For years, the focus of efforts in Oakland has been to get a new stadium done that would keep the Athletics around for decades to come, as everyone recognized the current situation with the Coliseum was not sustainable long-term. There have been countless plans, legal discussions, political campaigns, and cudgels from Major League Baseball to get a deal done. So interested was the league in getting something final in place that it declined to advance on expansion until the A’s (and Rays’) situation was settled.
Well, it appears MLB hit their breaking point with Oakland:
While the A's have expressed that remaining in Oakland and building a $12 billion mixed-use development is their priority, the standstill of the project prompted today's move. The leading contender if the A's do move: Las Vegas. Plenty of other cities would welcome the team, too.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 11, 2021
Let me be very clear that, historically, *most* threats to move are merely that: threats. They are designed to get an uncooperative political body to cooperate, or – more dubiously – they are designed to get political bodies to fork over public dollars for a new stadium situation. And, in this situation, the A’s are seeking public investment in the ballpark and surrounding area as part of their proposed plan (together with their private investment). This is a negotiation.
For the A’s and Oakland, though, it’s not like this is some wholly new spark. These embers have been smoldering for a very, very long time, and I’ve not yet seen where the A’s are being entirely unreasonable. Further, if MLB is finally saying, eff it, start shopping for a new city, I think it means a little more in this situation. Here’s the statement MLB provided to ESPN:
“MLB is concerned with the rate of progress on the A’s new ballpark effort with local officials and other stakeholders in Oakland. The A’s have worked very hard to advance a new ballpark in downtown Oakland for the last four years, investing significant resources while facing multiple roadblocks. We know they remain deeply committed to succeeding in Oakland, and with two other sports franchises recently leaving the community, their commitment to Oakland is now more important than ever.
“The Oakland Coliseum site is not a viable option for the future vision of baseball. We have instructed the Athletics to begin to explore other markets while they continue to pursue a waterfront ballpark in Oakland. The Athletics need a new ballpark to remain competitive, so it is now in our best interest to also consider other markets.”
The A’s current lease at the Coliseum runs through 2024, so if plans for relocation are going to be set into motion, you’d expect it within 18 months or so. In addition to Las Vegas, other long-discussed expansion/relocation cities include Portland, Nashville, Vancouver, Charlotte, Mexico City, and Montreal (though that one might wind up being part of the hybrid city plan with Tampa Bay for the Rays).