MLB commissioner: Oakland A’s ‘pretty settled’ on Las Vegas site; relocation vote could come within month
MILWAUKEE — A vote to approve the Oakland Athletics’ possible move to Las Vegas by Major League Baseball owners could be just weeks away, commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday.
“It’s possible that a relocation vote could happen as early as June,” Manfred said at Milwaukee’s American Family Field before the Brewers’ game against the Giants. “It’s really now a question of getting a finalized financing package that would allow them to build on that site. It’s very difficult to have a timeline for Oakland until there’s actually a deal to be considered.”
The owners will meet from June 13-15 in New York, and while there remain steps to be taken, Manfred said he was “optimistic” about the A’s finalizing a public-financing deal with Nevada lawmakers that would pave the way for the move. On Wednesday, Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo announced a tentative agreement with the club, however it must still be approved by state legislators, whose session ends June 5 and won’t reconvene until 2025.
Getting MLB owners to vote on relocation in three weeks marks a significant change in timeline in the A’s potential path out of Oakland. A month ago, A’s team president David Kaval told LVSportsBiz.com he hoped to apply to MLB as early as August, but that was at least two stadium plans ago. The A’s need approval from 75 percent of the league, or 23 yes votes.
The A’s have come to agreements on multiple potential sites for a new stadium in the past month, first on a 49-acre parcel north of the Raiders’ new home and, this week, one on the strip, on the Tropicana Las Vegas property. Per Casey Pratt of ABC7, team officials toured a third site even after announcing the binding agreement with Bally’s Corporation, the owner of the Tropicana.
Manfred said the A’s were “pretty settled” on the Tropicana site, but the relocation vote was still contingent on the approval of the public financing and the A’s completing the required steps in MLB’s internal relocation process, which includes studies on fan interest, possible corporate sponsorships and more, which the commissioner said A’s owner John Fisher “(has) not even started.”
Under the latest collective bargaining agreement, if the A’s don’t have “a binding deal” for a ballpark in place by January 15, 2024, they will no longer be eligible for revenue-sharing funds. They are receiving $20 million this season.
The other MLB owners would eventually get a vote in the A’s relocation; the last team to move, the Montreal Expos received the approval of all but one owner, the Orioles’ Peter Angelos, who would become neighbors with the now-Washington Nationals.
Manfred said he was in Milwaukee “as part of an ongoing process to meet with players” and that he met with representatives from the Giants and Brewers (though in the words of one San Francisco player who has spoken with him in the past but didn’t participate Wednesday, “nothing productive ever comes of it”).
Ostensibly, however, Manfred’s presence regarded the nearly half-a-billion dollars in maintenance costs the league said this week is required of American Family Field, which has been home to the Brewers since it opened in 2001. While addressing the resistance to pouring more public money into the 22-year-old facility, the commissioner struck a notably different tone than with the A’s.
Manfred said “there is not a scenario in my mind at the current moment” that the Brewers could leave Milwaukee while calling the situation here “the antithesis of what has happened in Oakland, and I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure it stays that way.”
Of the Coliseum, which was built in 1966 and has been the A’s home since 1968, Manfred said, “unfortunately, it’s a facility that was never as good as this one when it started. They made some unfortunate decisions not to maintain the ballpark in the way that it needed to be maintained. It resulted in a decline in the attendance, which had an impact on the quality of product the team could afford to put on the field.”
As for the A’s future in the East Bay?
“Well,” Manfred said, “I think you’d have to ask the mayor of Oakland (Sheng Thao) … You know, I don’t have a crystal ball as to where anything’s going. There’s not a definitive deal done in Las Vegas, and we’ll have to see how that plays out.”
Thao told reporters the city and the team had been “in mid-negotiations — the closest we’ve ever been to landing a deal,” when Kaval called last month to tell her the A’s had an agreement to purchase land in Las Vegas.
Thao announced that negotiations for the waterfront development were dead a day later, but also told NBC Bay Area’s Raj Mathai she’d listen if the A’s wanted to resume talks to keep the team in the East Bay.
“I really hope that they have a change of heart and really, truly feel that they do,” Thao told Mathai. “If they would call me, I would pick up because it’s not about me, it’s not about (owner) John Fisher, it’s really about the bigger, more complex issues around the fan base, what it means to drive the economy here in the city of Oakland.
“And what means to really be rooted here in Oakland. And so I really hope we can set aside our differences and work something out, but at the same time, if it doesn’t work out, I’m excited for all the opportunities that could be at Howard Terminal.”