warriors in leaving Oakland, giving the Giants a hold on the Bay Area baseball market.