The Oakland Athletics have reached a critical juncture in their quest for a new ballpark. The team's lease agreement with the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority runs through 2024, so if the club is going to build a new stadium, plans must be finalized soon. Securing a site, finalizing the stadium design, and building the ballpark itself will take well over a year.
To date the A's have gained no traction with their proposed Howard Terminal ballpark. In July, the Oakland City Council voted to approve a non-binding term sheet for the project, though team officials say they won't accept the term sheet as presented. That paves the way for the Athletics to leave Oakland. The hang-up is more than $800 million in public funds for infrastructure.
Earlier this week commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed relocation is on the table for the Athletics, adding he is not optimistic about a new deal to keep the team in Oakland. Here's what Manfred said during an interview with the Sports Business Journal (video):
"Both Oakland and Tampa need new facilities. It's kind of beyond debate at this point. Oakland is probably critical, just in terms of the condition of the ballpark. Whatever you want to say about Tampa, it's playable for right now and they have a least that goes through 2027. Oakland's in a critical situation. We need to find a way to get new ballparks built in those two cities or -- particularly in the case of Oakland -- we've had to open up the opportunity to explore other locations just because it's dragged on so long. Frankly, in some ways we're not sure we see a path to success in terms of getting something built in Oakland. (Relocation) is a possibility. They've been talking to Las Vegas, it's gotten a lot of publicity, but there are options in terms of relocation in addition to Las Vegas."
A's president Dave Kaval made trips to Portland and Las Vegas earlier this year (and was not subtle about it), and Las Vegas is a natural relocation destination. The NHL's Vegas Golden Knights (expansion team) and the NFL's Las Vegas Raiders (relocated) have been massive successes, and the city has Oakland sports ties with the Raiders and the A's Triple-A affiliate (Las Vegas Aviators).
Oakland has already embarked on the tried and true ballpark leverage formula of tanking attendance. The A's drew fewer than 10,000 fans in 13 of their final 19 home games this season, including fewer than 5,000 fans seven times, yet they raised ticket prices for 2022. Tank attendance, say you can't survive without a new ballpark, and if you don't get it, use attendance as an excuse to relocate. Ballpark leverage 101.
To be clear, the Athletics need a new stadium. RingCentral Coliseum is no longer suitable for a major-league franchise. How the A's are going about getting that stadium (pushing for public funds for infrastructure, raising ticket prices, etc.) has been unsavory, particularly threatening relocation after promoting #RootedInOakland for the better part of the last decade. The entire process has been very fan unfriendly, and the A's haven't even left town yet.