The Oakland Athletics are hedging their bets as they try to get the city of Oakland to decide on the team’s proposed $12 billion stadium project on the Oakland waterfront. The team has played in the stadium currently known as RingCentral Stadium since moving from Kansas City after the 1967 season. Major League Baseball has been pushing Oakland for a new stadium for years. The current home of the A’s opened in 1966. Renovation occurred roughly 25 years ago.
The Athletics have appeared to be on the way out of Oaktown before. But it’s looking clear MLB is committed to getting its way or taking the ball and leaving town. Oakland is the team’s third home city, tied for the most in MLB history. The A’s have won four World Series championships in Oakland. That stay hasn’t been without turbulence, though.
The showdown between Oakland Athletics and local government a long time coming
There has been tension between the Oakland Athletics and the city for years. The A’s shared RingCentral Stadium with the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League from the time they left Kansas City through 1981 and again from 1995–2019. The first gap came when the Raiders went to Los Angeles, the second when the Raiders moved to Las Vegas last year.
In 2019, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred threatened that the Athletics would move if the city didn’t drop a lawsuit against Alameda County over the property, per NBC Sports. At that time, the city did not want to sell its share of the current stadium property. Manfred specifically cited Las Vegas as a destination at that time. It rubbed salt into a very fresh wound, as the Raiders were amid their final season in Oakland before heading to Sin City.
The latest rumblings just add to a long history between the parties.
A’s have been dissatisfied with the Coliseum for decades
MLB is adamant the current stadium site is out of the question, per a statement issued Tuesday. “The Oakland Coliseum site is not a viable option for the future vision of baseball,” MLB said in part.
Through multiple ownership groups, the Oakland Athletics have often sought the trap door to get out of town. In 1975, the American League floated the idea of moving the White Sox to Seattle to settle a lawsuit filed by Washington state. The suit claimed breach of contract because the expansion Seattle Pilots bolted for Milwaukee in 1970 after just one season. Not wanting to abandon Chicago, owner Charlie O. Finley considered moving to the South Side to replace the White Sox.
By the late ‘70s, Finley courted Denver and New Orleans, per Paul Francis Sullivan of FanGraphs. In the early 1980s, Finley tried to sell the team (during his expensive divorce) to an investor who wanted to put the club in Denver. While still in Kansas City, Finley flirted with Dallas, Louisville, Atlanta, San Diego, and Seattle before settling on Oakland.
After Finley sold to Walter Haas, the new owner toyed with the idea of moving the A’s to Phoenix. Now it appears Las Vegas is the next sticker to put on the suitcase. There was a time when the idea of professional sports on The Strip was heresy because of the ties to legalized gambling. Now the league is partnered with casinos. The Vegas Golden Knights of the National Hockey League broke the seal on the city as a big-league market in 2017. The WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces launched in 2018.
Las Vegas has already been home to the Oakland Athletics, however briefly
Because of the renovation project at Oakland Coliseum in 1996, the Oakland Athletics played their first six games at an alternate site. Las Vegas’ Cashman Field served as the A’s home field for a two-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays and a four-game set with the Detroit Tigers. Oak Vegas (why not?) went 2-4 in those games en route to a 78-84 finish.
The A’s were founded along with the American League in 1901, playing in Philadelphia. The team moved to Kansas City for the 1955 season before going west. The Braves (Boston, Milwaukee, Atlanta) and Orioles (Milwaukee Brewers in 1901, St. Louis Browns, Baltimore) are the only other franchises to play in three different cities.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Las Vegas as the franchise’s likeliest relocation site. Manfred, however, has also mentioned Charlotte, Montreal, Nashville, Portland, and Vancouver as potential sites for franchises.