Is the potential move to Las Vegas worth the gamble?

A photo of the Oakland Coliseum

It’s starting look more likely that the Oakland Athletics aren’t going to be in Oakland for much longer; last week, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission’s Seaport Planning Advisory Committee voted 5-4-1 against removing port priority use at the proposed new ballpark site at Howard Terminal close to downtown Oakland, and a final vote will be held on 2 June. Without this approval, the Howard Terminal site cannot move forward.

There have also been numerous reports since last year that Athletics management has been scoping out potential ballpark sites in the Las Vegas valley, with team president Dave Kaval even confirming himself last month that the team has put offers in on four sites in Vegas.

It’s not looking good, with Kaval also confirming in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle that the recent trades of Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and Chris Bassitt (which I will address in my 2022 season preview on the A’s) have much to do with the O.co not generating enough income.

For fans like me that want to see the A’s stay in Oakland, it’s a sad situation then; one of the A’s big marketing messages the last few years is that it is #RootedInOakland, and that is very much part of its charm – it’s a smaller club located in a smaller city that does a lot to help the community it sits in. Even if I wasn’t a fan of the team, from a purely idealistic POV, I’d want the A’s to stay where they are.

The same sentiments are true when speaking to other A’s fan as well; Oakland native Juan Toscano-Anderson of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors – who themselves recently moved from Oakland to a new arena in San Francisco – was asked about the A’s potentially leaving Oakland by ABC7 News’ Casey Pratt last week. Check out the eloquent, well-informed response of someone who is clearly a long-time and passionate A’s fan in the video below;

JTA wants the A’s to stay in Oakland too

I was also talking to a fellow A’s fan – the father of the guy who took me to the O.co for my first baseball game – recently. He still lives in the East Bay and has been following the A’s since 1968, when the team relocated to Oakland. When I asked him outright if he would still support the A’s if they moved to Las Vegas, his answer was that more than likely he no longer would, in spite of how long he had supported them and how much he loves baseball. He also said the same was true of others, giving the example of his next-door neighbour, who was also an A’s fan and had been a hugely-committed member of the Oakland Raiders’ famous Black Hole when they played in the Oakland Coliseum. When the Raiders moved to Vegas though, his neighbour was no longer a fan. While some of The Black Hole do now make the trip to Vegas for Raiders home games, many other Oakland Raiders fans haven’t maintained their affection for the new Raiders franchise, and my mate’s dad think the same will be true for the A’s if they move to Vegas, even going so far as to say he thinks they would lose around 80% of their fans in the East Bay.

If I’m honest, I think I agree with him; like I say above, the A’s are a team that has very much been marketing itself as #RootedInOakland. Aside from all the work the club does in the community, being based in Oakland is part of the team’s appeal for me – for someone who isn’t from the Bay Area, I like that they are the ‘other’ team in the Bay Area media market and are competing for attention and affection with a team on the other side of the Bay Bridge in the Giants that are much more well-known, much in the same way that I 100% get why someone would support the Mets over the Yankees.

If the team were to move to Las Vegas, much of that appeal would go for me, as it would feel like a very cynical move that puts commercial concerns ahead of the fans. If the A’s are planning to build a ballpark right off The Strip on the site of The Tropicana (which, don’t get me wrong, makes very good sense commercially; Vegas is a tourist town that also hosts a lot of business conferences and expos, so they’d want to be in easy reach of where all the tourists and business conference and expo visitors are) then, that isn’t a team I think I’d want to support anymore.

I should say, not because of the players though – who are fantastic and are being put in a bad situation this season by an organisation that is currently trading away all the team’s best assets – but because of where the ownership seems to want to take the team and what that place stands for.

In Oakland, they are a valued part of the community. In Vegas, they’d just be another form of entertainment.

Photo credit – Team Contributor’s own.

Brett is the Oakland Athletics team contributor for Batflips and Nerds and can be found on Twitter @BrettWalkerPR.

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