OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Athletics have signed a binding agreement to purchase land for a new retractable roof ballpark in Las Vegas after being unable to build a new venue in the Bay Area.
Team president Dave Kaval said Wednesday night the team finalized a deal last week to buy the 49-acre site where the A’s plan to build the stadium close to the Las Vegas Strip with a seating capacity of 30,000 to 35,000.
The A’s will work with Nevada and Clark County on a public-private partnership to fund the stadium. Kaval said the A’s hope to break ground by next year and would hope to be move to their new home by 2027.
“It’s obviously a very big milestone for us,” Kaval said. “We spent almost two years working in Las Vegas to try to determine a location that works for a long-term home. To identify a site and have a purchase agreement is a big step.”
The A’s had been looking for a new home for years to replace the outdated and run-down Oakland Coliseum, where the team has played since arriving from Kansas City for the 1968 season. They had sought to build a stadium in Fremont and San Jose before shifting their attention to the Oakland waterfront.
Las Vegas would be the fourth home for a franchise that started as the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901-54.
“We’re turning our full attention to Las Vegas,” Kaval said. “We were on parallel paths before. But we’re focused really on Las Vegas as our path to find a future home for the A’s.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred said in December the A’s would not have to pay a relocation fee if the team moved to Las Vegas.
“We’re past any reasonable timeline for the situation in Oakland to be resolved,” Manfred said then.
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said in a statement that she was disappointed the A’s didn’t negotiate with the city as a “true partner.”
“The city has gone above and beyond in our attempts to arrive at mutually beneficial terms to keep the A’s in Oakland,” she said. “In the last three months, we’ve made significant strides to close the deal. 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.
“I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished as a City, including securing a fully entitled site and over $375 million in new infrastructure investment that will benefit Oakland and its Port for generations to come. In a time of budget deficits, 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.”
The A’s would be only the second MLB team to change cities in more than a half-century. Since the Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers for 1972, the only team to relocate was the Montreal Expos, who became the Washington Nationals in 2005.
The A’s lease at the Coliseum expires after the 2024 season. The A’s has struggled to draw fans to the Coliseum in recent years as owner John Fisher has slashed payroll and many of the team’s most recognizable stars have been traded away.
Oakland had the lowest opening day payroll in baseball at at $58 million — less than the combined salaries of Mets pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, who tied for the major league high of $43.3 million.
The team is 3-16 this season and has been outscored by 86 runs — the worst mark through 19 games since 1899. The average attendance through 12 home games this season is 11,027 for the lowest mark in the majors and less than half of the league average of about 27,800. The A’s haven’t drawn 2 million fans at home since 2014 — their only year reaching the mark since 2005.
If the A’s leave Oakland, the city with a rich sports tradition would have no major pro sports teams with the NFL’s Raiders having moved to Las Vegas in 2020 and the NBA’s Warriors moving across the bay to San Francisco in 2019.
“We know it’s a difficult message for our folks in Oakland,” Kaval said. “Obviously we’re grateful for all the hard work that went into the waterfront. But we have been unable to achieve success or make enough progress.”
Las Vegas is quickly become a sports mecca after years of being considered a pariah because of ties to the gambling industry. With gambling legalized in much of the country, the city now could have a baseball team to join the NHL’s Golden Knights, who began as an expansion team in 2017 and the Raiders.
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Josh Dubow, The Associated Press