Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner Rob Manfred has increased the pressure on the Oakland Athletics and City of Oakland to seal an agreement for a new ballpark, stating 2023 will be a “crucial year” in determining the franchise’s future while confirming it wouldn’t be hit with a relocation fee should it choose to move to Las Vegas.
Manfred provided an update on the A’s situation from MLB’s perspective at the League’s winter meetings. In June, the A’s and city authorities hailed another key vote to progress the franchise’s $12bn (£9.84bn/€11.39bn) waterfront ballpark project and potentially ward off the threat of the team relocating to Las Vegas.
The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) voted 23-2 to remove port designation from the 56-acre Howard Terminal site at which the A’s are seeking to build a new stadium and associated mixed-use development. A vote against would have likely killed off the project.
However, the project itself still faces multiple challenges, with the two sides having not determined how to pay for millions of dollars in associated infrastructure upgrades, as well as quarrelled on the level of affordable housing included and a non-relocation agreement for the A’s.
Manfred said yesterday (Tuesday) that “we’re past any reasonable timeline” for the “situation in Oakland” to be resolved, while outlining a potential deadline in the shape of the League’s collective bargaining agreement.
Under the terms of the new labour agreement struck in March, Manfred noted that the A’s are being phased back in as revenue-sharing recipients, with the proviso that the team must have a binding agreement in place by January 15, 2024, for a new stadium in Oakland or elsewhere.
Manfred said: “There’s kind of a natural trigger there. They need to have a deal by then so this is a very, very important year. If Oakland wants to keep the A’s, they need to figure out a way to get a deal in front of the A’s that’s acceptable to (owner) John Fisher.”
Such a deal has been made more complicated with a new city administration, led by Mayor-elect Sheng Thao, being introduced next month. Commenting on the new leadership, Manfred said: “It’s my understanding that she’s been supportive of the project, so I find that to be encouraging.
“It’s important and a challenge for a new mayor in that 2023 is a crucial year for the future of the A’s. I will reach out to make sure that she understands where we are from a timing perspective.”
The A’s have been openly assessing Las Vegas as a potential relocation site for around 18 months, and it was reported in June that the franchise would avoid a fee likely to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars should it choose to do so. In comparison, the NFL’s Raiders had to pay a $378m fee to relocate from Oakland to Las Vegas two years ago.
Manfred added yesterday: “I’ve already taken this issue to the executive council, that’s why I was prepared to say it publicly. If (the A’s) can get it done in Vegas, there will not be a relocation fee for them.”
The A’s are planning a privately financed 35,000-seat ballpark at Howard Terminal which would also see the substantial regeneration of the surrounding area. The team intends to leave its current home, RingCentral Coliseum, when its lease expires in 2024.