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As seats sit empty in Oakland, A’s close in on a final site in Las Vegas

By Erik Bacharach
Fewer than 24,000 fans attended the Athletics’ first three home games of this season, against the Orioles last week.getty images

One way or another — be it in Oakland or Las Vegas — the Athletics will soon have a clearer idea of where they’ll be playing baseball in 2025.

For now, however, they are continuing to move forward with “parallel paths,” a phrase A’s President Dave Kaval has used to describe the franchise’s pursuit of new ballparks in two different cities. Their lease at 55-year-old RingCentral Coliseum is set to expire after the 2024 season.

In Vegas, the A’s are progressing with a narrowed focus of five potential sites for a new venue, all of which are within the Resort Corridor. One of those sites includes being integrated with a new resort and casino, Kaval said. An announcement likely is coming in the next two to four weeks concerning a final site in Las Vegas, nearly a year after Major League Baseball instructed the A’s to explore relocating to another city if their proposal for a new Oakland ballpark falls through due to lack of support from local government.

But the A’s are still fighting to stay in Oakland, where they’ve played since 1968. There are several hurdles to clear for the A’s to secure the $12 billion ballpark and development project at the waterfront site, the most recent of which are a series of lawsuits over the environmental impact report (EIR) that was certified by the Oakland City Council in March. In short, three lawsuits — one filed by a coalition of port workers and two by separate railroad companies — are similar in that they all raise rail and maritime safety risks at the 55-acre site, which is a part of the Port of Oakland, a major container ship facility. 

Kaval said the A’s were expecting lawsuits, but “it’s absolutely crazy that the largest polluters in the state get to use an environmental law against our project that’s going to improve the environment and provide access to the waterfront,” he said.

State legislation ensures the lawsuits will be resolved within 270 days.

In addition to a 35,000-seat ballpark, the Howard Terminal proposal includes 3,000 new housing units, up to 1.5 million square feet of commercial development, a new 3,500-person indoor performance venue, and a 400-room hotel.

“I’m not a huge baseball fan, but I’m a fan of all of the intangibles that the team and this investment will bring to this neighborhood,” said Savlan Hauser, executive director of the Jack London Improvement District, where the ballpark would be located. “There’s a tremendous amount of civic pride in the A’s and how embedded they are with the community.”

Critical hurdles to surmount in Oakland include the pending lawsuits challenging the EIR; the approval of the project proposal by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission; and a development agreement for the project between the A’s and Oakland that Kaval is hoping comes before the city council this summer. Despite having the support of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Kaval expects that vote to be contentious.

Fans in Oakland, meanwhile, are not showing up. The A’s drew only 17,503 people on April 18, their lowest attendance for a home opener without COVID restrictions in more than 30 years, and then averaged only 3,226 in paid attendance over their next two games. Fans are frustrated with a dilapidated RingCentral Coliseum, MLB’s fourth oldest ballpark, and an organization that continues to offload star players in efforts to lighten their payroll.

Kaval hears those moans often on Twitter. His response has become a regurgitated refrain exemplified by a tweet he fired off on April 9: “This is why we need a new ballpark at Howard Terminal!”

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