MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is threatening to move the Oakland Athletics to Las Vegas. The warning, designed to get the city of Oakland to drop its lawsuit blocking the sale of the Coliseum, shocked fans who are already mourning the loss of their NFL team to Sin City.
October is shaping up to be a heartbreaking month for Oakland fans. On Oct. 2, Oakland faced Tampa Bay in the AL wild-card game. The A’s, with a home record of 52-29, were the favorite to win at the Coliseum. But Tampa Bay clearly had other plans.
When Tampa Bay’s Yandy Diaz hit a first-inning dinger, the Coliseum fell silent. The eventual 5-1 Rays victory was deja vu all over again for Oakland fans. It was the ninth consecutive loss for Oakland in a win-or-go-home confrontation. Always the bridesmaid in MLB’s post-season nuptials, Oakland hasn’t won a clincher since the 1973 World Series.
Losing the wild-card game was bad enough. But A’s fans were about to learn they could lose their entire team to Las Vegas.
Lawsuit Upends Oakland A’s New Stadium Plans
Earlier this year, the Oakland Athletics unveiled a plan to redevelop the 155-acre Coliseum site to fund a new stadium at Howard Terminal. But first, the A’s would need to buy the Coliseum land, which is currently co-owned by the city of Oakland and Alameda County.
The team reached a deal with the county for $85 million, and was in the process of negotiating for the city’s piece, when news of a lawsuit broke. On Sept. 27, the city of Oakland filed for an injunction to block the county’s sale. On Oct. 1, a judge issued a restraining order, preventing the county from selling its share of the Coliseum land to the Oakland A’s.
The city’s lawsuit argues that before the land can be sold, it must first be considered for low-income housing. The city claims the county failed to fulfill that legal obligation.
Without the land, the A’s may lack the funding to build a new stadium in Oakland. And continuing to play in the ’60s era Coliseum — the last of the old multi-purpose stadiums — isn’t an acceptable Plan B.
Vegas Threat Carries Weight
Threatening to move a major league team like the Oakland A’s to Las Vegas used to be an empty bargaining ploy. Prevailing wisdom didn’t think the tourist-based city had the local base needed to support a major league team. But that all changed in 2017, after the unmitigated success of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.
In 2018, the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars relocated to become the Las Vegas Aces. The NFL’s Oakland Raiders will be the Las Vegas Raiders starting in 2020. Major League Soccer is looking at Las Vegas for possible expansion. And this year, Las Vegas’ minor league baseball team, the Aviators, had the highest MiLB average attendance in the country.
Therefore, when The San Francisco Chronicle broke the story that MLB Commissioner Manfred warned city officials that the Oakland A’s could be relocated to Las Vegas, it was not an empty threat.
Now that Oakland knows what’s at stake, there is pressure to resolve its land issue more amicably. In an Oct. 7 statement, Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan said, “In the interest of reducing strife and litigation, the Oakland City Council has unanimously asked our Administration to meet directly with County leaders, on strategies to resolve issues regarding our shared public property.”