City of Oakland Likely to Lose its Last Professional Sports Franchise as the Athletics Intend to Relocate to Las Vegas

The Oakland Athletics have signed a binding agreement to purchase land in Las Vegas, signaling the end of a storied era that began more than five decades ago. Team officials announced on Wednesday that the franchise had finalized a deal with Red Rock Resorts to buy a 49-acre site just west of the Las Vegas Strip. The A’s plan to break ground on a new stadium as early as 2024 and hope to begin playing there in time for the 2027 season. President Dave Kaval told The Associated Press that the ballpark will hold 30,000 to 35,000 fans.[1]

Years of failed attempts to find a suitable location for a new field in Oakland led us to this point. A’s ownership has long sought a new park, but has been unable to secure anything in the Bay Area. The team has played in the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, its current stadium, since moving from Kansas City in 1968. The Coliseum is among the oldest venues in the major leagues and is considered outdated due in part to its lack of amenities compared to other professional baseball stadiums. If the move proceeds, the A’s will become just the second MLB franchise to relocate in more than 50 years. The only other relocation during that period occurred in 2005 when the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals.

A statement released by the team claimed that it made a “strong and sincere” effort to stay in the City of Oakland. Recent negotiations had largely centered on a downtown waterfront site. Soon after the announcement, Mayor Sheng Thao declared that the city had ceased all negotiations with the team and expressed that she was “deeply disappointed” with the A’s decision. According to Mayor Thao, the city went “above and beyond in [their] attempts to arrive at mutually beneficial terms to keep the A’s in Oakland.” However, she added that “it [was] clear to [her] that the A’s have no intentions of staying in Oakland and have simply been using this process to try to extract a better deal out of Las Vegas.” Therefore, she is no longer interested in “continuing to play that game.”[2]

When the A’s came to Oakland in 1968, they quickly became a powerhouse that brought home three straight World Series titles from 1972 to 1974. In 1989, the franchise won a fourth championship led by sluggers Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. Athletics lore includes “Billyball” (Billy Martin) and “Moneyball” (Billy Beane), as well as legends such as Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Rickey Henderson, and Dave Stewart.

John Fisher, the team’s current owner, acquired a majority share of the team in 2005 and became its full owner in 2016. Fisher also has stakes in Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes, Scotland’s Celtic F.C., and Sansome Partners. His parents founded Gap in 1969. During Fisher’s tenure, the A’s have cut their payroll and traded away promising young stars. After a dismal 2022 season in which the team lost 102 games, the A’s have started 2023 with a league-worst 5-19 record.

The team that pioneered the “Moneyball” strategy of doing more with less has lost its competitive edge in recent years. The A’s routinely trade their best players and spend little on the ones that are kept. As a result, two pitchers for the New York Mets are together making more this year than the entire Oakland Athletics roster. Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander will make a combined $86.6 million, while members of the A’s will collectively earn $58 million.

Attendance is another problem. The Athletics are averaging 11,025 people per home game, which ranks the lowest in MLB. On April 4, 11 of the 13 AAA-level minor league games drew more fans than the A’s home game (3,407), per Baseball America.

If the A’s leave, their move would mark the third major professional sports franchise to depart Oakland within the past few years. In 2019, the Golden State Warriors, who had played at Oakland (Oracle) Arena since 1971, crossed the Bay for a new home in San Francisco (Chase Center). In 2020, the Oakland Raiders also left for Sin City. The Raiders played in Oakland from the team’s founding in 1960 until 1981, then again from 1995 to 2019.[3]

Ironically, Mark Davis has voiced criticism of the A’s proposed relocation efforts. Davis, who uprooted the Raiders in 2020, blames Fisher and the A’s ownership group for the NFL team not being able to find a spot to build a new stadium and forcing them to move to Las Vegas. Davis stated, “I won’t forget what they did to us in Oakland. They squatted on a lease for 10 years and made it impossible for us to build on that stadium.” The Athletics and Raiders shared the same venue for decades and had a contentious relationship. However, although Davis denounced A’s ownership for their decision, he left the city behind, too. So did his father Al, who was responsible for the Raiders’ hiatus in Los Angeles from 1981 to 1995.[4]

In 2016, Las Vegas had zero professional sports teams and Oakland had three. Over the last six years, franchises have flocked to the desert to capitalize on a growing city with a thriving tourism industry. Vegas is now home to the Raiders (NFL), Golden Knights (NHL), and Aces (WNBA). If this deal goes through, a fourth team will be added to the mix, all within seven years. Meanwhile, Oakland will suddenly find itself with none. The addition of the Athletics (MLB) would further solidify Las Vegas as a premier sports destination and could help attract even more tourists and revenue to the city. For example, just think about the increased opportunities for sports gambling and lucrative in-stadium partnerships with sportsbooks.

A nearly empty Oakland Coliseum during the 2022 regular season – Image from Axios

Is the A’s move from Hegenberger Road to Dean Martin Drive officially a done deal?

No, but it likely will be soon. Many details still need to be ironed out, including how the new stadium will be funded. The A’s have pledged $1 billion and any cost overages to an expected $1.5 billion project. This would leave half a billion dollars in public funding up to the municipalities involved. According to Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis, an economist who is working with the team on its funding plan, public dollars would be generated by creating a special tax district around the planned site. This designation would raise sales and property taxes as well as live entertainment and modified business levies. Aguero believes that the new stadium and related developments will create value that can be reinvested back into the project.[5]

Kaval said that the A’s have worked with Clark County (NV), the Nevada state legislature, and Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo, calling their conversations “ongoing and positive.” The A’s are using Allegiant Stadium, the home of the Raiders, as a proxy since that project received $750 million in public money paid over 30 years through a 0.88% tax on hotel rooms in Clark County. In exchange, the Raiders agreed to spend an estimated $1.1 billion and signed a non-relocation agreement that covers the terms of the bonds. Fisher’s A’s will be required to do the same. The current Nevada state Legislature session ends in July. If the A’s and Nevada’s government can strike a public-private partnership, the next step will be for the team to file for relocation with MLB. If Commissioner Rob Manfred’s office approves, the Athletics will need a 3/4th majority vote from the owners to ratify the move.[6]

Manfred and his office have affirmed support for the A’s “turning their focus on Las Vegas” and “bringing finality” to a lengthy process. What the A’s deemed as “parallel paths” when engaging with Vegas and Oakland over the past two years has converged into one endeavor. The 2022 Collective Bargaining Agreement prompted the organization to take action with urgency. A January 15, 2024 deadline mandated that the A’s reach a deal for a new stadium in any city or once again be removed from MLB’s revenue-sharing plan. With these recent developments, the club is on track to abide by the CBA’s demands and can likely break ground on a new stadium within the next year to begin preparations for the 2027 season.[7]

What to Expect Between Now and 2027

The A’s lease in Oakland expires after the 2024 season. So, even if all goes according to plan, where they will call home in 2025 remains unclear. Kaval previously mentioned that the Athletics have negotiated a deal with their Triple-A affiliate, Las Vegas Aviators, to possibly use Las Vegas Ballpark. The A’s President added that the Aviators will remain in Vegas, similar to the Minnesota Twins’ Triple-A team in St. Paul. If the Athletics and the Coliseum agree to terminate the current lease early, then they may have to find a place to play much sooner. The organization could also temporarily extend the lease in Oakland, just like the Raiders did before they moved.[8]

According to Kaval, the A’s name will survive the transition. He declared that the Athletics “powerful” brand has “already been in three markets” and is “something [the team] will continue with the Las Vegas A’s.” Fans shouldn’t expect the on-field product to change drastically either. The Athletics have baseball’s lowest payroll and have ranked higher than 25th in the majors only once in the last decade. There is no guarantee that the arrival of the A’s in Vegas will immediately change their spending habits or winning ways. The “Moneyball” approach has proven to be a difficult strategy. It’s hard to keep an MLB team competitive without spending money. However, despite the A’s awful 2022 and a slow start in 2023, the club has managed to make the playoffs in six of the past 12 years. The organization is confident that getting through the uncertainty of the relocation process will allow them to rebuild and “put a plan together” for their roster.[9]

Impact of Relocation on the Oakland Community

An A’s stadium in Las Vegas is projected to draw 2.6 million fans annually for MLB games and other events. Of those in attendance, 1.8 million are expected to be locals, compared to an anticipated 762,000 out-of-town visitors (a 70/30 split). While Aguero was working for the Raiders on Allegiant Stadium, initial projections had about 27% of fans coming from outside the market. Thus far, the actual numbers have surpassed that estimation with up to 50% of guests being tourists.[10]

Bringing an MLB team and a big infusion of private capital will create jobs and infuse economic value into the community. The ballpark will only take up 9 to 13 acres before parking is added to the equation, leaving the remaining land to be developed as a mixed-use stadium district. However, not everyone in Vegas is thrilled to gain another professional team. There are concerns about the impact of an additional stadium in the city. The cost of building a field can be high, and some have criticized the use of public funds to finance these projects. Furthermore, the presence of a large sports venue could lead to increased traffic around the Vegas Strip and other infrastructure challenges caused by its desert setting.

The people of Oakland are worried about the impact of the move on the city. The A’s departure would not only be a blow to the fans, but it could also have severe economic consequences for the area. Local businesses that rely on the team and its fans will suffer. Losing the team is symbolic of Oakland’s struggles with gentrification and economic inequality.

Both the population and TV market size of Oakland is greater than that of the Las Vegas metro area. So, why move? Fisher’s decision comes purely from a business standpoint. The A’s relocation to Sin City will increase franchise values around the league, appease Manfred’s and MLB’s appetite to enter new markets, expose the team to a new fanbase, and generate abundant revenue opportunities (i.e. potential partnerships with casinos and sportsbooks).

Fisher’s dream of a $12 billion real estate venture, called the Howard Terminal Project, featured an open-air waterfront ballpark in Oakland. The A’s ultimately spent $100 million to try to keep the franchise there. Unfortunately, the timing and money were just not on Oakland’s side. The city was denied a $182 million federal grant from the Department of Transportation in January that was intended for upgrading infrastructure to make the project happen. The city accumulated more than $300 million in funding in hopes that they wouldn’t have to pass costs on to taxpayers. Yet, inflation rose and the city and the team failed to reach a deal. During that time, the original estimated cost for infrastructure improvements doubled to $600 million. The municipality drew a line in the sand and Fisher chose not to put any of his own money toward the initiative.

Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas said that they were in “active negotiations” with the A’s when the Vegas deal was announced. She added that “every time the A’s put a new problem in front of [the Council], [they] worked to overcome it.” In her belief, it’s unfair “to the fans and [Oakland’s] residents to string [the Council] along in this manner. Fortunato Bas ended her statement by saying, “the A’s are not committed to Oakland. It’s time to move on.”[12]

Some loyal fans may not be ready to move on. In a last-ditch effort to inspire a change of heart, a group of A’s fans is planning a “reverse boycott” to show ownership that there are still fans in Oakland despite being fed up with how the team has been run. They intend to fill up the Coliseum on a random Tuesday night (June 13) against the Tampa Bay Rays, a game that would probably have been poorly attended ordinarily. Attendance numbers aren’t likely to turn around if the losing continues. Nor is it probable that the relocation plans will suddenly fall through. Nevertheless, maybe the magic of one summer night will give the fans a glimmer of hope.


[2] Id.

[3] Id.






[9] Id.



[12] Id.

Photo Credit:

Oakland A’s Owner John Fisher –

Oakland Coliseum –

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