November 16, 2023 - 9:01 pm
Major League Baseball owners on Thursday unanimously approved the relocation of the Oakland A’s to Las Vegas, moving the team a step closer to calling Southern Nevada home. It’s the latest development in the remarkable evolution of a city once scorned by professional sports leagues.
As little as a dozen years ago, the “stigma” of legalized gambling dominated the conversation about Las Vegas as a potential landing site for a major sports franchise. But such hypocritical moralizing evaporated as legal gaming became more prevalent across the land and owners saw dollar signs and opportunity in Southern Nevada.
The Vegas Golden Knights came first as a wildly successful NHL expansion team in 2017. The Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA relocated here from San Antonio just a year later. The NFL — which 20 years ago banned ads promoting Las Vegas from its Super Bowl telecast — followed in 2020, moving the Oakland Raiders here.
The Oakland A’s are next in line.
The vote of MLB owners went as expected. Commissioner Rob Manfred had been a vocal champion of the plan, and the A’s have spent the past 20 years battling the city of Oakland over a new stadium. Their relocation would mark the first move of an MLB franchise since the Montreal Expos packed up for Washington, D.C., to become the Nationals in 2005.
Approval by the owners is a significant step, but there is much to be done. Plans are to build the new stadium on the southwest corner of Tropicana and the Strip for use beginning in 2028. The team must now get serious about design and construction on the nine-acre parcel, particularly given that the 33,000-capacity ballpark probably will need a retractable roof to accommodate fans during the summer heat.
There are naysayers, of course. Oakland fans are understandably angry. The Nevada State Education Association threatens to qualify a ballot question to invalidate the $360 million in public financing for the $1.5 billion stadium project, but that quixotic effort is a long shot. Others gripe that Las Vegas will be the smallest MLB television market. But given the success of the Raiders, Aces and Golden Knights, that concern is overblown.
As the process moves forward, the A’s must determine where to play home games after their Oakland Coliseum lease expires following the 2024 season and before the Las Vegas stadium is completed. This should be an easy call. The franchise’s AAA affiliate plays in one of the best minor league stadiums in the country at the Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin. It would be a fine temporary home — and also help the team cultivate local fans.