Updated May 23, 2021 - 2:49 pm
So many questions, so few answers.
Officials from the Oakland Athletics organization will come to Las Vegas this week on a fact-finding mission. They have been given the blessing of Major League Baseball to look at other cities as their decadeslong search for a new ballpark in the Bay Area seems to have stalled.
Are they moving here? Will they build a new ballpark? What will happen to the Aviators?
Whoa. Slow down.
All are good questions, but let’s dive into a few that have been buzzing around social media for two weeks after an ESPN report said Las Vegas was the leading contender to become the new home of the A’s:
Q: Are the Athletics moving here?
A: No one knows. The team has ties here because its Triple-A affiliate is the Aviators, who play in 2-year-old Las Vegas Ballpark.
Q: Why are the A’s considering a move?
A: The club has been trying to move out of Oakland Coliseum — yes, the same place the Raiders left — for nearly two decades. They have floated stadium proposals for several sites around the East Bay, including Fremont, Laney College and now the Howard Terminal area right on the Oakland waterfront facing San Francisco.
Q: Is there a key date that’s important to this courting?
A: Circle July 20 on your calendar. That’s when the Oakland City Council is expected to vote on the Athletics’ billion-dollar ballpark proposal at Howard Terminal that would be surrounded by new retail and housing.
Q: If the A’s move, does Las Vegas have competition?
A: The other cities vying for the team likely would be Charlotte, North Carolina; Montreal; Nashville, Tennessee; Portland, Oregon; and Vancouver, British Columbia. A few of those cities have a solid plan for welcoming a team, but MLB might want to save those cities for expansion teams.
Q: How big of a ballpark would they want to build?
A: Smaller ballparks are the trend in midsized markets. The Tampa Bay Rays proposed a 35,000-seat ballpark in St. Petersburg, Florida. The A’s limit the capacity at Oakland Coliseum to 37,000 by placing tarps on the upper deck.
Progressive Field in Cleveland was downsized to 35,000. LoanDepot Park in Miami is 36,000 seats.
When Henderson tried to lure the Arizona Diamondbacks, its proposal was for a 32,000-seat stadium.
Q: How would the ballpark be paid for?
A: It’s unknown. But the A’s have proposed shelling out $1 billion to build a new stadium at the Howard Terminal site. It’s reasonable to expect them to pay for a healthy portion of a stadium in Las Vegas.
Q: How soon could they move?
A: Their lease at the Oakland Coliseum ends in 2024. However, they have been averaging fewer than 20,000 fans a game for three of the past five seasons — and it’s that many because they sell out when the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox visit.
They have averaged more than 21,000 fans just twice since 2007. As the Review-Journal’s Ron Kantowski wrote, by charging higher ticket prices, the A’s could make as much if not more money by playing for a few seasons at Las Vegas Ballpark, which holds 10,000, than at rundown Oakland Coliseum.
Q: Where would they build a stadium?
A: The buzz is the A’s would be highly interested in building a ballpark along the resort corridor — aka the Strip. The land behind the Paris Las Vegas resort that was used in a failed attempt to attract the Montreal Expos is still vacant. But you also can’t discount Henderson and Summerlin as options.
Q: Would the Aviators have to move?
A: Had this been two years ago, yes, because of MLB’s “Rule 52” that kept minor league teams from locating within 15 miles of a major league club. But Major League Baseball took over Minor League Baseball last year and changed all the rules.
Now, there are Triple-A teams purposely close to their major league affiliates. For example, there’s the St. Paul Saints (Minnesota Twins), Gwinnett Stripers (Atlanta Braves), Tacoma Rainiers (Seattle Mariners) and Sugar Land Skeeters (Houston Astros) within a short drive of their major league affiliates. The Aviators would fit right in.
Q: Could an MLB team thrive here?
A: It’s more difficult to adequately support a Major League Baseball team because there are 81 home games and lots of suites to fill. While most MLB cities have many Fortune 500 companies that fill those suites, tourism officials think an MLB team can be successful in Las Vegas.
Previous MLB exhibition games have drawn sellout crowds, and thousands of people from opposing teams would be likely to visit to enjoy a three-game series and the Strip.
Imagine those Yankees or Red Sox series here.
Q: Are they any downsides to the A’s moving here?
A: There might be a few. The biggest would be on the TV side. The A’s are one of six major league teams — also the Angels, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants and Padres — that claim Las Vegas as home TV territory. If the A’s moved to Las Vegas, they would be the only team allowed to have local TV rights here besides the national games on ESPN and Fox Sports/FS1.
It would be similar to how the Golden Knights took over the NHL broadcast market and disappointed a lot of Kings and Ducks fans, who previously had their games shown in Las Vegas.
Q: What’s the holdup?
A: These things take time. Months. Maybe years. Expect the A’s trip this week to be a glorified meet-and-greet. Should team officials come back after July 20, that’s when things will get serious.
Bill Bradley is the sports editor of the Review-Journal. He can be reached at 702-387-2909 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow billbradleyLV on Twitter.