TODAY: Oakland vice-mayor Rebecca Kaplan has requested that the Oakland City Council vote on the Athletics’ ballpark term sheet on July 20, according to Matt Kawahara and Sarah Ravani of The San Francisco Chronicle. The City Council also sent a letter to Major League Baseball on Friday stating that “The Oakland City Council is committed to negotiating in good faith for a strong future for the A’s in Oakland, and we invite the A’s and MLB to do the same by agreeing not to seek relocation while the A’s complete the project process as the Council moves forward.”
The letter also feels there was some “incorrect information” within MLB’s statement, noting that the Council has not been “delaying or refusing to consider the A’s project proposal.” The letter also questioned MLB’s designation of the Coliseum as “not a viable option,” referring to that statement as an “unsupported conclusion.”
“In any case, we hope you will understand that the shifting ‘demands’ on what Oakland must do, combined with your public threat to allow the team to leave, even while the City is undertaking the items that you and the A’s have urged, might leave the impression that there never has been any good faith intent on your part to work on a future ballpark in Oakland. However, we remain open to working together. It is possible that you didn’t intend to threaten relocation from a city, in the absence of that city’s leadership even being given an opportunity to consider a proposal from the team.”
MAY 11: As the Athletics await a decision from the city of Oakland regarding their proposed $12 billion mixed-use development, which includes a new waterfront stadium at Oakland’s Howard Terminal, Major League Baseball has encouraged them to look into the possibility of relocation, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports. The team’s preference is and has been to remain in Oakland, but Passan’s report suggests that at the behest of the league, they’ll at least look into alternatives, with Las Vegas the “likeliest possibility” if relocation is the ultimate outcome.
It’s hardly the first time that we’ve seen a major sports franchise threaten relocation as a means of ratcheting up pressure on local government to approve a new stadium deal. Major League Baseball’s statement on the matter suggests that the current Oakland Coliseum site “is not a viable option for the future vision of baseball” and suggests that the A’s “need a new ballpark to remain competitive.”
Indeed, recent issues with the lighting, 2016’s sewage fiasco, and myriad other issues with the facility have underscored the park’s dilapidated inadequacies. But the viability of a new park at the current site and the Athletics’ purported “need” for a new park at a new site (and the associated real estate benefits) in order to compete are more debatable. Athletics owner John Fisher echoed the league’s statement, claiming that the “future success of the A’s depends on a new ballpark.” President Dave Kaval made a similar statement.
It’s perhaps not a coincidence that the “likeliest possibility” is said to be Las Vegas — the same city to which Oakland and its fans already lost the NFL’s Raiders and one of commissioner Rob Manfred’s oft-cited locations for potential expansion. It is, in fact, the second time in the past three years that the league has threatened to move the team away from Oakland and into Vegas; Manfred himself directly raised the possibility with the city of Oakland back in October 2019. Whether the threat of a move is actually real remains to be seen. As many have rightly pointed out, relocating a team or creating an expansion club in Vegas (or Charlotte, Nashville, or any other regularly mentioned site) would lessen the leverage for current clubs when haggling over new stadiums.
The Athletics’ lease at their current stadium runs through the 2024 season. They’ve spent several years exploring potential sites in Oakland and around the Bay Area but incurred various roadblocks that have torpedoed those efforts. The current proposal includes $1 billion of private funding for construction of the park itself, but Passan quotes a spokesperson from the Oakland mayor’s office indicating that the team’s request for public funding elsewhere in the proposal is “at the high end of projects of this type nationwide.”