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Oakland A’s may move; Las Vegas a potential destination

Updated May 11, 2021 - 9:37 pm

Las Vegas could be the landing spot for the Oakland Athletics, who on Tuesday were given permission by Major League Baseball to explore relocation, according to an ESPN report, which noted the success the NFL’s Raiders and NHL’s Golden Knights have had here.

As was the case when the Raiders relocated to Las Vegas, issues with aging Oakland Coliseum are at the forefront.

“The Oakland Coliseum site is not a viable option for the future vision of baseball,” an MLB statement said. “We have instructed the Athletics to begin to explore other markets while they continue to pursue a waterfront ballpark in Oakland. The Athletics need a new ballpark to remain competitive, so it is now in our best interest to also consider other markets.”

“MLB is concerned with the rate of progress on the A’s new ballpark effort with local officials and other stakeholders in Oakland,” MLB said in a statement to the Review-Journal. “The A’s have worked very hard to advance a new ballpark in downtown Oakland for the last four years, investing significant resources while facing multiple roadblocks.

“We know they remain deeply committed to succeeding in Oakland, and with two other sports franchises recently leaving the community, their commitment to Oakland is now more important than ever.”

The two other teams noted in MLB’s statement are the Raiders, who kicked off their maiden season in Las Vegas last year, and the Golden State Warriors, who moved into the Chase Center in San Francisco in 2019.

Raiders can relate

With the Raiders landing a $2 billion stadium in Las Vegas — $750 million of which was paid for by a Clark County room tax — after failing to strike a deal with Oakland officials to construct a new facility there, Raiders owner Mark Davis said the news of the A’s possibly relocating doesn’t surprise him.

“I hate to say it’s expected, but it’s expected,” Davis said Tuesday. “It’s what we went through. … The government up there is just not capable of putting a deal together that’s win-win. And that’s all you ever look for is win-win.”

MLB and Henderson also have flirted with each other. In 2018 the city made a plan to lure the Arizona Diamondbacks to west Henderson in a proposed $1 billion, 36,000-fan-capacity retractable roof stadium. The deal would have been for a 30-year term, with the stadium being publicly owned, exempt from property tax, the plan stated.

Despite that plan not coming to fruition, Henderson Mayor Debra March said the city could strike up a similar presentation for the A’s.

“We certainly had a proposal that we had put together for the Diamondbacks and we could resurrect that and have a conversation,” March said. “I would be interested in having a conversation, certainly.”

A’s owner John Fisher said in a statement that the team’s success is reliant on a new facility.

“The future success of the A’s depends on a new ballpark,” Fisher said. “Oakland is a great baseball town, and we will continue to pursue our waterfront ballpark project. We will also follow MLB’s direction to explore other markets.”

Justin Berton, spokesperson for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, said the city shares the same urgency as MLB regarding finding the A’s a new home.

“Today’s statement makes clear that the only viable path to keeping the A’s rooted in Oakland is a ballpark on the waterfront,” Berton said in a statement.

Ballpark plan stalled

In November 2018, the A’s announced they had found a waterfront location for their new ballpark that would cost more than $1 billion, with picturesque views of San Francisco, the Bay Bridge and Port of Oakland. The goal had been to open in 2023, but now, even if approved by Oakland’s City Council this summer, it would not be ready until 2027.

“We’re hopeful that our really exciting plan for a waterfront ballpark that’s privately financed will be taken up by the city council,”A’s President Dave Kaval said. “We’re still hopeful that that could get approved, but we have to be realistic about where we are with the timelines.”

Early this year, Kaval asked the City Council, before it breaks for the summer, to make a decision via a vote on a $12 billion privately funded ballpark project and major community development plan featuring $450 million in community benefits, but the team has been given no indication anything is imminent.

The team’s lease at the Coliseum is up in 2024, but the aging venue where the A’s have played since 1968 is already having lighting and flooding issues.

While Las Vegas is considered a potential landing spot for the A’s, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has in the past also mentioned Portland, Vancouver, Nashville, Charlotte and Montreal as potential expansion sites.

The A’s are the parent club of the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators. The minor-league team’s president, Don Logan, said in a statement that the MLB statement doesn’t change the Aviators’ mission.

“We value and enjoy our relationship with the Athletics,” Logan said. “The Aviators’ goal is to continue to provide the best in fun, family-oriented entertainment at Las Vegas Ballpark to the fans of Southern Nevada.

“We will continue to monitor the situation.”

Golden Knights owner Bill Foley said if the A’s were to relocate to Las Vegas he doesn’t see there being a problem of too many sports teams in the valley, especially with the tourism volume the area sees.

“If the A’s actually were to come in that’s another big sports franchise coming into a smaller market,” Foley said. “The one thing about Las Vegas, though, as we come out of the pandemic is there are 42 million or 43 million other visitors a year. That’s what’s really going to make the Raiders a successful team, it’s going to be the other fans coming in to see the Raiders as opposed to a lot of locals going. Locals will be going. They bought tickets, but the same thing will be true to MLB. There would be a lot of people coming from out of town.”

Review-Journal staff writer Vincent Bonsignore and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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