Oakland Athletics’ move to Las Vegas approved by MLB owners

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ARLINGTON, Texas − The Oakland Athletics still don’t exactly know where they’ll be playing the next few years, but in 2028, they will become Las Vegas’ first Major League Baseball team. 

MLB owners voted unanimously Thursday morning to approve A’s owner John Fisher’s relocation proposal to move from Oakland to Las Vegas, becoming the third professional sports franchise to leave Oakland in just the last five years. 

The A’s still have a lease to play in the Oakland Coliseum in 2024, but will not have a permanent home until 2028 when they are expected to move into a $1.5 billion facility on the Las Vegas Strip. 

The A’s told MLB they plan to play in a revolving series of sites until they move, one MLB owner told USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has yet to publicly address the plans. They will play games in Summerlin, Nevada, home of the A’s Triple-A team, Oracle Park in San Francisco, where the San Francisco Giants play, and perhaps also the Coliseum. 

The plan is similar to what the Toronto Blue Jays endured during the pandemic when they played home games in Buffalo and their spring-training facility in Dunedin, Florida. 

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While the A’s franchise is expected to rise in value with suite sales, advertising and ticket revenue from Las Vegas casinos and resorts, MLB owners inserted a binding protection provision in the contract before approving the deal. If Fisher decides to sell the franchise soon after moving to Las Vegas to make an immediate profit, he will be heavily taxed on the sale, which will be split among his fellow MLB owners, according to another owner who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity. 

The relocation vote will bring an end to the A’s 55-year stay in Oakland after city officials and Fisher were unable to reach an agreement after nearly 18 years looking for a new ballpark in the Bay Area. 

“The Oakland thing isn’t sustainable,’’ Dodgers chairman Mark Walter said. “They’ve worked on that a long time. You can’t play in that stadium. They couldn’t get approval. They tried. This wasn’t some head fake. That wasn’t a quick decision.” 

The move allows their rival Giants to now have Northern California to themselves, while the A’s will chip away at the Dodgers’ strong fanbase in Las Vegas, but Walter insists the A’s move is in the best interest of the game. 

“We’re the No. 1 revenue team in the National League,’’ Walter said. “I’m not against the Giants making money. … 

“Hopefully it’ll be good for fans, right? A lot of people can say, ‘Hey, we should go to Vegas for the weekend and see whoever they play.’” 

The most heartbreaking aspect of the move, the owners have all been saying this week at their meetings, is for the passionate A’s fans. They may be small in number, but they’ve been passionate, with Fisher even speaking to three protesters this week who have vigorously lobbied for the team to stay, even sending DVDs, messaging from the Oakland mayor to personalized baseball cards to owners. 

Stu Sternberg, principal owner of the Tampa Bay Rays, says he can certainly relate. The Rays have been trying to reach an agreement with Tampa Bay officials for about two decades to build a new ballpark, and have a handshake deal for a $1.3 billion facility in St. Petersburg in 2028. 

“It’s not always easy, believe me,’’ Sternberg said. “I can’t put myself in their shoes. I know they tried really hard. Anybody would try to avoid what they’ve had to go through. It’s tough.’’ 

Dave Stewart, the A’s legendary pitcher and World Series MVP, who was born and raised in Oakland, says that he feels for everyone in the community. He wanted to purchase the A’s if Fisher had ever wanted to sell it, and even tried to buy the land at the Oakland Coliseum from the Oakland City Council, with plans to develop the site and perhaps even build a ballpark for the A’s. He’s left now spending his efforts trying to have an expansion team in Nashville, Tennessee, with MLB expected to expand by two teams perhaps by 2028 or 2029. 

“The [Oakland] City Council has as much to blame for this as the A’s,’’ Stewart told USA TODAY Sports in a telephone interview. “If you put two sides in a room, you should be able to get something done, and after all of these years, nothing changed. There should have been a middle ground. I always felt like they could get something done, and after all of these years, nothing happened. 

“This is going to be so damaging to the city of Oakland. The city of Oakland is in pretty bad shape economically with the crime, homelessness. They needed an economic driver like the A’s. I saw the Raiders leave, and the [Golden State] Warriors leave, but I thought the A’s would be there forever. 

“This is heart-breaking for me, just heart-breaking.’’ 

Oakland will begin lobbying MLB to be a candidate for expansion, according to Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao.

“We are disappointed by the outcome of this vote,’’ Thao said in a statement. “ But we do not see this as the end of the road. We all know there is a long way to go before shovels in the ground and that there are a number of unresolved issues surrounding this move.

“I have also made it clear to the Commissioner that the A’s branding and name should stay in Oakland and we will continue to work to pursue expansion opportunities. Baseball has a home in Oakland even if the A’s ownership relocates.”

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This post appeared first on USA TODAY