By STEPHEN HAWKINS and RONALD BLUM
AP Baseball Writers
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — One of Rob Manfred’s first trips after his election as baseball commissioner nine years ago was to Oakland to consult with Athletics owner John Fisher on attempts to keep the team in the Bay Area.
Unable together to make that work, the A’s will instead move to Las Vegas and become only the second Major League Baseball team in more than a half-century to shift cities.
All 30 MLB team owners gave their approval Thursday to Fisher’s relocation plan, which was endorsed by Manfred.
“There was an effort over more than a decade to find a stadium solution in Oakland. It was John Fisher’s preference. It was my preference,” Manfred said at a news conference. “This is a terrible day for fans in Oakland. I understand that and that’s why we’ve always had a policy of doing everything humanly possible to avoid a relocation, and truly believe we did that in this case. I think it’s beyond debate that the status quo in Oakland was untenable.”
After years of complaints about the Oakland Coliseum that predated Manfred’s appointment, and an inability to negotiate 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 team plans for the ballpark to open in 2028. MLB approved Clark County as its operating territory following the move and Nevada as its television territory.
“I understand that this is an incredibly difficult day for Oakland fans, and I just want to say we gave every effort and did everything we could to try and find a solution there,” said Fisher, who didn’t take questions. “I’m very excited about the opportunity in Vegas. The fans there are terrific.”
Players’ association head Tony Clark declined comment on the decision.
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The Athletics’ lease at the Coliseum runs through 2024, and they will remain next season at the outdated and run-down stadium where they have played since moving to California in 1968.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.
Manfred said a variety of alternatives are being explored, including the A’s possibly staying at the Coliseum in the interim period. He said the preference will be to “find an 81-game home” for the team, unlike the unique situation with the Blue Jays in 2021, when pandemic travel restrictions caused MLB to shift home games to the team’s spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida, and then its Triple-A ballpark in Buffalo, New York, before going back to Toronto at midseason.
Las Vegas will become the A’s fourth city, the most for a MLB team. The A’s played in Philadelphia from 1901-54, then moved to Kansas City for 13 seasons before going to California. Before the Coliseum, the team played at Columbia Park (1901-08), Shibe Park (1909-54) and Memorial Stadium (1955-67).
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. The A’s chose a site in the Oakland area near Laney College, but after it was rejected by the college and neighbors, the franchise focused on the Howard Terminal area of Oakland. Some approvals were gained, but no financial plans ever came into place.
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.
“This relocation will bring thousands of new jobs to our state, while also generating historic economic development and providing a return on public investment for the direct benefit of Nevada taxpayers,” Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo said in a statement.
Nevada’s Legislature and Lombardo 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.
“The success of the Raiders and the Golden Knights has shown — as well as our own Triple-A team, the Aviators — has shown just how successful professional sports can be in that market,” Fisher said.
Oakland traded veterans and finished an MLB-worst 50-112 this season and was again last in average attendance at 10,276 per game. Manfred defended Fisher, who has been harshly criticized by A’s supporters.
“I understand the fans’ reaction to what happened in 2022 in terms of the moves that were made,” Manfred said. “I also understand that when you play in a substandard facility — fan support, it is not as strong as what we have in some other markets that it affects your economics and what you can afford to do. So my answer is over the long haul, yes, I think he’s been a good owner.”
While San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose is the 10th-largest television market in the U.S., Las Vegas is the 40th. 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).
Manfred also announced Thursday that Atlanta will host the 2025 All-Star Game.
Blum reported from New York.
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