The Oakland Athletics’ planned relocation to Las Vegas cleared another hurdle on Thursday morning, as USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that Major League owners have voted unanimously to approve the move.
Official: The A’s are moving to Las Vegas. Unanimous vote— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) November 16, 2023
There’s still much to be sorted out here — first and foremost: working out the details on a new ballpark in Vegas, public funding for which is currently facing legal challenge from a Nevada teachers union — but it does signal the league’s confidence that a deal between the state and A’s owner John Fisher will eventually get done. The cost of said ballpark is estimated at nearly $1.5 billion, with public financing covering $380 million and John Fisher covering the rest. (Fisher is also believed to be looking for minority investors, hoping to generate some $500 million toward stadium costs by valuing the A’s at $2 billion and selling 25% of the team.)
This doesn’t close the book for good on baseball in Oakland, as Fisher and the team have been targeting 2028 for their first season in Vegas. Among the team’s options for a temporary home in the interim: a short-term lease to stay in the Oakland Coliseum, like the Raiders did before their own move to Sin City; convincing the Giants to share Oracle Park in San Francisco; or even using current Triple-A ballparks in Vegas or Sacramento. They could even split their last few seasons between multiple stadiums, as the Expos played home games in both Montreal and Puerto Rico in their final two seasons before moving to Washington, D.C.
Regardless of the timeline, though, this appears to be the end of an era that saw four World Series championships and Hall of Famers like Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson, Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley. Fans in Oakland have put up a heck of a fight over the past year or so, turning out to the moribund Coliseum to show the love they still had for their team despite an ownership group that’s had eyes on moving elsewhere more or less from the moment they took over. But Fisher and the city could never see eye-to-eye on finding a new ballpark in Oakland: In a two-decade search, the A’s also explored ballpark opportunities around the Coliseum site, in downtown Oakland, at the Oakland waterfront, and in suburban Fremont.
Of course, whether those negotiations were ever really in good faith was another matter entirely. Fisher has been slowly bleeding the franchise dry over the last decade or so, putting a miserable product on the field while raising ticket prices, letting the Coliseum deterioriate and arguing that only a new stadium could deliver enough revenue to support reinvesting in payroll. Fisher had the chance to sell the A’s to other interested parties in Oakland; Warriors owner Joe Lacob has long said he would buy the team and keep them in the East Bay, while Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said other parties that were “viable and willing to buy” had told her they would do the same.
Finally, earlier this year, Fisher announced that the team would be negotiating exclusively with Las Vegas — a city with a transient population, a crowded entertainment scene that now boasts two other professional franchises and would be MLB’s smallest media market. But unlike Oakland, Vegas was willing to give Fisher what he really wanted: Within two months, and with help from an army of Nevada lobbyists, the state and the A’s had reached agreement on significant public funding for a new ballpark.
The move would be the fourth in A’s history, a record for a Major League franchise. The team began life as the Philadelphia Athletics way back in 1901 — one of the American League’s eight charter members — then moved to Kansas City in 1955 before heading west to Oakland in 1968. It would also be the fourth and final major sports team to leave the city, after the Warriors bailed in 2019, the Raiders left in 2020 and the NHL’s California Golden Seals moved from Oakland to Cleveland in 1976.