A's reach deal to play in Sacramento while waiting for Las Vegas stadium

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 02: General view of an Athletics logo tarp covering seats during regular season game between the Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics on July 2, 2023, at RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland, CA. (Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The Oakland A's. The Sacramento A's. The Las Vegas A's. (Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Oakland Athletics are headed to Las Vegas by way of Sacramento.

The team has reached an agreement with the Sacramento Kings, owner of the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats, to play in their stadium from 2024 to 2027 while the A's Vegas stadium is being built, with an option to extend their stay to 2028. The A's will move to Sutter Health Park after their lease in Oakland runs out at the end of the 2024 season.

"We look forward to making Sutter Health Park our home through our move to Las Vegas," A's owner and managing partner John Fisher said in a statement. "We extend our appreciation to the Kings and the City of West Sacramento for hosting the A's while we work to complete our new ballpark in Las Vegas."

During a news conference Thursday, Fisher reflected on his team's new home, a minor-league ballpark that will temporarily become a major-league stadium. He said he can't wait to watch the A's play regular-season games at Sutter Health Park: "being able to watch some of the greatest players in baseball, whether they be Athletics players or Aaron Judge and others, watching home runs out of the most intimate ballpark in all of MLB for the next three years."

Notably, the A's will not be the Oakland A's, the Sacramento A's or the Las Vegas A's while they're in Sacramento. A spokesperson told The Athletic's Evan Drellich that the team will be known as only the Athletics and A's for the interim period.

The deal solves one of the significant remaining questions for the A's as they prepare to pull up roots from Oakland and head for the Las Vegas strip, where the team plans to build a 33,000-seat stadium on the site of the recently closed Tropicana Las Vegas Hotel.

The Athletics' exit from Oakland hasn't been popular

With the Vegas stadium still in the planning stages and bridges burned with the local Oakland government, it was unclear what the A's would do while waiting for construction. Among the options were figuring out a way to remain in Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, getting the San Francisco Giants to share Oracle Park and waiting it all out in Sacramento.

Oakland reportedly offered to bridge the gap with a five-year lease extension earlier this week, though that came with demands, including a $97 million extension fee and requirements that MLB facilitate the sale of the A's to a local ownership group, let Oakland keep the team's name and colors or give Oakland a "one-year exclusive right to solicit ownership of a future expansion team."

This whole process has not been popular, to say the least. The A's have seen a number of fan protests and by far the worst attendance in MLB this season, with nearly empty stands observing one of the league's worst teams.

Even Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg opined that the A's should remain in Oakland, but as it turns out, the city will host the team for the next few years. He released a statement Thursday that reflected his "conflicting emotions" about the situation, reiterating that Oakland should have a team while calling the move "a historic opportunity" for Sacramento.

"Success breeds more success," Steinberg said. "A decade ago, when we united to save the Kings, many of us said yes because we believed it would bring untold benefits to the future of Sacramento. Not only did we keep our NBA team, but now [at least temporarily] we are a Major League Baseball city. There will be more great days to come. It's truly the stuff of dreams."

What will the A's look like in Sacramento?

It's sure to be an awkward situation for the A's in Sacramento, which already hosts the Triple-A River Cats. Sutter Health Park holds a capacity of 14,014, which is smaller than MLB's smallest stadium (the Tampa Bay Rays' Tropicana Field) by more than 10,000 seats.

Of course, it's not like the A's have had to worry much about overly full stadiums.

It's difficult to imagine fans in Sacramento turning out for a team planning to leave in a few years, especially if the Athletics' last years in Oakland are any indication of what's to come. However, the A's have made it quite clear that they're willing to endure some brutal years if it means getting what they want.

It's also hard to envision A's owner John Fisher spending much to improve his team and impress Sacramento, though he might start to care once the Vegas move nears and he faces the prospect of trying to attract locals and tourists to purchase tickets to see one of the most moribund franchises in baseball.