By STEPHEN HAWKINS and RONALD BLUM (AP Baseball Writers)
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Oakland Athletics’ move to Las Vegas was unanimously approved Thursday by Major League Baseball team owners, cementing the sport’s first relocation since 2005.
A 75% vote of the 30 teams was necessary for approval of A’s owner John Fisher’s plan, which was endorsed by baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred.
“There was an effort over more than a decade to find a stadium solution in Oakland,” Manfred said Thursday. “It was John Fisher’s preference. It was my preference. … It didn’t happen.”
After years of complaints about the Oakland Coliseum and an inability to gain government assistance for a new ballpark in the Bay area, the A’s plan to move to a stadium to be built on the Las Vegas Strip with $380 million in public financing approved by the Nevada government.
The Athletics’ lease at the Coliseum runs through 2024, and they will remain next season at the outdated and run-down stadium where they have played since moving to California in 1968. It remains unclear where the team will play after that until a new ballpark opens, likely in 2028.
Las Vegas will become the franchise’s fourth city, the most for an MLB team. The A’s played in Philadelphia from 1901-54, then moved to Kansas City for 13 seasons before going to California. The new stadium will be the team’s fifth after Columbia Park (1901-08), Shibe Park (1909-54), Memorial Stadium (1955-67) and the Coliseum.
Since the Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers for 1972, the only other team to relocate was the Montreal Expos, who became the Washington Nationals in 2005.
The A’s in 2006 proposed a ballpark in Fremont, about 25 miles south in the East Bay, but abandoned the plan three years later. San Jose, 40 miles south of Oakland, was proposed in 2012 but the San Francisco Giants blocked the site because it was part of that team’s territory.
After the A’s chose a site in the Oakland area near Laney College, it was rejected by the college and neighbors. The franchise then focused on the Howard Terminal area of Oakland, though a financing plan was never reached after some approvals were gained.
The team announced April 19 it had purchased land in Las Vegas, then a month later replaced that location with a deal with Bally’s and Gaming & Leisure Properties to build a stadium on the Tropicana hotel site along the Las Vegas Strip.
Nevada’s Legislature and governor approved public financing for a $1.5 billion, 30,000-seat ballpark with a retractable roof that will be close to Allegiant Stadium, where the NFL’s Oakland Raiders moved to in 2020, and T-Mobile Arena, where the current Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights started play in 2017 as an expansion team.
Oakland finished an MLB-worst 50-112 this season and was again last in the majors in average attendance at 10,276 per game. That was well below the league-wide average of 29,283, but up from the previous two years, when the A’s were below 10,000 fans per game.
While San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose is the 10th-largest television market in the U.S., Las Vegas is the 40th. Baseball players’ association head Tony Clark last month questioned whether the shift to a smaller city would put the team on a path of needed perpetual assistance under MLB’s revenue-sharing plan.
MLB is able to control city changes because of the sport’s antitrust exemption, granted by a 1922 U.S. Supreme Court decision. In the last half-century, the NFL has seen moves by the Raiders (Oakland to Los Angeles, back to Oakland and then Las Vegas), the Colts (Baltimore to Indianapolis), the Cardinals (St. Louis to Phoenix), the Rams (Los Angeles to St. Louis and back to LA), the Oilers (Houston to Nashville) and the Chargers (San Diego to Los Angeles).
The owners held their three-day meetings this week at a hotel adjacent to Globe Life Field, a retractable-roof stadium that opened in 2020. That is the site of next season’s MLB All-Star’s Game and the home of the Rangers, who in their 52nd season in Texas this month won their first World Series title.
A Nevada judge last week threw out a proposed ballot referendum backed by a statewide teachers union that would give voters the final say on whether to provide the public funding for the proposed Vegas stadium for the A’s.
Schools over Stadiums spokesperson Alexander Marks said the organization’s leadership will likely both appeal the decision to the Nevada Supreme Court and refile the referendum petition.
Blum reported from New York.
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