Oakland mayor asks owners to reject A’s move

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao sent a letter to 15 owners in Major League Baseball on Wednesday, outlining why they should reject Athletics owner John Fisher’s attempt to move the team to Las Vegas after 55 years in Oakland.

The owners’ annual meeting takes place next week in Arlington, Texas, and the A’s relocation vote is expected to be held at some point during the three-day session. Approval from three-quarters of the 30 owners is required to allow MLB’s first franchise move since the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals after the 2004 season.

Thao’s letter, obtained by ESPN, reiterates many points the mayor has been making since April, when the A’s stunned the city by announcing plans to move to Las Vegas and build a stadium on a nine-acre site currently occupied by the Tropicana Las Vegas Casino Resort. The letter is part of the city’s ongoing effort to counter the A’s contention that Oakland did not act with sufficient urgency in obtaining clearances and securing funding for a $12 billion, 55-acre residential/retail waterfront development that would include a 35,000-seat stadium.

Thao wrote that Oakland has procured $428 million in public funding for off-site infrastructure, a figure that is in addition to approximately $500 million in on-site infrastructure the city and county will contribute through “tax increment funding.”

“The proposed funding assistance for a new stadium development,” Thao wrote, “is thus nearly triple the $380M the A’s have reportedly secured in Las Vegas, for a much smaller stadium project. … There is a clear path to build a state-of-the-art new ballpark here in Oakland, and to do so just as expeditiously (if not more so) than in Las Vegas.”

The letter was sent to a mix of large-market teams, including the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers, and smaller-market teams, such as the Tigers, Rockies and Mariners. The letter does not mention Fisher directly, nor does it explicitly address the potential of the Athletics, with baseball’s lowest payroll and a higher percentage of revenue sharing, moving from the country’s 10th-largest media market to its 40th.

It does, however, question the economic wisdom of commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision to absolve the A’s of a relocation fee that would be worth at least $300 million.

“The A’s are reportedly counting on hundreds of millions of dollars of relocation fees to be waived as part of this move,” Thao wrote. “Not only would this require MLB owners to make a major financial sacrifice, it might also create a precedent that could cause other teams to seek similar considerations. … And moving the A’s to Las Vegas would remove the market from eligibility as a potential expansion site, closing the door on the hefty expansion fee (expected to amount to $2B+) a new Vegas-based team could contribute.

“In sum, we believe that keeping the A’s in Oakland while evaluating an expansion opportunity in Las Vegas is by far the most lucrative path for MLB over both the short and long term.”

There remain unanswered questions regarding the team’s immediate future. In September, an MLB source told ESPN that owners would not be able to hold an informed vote without concrete answers as to the stadium design in Las Vegas — such as whether it would be domed or have a retractable roof — and where the Athletics plan to play for three seasons (2025-27) while the ballpark in Las Vegas is constructed.

One week before the expected vote, there have been no official renderings of the Las Vegas stadium and Oakland officials say there has been no discussion about extending the lease on the Coliseum, which expires after next season.

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