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Why a Vote This Tuesday Could Force the Athletics Out of Oakland

Why a Vote This Tuesday Could Force the Athletics Out of Oakland
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Why a Vote This Tuesday Could Force the Athletics Out of Oakland

Why a Vote This Tuesday Could Force the Athletics Out of Oakland

The Athletics were restless at the end of their 54th season in town. The franchise had been shaky for years in its two-team market. Relocation seemed inevitable, and opposing it, wrote a prominent columnist, “would exacerbate a dire disaster, prolonging a state of chaos.”

This is how Red Smith, the baseball Hall of Fame writer, put it in 1954, when the A’s reached the end of their run in Philadelphia. Now in Oakland it’s the same old story. As they enter the second half of their 54th season in California, the A’s could be almost gone.

On Tuesday, Oakland City Council will vote on the team’s list of conditions for funding a $ 12 billion project that would include a new downtown baseball stadium at Howard Terminal. A yes is not binding, because an environmental impact report will still have to be approved in the fall. But a no vote would kill him and signal the end of track and field in Oakland.

“If they don’t approve it, it’s over,” team president Dave Kaval said Friday. “Because basically they got a chance to look at all the different facts and figure out, ‘Does that make sense? We hope it’s a yes, but with these things it’s hard to say. We remain separate.

The Athletics have been desperate for years to leave the run-down Colosseum, which opened for mixed use in 1966 and has been the home of the team since 1968. Their lease expires in 2024, so they wouldn’t be leaving immediately. If they left, they would most likely end up in the same metro area that lured their former Coliseum roommates, the Raiders, with a new football stadium: Las Vegas.

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Major League Baseball has given the A’s permission to explore options in Las Vegas, which is also home to the NHL Golden Knights. Club officials have made several visits to the city, which would correspond geographically to the American League West.

“To think of it as a bluff is a mistake,” commissioner Rob Manfred said in the All-Star game last Tuesday. “This is the decision point for Oakland.”

The As insist they will not build a new stadium on the Coliseum site, in an industrial area near the airport, off Interstate 880. They have failed to build near Laney. College in Oakland, and the San Francisco Giants used their territorial rights to prevent the A’s from moving to San Jose. Such problems do not exist in the Nevada desert.

“It’s just a different business climate,” Kaval said. “First, there are just a lot more sites because there is a lot more land that hasn’t been developed. So I think you would have that as a reference. Second, you have a lot of people who are very interested in baseball there because it would attract a lot of tourists and really improve the local economy and generate a lot of tax revenue and economic activity.

Kaval added, “Things like a public-private partnership that they did with the Raiders to help fund this, or even understanding the best locations for the field or a partnership with resorts and casinos, these are all things that they are very comfortable doing. . So they were quite aggressive.

Las Vegas would be the fourth home for the Athletics, who spent 13 years in Kansas City before landing in Oakland. Only one team – the Montreal Expos, which became the Washington Nationals in 2005 – has changed markets since 1972, but the MLB is eager to grow and the A’s have become a lingering hurdle.

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The league hasn’t expanded since 1998, and Manfred has repeatedly said the sport can’t do so until the Oakland and Tampa Bay stadium issues are resolved. The Rays, who were added in 1998 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, are locked in their lease at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., Until 2027, pushing back decisions about their future for a few years. But moving the A’s – to a new stadium in Oakland or to a new city – would be a first step.

“John Fisher and the MLB did everything humanly possible to have a stadium built in Oakland,” said Manfred, referring to the owner of the Athletic. “By the time you come to the conclusion that you can’t do it, whether you like the market or not, you have to find another place to play because you need a facility. It’s that simple. “

Fisher, a billionaire whose family founded the Gap clothing stores, has always kept the franchise in the bottom third of the MLB payroll. The A’s were still largely successful, thanks to a front office led by Billy Beane and David Forst, but they grew weary of playing in the shadow of the glittering Giants stadium, which opened in 2000 next to Mission Bay. .

“Before it was built I used to go downhill to the water’s edge and there was nothing there,” Kaval said of the Giants Park. “It’s very similar to the Oakland waterfront. And now, a generation later, you have this beautiful baseball park, you have an arena, you have a hospital, you have thousands of housing units, including affordable housing. It has completely transformed the energy of this part of the city. So we are trying to replicate what worked before.

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The A’s plan to privately fund the construction of their stadium, as the Giants did, and Manfred said Fisher had pledged “well over $ 1 billion.” But the parties have yet to agree on funding for off-site infrastructure improvements, and Kaval on Friday rejected a terms sheet proposed by the city.

“We could change some things around the edges,” Kaval said, but added: “They can’t vote yes on something we didn’t agree on and say they voted yes.”

Some leaders in the Asian-American community opposed the project, fearing traffic problems in nearby Chinatown, and Kaval acknowledged that some council members had a different vision for Howard Terminal. The team’s ambitious proposal may not work for everyone.

” And it’s good ; they have to decide what they want, ”Kaval said. “But we just need to know. We cannot continue to the side.

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