Vegas’ competition for the A’s: Several cities in the running
If the Oakland Athletics move, Las Vegas would have plenty of competition to land the franchise.
Las Vegas is in the mix to acquire another professional sports franchise from Oakland, California, with the Athletics of Major League Baseball exploring the option of following the Raiders here.
The A’s have received permission from MLB to explore a move after their attempts to build a stadium to replace the aging RingCentral Coliseum have stalled.
Here is how Las Vegas compares with other cities MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has mentioned as possible landing spots for the A’s if they are unable to work with the city of Oakland to build a new stadium.
The cities are listed alphabetically.
Charlotte, North Carolina
■ Metropolitan population/rank (2019 estimate): 2.64 million/22nd.
■ Stadium situation: If there are plans to build a stadium, it’s a well-kept secret. Seven-year-old Truist Field is one of the top parks in minor league baseball, but could not expand enough to host a major league club.
■ Other major pro teams and their support: The NFL’s Panthers averaged 72,220 fans in 2019, the last season before the COVID-19 pandemic, ranking eighth in the NFL. That was far better than the NBA’s Hornets, who have struggled on the court and at the gate. Their 15,438 average crowd in 2019-20 was tied with the Detroit Pistons for 28th in the 30-team league. But Charlotte has shown it can support baseball — the Knights regularly rank among the top Triple-A attractions.
■ Pros: The Triple-A Knights led the minor leagues in attendance four times from 2014 to 2018. Charlotte also is one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities.
■ Cons: It’s questionable whether anyone is willing to step up financially to attract a major league team. There also doesn’t seem to be much interest from governmental leaders to make such a push.
■ Metropolitan population/rank (2019 estimate): 2.27 million/28th.
■ Stadium situation: Henderson put together plans for a $1 billion stadium in 2018 to try to entice the Arizona Diamondbacks. Mayor Debra March said she could pull out those files again, but could have competition within the valley. Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she has been in discussions with the A’s since 2019. Cashman Field, the former home of what’s now called the Aviators, could be a site for a stadium with a retractable roof.
Other major pro teams and their support: The Golden Knights play before one of the NHL’s most rabid fan bases, and the NFL’s Raiders quickly sold out of personal seat licences before it was known they wouldn’t play before home fans last season.
The WNBA’s Aces have a devoted core of fans, but need to grow beyond the 4,669 average from two seasons ago. They are favored to win the league title this season, which could create more interest. The Aces also are under new ownership with the Raiders’ Mark Davis, who is investing in a new training facility.
The Aviators, the Athletics’ Triple-A affiliate, showed what a move to a sparkling new stadium could mean when in 2019 they led the minor leagues with 9,299 fans per game, nearly double over their final season at Cashman.
■ Pros: The fan support is there for the Knights and Raiders, and tourists would surely include Athletics games in their travel plans when visiting Las Vegas.
■ Cons: Get outside the valley and civilization quickly disappears, unlike other markets where small and medium-sized cities sit within an hour or two of metropolitan areas. It raises the question of whether Las Vegas has the population base to support a third pro team.
■ Metropolitan population/rank (2020 estimate): 4.36 million/second (in Canada).
■ Stadium situation: A 40-acre plot of land is the discussed site for a potential stadium. Lobbyists are urging government officials to come up with funding to help support the project, and Quebec premier François Legault said he’s open to it.
■ Other major pro teams and their support: The Canadiens are the NHL’s most successful franchise with 23 Stanley Cups, and to say fans care about their Habs is like noting Las Vegas summers are a little uncomfortable.
Montreal might be getting the Rays, at least on a timeshare basis with Tampa Bay. The Rays have proposed building open-air, 30,000-seat stadiums in Tampa Bay and Montreal — cheaper than larger, domed venues — and beginning in 2024 playing the first half of the season in Florida and the second half up north with a long-term commitment to both cities.
Momentum for a new stadium is much further along in Montreal than Tampa Bay, so it’s possible — perhaps likely — the Rays move to Canada full time when their lease with Tropicana Field expires after the 2027 season.
Montreal’s MLS team, the Impact, ranked sixth from the bottom in attendance two years ago, drawing an average of 16,171.
■ Pros: Lack of fan support wasn’t the main reason Montreal lost the Expos after the 2004 season, at least not initially. They drew 1.3 million fans before the strike ended the 1994 season in August, and their 74-40 record was baseball’s best. But then the organization slashed payroll before the players returned in 1995, and attendance immediately dropped. The Expos failed to draw 1 million fans seven of their next nine seasons. They lobbied for a new stadium to no avail, but now signs point to one being built.
■ Cons: Well, a stadium needs to get built. Without that, there is no hope for a team.
■ Metropolitan population/rank (2019 estimate): 1.93 million/36th.
■ Stadium situation: Music City Baseball, a group pushing for a stadium, released renderings of a park next to the Nissan Stadium, where the NFL’s Titans play. However, Titans CEO Burke Nihill told a Nashville radio station in September that site was not acceptable. Singing star Justin Timberlake and baseball executive Dave Dombrowski have joined the cause to build a stadium, but project managing director John Loar told The Tennessean that it was still early in the process and two other sites also are being considered.
■ Other major pro teams and their support: After years of sellouts, attendance for Titans games has slipped to the more moderate level in recent seasons compared to other NFL teams. But Nashville’s support of the NHL’s Predators is strong, and home games often feel like parties. The Triple-A Sounds play at First Horizon Park, which was built in 2015. They drew an average attendance of 8,631 in 2019, third highest in the minor leagues.
Nashville SC played its first MLS season last year, making its debut before 59,069 fans at Nissan Stadium not long before COVID forced the league’s teams to play before limited or no fans. Nashville is again playing at Nissan Stadium, but is scheduled to open a 30,000-seat soccer-dedicated facility next year.
■ Pros: Similar to Las Vegas, locals back their NFL and NHL teams, and the city is a popular tourist destination. But unlike Las Vegas, it has a more diverse corporate presence.
■ Cons: Similar to Las Vegas, is there enough of a population base to support a third major pro team?
■ Metropolitan population/rank (2019 estimate): 2.49 million/25th.
■ Stadium situation: Nike can help get the financing done, which could be enough to finish the push to build a stadium. The Portland Diamond Project, which includes Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife and singer Ciara, has put together renderings for a $1 billion project along the Willamette River.
■ Other major pro teams and their support: The Trail Blazers compete in one of the NBA’s most raucous arenas. Portland’s former Triple-A baseball team, the Beavers, relocated after the 2010 season. The Hillsboro Hops, a Single-A team in a Portland suburb, began play there in 2013.
■ Pros: Portland has shown it can support its basketball and soccer teams — the Timbers ranked fourth in attendance in the MLS in 2019 — and moving the A’s up the Pacific Coast would give the Seattle Mariners more of a natural rival. And did we mention Nike?
■ Cons: Portland loves sports, but its love of baseball is uncertain. Then there’s the question of whether the Mariners would agree to share the broadcast territory.
Vancouver, British Columbia
■ Metropolitan population/rank (2020 estimate): 2.74 million/third (in Canada).
■ Stadium situation: The Arizona Diamondbacks checked out B.C. Place Stadium three years ago as a temporary option should issues with their stadium not be addressed. But there isn’t a permanent baseball-only stadium, and no signs there will be one.
■ Other major pro teams and their support: Canucks fans support their NHL team, averaging 18,679 in 2019-20, ninth in the league. Vancouver is home to the Single-A Canadians baseball team. The MLS’ Whitecaps were 11th in attendance in 2019 with a 19,514 average.
■ Pros: Vancouver’s short-season Single-A team averaged 6,210 fans in 2019, a big number for that level. So there’s a clear baseball passion in the city. Having a major league team also sets up a nice rivalry with Seattle.
■ Cons: Losing the NBA’s Grizzlies in 2001 doesn’t help the argument for a team, though that failure had more to do with ownership issues than a lack of fan support.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.