Oakland Athletics may very well become Las Vegas Athletics soon – according to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, that is.
Manfred recently intervened in an ongoing lawsuit brought by the city of Oakland, which seeks to prevent the sale of Oakland-Alameda County’s ownership stake in the Athletics’ ballpark to the team. After purchasing full equity in the stadium, the Athletics hope to demolish the current ballpark and redevelop the property to finance the construction of their proposed, new stadium on the Oakland waterfront.
The city initially filed the lawsuit to prohibit the transaction, because it believed that the proposed redevelopment of the team’s current stadium, the Oakland Coliseum, would violate California law regarding the shortage of low-income housing.
Subsequently, a Superior Court judge signed off on a temporary restraining order blocking the sale in the interim. However, the county, the team, and the Commissioner have taken the position that the law does not apply in the matter at hand. Furthermore, the Commissioner warned city politicians, “Drop the lawsuit or lose the team.”
The Commissioner flexed his bargaining power over the city by hitting it where it hurts: financially. The reality is that Oakland just recently lost the Golden State Warriors to San Francisco and is in the process of losing the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. Additionally, the Athletics’ Triple-A affiliate team relocated to Las Vegas last year.
In other words, professional sports teams are fleeing Oakland en masse. As a result, both the city and the county are losing out on valuable and much-needed revenue from taxes and miscellaneous fan spending. Manfred knew that a threat to oversee the Athletics in relocating to Las Vegas would be a knockout punch to the lawsuit.
While Manfred’s recent threat has yet to fully persuade the city to retract its lawsuit, it was surely a wake-up call to local legislators that they must pursue a more constructive course of action. In the wake of Manfred’s comments, Oakland’s mayor has gone to bat for the team against the city council by publicly reaffirming her commitment to keeping the team in Oakland.
Rather than litigate for years and continue to play in one of the oldest stadiums in the country, it seems logical that the Athletics would relocate to a city that is willing to cooperate with the team.
If the city, county, and team do not see eye to eye on this issue quickly, sports fans in the Bay Area will soon find themselves taking weekend trips east to watch the Las Vegas Athletics and Las Vegas Raiders.