Looks like Oakland Athletics are following the Raiders to Vegas.
Team president Dave Kaval revealed last night that the A’s have signed an agreement to buy land near the Las Vegas Strip, where they will construct a $1.5 billion, 35,000-seat ballpark, complete with a partially retractable roof.
The site of the ballpark is about a mile away from both Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders (formerly the Oakland Raiders), as well as T-Mobile Arena, home of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.
The team announced the move in a statement that revealed deep-seeded frustrations with the progress of negotiations with the city of Oakland and the state of California:
“The A’s have signed a binding agreement to purchase land for a future ballpark in Las Vegas. We realize this is a difficult day for our Oakland fans and community.
For more than 20 years, the A’s have focused on securing a new home for the Club, and have invested unprecedented time and resources for the past six years to build a ballpark in Oakland. Even with support from fans, leaders at the city, county, and state level, and throughout the broader community, the process to build a new ballpark in Oakland has made little forward progress for some time. We have made a strong and sincere effort to stay here.
We recognize that this is very hard to hear. We are disappointed that we have been unable to achieve our shared vision of a waterfront ballpark. As we shift our focus to Vegas, we will continue to share details about next steps.”
The Oakland A’s have been trying to get a new stadium to replace the aging Oakland Coliseum, which first opened in 1968, for decades. Several plans have fallen through over the years, and in the spring of 2021 MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred suggested that the Athletics begin looking at other cities as plans for a new ballpark continued to stall.
The A’s have been near the bottom of the MLB in attendance for years, and haven’t averaged more than 20k fans per game since the 2015 season. Last year, the team was dead last in attendance, averaging only 9,973 fans per game, and the 2023 season isn’t shaping up to be any better with the team once again at the bottom of the rankings early in the year.
The team also had the lowest opening day payroll in the MLB this year at only $58 million, and currently sit at the bottom of the AL West with a 3-16 record to open the 2023 season.
Kaval said that while the team was initially hopeful to strike a deal with the city to remain in Oakland, they eventually had to turn their attention to Vegas to secure the team’s future:
“For a while we were on parallel paths, but we have turned our attention to Las Vegas to get a deal here for the A’s and find a long-term home. 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.”
But the mayor of Oakland blasted the A’s, claiming that they were merely using Oakland as leverage for their inevitable move to Las Vegas:
“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.
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.”
The team’s lease at the Oakland Coliseum ends at the end of the 2024 season, and they hope to break ground on the new ballpark by next year to move into their new home by 2027.
When the A’s move to Vegas, they’ll become only the first MLB team to relocate since the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals in 2005. Prior to that, it had been over 40 years since a team switched cities, when the Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers in 1972.
The move will leave Oakland without a professional sports team for the first time since the Oakland Raiders were founded in 1960. The city also recently lost the Golden State Warriors, which played its games at Oracle Arena (formerly the Oakland Arena) from 1971-2019 before moving to the Chase Center in San Francisco for the 2019-2020 season.