Oakland Mayor: John Fisher’s plan in Las Vegas may not be viable for premium class
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao says Las Vegas and Nevada officials are learning what they’ve known for some time: that it’s difficult to get Oakland A’s owner John Fisher to the finish line at a new stadium.
“We see him having the same issues going to Las Vegas,” Thao said. The athlete Thursday. “There was a belief that this plan he had at the beginning was workable. Now we see it in reality, maybe the plan is not workable. The question becomes, are the plans not workable or is the ownership not workable?”
As concerns grow about moving the A’s to Las Vegas, Thao said her city remains keen on having the team stay in Oakland — and that it is talking with potential ownership groups willing to accept the city’s proposal for a new ballpark in Howard Station or perhaps one. On the same site as the team’s current home, the Oakland Coliseum.
The A-Group reached an agreement last May to build a $1.5 billion soccer stadium at the site of the Tropicana Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. Major League Baseball owners approved the move by unanimous vote in November. But many obstacles remain.
The team is struggling to find a temporary home between 2025-27. A legal challenge threatens public funding for a new stadium in Las Vegas. The logistics of installing a domed facility on the nine-acre Tropicana site are in question, as is the timeline for completing construction by the park’s scheduled opening in 2028.
Even with the A’s facing all of these issues, Oakland still has a great chance of keeping the team. Major League officials have repeatedly questioned the feasibility of city stadium proposals. Thao said she had not spoken to Fisher since he informed her of the team’s intention to move to Las Vegas in April, nor to commissioner Rob Manfred since meeting with him at the All-Star Game in July. At the meeting, Thao and her team provided details about their city’s efforts to create a park on the Howard Station waterfront site.
Thao’s position remains unchanged: She wants the franchisees to stay in Oakland, whether they’re under Fisher or a new owner. She declined to identify potential buyers, but said multiple groups are interested in purchasing the club and keeping it in the city. A new park at the Coliseum site as well as a park at Howard Station were mentioned as possibilities.
But Fisher has given no indication that he wants to sell the club.
“You can’t buy something that’s not for sale,” Thao said. “We hope that MLB understands that John Fisher selling the team or John Fisher coming back to the table with us to have a real discussion with us about whether it’s Howard Station or the Coliseum, is the best path for everyone.”
Thao noted that the Coliseum already has a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station. Both sites meet California Environmental Quality Act requirements and are “ready for trial,” she said. The city’s goal is simply to provide a world-class facility to a willing ownership group.
“We have options here in the city of Oakland, viable options,” Thao said.
The different view held by the A’s and MLB makes reopening negotiations between the team and city highly unlikely. But A’s road to Las Vegas still isn’t smooth.
On Wednesday, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman was quoted in a podcast interview with Front Office Sports as saying she believes the A’s’ plans for the Tropicana site are “illogical” due to traffic concerns, adding that the team should remain in Oakland.
Goodman, who is not technically the mayor of the area where the company plans to move, issued a statement saying she was “excited” about the team coming to Las Vegas. But she also reiterated her belief that in an “ideal world”, the A’s ownership “would love to have a new ballpark on the water in Auckland.”
A new lawsuit is also on the horizon. The Nevada Legislature and governor approved $380 million in funding for a Las Vegas stadium, but a political action committee backed by the teachers union filed a lawsuit against the state and Gov. Joe Lombardo on Monday, attacking the legality of the bill that created the public money.
Meanwhile, the A’s have yet to decide where they will play from 2025 to 2027, between their final season in Oakland and their planned debut in Las Vegas. Commissioner Rob Manfred said after owners’ meetings Thursday that the team needs to decide on a temporary location in “the next few months.” He added that he would be “disappointed” if the A’s didn’t move to their park in Vegas by its scheduled opening in 2028.
The A’s are expected to lose an estimated $70 million a year in local TV revenue if they leave the Bay Area before the end of their contract with NBC Sports California, which runs through 2033. Perhaps they could recoup some of that money in a revised TV package that includes Las Vegas and Sacramento or Salt Lake City, both of which are candidates to be the team’s temporary home. But the NBC Sports California contract is a strong incentive for the team to stay in the Bay Area, either at the Coliseum or at the San Francisco Giants’ home, Oracle Park.
Thao said she had not had any conversations with first-team officials about the team remaining in Auckland, and stressed that such a move would come at a price.
“We’re going to need some assurances here in the city of Oakland,” Thao said. “We can’t keep getting crumbs or what have you. We deserve more than that.”
“If they stay and want to play in Auckland in the meantime, I have always talked about how the name will remain here in Auckland and that we must prepare to have an expanded team. Those are my requests. But of course, conversations have to be had. My door is always open.”
Is Thao becoming more optimistic?
“This isn’t the first time I’ve been involved in a rodeo in terms of working with this property. I think we knew there was going to be a possibility of not being able to actually complete the project (in Las Vegas),” Thao said. “I’ve always said until you arrive Shovel to the ground, we will keep fighting.”
(Top photo of Auckland Mayor Sheng Thao: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
(Tags for translation) Oakland Athletics