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Sunday, July 14, 2024

The Oakland Athletics agree to purchase land for new ballpark in Las Vegas

The rich history of the Oakland A’s may be coming to an end with potential relocation to Las Vegas

 

By PATRICK FIGUEROA — sports@theaggie.org

 

On April 19, sources confirmed to the Nevada Independent that the Oakland Athletics (A’s) agreed to purchase land in Las Vegas to build a new, long-awaited stadium. This news came out shortly after the A’s completed a six-game homestand, during which they lost all six games and their record fell to 3-16. In a city that has already lost two of its professional sports franchises in recent years, the A’s relocation would end an era of professional sports in Oakland.

Just five years ago, Oakland had three professional teams: the A’s, the Golden State Warriors and the Oakland Raiders. Each of these teams had a rich history embedded within the city of Oakland. The Warriors went to five straight NBA finals and won three between 2015 to 2019 while in Oakland. The Raiders won two Super Bowl championships in 1976 and 1980, and, even in the years when they struggled to maintain their “commitment to excellence,” fans packed the Oakland Coliseum. Still, neither of these teams match up to the A’s history in Oakland. 

Unlike other Oakland franchises, the A’s are exclusively tied to Oakland. The Warriors were more associated with the Bay Area than Oakland itself and the Raiders moved from Oakland to Los Angeles in 1982 before eventually moving back over a decade later. But the Athletics, arriving in 1968, have built a rich baseball history exclusive to Oakland. 

Notable moments from Oakland A’s history include their “three-peat,” in which they won three consecutive World Series championships from 1972 to 1974. The only other franchise in MLB to ever match such a feat is the New York Yankees. The A’s 2002 season was also memorable as they broke an MLB record for winning 20 consecutive games. In 2011, a blockbuster movie, “Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, told the story of the A’s historic 2002 season.

Despite this rich history, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is an advocate for the A’s relocation to Las Vegas. In a meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors, Manfred mentioned that the A’s relocating would allow the team to put a “more competitive on-field product.” He also defended A’s Owner John Fisher, who many fans are blaming for the potential relocation. 

“I feel sorry for the fans in Oakland, I really do,” Manfred said. “But for the city of Oakland to point fingers at John Fisher, it’s not fair.” 

In the A’s first home game since the agreement to acquire land in Las Vegas, over 6,000 fans showed up to chant, “Sell the team!” Others also hung signs on the railing in right field with phrases like “Fisher out” and “Sell.”  

Fisher has been criticized for allegedly tanking the A’s on purpose in order to alienate fans and expedite the move out of the Oakland Coliseum. Despite having the sixth-largest media market in MLB, the A’s have the lowest payroll out of all teams. They had merely six wins through the first month of the 2023 season. They also traded away young, talented players, like first baseman Matt Olson and catcher Sean Murphy, in previous offseasons to save money. As a result, A’s fan attendance is reaching record lows. 

There was discussion of building a new stadium near Oakland called the Howard Terminal project. In early April, the city prevailed in a court case deeming that the project’s environmental impact report was sufficient. This was significant progress for the A’s to get a new ballpark in Oakland, but Fisher still decided to buy land in Las Vegas, which apparently “blindsided” Oakland Mayor Sheng Mao.

“Based on the A’s desire to achieve certainty in 2023, we laid out a detailed and specific plan to bring the project forward to city council vote this summer,” Thao said. “But it has become clear that we are not able to reach acceptable terms and that the A’s are not good partners in the effort.”

Still, the relocation is far from finalized. In a recent article from the Nevada Independent, Nevada Assemblymember Steve Yeager revealed that the state’s legislature could “run out of time” on a potential deal to use public money to help construct the A’s new ballpark in Las Vegas. For the funding to be included in this year’s state budget, the deal would need to be finalized before June 6.

“If something was going to happen, it really should have been in place last week,” Yeager said about getting a deal done for the A’s new ballpark. 

If the A’s and Nevada do not come to a deal by June 6, there is still an opportunity to do so in a “special session” after the deadline. However, Yeager said he would prefer to have a deal done during the regular session. 

Despite this, it seems doubtful that the A’s will stay in Oakland. 

“I think [my] overall reaction is just sad,” Oakland A’s fan Jonah Pelter said when asked what he thought about the potential move. “I really think that Oakland deserves better and the Oakland sports fans [too]. The fans there are die-hard [fans], and they really care about the team and the team’s history, so it’s really sad. I think it is important to note that it’s not official yet, but I think it’s probably 70/30 that they move to Vegas given that the MLB supports the move.”  

The A’s will be in Oakland for the remainder of this season and next season at least, as their lease in Oakland Coliseum will not expire until after the 2024 season. Yet, this remaining time in Oakland seems like it will merely be a shell of what once was as the A’s continue to perform poorly and their fans refuse to support an owner that they feel is abandoning them. 

 

Written by: Patrick Figueroa — sports@theaggie.org