After flirting with Las Vegas for nearly two years, the Oakland Athletics announced last week that they had agreed to buy land near the Las Vegas Strip in the hopes of playing in a new ballpark there by 2027.
The news felt like a final blow to A’s fans who have endured years of turmoil, including a peripatetic stadium quest and the worst on-field performance in decades. Last year’s team lost 102 games, the most the A’s had suffered since 1979, and this year’s squad is on pace to lose even more.
Despite growing up a San Francisco Giants fan, I’ve appreciated the A’s over the years, first when I briefly covered the team almost 20 years ago for The Sacramento Bee and later as a baseball aficionado who delighted in watching underdogs succeed against big-budget rivals.
But the team’s stadium, the Oakland Coliseum, is badly outdated. It consists of a cavernous bowl that was made to house football and baseball. It lacks restaurants or nightlife within walking distance. Last year, feral cats prowled around the Coliseum. This year, a possum took over the visiting team’s broadcast booth.
The A’s have tried, and failed, to build a new stadium in the Bay Area for more than a decade. The team wanted to move to San Jose, but was blocked by the Giants and M.L.B. It had its sights on Fremont and Laney College. And, finally, it focused in recent years on a new waterfront stadium at the Howard Terminal near Jack London Square in Oakland.
The Las Vegas land deal is a definitive step toward leaving Oakland, but it does hinge on securing $500 million from Nevada state lawmakers — no easy feat. And John Fisher, the Athletics’ owner, would have to commit $1 billion toward building the new ballpark.
To get the latest on the situation, I spoke with Ben Hoffman, The New York Times’s baseball editor and an A’s fan who grew up in the East Bay suburb of San Ramon. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Kevin Yamamura: You spoke with the M.L.B. commissioner, Rob Manfred, this week. It seems as if he’s not closing the book on Oakland?
Ben Hoffman: He seemed enthusiastic about what Las Vegas had to offer, and at times spoke as if it were a near certainty that they were going, but he made a notable shift at one point to discuss where the deal actually stood and what was certain. Since the only concrete thing with Vegas is the team having identified a site, he said the cities were effectively on equal footing.
I think he may be underestimating just how upset Oakland’s mayor, Sheng Thao, was about the announcement of the land deal. Her statement, that the city was done with all of this, did not seem to have much ambiguity to it.
Kevin: The last two A’s seasons have felt to cynical fans like the 1989 movie “Major League,” in which the owner tries to drive down attendance in an attempt to leave Cleveland. Ahead of the 2022 season, the A’s got rid of Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, fan favorites, at the same time that they significantly increased ticket prices.
Ben: The price increases are an underrated part of all of this. You hear a lot about the attendance issues, but those have been amplified to a wild degree in the wake of the increases. Most of the big fan groups will tell you they aren’t even that upset about rebuilding — if you’re an A’s fan, rebuilding is just a fact of a life — but the combination of a fire sale with a rapid ticket increase felt like a betrayal to them. A lot of them feel really misunderstood.
Kevin: Some are so mad at Fisher that they swore off the A’s immediately. Given all of this rancor and the fact that they’re still years away from a Vegas stadium, it seems as if the A’s are in real limbo.
Ben: Their future is entirely open right now. There are numerous hurdles to getting a deal in Vegas done, or, as Manfred said, there’s a lot of “wood to chop,” and that can’t happen quickly. Any other solution beyond Vegas or Oakland would take even longer.
The team’s lease with the Coliseum goes through next season, but it could become really ugly between now and then, so it wouldn’t be shocking if they tried to find other solutions as soon as next season. But the 2025 and 2026 seasons are even more up in the air. I asked if Oracle Park, the Giants’ home, would be a solution, and Manfred said it was too soon to speculate. But he also indicated that he’d at least consider Las Vegas Ballpark, the Class AAA park of the Aviators.
Kevin: What will the scene be like in Oakland on Friday when the A’s return for the first time since the Las Vegas news broke?
Ben: The fans, who were already absent in revolt, are now far madder. The guys from Rooted in Oakland are trying to organize a protest, and I’m sure some other groups will come out to show how mad they are. But the sad reality is that the stadium is absolutely enormous, so any contingent of protesters will seem pretty small and quiet.
We’ll have someone in the park talking to fans and trying to get some of their thoughts on how all of this is happening, and I’d imagine some of the A’s faithful could be awfully colorful in that regard. But I’m betting the overall tone is going to be quiet sadness.
Kevin Yamamura is an editor on the National desk who oversees California coverage and credits his time as an A’s beat writer for his deadline skills. Ben Hoffman is the senior editor in charge of baseball coverage on the Sports desk and says he was practically raised in the Coliseum.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from James Lew, who recommends Pinnacles National Park in Central California:
“A unique geological marvel is offered for hikers. An occasional treat is catching sight of the California condors that like to roost from its volcanic ridges.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
After a rainy winter, spring has arrived in California. Tell us your favorite part of the season, whether it’s road trips, festivals, sunny afternoons or wildflower sightings.
Email us at [email protected], and please include your name and the city where you live.
And before you go, some good news
The San Francisco Public Library recently unveiled its very first “Book Stop,” a vending machine for library books on Treasure Island. The kiosk, placed in a diner, is an experiment in bringing literature to library deserts, The Mercury News reports.
“Our mission is to ensure that every San Franciscan has access to books and the joy of reading,” Michael Lambert, the city’s librarian, said.