In a meeting last week, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred threatened that the Oakland A’s would move to Las Vegas if the City of Oakland did not drop a lawsuit against Alameda County regarding a dispute over redevelopment of the Oakland Coliseum property. The threat was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday. Today Oakland’s mayor confirmed the story.
The A’s, as you know, have been endeavoring to get a new ballpark for years and years. The latest plan involves them building a park on the Oakland waterfront. Part of their effort involves acquiring all or at least part of the land on which the city/county owned Oakland Coliseum currently sits and develop the land commercially. Alameda County, part owner of the land, was on board with this and moved to sell its ownership stake in the Coliseum to the A’s. The City of Oakland is opposed to selling to the A’s and has sued to stop the transaction. Manfred’s threat was, basically, drop this suit, Oakland, or the A’s will pursue other options.
This story brings together multiple recent developments, all of which have a big impact on Major League Baseball and professional sports at larges:
The Raiders playing their final season in Oakland before moving to Las Vegas, so the threat to move the A’s to Vegas carries with it some added baggage;
Las Vegas area officials openly courting Major League Baseball, with one Las Vegas suburb — Henderson — recently approaching the Arizona Diamondbacks; and
Major League Baseball has been partnering with casinos and other gambling interests, making a team’s relocation to Las Vegas suddenly seem far less far-fetched than it might have just a couple of years ago.
It also, above all else, plays out against the backdrop of Major League Baseball increasingly looking to real estate development as an important ancillary revenue source — and in some cases a primary revenue source — for its clubs. It’s not enough for them to be given public assistance to build new ballparks. They also want gifts or, at the very least, sweetheart deals on real estate too, so baseball team owners can also become developers of mixed-use business centers featuring bars, restaurants, condos and, er, um, elevator testing facilities.
Will Oakland call Rob Manfred’s bluff. If, indeed, it is a bluff? Guess we’ll find out.