OAKLAND, Calif. - Major League Baseball's Oakland Athletics on Wednesday announced they have signed a binding agreement to purchase land for a future ballpark in Las Vegas – much to the disappointment of the mayor and others who were promised that the team was "Rooted in Oakland."
The A’s will work with Nevada and Clark County on a public-private partnership to fund the stadium. Team president Dave Kaval said the A’s hope to break ground by next year and move into their new home by 2027.
Experts had long said the deal to keep the A's in Oakland would be contested over the team's reluctance to provide enough affordable housing.
"We realize this is a difficult day for our Oakland fans and community," the A's said in a statement.
The team said the A's have focused on securing a new home for two decades and "and have invested unprecedented time and resources for the past six years to build a ballpark in Oakland."
But the team said that the process to "build a new ballpark in Oakland has made little forward progress for some time."
The statement claims the organization has made a strong and "sincere" commitment to staying in Oakland and after all this time, the team is "disappointed that we have been unable to achieve our shared vision of a waterfront ballpark."
Mayor Sheng Thao voiced dismay as well.
"I am deeply disappointed that the A’s have chosen not to negotiate with the City of Oakland as a true partner, in a way that respects the long relationship between the fans, the City and the team," she said in a statement.
Thao added that Oakland has gone "above and beyond" trying to keep the A's in Oakland.
But she said now, "it is clear to me," that the A's have "simply been using this process to try to extract a better deal out of Las Vegas."
At this point, Thao said she is "not interested in continuing to play that game - the fans and our residents deserve better."
In terse terms, Thao said that Oakland is ceasing negotiations and moving forward on alternatives for the $1 billion, privately financed redevelopment of Howard Terminal.
"I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished as a City, including securing a fully entitled site and over $375 million in new infrastructure investment that will benefit Oakland and its Port for generations to come," Thao said in her statement. "In a time of budget deficits, I refuse to compromise the safety and well-being of our residents."
The A’s had been looking for a new home for years to replace the outdated and run-down Oakland Coliseum, where the team has played since arriving from Kansas City for the 1968 season. They had sought to build a stadium in Fremont and San Jose before shifting their attention to the Oakland waterfront.
The A's proposed $1 billon privately-financed ballpark along the waterfront recently won a legal victory, when an Alameda County Superior Court judge deemed the environmental review of the stadium project and surrounding development sufficient. Those plans now appear dead in the water.
The city of Oakland had been adamant it did not want to use taxpayer dollars to help finance the project and that it wanted the team to provide ample affordable housing.
The team's proposal had included 3,000 residential units, up to 1.5 million square feet of commercial space, up to 270,000 square feet for retail, an indoor 3,500-seat performance center, 400 hotel rooms and up to 18 acres of publicly accessible open space.
Oakland had wanted to designate 450 of those apartments, or 15%, as affordable housing and pay for the construction of another 600 affordable homes in nearby neighborhoods, according to a draft term sheet from July 2021.
In an interview with SFGate last summer, Kaval wouldn't commit to that number.
Kaval told the San Francisco Chronicle, however that the baseball team agreed to the city’s terms for onsite affordable housing— 15% — in exchange for tax money generated by the parking, sales and business license taxes to help pay for infrastructure upgrades at the proposed ballpark site. Kaval did not specify how much tax money the team wanted.
The Las Vegas Review Journal reported the team's deal is for 49 acres, just west of the Strip.
MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred told the paper they support the team and hope to finalize the process by the end of the year.
If the A's do in fact leave, the city of Oakland, will have lost three professional sports teams since 2019, including the Raiders, who also moved to Vegas, and the Warriors, who moved to San Francisco.
The team is 3-16 this season and has been outscored by 86 runs — the worst mark through 19 games since 1899.
The average attendance through 12 home games this season is 11,027 for the lowest mark in the majors and less than half of the league average of about 27,800. The A’s haven’t drawn 2 million fans at home since 2014 -- their only year reaching the mark since 2005.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.