Oakland to Las Vegas? Historic A’s franchise potentially on the move


Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

One of the most storied franchises in Major League Baseball (MLB) history has taken a drastic turn for the worse in the past 20 years, going from a contender to a bottom-of-the-barrel team struggling to put a quality product on the field. Fans have disengaged themselves from the franchise entirely, consistently leaving the stadium nearly empty as ownership continues to tear the team down and leave the fan base without any sort of hope for a better future.

The Oakland Athletics have had a historic stretch since their move from Kansas City in 1968. Tied for the third-most World Series titles in MLB history, Oakland has seen elite players don the franchise’s iconic green and yellow jerseys, most notably during their three consecutive titles from 1972-74. Great players have filled Oakland’s clubhouse since then, but their tenure with the team has ended significantly differently from their title-winning teams.

After shipping off franchise cornerstones in catcher Sean Murphy, first baseman Matt Olson and third baseman Matt Chapman in the past two seasons, the team has plummeted to the bottom of the standings in the American League West. The team’s payroll for the 2023 season ranks last in the MLB, sitting at $60,777,593.

With a 5-19 record in the first 24 games of the season, Oakland is currently 9.5 games back in the division, putting them in last place. The team has averaged a league-low 11,025 fans in attendance per game to start the 2023 season. Their inability to draw fans has been a major factor in ownership’s wishes to relocate and build a new stadium elsewhere.

The question of where that relocation would take the franchise has been up in the air over the past two years, but the decision has come down to the newest giant sports hub in America: Las Vegas, Nev.

Team president Dave Kaval and the rest of the ownership group have begun mapping out the relocation, buying a 49-acre land plot off the Las Vegas Strip. Oakland has attempted to get a new stadium built in Oakland numerous times, but to no avail. After finally settling on Las Vegas, their proposal for a stadium is expected to cost $1.5 billion, with $500 million in public funding up to the municipalities involved.

On Wednesday, April 19, Oakland announced that they signed a binding agreement where they intend to build their new stadium. “This is a massive deal for our franchise and for the whole league,” Kaval said. According to Kaval, the team has worked with Clark County, the Nevada State Legislature and Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo in hopes to get the stadium built, calling their meetings “ongoing and positive.”

In order for the stadium to be built, the A’s and the government can agree to a public-private partnership, with the next step being to file for relocation with MLB. If the commissioner’s office approves the request, Oakland would then need a vote from all MLB owners to arrange the move. If these moves are completed by January, the team will then be allowed to break ground at the site by next year in preparation for the 2027 season.

“Once the league set the deadline of January 2024 to have a binding deal, it really made it an inevitability in some ways,” said Kaval.

“We support the A’s turning their focus on Las Vegas and look forward to them bringing finality to this process by the end of the year,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Finding a long-term solution that keeps everyone happy is incredibly difficult, as the fans want to keep the team in Oakland but ownership’s vision has been elsewhere in recent years. “It’s devastating,” said longtime fan Mike Davie. “I don’t really think they made a good faith effort to keep them here.”

With their newest addition of the Raiders, Las Vegas has the looks of becoming a dynamic sports city with teams and their polarizing histories. “When you think about what makes for a successful market, you have to have a strong local fan base,” Kaval said. For a rebuilding team, a new stadium can represent a fresh start that gives fans a new perspective and hopes for a team that can eventually make a run at a World Series title.

The new stadium and parking will take up about 15 acres of the space, with the rest serving as a mixed-use development that encourages locals and tourists to spend time in bars, restaurants and other attractions. In an environment like Las Vegas, giving fans the ability to access the field easily will help entice fans from the Las Vegas area along with tourists to the stadium to bring attendance back to a respectable level.

“The secret sauce to Las Vegas is you have the tourists,” Kaval said. “Those people can come in and spend big dollars. You create a business model that’s resilient and powerful.”

Their plan for a stadium is still in its infancy, but if everything follows through, the Oakland A’s will be the newest team to call Las Vegas home. Despite their struggles in recent seasons, they should be welcomed with open arms. Las Vegas has been one of the biggest rising sports cities in America and an established franchise would be a significant addition.