According to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, Major League Baseball’s owners voted unanimously to approve the Athletics’ relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas. The approval was viewed as a formality, with little – if any – opposition expected from the sport’s other owners.
The Athletics’ current lease at the Coliseum expires at the end of the 2024 season, leaving many questions about where the team will play its home games in the meantime. Possible scenarios include sharing the Giants’ Oracle Park, playing home games at their Triple-A stadium in Las Vegas, or temporarily extending the current lease. The current plan, while not finalised, could see them split their time between multiple sites, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. The Athletics intend to build a $1.5 billion stadium with a seating capacity of 33,000 on the Las Vegas strip, near the Tropicana Casino. That new home, however, is not expected to be completed until the beginning of the Season 2028.
With the Athletics franchise’s value expected to rise as a result of the move, Nightengale reports that the remaining owners included a provision with the vote that team owner John Fisher would be taxed “heavily” on any sale if he eventually tries to sell the club for an immediate profit. The magnitude of the tax is unknown, as is the length of time he must retain ownership of the team before being exempt from said taxation. In such a case, the taxed amount would be divided among the other 29 franchises.
It will be the first major league team relocation since the Expos relocated from Montreal to Washington, D.C. in 2005 (and, of course, became the Washington Nationals). While the move from Oakland to Vegas is not yet finalised — hurdles with funding and construction of the new facility remain — it will end a 55-year run in Oakland and leave Northern California as the sole territory of the cross-bay Giants.
The Athletics’ stadium prospects and potential relocation bid have been ongoing sources of drama for the past decade or so, as the A’s have sought to relocate from their dilapidated surroundings in the Coliseum. Previous attempts to relocate to San Jose were met with opposition from the Giants, who claimed it would be an infringement on their territory. The A’s have also looked into new facilities around town, including a new stadium at the current location and, most recently, a new waterfront development in Oakland’s Howard Terminal neighbourhood.
Whether those efforts were undertaken in good faith is debatable; Oakland mayor Sheng Thao has vocally disputed assertions from both Fisher and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred that the Howard Terminal scenario was pursued to its fullest extent — instead contending that Fisher was never interested in remaining in Oakland and was always set on a move to Vegas.
Regardless, it’s largely moot at this point in the process. The move to Oakland is overwhelmingly likely at this point, marking the city’s third recent loss of a major sports franchise, following the NBA’s Warriors’ relocation to San Francisco and the NFL’s Raiders’ relocation to Las Vegas. Meanwhile, the city of Las Vegas has seen an influx of professional sports teams in recent years. Aside from the Raiders and the potential relocation of the Athletics, the NHL’s Golden Knights expansion franchise joined the league in 2017.
A’s fans will be in an unusual position heading into the 2024 season, knowing full well that the relocation they’ve dreaded is now looming and facing limited opportunities to cheer on the club they’ve followed for more than five decades (in many cases, their entire lives). At the same time, many people will be hesitant to contribute money to an ownership group that they understandably feel has betrayed them. Aside from that, the team made little effort in recent years to field anything resembling a competitive product, tearing down the core of a team that went 316-230 from 2018-21 and made the playoffs three times in a row — including consecutive 97-win seasons in 2018-19.
That trade slate hasn’t resulted in any significant level of talent, and payroll has remained near the bottom of the league. Last year’s A’s were on pace for the worst record in MLB history for the first few months of the season, and there’s no indication that ownership will approve any efforts to correct the situation this offseason by allocating more resources to its baseball operations staff. It’s a bleak time for the Oakland faithful, as the book on the team’s time in the Bay Area is about to close with an unsatisfying and turbulent conclusion.