Major League Baseball’s owners have unanimously voted to approve the Athletics’ move from Oakland to Las Vegas, tweets John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. The approval was seen as something of a formality, with little — if any — opposition from the sport’s other owners anticipated.
The Athletics’ current lease at the Coliseum only runs through the end of the 2024 season, which leaves plenty of questions about where the club will play its home games in the interim. Among the potential scenarios that have been discussed are 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 yet final, could see them split their time between multiple sites, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The Athletics plan to build a $1.5 billion stadium with a capacity of 33,000 on the Las Vegas strip, at the site of the Tropicana Casino. That new home, however, is not expected to be ready until the start of the 2028 season.
With the valuation of the Athletics’ franchise slated to rise following the move, Nightengale further reports that the remaining owners included a provision with their vote that team owner John Fisher would be taxed “heavily” on any sale if he ultimately strives to sell the club for an immediate profit. The magnitude of the tax isn’t clear, nor is the length of time for which he’ll need to retain ownership of the team before he is exempt from said taxation. In such an event, the amount that he’s taxed would be divided among the other 29 franchises.
It’s the first relocation of any Major League team since the Expos moved from Montreal to Washington D.C. in 2005 (and, of course, became the Washington Nationals). The move from Oakland to Vegas, while still not yet 100% official — hurdles remain to be cleared with the funding and construction of the new facility — will bring a 55-year run in Oakland to an end and leave Northern California as the sole territory of the cross-bay Giants.
The Athletics’ stadium outlook and potential relocation bid has been an ongoing source of drama over the past decade-plus, as the A’s have sought a move from their dilapidated environs in the Coliseum. Previous efforts to move to San Jose were protested by the Giants, claiming that to be an infringement on their territory. The A’s had similarly explored new facilities at various spots around the city, including a new stadium at the current site and, most recently, a new waterfront development in Oakland’s Howard Terminal neighborhood.
Whether those efforts were explored in good faith is debatable; Oakland mayor Sheng Thao has vocally disputed assertions from both Fisher and MLB commissioner that the Howard Terminal scenario was pursued to its fullest extent — instead contending that Fisher never had interest in remaining in Oakland and had been intent on a Vegas move all along.
Regardless, at this point in the process it’s largely a moot point. The move to Oakland is overwhelmingly likely at this point, marking the third recent loss of a major sports franchise for the city of Oakland, which has seen the NBA’s Warriors move across the bay to San Francisco and the NFL’s Raiders move to Las Vegas. The city of Las Vegas, meanwhile, has seen an influx of professional sports teams in recent years. In addition to the Raiders and the likely move of the Athletics, the NHL’s Golden Knights expansion franchise joined the league in 2017.
Heading into the 2024 season, A’s fans will be in an odd position — knowing full well that the relocation they’ve dreaded now looms and facing limited opportunities to cheer on the club they’ve followed for more than five decades (their entire lives, in many instances). At the same time, many will be loath to offer their money to further support an ownership group by whom they understandably feel jilted and betrayed. Beyond that, the team made little effort to field anything resembling a competitive product in recent years, tearing down the core of a team that went 316-230 from 2018-21 and made the playoffs on three straight occasions — including consecutive 97-win campaigns in 2018-19.
That slate of trades hasn’t produced any meaningful level of talent, and payroll has remained near the bottom of the league. Last year’s A’s flirted with a pace for the worst record in MLB history for the season’s first few months, and there’s no indication that ownership will approve any pushes to remedy the situation by allotting more resources to its baseball operations staff this offseason. It’s a bleak time for the Oakland faithful, as the book on their stay in the Bay Area is now on the cusp of closing with an unsatisfying and tumultuous final chapter.