At the start of April, I wrote an article calling for the Athletics’ front office to make their stadium plans clear.
A couple of weeks ago, they finally seemed to hear the call, announcing that the organisation had entered into a binding agreement to build a stadium on land in south Las Vegas that will reportedly cost an estimated $1.5 billion.
In one sense, it’s good that it’s all over and fans now know what will become of the team. I’ve said before that how protracted the issue had become was frustrating as a fan, pointing out that I had been writing about the potential move to Las Vegas since my first article for this website. Therefore, it’s good that there is some resolution, as it hopefully means that I, the fans and the sports media can now start to focus more on box scores and on-field play, even if the team does currently have the worst record in MLB.
In many ways, it does make sense for the team to move to Las Vegas too, given there is a captive audience of both permanent residents and a revolving and plentiful supply of visitors to the city looking for entertainment options.
Sin City has also become an increasingly attractive destination for professional sports teams in recent years given the relaxing and legalisation of sports betting laws in the United States as a whole, with the NHL expansion Golden Knights and the NFL’s Raiders relocating to the city since 2017.
Given A’s owner John Fisher and his front office had overseen a marked increase in ticket prices at the same time that star players like Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and Sean Murphy were being traded away while others, like Marcus Semien, were allowed to leave in free agency, it’s no surprise then that the team had the lowest average attendance last season.
I would argue that fans were starting to fall out of love with the team because of how ownership was running the organisation, and so, moving to a new city and a fresh set of fans may be the best option, given it’s unlikely John Fisher is going to sell the team, per some fan’s wishes.
Whether the team should move to Las Vegas is another matter though. Having been to Las Vegas in the month of October, I can say with confidence that it is still oppressively hot in Las Vegas during the autumn/’fall’. Therefore, the new stadium is going to have to be air-conditioned and roofed in order for baseball to be possible during the spring and summer months.
It should also be said that the people of Las Vegas are not unanimous in wanting the Athletics to move to their city, nor are Las Vegas-based sports journalists all on-board with the move either. It is also undecided whether Las Vegas can support three major professional sports teams. Here is an article on the subject featuring Casey Pratt, who has done some excellent reporting on all of the issues surrounding the A’s move to Las Vegas since it was announced.
There are still questions left unanswered too; for starters, the team won’t be moving to Las Vegas until 2027, but the lease on the Oakland Coliseum runs out at the end of the 2024 season. Therefore, where will the team play post-2024? There’s been a suggestion that the lease will be temporarily extended and the A’s will continue to play in Oakland before moving to the new stadium ahead of the 2027 season, thus delaying the team’s exit from the city it has called home since 1968. The idea of the team stadium-sharing with the San Francisco Giants, first touted in 2013 when a lease extension at the Coliseum was again up in the air, at Oracle Park until the move has also been mentioned, although this would be a bitter pill to swallow for some fans of both teams, I would imagine. The most viable option thus far is that the team may move to Las Vegas ahead of the 2025 season and instead play at the home of their Triple-A affiliates, the Las Vegas Aviators.
The move to Las Vegas, however, also raises another question; what becomes of the Aviators? While not unheard of, it would be odd for a team to have what is essentially its finishing school in the same city as the one it plays in. You would also guess that MLB would have a problem with both a major league and Triple-A team being in the same city, particularly if the latter and its cheaper ticket prices were taking away from attendances at the nescent MLB team.
However it all plays out, the biggest and most important point I have yet to make is what a shame it all is. What a shame it is for the fans in Oakland that they are losing their baseball team. What a shame it is for the charities and community organisations in and around Oakland that the Athletics organisation worked with, fund-raised for and supported. What a shame it is for the small businesses in and around Oakland who relied upon the trade having a major league team in Oakland brought to the city, particularly given the city had already lost its NBA and NFL teams in recent years too. And what a shame it is for the employees of the Oakland Coliseum, who will now have to look for alternative employment unless the city of Oakland is able to find new regular tenants or uses for the site.
For now, let’s try to enjoy the Athletics as much as we can while they are still in Oakland, in spite of the team’s currently-abysmal record.
Featured image – Author’s own.
Brett is the Oakland Athletics contributor for Bat Flips & Nerds, and can be found on Twitter @BrettChatsSport.