A’s owner John Fisher faces his biggest hurdle yet this week, as Major League Baseball owners will vote on whether or not to approve his scheme to move the team to Las Vegas, but his plan still faces many potential curveballs even if the owners vote yes.
The Oakland A’s ownership has been playing footsie with the idea of moving to Las Vegas for more than four years, in hopes of finally getting out of the dilapidated Oakland Coliseum that has been at times overrun with feral cats, plagued by possums, and even backed up with raw sewage flow. And A’s owner John Fisher made his Las Vegas intentions official in April of this year, abandoning Oakland’s new Howard Terminal ballpark plans on which the City of Oakland had been working on for years.
Despite a summer of Oakland Fan protests and a hastily reworked Las Vegas stadium location, the Nevada legislature in June approved a plan for the A’s proposed $1.5 billion stadium, with $380 million in public funding. Now the Bay Area News Group reports Fisher and the A’s brass face their biggest hurdle this week, as Major League Baseball (MLB) owners will vote this week on whether to approve the A’s relocation to Las Vegas.
The A’s need a supermajority vote from the owners to get approval — that is, 75% of owners, or 23 of the 30 team owners, must vote yes for the move to pass. They are expected to win 75% or better of that vote. The vote will be at the annual winter owner’s meeting, which opens Tuesday, and the vote is expected by the end of the week.
Still, it’s only the first of many owner votes on the matter.
“It’s the next step,” former Montreal Expos president David Samson, who successfully got the Expos moved to Washington, D.C. to become the Washington Nationals, told the News Group. “It’s a step. It’s not the final step. Even with a relocation approval vote, that doesn’t mean Oakland is losing its team.”
“What they will approve is for the A’s to relocate to Las Vegas. But that’s not baseball approving the finished documents.”
One matter at issue is the A’s move from the Bay Area (sixth-largest TV market in the country) to Las Vegas (44th largest). There is also the highly inconvenient matter of where the A’s will play before the opening of that Las Vegas ballpark that’s not expected to be completed until 2028 at the earliest.
The A's could re-up their lease in Oakland for a couple more years (for which Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao would try to ransom a deal to keep the A’s name and logo in Oakland for a possible expansion team), they could share SF’s Oracle Park with the Giants, or they could play in Las Vegas’ minor league ballpark, a plan owners would likely reject because it only seats 10,000, and does not have MLB-quality locker rooms and facilities.
There is also the matter of the Nevada teachers' union trying to get a “Schools Not Stadiums” ballot measure to block the $30 million in taxpayer money that A’s need for the ballpark. While a Nevada judge blocked that voter referendum last week, the union has vowed to appeal the decision.
Image: OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 13: Fans of the Oakland Athletics take part in a reverse boycott before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at RingCentral Coliseum on June 13, 2023 in Oakland, California. The Athletics defeated the Rays 2-1. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)