The Athletics’ proposed move from Oakland to Las Vegas was approved by Major League Baseball owners on Thursday. Owners met this week in Arlington, Texas, and at least 75% of them needed to sign off on the report submitted to them by MLB’s relocation committee. No owner opposed the move. Given that commissioner Rob Manfred has already voiced support for the A’s move, such support always seemed highly likely.
The A’s are set to become the first MLB team to relocate since 2005, when the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals. The A’s lease at their current home, the Oakland Coliseum, expires after the 2024 season. They A’s could wind up playing in multiple locations before they move into their new stadium in Las Vegas in 2028.
“I know this is a terrible day for fans in Oakland,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters Thursday. “I understand that. That’s why we always had a policy of doing everything humanly possible to avoid a relocation, and I truly believe we did that in this case.”
Approval by John Fisher’s fellow owners is one of the final hurdles to his bid to move the franchise to Nevada, but it is perhaps not the most significant remaining checkpoint. Fisher still must secure private financing for his share of stadium construction costs, and given the dubious nature of some facets of the project nothing is to be assumed on that front.
Indeed, the A’s are proposing to move from a shared spot in one of the league’s largest markets, the Bay Area, to what would be the league’s smallest market. As well, the projections put forward by the A’s lean heavily on tourism, and in Las Vegas there is intense and crowded competition for the discretionary dollars of visitors.
Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo signed a $380 million public funding bill back in mid-June as a means of luring the Athletics to town. The bill’s actual cost will likely exceed $380 million, explained Neil deMause. The entire ballpark project is expected to cost more than $1 billion, which means Fisher still has a great deal of heavy lifting in front of him to reach viability.
Private financiers will likely be much less inclined to wave away those core market concerns than Fisher’s fellow owners seem to be. That’s the necessary context even as the relocation effort takes the next step.
“Today marks a significant moment for our franchise, and it’s met with mixed emotions – sadness for this change and excitement for our future. I know this is a hard day for our fans in Oakland,” Fisher said in a statement. “We made sincere efforts to keep our team in Oakland, but unfortunately, it did not work out. I am grateful to the fans who have supported our team throughout the years and the home Oakland provided. The storied history of our franchise includes three cities over the past century: Oakland, along with Kansas City and Philadelphia, will always be part of this franchise’s DNA.
The A’s could become the fourth major professional sports team in Las Vegas, joining the NFL’s Raiders, NHL’s Golden Knights and WNBA’s Aces. All of those franchises began play in Vegas in 2017 or later.