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Athletics get approval from MLB owners to move from Oakland to Las Vegas

ARLINGTON, Texas — Major League Baseball’s owners on Thursday approved relocation of the Oakland Athletics to Las Vegas in a unanimous vote.

Owner John Fisher intends to move the team into a new stadium in the city ahead of the 2028 season. Where the A’s will play for the 2025-27 seasons is not yet clear. The team’s current stadium lease at the Oakland Coliseum expires after next season. Possibilities include staying in Oakland at the Coliseum, or perhaps moving to a Triple-A stadium in Sacramento, among others, people briefed on the conversations said. But the matter wasn’t decided Thursday, nor is a decision said to be close.

The A’s plan to build a 33,000-seat stadium in Las Vegas for an estimated $1.5 billion, with the team expected to arrange for about $1 billion of that amount. The approval of baseball’s owners was long expected and moves the A’s a step closer to realizing the move, which is ultimately likely to happen. But the team’s exodus from Oakland isn’t finalized yet.

Nevada’s legislature and governor have approved $380 million in funding, but a political action committee backed by teachers in the state is attempting to get the funding on a public ballot next November. Were that to happen, and were the public to subsequently vote against providing the money, the move could be, at the least, delayed.

The availability of public money is a major lure to owners, and is what led Fisher to pursue a stadium outside of Oakland, despite protests from the city’s mayor that similar funding could be arranged.

“We are disappointed by the outcome of this vote,” Oakland mayor Sheng 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.”

Thao also said she has “made it clear” to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred that “the A’s branding and name should stay in Oakland” and the city will pursue expansion team opportunities. “Baseball has a home in Oakland even if the A’s ownership relocates,” she said.

Las Vegas would be baseball’s smallest media market. Prior to the owners’ meeting, MLB put together a report reviewing the economics around the move. A person briefed on the report who was not authorized to speak publicly this week called the viability of Las Vegas “iffy,” in large part because success for the A’s would be highly dependent on tourists visiting. But what if the tourists aren’t as interested in baseball games as hoped?

“No one knows what payroll they can sustain — all depends on where it all goes,” the person said.

The exact revenue figures in the report and the underlying assumptions MLB used in calculating those figures are not known. In Las Vegas, the team would likely be a perpetual recipient of revenue-sharing dollars from other team owners. However, the league projects that local revenues will be higher in Las Vegas than they’ve been in Oakland in recent years, meaning the A’s would ultimately need less support than they currently receive.

Ultimately, Fisher and MLB believed they had exhausted their options in Oakland after years of trying to get stadium deals done. Thao and Manfred have publicly disagreed as to how negotiations between the A’s, MLB and the city unfolded.

“I know this is a terrible day for fans in Oakland. I understand that,” Manfred said at a news conference Thursday. “That’s why we always had a policy of doing everything humanly possible to avoid a relocation, and I truly believe we did that in this case.”

When the A’s current stadium lease expires after next season, they could stay in their current home, the Oakland Coliseum — but that would require a deal being struck with the city. Thao has set forth conditions that would make a deal viable for the city, including the A’s leaving behind the team name so that another franchise could someday use it again there.

Playing in Sacramento at a minor-league stadium is said to be an option as well. They have an incentive to stay in the Bay Area because once they leave, their present TV deal likely would be jeopardized — as would the revenues attached to it. A new TV deal presumably awaits in Las Vegas, but likely not until the new stadium opens.

“We’re exploring a variety of alternatives (for 2025 to 2027), including staying at the Coliseum for the remaining years in the interim,” Manfred said Thursday.

Manfred has long said that when the A’s and Tampa Bay Rays find new homes, MLB could expand from 30 to 32 teams. Expansion comes with a windfall for current owners: the league charges a large fee, expected to be in the billions, to the ownership group that receives a new franchise. All owners therefore had some incentive to push the A’s stadium process along.

Baseball’s owners also would be unlikely to stand in the way when one of their own has gotten far enough in a process that $380 million in public money has been promised to him. All owners seek public funding for stadiums, and the more one receives, perhaps the more another can receive later on.

A plane flying a banner urging the A’s to stay in Oakland flew overhead in Arlington, Texas, on Tuesday, the first day of the owners’ meetings. The flight was arranged by a member of a group of three A’s fans who hung around the Loews hotel that day, Jorge Leon.

Leon and fellow fans Jared Isham and Gabriel Cullen wound up meeting with Fisher in the lobby Tuesday evening, producing a short conversation that didn’t lead to any change of heart from the owner. While Fisher dined in the lobby restaurant a short while later, they dropped a custom-designed gift box of A’s related mementos with Fisher.

MLB always has security at owners’ meetings, but guards were paying extra attention to Fisher’s movements. Although the outcome of the vote was in no way a surprise, its occurrence added more public interest to the league’s owners’ meetings than usual.

Painful news for A’s fans

The news was expected, but that didn’t mean the impact of the relocation vote was any less painful for A’s fans.

“We all saw this coming. It was always going to be a formality, but it still hurts,” said Mike Davie, a longtime denizen of the Coliseum bleachers. Going to A’s games has been a part of Davie’s summers since he was a toddler. He’s affectionately known amongst A’s fans as the Mayor of Oakland. Even though the A’s are set to play the 2024 season in Oakland, Davie doesn’t expect to enter the turnstiles into the Coliseum much — if at all — next season.

“I just can’t see myself being a fan next year,” he said. “This year, I put the game on the background and the radio and stuff. But like, I can’t see myself doing that next year. It’s not going to be a priority to go to games.”

Since A’s ownership announced their intention to move the team in April, fans have been engaged in a fight to keep their team in Oakland. They staged reverse boycotts and Unite the Bay events, flew planes with “A’s Belong in Oakland — #VoteNo” over the owners’ meetings in Arlington and sent letters and videos pleading their case to the other 29 owners as to why baseball belongs in Oakland. All of those efforts have seemingly fallen on deaf ears, though. Leon said Wednesday he never expected to change the owners’ minds.

“The vote won’t be a setback,” Leon, president of the Oakland 68s fan group, said hours before the vote was official. “I think we’re very realistic-minded people that it’s gonna vote yes. And so we’ll just go and sit together and come up with other ideas and see what we can do to disrupt it.

“I’ve been telling people we don’t expect flying an airplane outside or being at the owners’ meeting is going to change the vote. I think what we’re trying to do is just disrupt it and make it harder for them.” — Melissa Lockard, MLB senior editor and writer

Fans will continue to protest next season

That fight will continue into next season, as the groups that organized the various protest events plan to continue them until the A’s are officially out of town, starting with a planned boycott of Opening Night that will feature a tailgate in the parking lot of the Coliseum during the game.

“We’ve got a whole ‘nother season to be obnoxious and do our thing,” Paul Bailey of the fan group the Last Dive Bar said.

And we the fans have decided to unanimously BOYCOTT opening day! #SummerOfBoycott

— Last Dive Bar 🏟 (@LastDiveBar) November 16, 2023

While the consensus among A’s fans at the moment is sorrow, there remains the possibility that this vote isn’t the end of the story in Oakland. It clears a hurdle for Fisher in his efforts to move the team, but Bryan Johnson of the Last Dive Bar notes that there’s still a lot more work to be done before a move can happen, and Fisher’s track record of failing to close on stadium deals leaves the door open as to whether this move will reach the finish line.

“So what’s to say this Vegas one is going to be this glaring success?” Johnson said. “They have what they didn’t have all those times (in previous attempts to move) in that they have the support of the commissioner to move and they have a city that just says, yeah, do whatever you want here. But it’s still Fisher and he still has to do that work, and he still has to put a shovel in the ground. And to today, he hasn’t been able to accomplish that, so there’s still a glimmer of hope that he’s not going to be successful and will be forced to either sell or work something out in Oakland.” — Lockard



A’s fans’ fight to keep the team in Oakland hits the road: ‘It’s like an engine’

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal contributed to the reporting of this story.

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(Photo: G Fiume / Getty Images)

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