Vote May Force Athletics to Exit Oakland

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Athletics was restless at the end of its 54th season in town. The franchise has been unstable for years in the two-team market. A prominent columnist wrote that relocation seems inevitable and that resisting it will “lead to a dismal mess that prolongs the state of chaos.”

Hall of Fame baseball writer Red Smith put it this way in 1954 when the A’s came to the end of their run in Philadelphia. Now, it’s the same old story in Oakland. As we begin the second half of its 54th season in California, the A’s may seem to be gone.

On Tuesday, the Oakland City Council will vote on the team’s term paper to fund a $12 billion project that will include a new downtown ballpark at Howard Terminal. A yes vote is not binding because an environmental impact report will still need to be approved in the fall. But a vote of no will kill him and signal the end for the Athletics in Oakland.

“If they don’t approve, it’s over,” team president Dave Kaval said in an interview Friday. “Because it’s basically looking at all the different facts and ‘Does this make sense?’ they had the opportunity to understand. We hope it’s a yes, but it’s hard to say with these things. We stay apart.”

Athletics had been desperate for years to leave the quaint Coliseum, which opened for mixed use in 1966 and has been home to the team since 1968. Their lease expires in 2024, so they wouldn’t be leaving right away. If they did, they would most likely end up in the same metropolitan area that attracted the Raiders, their former co-tenant at the Coliseum, to Las Vegas, a new football stadium.

Major League Baseball has given A’s permission to explore options in Las Vegas, which is also home to the NHL’s Golden Knights. Club officials have made several visits to the city, which geographically fits into the American League West.

Commissioner Rob Manfred: “It’s a mistake to think of it as a bluff” Said at the All-Star Game last tuesday. “This is the decision point for Oakland.”

The A’s insist they will not build a new stadium on the Coliseum site, in an industrial area near the airport, next to Interstate 880. They failed in an effort to build near Laney College in Oakland, and the San Francisco Giants blocked their territorial rights from moving the A’s to San Jose. There is no such problem in the Nevada desert.

“It’s just a different business environment,” Kaval said. “First, there are so many more sites because there is so much more undeveloped land. So I think you would take that as a baseline. Second, there are a lot of people out there who are very interested in baseball because it will bring in a lot of tourists and it will really improve the local economy and generate a lot of taxes and economic activity. ”

Kaval added: “Things like the public-private partnerships they’ve had with the Raiders to fund it, even understanding the best places for land, or partnering with resorts and casinos, these are all things they’re very comfortable with. . That’s why they were pretty aggressive.”

Las Vegas would be the fourth home for the Athletics, which spent a 13-year hiatus in Kansas City before landing in Oakland. Only one team—the Montreal Expos, which became the Washington Nationals in 2005—has changed markets since 1972, but MLB is keen to expand and the A’s have become a permanent roadblock.

The league hasn’t expanded since 1998, and Manfred has repeatedly said the sport will not be able to do it again until stadium issues in Oakland and Tampa Bay are resolved. Added in 1998 along with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Rays are in St. Petersburg, Fla., locked in contracts until 2027, which pushes decisions about their future several years ahead. But moving the A’s to a new ballpark in Oakland or to a new city would be the first step.

“John Fisher and MLB did everything humanly possible to build a stadium in Oakland,” Manfred said, referring to the owner of the Athletics. “At a point where you come to the conclusion that you can’t, whether you like the market or not, you need to find another place to play because you need a facility. It’s that simple.”

A billionaire whose family founded the Gap clothing stores, Fisher has consistently held the franchise in the bottom third of MLB payrolls. The A’s were already largely successful thanks to a front office run by Billy Beane and David Forst, but they were tired of playing in the shadow of the shimmering ballpark that the Giants opened next to Mission Bay in 2000.

“Before it was built, I was running along the seashore and there was nothing there,” Kaval said of the giants park. “It looks a lot like the Oakland coast. And now, a generation later, you have this beautiful baseball park, you have the arena, you have the hospital, you have thousands of homes, including affordable housing. It completely changed the energy of that part of the city. So we’re trying to replicate what has worked before.”

The A-team plan to privately fund the construction of their stadium, as the Giants do, and Manfred said Fisher has committed “over $1 billion”. But the parties still have not agreed on financing for off-site infrastructure improvements, and Kaval on Friday rejected a preliminary contract proposed by the city.

“We can change some things on the extremes,” said Kaval, adding, “They can’t vote yes to something we don’t agree with and they can’t say they got a yes vote.”

Some Asian American community leaders opposed the project, fearing traffic problems in nearby Chinatown, and Kaval acknowledged that some council members had a different vision for the Howard Terminal. The team’s ambitious proposal may not work for everyone.

“And that’s good; “They have to decide what they want,” he said. “But we just need to know. We can’t go sideways.”

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