The Oakland Athletics stand to lose $40 million this season, making a move to Las Vegas crucial to the franchise becoming competitive on the field, owner John Fisher told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in a wide-ranging interview about the present and future of the A's.
Fisher, who has rarely commented on the A's struggles in Oakland, said Major League Baseball is in the process of reviewing the team's application for relocation, and he isn't sure how long the approval process will take. And he said it's time for the fans in Oakland to hear directly from him as he prepares to become the third owner to take a team in the past decade — following the Golden State Warriors and Oakland Raiders — out of the city they've called home since 1968.
"It's important that the people hear from me, because at the end of the day that decision is mine," Fisher told the Review-Journal. "That decision needs to be supported by the owners themselves, but in the middle of an application for relocation is a decision that I chose to make.
"So I think it's really important that people hear from me about why that decision was made and what it means."
And while the most fervent A's fans have implored him to sell the team he's owned with partner Lew Wolff since 2005, he said he doesn't intend to do so. Instead, he said he plans to rebuild the downtrodden franchise — in Las Vegas — and reverse its fortunes.
After failing to come to agreement with authorities in Oakland on a new stadium, his family is prepared to make a significant investment in a Las Vegas ballpark.
"The building of a mostly privately financed stadium — my family will invest in excess of a billion dollars in this project and in this stadium — will be the largest amount contributed by a baseball team owner of any stadium built to date," Fisher told the Review-Journal. "We're super excited about the public-private partnership that has been created by the funding from the state and (Clark) county supporting this project."
He continued: "We expect that our revenues will be considerably higher in our new ballpark than they have been to date, and that will enable us to have a higher payroll and keep our young talent around, as opposed to sadly seeing them go to other teams, and it will allow us to be out there signing free agents."
Fisher said he hopes the new stadium will return the A's to their glory days. They last won a World Series in 1989 following three straight from 1972-74.
"The whole reason that we're building a new stadium is so we can have not just a competitive team, but, we hope, a team that can have the kind of success, for example, that the Golden Knights have had, winning the Stanley Cup in six years. If we can win the World Series within our first six years, that would be an incredible goal to have."
In the interview, Fisher denied that the A's front office has deliberately tried not to win to drive the fans away.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," he said. "The A's this year will lose $40 million with a $60 million payroll. And the losses that the ownership has had here with this team over the last several years have been very significant. We have done everything we can to try and build ourselves back up to being a highly competitive team again."
The A's have one year left on their stadium lease in Oakland, and it isn't clear yet where the A's will play until their new ballpark on the Las Vegas Strip is built.
And one more year for hope to spring eternal in the Bay Area.
"We have tremendously passionate fans in Oakland," Fisher told the Review-Journal. "And while our attendance this year has definitely been heavily impacted by all the relocation efforts and by the fact that the team has had an extremely difficult season, in baseball you start out in the spring and there is this incredible amount of hope and rebirth. And every team goes into the first game of the season, following spring training, all tied for first."
—Field Level Media