The days of the Oakland Athletics could be numbered. That number could be 130.
The A’s play their final game of the season in Anaheim on Oct. 1. If the A’s proposed move to Las Vegas is finalized, the team could open next season in Nevada.
That would be two or three more steps down the road in a relocation saga, but the A’s cleared what is expected to be the most difficult step Wednesday, when Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo announced a tentative agreement for a taxpayer contribution to a proposed new ballpark.
“Las Vegas is clearly a sports town,” Lombardo said in a statement, “and Major League Baseball should be a part of it.”
The ballpark would be built on the site of the Tropicana Hotel, which is expected to be demolished. The 30,000-seat ballpark would feature a retractable roof that, when open, would allow for views of the Las Vegas Strip.
The A’s had asked for $500 million in public funding toward the $1.5-billion ballpark. The Las Vegas Review Journal said the public costs could run from $350 million to $380 million, according to state and county sources. However, the owner of the Tropicana site would provide the A’s with free land, and the A’s would transfer ownership of the land to a public authority so the team would not have to pay any property taxes.
The bill detailing the financing plan is expected to be introduced in the state legislature “in the coming days,” according to the statement, with debate and then a vote expected to follow shortly thereafter. Lombardo said the deal was crafted in “months of negotiations between the state, the county, and the A’s.”
Bryce Harper, who grew up in Las Vegas, said an expansion team would work better there. A’s fans flocked to social media, urging Nevada officials to hold out for an expansion team rather than embrace a team on pace to be the worst in MLB since 1899, and an owner who has been more eager to cut his payroll than add quality players.
However, baseball officials warned Nevada leaders that an expansion team would not be guaranteed, according to a source familiar with the matter. Nashville; Montreal; Charlotte, N.C.; Portland, Ore.; Salt Lake City and Orlando, Fla., are among markets interested in bidding for what are likely to be two expansion teams.
In addition, as the source noted, the less than $400 million in public funding for the A’s pales in comparison to the $4 billion Nevada interests might be required to identify to submit a winning bid for an expansion team and fund a ballpark with a retractable roof.
The owners are virtually certain to approve the move, weary of the two-decade wait for a new ballpark in Oakland and grateful for the exit ramp offered by Las Vegas. In December, commissioner Rob Manfred said an owners committee had authorized him to waive a relocation fee — a liability that might have cost the team hundreds of millions of dollars — if the A’s moved to Las Vegas.
A’s president Dave Kaval said last month that the Las Vegas Aviators — the team’s triple-A affiliate — had agreed to let the A’s share the minor league ballpark there while the new major league stadium is under construction. The A’s hope the new stadium could open by 2027.
The A’s lease in Oakland expires after next season, but the city and team could agree to end the deal after this season rather than have the A’s play a lame-duck season in 2024.
In 2004, the last time an MLB team moved, the league announced the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C., on the day of the Expos’ last home game — even before owners had voted to approve the move. The team played in a temporary home for its first three seasons in Washington, during construction of a new ballpark.
The A’s are on pace to lose 130 games this season. The Aviators play in a state-of-the-art ballpark with seating for 10,000. The A’s have sold an average of 8,695 tickets per game this season.
In their 10 May home dates, all since the team announced its intention to strike a deal in Las Vegas, the A’s sold fewer than 5,000 tickets six times. On May 15, the A’s announced an attendance of 2,064, their lowest mark since 1979.