One city’s trash is Las Vegas’ treasure. The Oakland Coliseum has been a steaming pile of a ballpark for decades. After numerous skirmishes with the city over Byzantine budgets, funding, public subsidies, and potential sites for a new Oakland-area stadium, the Athletics announced the purchase of 49 acres of land on the Las Vegas Strip. The land, a mile north of Allegiant Stadium — home of the Raiders — will eventually be used to develop a luxurious 30 to 35,000-seat $1.5 billion stadium on the Las Vegas Strip.
While the land purchase agreement is not a stadium deal, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the A’s have the option to purchase an additional eight acres at a later date. However, for all intents and purposes, this is Oakland’s final chapter for major professional sports as well. In 2019, the Golden State Warriors relocated from Oakland’s Oracle Arena to the Chase Center in San Francisco and later that year, the Raiders played their final game amid a chorus of boos in the Oakland Coliseum. There’s nothing left to be pilfered.
Sewage slipping into dugouts, a substandard locker room, and persistent rally possums taking refuge inside broadcast booths have made the Coliseum a miserable stadium to play or attend games in. Nashville, Portland, and Montreal — which of course once housed an MLB team — had been discussed as possible destinations for the A’s in the past. However, the Las Vegas Aviators have been their official Triple-A affiliate since 2019. In December, Commissioner Rob Manfred revealed that the A’s were focusing their attention on a deal with Las Vegas while the Oakland city government transitioned to new leadership following the election of its new mayor, Sheng Thao.
In many respects, the Athletics have been the antithesis of their equally destitute East Coast counterparts in Tampa Bay. While The Rays have managed to defy the odds and contend with a meager payroll, Oakland and Billy Beane have let themselves get flabby and have been living off their Moneyball reputation for much of the decade since the heights of Aaron Sorkin depicting them as a spunky sabermetrics success story.
Instead, A’s owner John Fisher borrowed the plot of Major League, gutted the roster, and presented the city of Oakland with a detestable product while he flirted with other cities. Currently fielding the worst team in Major League Baseball and simultaneously a farm system barren of talent, the Athletics couldn’t be exiting at a lower moment.
Funding, politics holding up new stadium negotiations
Local politics and disputes over funding have plagued the A’s negotiations for a new stadium since the dawn of the millennium and in response to the A’s announcement, Oakland’s mayor questioned the motives of an organization that’s had its bags packed in the corner for the past few seasons while he naively worked on a deal involving a $12 billion Howard’s Terminal complex.
“Yet, it is clear to me that the A’s have no intention of staying in Oakland and have simply been using this process to try to extract a better deal out of Las Vegas. I am not interested in continuing to play that game — the fans and our residents deserve better,” Thao said in a statement, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Added Thao, “I am deeply disappointed that the A’s have chosen not to negotiate with the City of Oakland as a true partner, in a way that respects the long relationship between the fans, the City and the team.
“In a time of budget deficits,” Thao’s statement continued, “I refuse to compromise the safety and well-being of our residents. Given these realities, we are ceasing negotiations and moving forward on alternatives for the redevelopment of Howard Terminal.”
And just like that, the Oakland A’s separation from their home of the past six decades has kicked into high gear. The A’s battles with local city government are in stark contrast to the ebullient message they received from Vegas mayor Joe Lombardo.
“Welcoming the A’s to Las Vegas would be great news for Southern Nevada as well as our entire state,” he said in a statement. “The prospect of bringing new jobs, more economic development, and an exceptional MLB team to Las Vegas is exciting on many levels. As we continue to navigate this opportunity, I’m in regular communication with the A’s, Major League Baseball, legislative leadership, and local and state stakeholders.”
The next phase of the A’s is actually designing and funding a (domed) stadium in the Vegas desert. Whether or not, Sin City can support an MLB team isn’t the question. It’s whether their penny-pinching management is equipped to build a winner that can actually become an attraction in a city of distractions.
Follow DJ Dunson on Twitter: @cerebralsportex