In showy late-game swing, Oakland mayor calls for MLB owners to reject A’s move

OAKLAND — Ahead of a decision by Major League Baseball owners on whether Oakland’s last major sports franchise can leave the city for Las Vegas, Mayor Sheng Thao on Tuesday urged them to offer a clear “no” vote.

“This is more than just a game,” Thao, at a City Hall event, said of the A’s, who will need 75% approval from the owners next week to secure the right to relocate. “These are intergenerational memories, tradition, culture.”

It’s unclear if the public showing by Thao and the City Council — which later on Tuesday approved a resolution affirming that the “A’s belong in Oakland” — will move the needle among MLB owners. While some retired A’s players and many fans have called for the team to stay, none of the MLB owners have indicated that they will get in A’s owner John Fisher’s way.

The A’s are focused on clearing legal hurdles in Nevada to build a 33,000-seat ballpark on the Las Vegas strip, plus a casino development on nine additional acres of adjacent land leased from owners of the Tropicana Hotel there.

Thao was quick to point out Tuesday that the Vegas ballpark — which would be the MLB’s smallest — is a far less ambitious proposal than the new digs the A’s had originally sought in Oakland.

The city raised over $400 million in grants and other outside money to support the waterfront stadium, thousands of homes and millions of square feet in commercial and retail space at Howard Terminal, in the city’s harbor.

Oakland Athletics fans chant “Stay in Oakland” before Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao addresses to fans during a press conference to urge the Major League Baseball owners to vote no for the Oakland A’s relocation to Las Vegas at the City Hall in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

Thao and other officials made clear that if the A’s are willing to scale down their development dreams closer to the realities of their Vegas proposal, they’re ready to reopen talks for a Howard Terminal ballpark, if not a new stadium at the Oakland Coliseum.

In the six months since the A’s first announced a land deal in Las Vegas, prompting Thao to end negotiations over a Howard Terminal ballpark, the mayor’s office has traded barbs with the MLB over whether Oakland had done enough to support the A’s.

“I want to address some of these shenanigans around how ‘No one’s helping the A’s get to a stadium’ – I think that’s utter bulls—t,” said Thao.

She noted that the city had outlasted a legal challenge by shipping companies and cleared a decisive hurdle with a Bay Area coastal regulatory body.

A’s fans filled the council chamber for Tuesday’s event, chanting “Stay in Oakland” and “Sell the team.”

Thao entertained the latter phrase, noting that the city would be willing to work with another sports franchise owner across the Bay — alluding to Warriors owner Joe Lacob — who has offered to buy the team.

Oakland Athletics fans chant “Stay in Oakland” after Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao spoke during a press conference to urge the Major League Baseball owners to vote no for the Oakland A’s relocation to Las Vegas at the City Hall in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

She also reiterated that a lease extension for the franchise at the Coliseum — the Vegas ballpark’s construction is currently expected to last at least until 2028 — would be contingent on Oakland being guaranteed a future expansion team and retention of the A’s branding.

An A’s worker in attendance, who declined to give his name because he is still employed by the team at the Coliseum, said he hasn’t been told anything by the franchise about his job’s future. The A’s lease at the Coliseum ends after 2024.

Keith Brown of the Alameda Labor Council, meanwhile, said the A’s promise to create thousands of new jobs at the Vegas ballpark was facetious — given that those weren’t new jobs, but jobs taken from Oakland.

“If (A’s owner) John Fisher turns his back on our jobs, on the hard-working folks of the Oakland Coliseum, on our Black and Brown workers, that’s his misguided choice,” Brown said. “But MLB should not follow.”

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