MLB owners agree to A’s move to Las Vegas amid questions about funding and fans

After more than half a century in Oakland and more than a decade of public feuding with a city that loved them dearly, the Athletics can officially move to Las Vegas. The 29 other major league owners approved the move unanimously Thursday morning at meetings in Texas.

The Athletics will be the first team to relocate since the Montreal Expos moved their stadium to Washington and became the Nationals prior to the 2005 season. Previously, the most recent team to relocate was the Senators, who moved from Washington to Texas in 1972.

Moving is never fun and often scars baseball fandoms for generations (see also: Dodgers, Brooklyn). But this situation was particularly painful for Oakland fans, who watched as A’s owner John Fisher, over the course of several years, withdrew already limited investment in his squad, turning a once plucky organization that won on a tight budget into one that traded anyone who started earning money. several million dollars, thus filling rival rosters with stars that Oakland developed but chose not to pay.

At the same time, Fisher became involved in a protracted argument with Oakland officials over public financing for a new stadium, even though Fisher insisted each time that the city had never actually presented a credible proposal. All the while, the Oakland Coliseum was falling apart, leading to MLB issuing an ultimatum: Either the A’s win the contract to build a new stadium by 2024, or they lose the revenue-sharing money they believe will keep their organization afloat.

The A’s currently have a contract to build a stadium in Las Vegas that includes $380 million in public funding to build a ballpark near the Strip that is valued at $1.5 billion. But the approval for public funding, signed by Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) in June, didn’t come easy and can’t be left without a fight: Nevada’s teachers union files a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of using public stadium funding amid gaps in the state’s education system, though it is unclear when this case will be resolved.

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Even if everything goes according to plan – and not much has happened during the A’s search for a new stadium – the pitch won’t open until 2028. The A’s lease at the Coliseum expires after next season, meaning the league will have to find a temporary home for the A’s for three seasons. League and team officials said various facilities would be considered for their temporary home, including Oracle Park in San Francisco and the home of the Class AAA Aviators in Oakland.

But it’s unclear how baseball will fare in Vegas, which is rated as the 40th largest media market in the country. according to Nielsenwhen Fisher said he couldn’t survive in Oakland, which is part of the 10th-largest market along with San Francisco.

He certainly isn’t the only one, and MLB isn’t the only league, targeting Las Vegas as a potential untapped market for professional sports. The NHL expanded there with the Golden Knights for the 2017-18 season. The Raiders moved there from Oakland before the 2020 season. The NBA is reportedly targeting Vegas expansion once it adds more teams. The glitz and glamor of the Vegas market has long appealed to all kinds of entertainment industries, and professional sports are the latest trend to follow the bright lights into the desert.

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However, much of Las Vegas’s appeal comes from the millions of tourists who visit each year, which leaves many observers wondering how an everyday sport like baseball, which relies so heavily on the connections of its teams with cities. The Golden Knights, who won the Stanley Cup in the 2022–2023 season, finished last season in 12th place in the NHL league. So far this season, the Raiders’ rate is last in the NFL fans for the match.

Still, Vegas is not without its strong ties to baseball. Greg and Mike Maddux are from Vegas. Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant, Bryson Stott and others have headlined the recent crop of homegrown Vegas stars currently climbing the majors.

“Are they really going to sell out for Friday night?” Harper told The Athletic this summer. “Will it happen? I don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t think anyone knows. … Do you think people will abandon the Cubs or White Sox to become A fans? No way. No chance. But that 5- or 6-year-old in the next 10 years may grow up to be an A fan. In 10 years you may have a lot of fans.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has long said that finding a solution for two of the league’s more outdated facilities, the Rays’ home in St. Petersburg and the A’s in Oakland, it would potentially open the door to expansion. Now the Rays have a deal for a new stadium in St. Petersburg. The A’s are headed to Las Vegas, although no shovels have been driven into the Nevada desert yet. Nashville has long been considered a favorite to be named the next baseball town, and a group of established investors have been lobbying for the team for years. As for other cities on the radar – well, the league would almost certainly listen if an ownership candidate wanted to test Fisher’s claim that baseball won’t survive in Oakland. After all, it had been thriving there for a long time.

Everyone involved in the sport agreed that the Coliseum was too dilapidated to house an MLB club in the long run. Fisher decided he couldn’t afford a new house in Oakland. In that context, Thursday’s unanimous vote was not a declaration that Oakland is not and cannot be a viable market for MLB. Rather, it was a reflection of ownership and management’s feeling that Oakland would not be a profitable market for a John Fisher-owned team. Time will tell if Las Vegas will be possible.


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