The Oakland Athletics are leaving for Las Vegas. President Dave Kaval announced Wednesday night that the team signed a binding agreement to purchase a plot of land near the Las Vegas Strip, which will be the site of the future ballpark.
“For a while we were on parallel paths [with Oakland], but we have turned our attention to Las Vegas to get a deal here for the A’s and find a long-term home,” Kaval told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Wednesday. “Oakland has been a great home for us for over 50 years, but we really need this 20-year saga completed, and we feel there’s a path here in Southern Nevada to do that.”
The purchase agreement is for 49 acres of land owned by Red Rock Resorts. (The purchase price has yet to be reported.) Kaval said the team plans to build a $1.5 billion stadium with a partially retractable roof that can seat 30,000 people, and other development around the stadium — such as restaurants, shops and a movie theater — could be constructed later.
“It’s really exciting to have a site,” Kaval told the Review-Journal. “We’ve spent almost two years doing our due diligence, working with community leaders, elected officials and everyone in town to really determine a location that could be a win for the A’s as well as the community and public officials.”
Oakland mayor Sheng Thao didn't share Kaval's excitement.
"I am deeply disappointed that the A’s have chosen not to negotiate with the City of Oakland as a true partner, in a way that respects the long relationship between the fans, the City and the team," Thao said via Sarah Ravani of the San Francisco Chronicle. "The City has gone above and beyond in our attempts to arrive at mutually beneficial terms to keep the A’s in Oakland. In the last three months, we’ve made significant strides to close the deal. Yet it is clear to me that the A’s have no intention of staying in Oakland and have simply been using this process to try to extract a better deal out of Las Vegas. I am not interested in continuing to play that game — the fans and our residents deserve better.
"I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished as a City, including securing a fully entitled site and over $375 million in new infrastructure investment that will benefit Oakland and its Port for generations to come. In a time of budget deficits, I refuse to compromise the safety and well-being of our residents. Given these realities, we are ceasing negotiations and moving forward on alternatives for the redevelopment of Howard Terminal.”
Velena Jones, a reporter for NBC Sports Bay Area, asked the mayor Thursday if there was anything the A's asked for that the city of Oakland wasn't able to give them. Thao answered with three words: "A blank check."
The Athletics' long stadium saga
The A's have been struggling in Oakland for years due to a crumbling stadium (RingCentral Coliseum) that's nearing its 60th birthday, a team that has frequently been at the bottom of the standings and an owner who hasn't been willing to provide the team the resources it needs to climb out of the basement. The stadium itself has been less-than-welcoming for the past decade, with reports of overflowing sewage and decrepit visitor's facilities coming from ballplayers.
Not surprisingly, fans weren't too keen to spend money on a trip to the Coliseum. Attendance was on the low side prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but once fans were allowed back into ballparks in 2021, they stayed away from Oakland in droves. Average attendance for 2021 and 2022 was fewer than 10,000 fans per home game, at least in part due to an ongoing boycott by some of the team's local fans.
Attendance hasn't improved with the start of the 2023 season. On April 4, their fifth game of the season, the A's drew 3,407 fans. The same night, 11 Triple-A teams had more fans in their ballparks (some twice as many) than the A's did.
Negotiations for a new ballpark in Oakland, which would be part of the $12 billion Howard Terminal project, have been ongoing for several years. The project features a new ballpark on the waterfront, but the city of Oakland approved its version of the project in July 2021 without input from the A's, who had multiple issues they wanted worked out.
Commissioner Rob Manfred, who made a new A's ballpark one of his main priorities, gave the team permission to pursue Las Vegas stadium sites in May 2021. With the Howard Terminal stadium still in limbo, the A's began focusing on Vegas in earnest. According to the Review-Journal, they identified more than 20 possible stadium sites before deciding to focus on areas near the Strip.
When will the Athletics' new ballpark open?
Currently, there is only a loose timeline for the A's to move to Vegas, though the team is working against the clock. MLB set a deadline of 2024 for the A's to get their stadium deal finalized, as that's when their stadium lease runs out for RingCentral Coliseum. But because it appears that a deal is in the offing, it's likely the A's will extend their lease for several years until they can relocate to their new stadium.
There are still several obstacles to be traversed, such as getting 75% of other MLB owners to approve the relocation, but if all goes according to plan, Kaval estimated that the organization could break ground on a new stadium in 2024 and open for the first Vegas season in 2027.