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A’s temporary home status grows murkier

Oakland A'sThe circumstances surrounding an Oakland A’s temporary home grow murkier by the day, as Oakland officials announce a pretty steep price for the team to remain at the Coliseum before a move to Las Vegas.

The move of the Oakland A’s to Las Vegas is not a done deal: the team needs to finance a new $1.5-billion ballpark and receive MLB permission before any moving trucks are dispatched. And then there’s the big issue of an Oakland A’s temporary home for the 2025-2027 seasons before a new ballpark is set to open for the 2028 MLB season. For now, the A’s have a Coliseum lease running through 2024. In local press remarks, A’s president Dave Kaval has identified potential three A’s temporary homes: the Coliseum, Oracle Park and Las Vegas Ballpark.

All have pluses and minuses. To begin with, there are some factors outside the facilities realm–potential media contracts in the Bay Area and Vegas, mainly. Sharing Oracle Park with the San Francisco Giants would certainly inconvenience the Giants and put a lot of stress on the playing field, but the Giants would not likely walk away from any bump in revenues, and staying would allow the A’s to keep a decent TV contract. Moving early to Las Vegas Ballpark certainly takes away any triumphant debut in Sin City once the new ballpark is completed, and while Las Vegas Ballpark is perhaps the best MiLB ballpark out there, there’s still a gap between the best MiLB ballpark and a barely acceptable MLB ballpark in terms of amenities and player facilities: you’re likely looking at some spending on player facilities, perhaps in new spaces next to the ballpark, as well as working out a workable schedule that marries the six-game MiLB series structure with the more flexible MLB schedule. The RSN situation in Vegas is also very unsettled. You’re also looking at the installation of synthetic turf, which poses its own problems: synthetic turf does tend to suck up a lot of sun, and dealing with high temps is already an issue with Las Vegas Ballpark. (That’s why the A’s are now looking a permanent covered roof at a new ballpark.)

While staying at the Coliseum may end up being the path of least resistance, it’s pretty clear Oakland will not make a short-term renewal an easy process. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao has laid out her conditions for a 2025-2027 lease extension that includes no move of the team to Las Vegas, the promise of an MLB expansion team if there is a move and a commitment to leave the Athletics name and records in Oakland, a la what Art Modell did when he moved his Cleveland Browns to Baltimore.

Problematic, to be sure, as the team is clearly seeking to move. This is a slightly different situation when it comes to record and branding; the Athletics record books extend back to the Kansas City A’s and the Philadelphia Athletics, and extending that lineage to an expansion team would be confusing, to say the least. And the Athletics are in no position to promise an MLB expansion team to Oakland. If the Athletics never made it to Oakland, would MLB be looking at city as a potential expansion market? With the Giants already there, the answer clearly is no. From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

“The mayor was clear that in order to negotiate the terms of that lease extension we would be looking for many of the same things that we had been discussing with the A’s,” [Mayor Thao’s chief of staff Leigh] Hanson said. “Those included the team obviously remaining in Oakland and insisting the owners do not approve the relocation application. If that did not work, we would want to have conversations about retaining the brand of the A’s, similar to the (Cleveland) Browns and other teams that kept their name. Then finally the guarantee of an expansion team in Oakland.”

In the meantime,the city hopes to learn more about what is being shared to MLB owners in the relocation application regarding the potential for a lease extension in Oakland. The city is leaving all options on the board, including potential legal avenues, Hanson noted.

“So, we’re not immediately jumping to a legal solution, I think there’s still a lot of room here for negotiation. And we’re still very confident to be honest, that the plan in Vegas is not as lucrative as the Oakland deal. I think we’re still very hopeful and the mayor was very clear her number one goal is to keep the A’s in Oakland, and we’re not taking any options, including legal action off the table.”

It would be interesting to see the justification for any legal action given there would be no active ballpark lease or contract between the two parties.

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