DENVER (AP) — Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says the fate of the Athletics in Oakland will be determined in the next few months.
A’s managing partner John Fisher and president David Kavak have proposed a new ballpark in the Howard Terminal area of Oakland, and Manfred said if the stadium project is not approved, the team would move forward with either a move to Las Vegas or a wider relocation search.
“John Fisher and Major League Baseball have done everything humanly possible to get a stadium built in Oakland,” Manfred told the Baseball Writers’ Association before Tuesday’s All-Star Game. “At the point in time that you come to the conclusion that it can’t get done, whether you like the market or not, you have to find someplace else to play because you need a facility. It’s that simple.”
The A’s have played at the Coliseum since 1968 and their lease expires after the 2024 season.
After proposing and withdrawing plans for ballparks in Fremont and San Jose, the team announced in November 2018 it had found a waterfront location for a new ballpark at Howard Terminal, close to the Jack London Square neighborhood. The stadium would cost more than $1 billion, with picturesque views toward San Francisco, the Bay Bridge and Port of Oakland.
The Oakland City Council is to consider a non-binding terms sheet on July 20.
“The Oakland process is at an end,” Manfred said. “John Fisher, Dave Kaval have devoted literally millions of dollars to the effort to get a ballpark proposal that could be supported by the city of Oakland and Alameda County. That proposal is in front of the relevant governmental authorities. There are really crucial votes that are going to take place over the next couple of months, and that’s going to determine the fate of baseball in Oakland.
“I do want to say this: Those terms that are going to be voted on involve investments of well over a billion dollars by John Fisher and his family, and that is one heck of a commitment to a community. So it’s not about that. John Fisher has done everything I’ve asked him to do in terms of trying to keep the A’s in Oakland and more than I asked him to do in terms of financial commitments. So we’re going to know one way or the other what’s going to happen with Oakland in the next couple of months. And if you can’t get a ballpark, I think that that the relocation process, whether it’s Los Vegas or a broader array of cities that get considered, is going to take on more pace.”
MLB announced May 11 that it had instructed the A’s to explore relocation options.
Other possible cities for franchises Manfred has mentioned in the past include Charlotte, North Carolina; Montreal; Nashville, Tennessee; Portland, Oregon; and Vancouver, British Columbia.
“Las Vegas is a viable alternative for a major league club, and there are other viable alternatives that I haven’t turned the A’s loose to even explore at this point,” Manfred said. “So thinking about this as a bluff is a mistake. This is the decision point for Oakland as to whether they want to have Major League Baseball going forward.”
Manfred said a new stadium at the Oakland Coliseum site was not realistic. The Oakland City Council adopted a resolution last week to enter into non-exclusive negotiations with bidders for the city’s share of the site, which the city co-owned with Alameda County, which agreed in 2019 to sell its half to the team over six years.
“There’s more than location involved in the viability of a site,” Manfred said. “Let’s start with the fact that the county and city were joint tenants there, that joint tenancy is a very complicated situation. The city’s gone down a different path in terms of entertaining sale of their piece of it to other bidders. It’s just not viable at this point. They’ve got other people looking to develop the site, and most fundamentally, John Fisher is going to invest over a billion dollars. He thinks the place that has the greatest likelihood of success is Howard Terminal.”
Manfred said Tampa’s ballpark search was less pressing. Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said in December 2018 that he was reopening his stadium site search after concluding plans for Tampa’s Ybor City could not be finalized by that month’s deadline.
Tampa Bay’s lease at St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field ends after the 2027 season. MLB gave permission to the Rays in 2019 to explore splitting their home schedule between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal, which lost the Expos to Washington, D.C., after the 2004 season.
“They got an unbreakable lease that has several years left to run,” Manfred said. “Stu is still actively engaged with the possibility of a two-city split. That’s a complicated undertaking. But he has had progress in his conversations both in Florida and in Montreal, and I can’t really say more than that. But the timeline on that is longer not because we’re not doing anything, but because they’re in a lease they can’t get out of.”