Oakland Athletics

If A's leave, here is Oakland's path to landing MLB expansion team

Even if the Athletics leave for Vegas, there's still a chance professional baseball will one day be played in Oakland

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If the Athletics do leave for Las Vegas, they might one day return to Oakland as a visiting team. 

The city, if it ultimately secures a new stadium, could be in consideration for an expansion team. 

Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters at the All-Star Game in July that Major League Baseball would explore potential expansion to 32 teams after the Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays resolve their stadium situations. 

Manfred has previously mentioned Nashville, Montreal, Charlotte, Austin, Portland, Vancouver and Salt Lake City as possible expansion destinations. 

Oakland could work its way onto that list.

The Athletics' lease at The Coliseum expires after the 2024 season. Without a lease in Oakland, and without a completed stadium in Las Vegas, the A's will be in need of a temporary home for multiple years. 

Oakland mayor Sheng Thao reportedly informed Manfred a lease extension will come with a price that goes beyond dollars and cents. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, demands could include provisions that the A’s leave their team name in Oakland and/or be guaranteed a new team when the league expands. 

In July, the A’s began the process of applying to MLB to move to Las Vegas. Nevada’s Legislature approved providing $380 million in public financing for a proposed $1.5 billion, 30,000-seat ballpark with a retractable roof on the Tropicana hotel site of the Las Vegas Strip.

The last MLB team to relocate was the Montreal Expos, who became the Washington Nationals in 2005. The NFL's Raiders left Oakland for Las Vegas in 2020 and the NHL's Las Vegas Golden Knights went from being an expansion team in 2017 to Stanley Cup champions in 2023. 

If the Athletics join those teams by leaving the city they have called home since 1968, and the Rays finalize a stadium or relocation plan, expansion talks could begin within the league and a team in Oakland under new ownership could be in the conversation. Logic suggests having an expansion team in Vegas while keeping the A's in Oakland, but the deadline for that scenario seems to have passed.

"We're past any reasonable timeline for the situation in Oakland to be resolved,” Manfred told reporters in December.

So, yes, there is a chance the A's could one day be batting in the top of the inning while playing in Oakland – or at least the franchise formerly known as the A's.

Here's the questions surrounding Oakland’s ability to get an MLB expansion team....

Will Oakland get a new baseball stadium? 

The biggest hurdle in landing an expansion team is the same ongoing issue driving the A's out of town: a new stadium.

The A’s were negotiating with Oakland to build a $1 billion stadium as part of a $12 billion redevelopment deal but missed a major deadline in October to get a deal done. 

Might a new team owner be able to close a deal?

Potential development on the Coliseum property will depend on an agreement between the parties that own the land at the time. It’s currently split between the city and county, with the A’s in the process of purchasing the county’s share, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The A’s will still owe $30 million when their lease ends after the 2024 season and, if the team leaves Oakland, they’ll have to either pay it off in full or sell it, per the Chronicle. The city entered negotiations for their share of the property with the African American Sports and Entertainment Group, the Chronicle reported.   

What cities are most likely to get an MLB team?

Nashville appears to be the favorite to land an expansion team, even in the eyes of major league players.

A recent player poll conducted by The Athletic asked more than 100 MLB players which city would be best for a new franchise. Nashville earned 69 percent of the vote, with Montreal (10%), Charlotte (5%), Austin (5%), Portland (4%), Vancouver (2%) and Salt Lake City (2%) also receiving votes.

The expansion initiative in Nashville is being led by the group Music City Baseball, according to the Tennessean. The group is attempting to bring the Nashville Stars, a Negro Leagues team that played in Nashville in the 1950s, to Major League Baseball.

Many factors go into the league approving an expansion team, including market size, local competing sports teams, proximity to other MLB teams, the stadium, surrounding infrastructure and other considerations. 

The main selling point for Oakland? A pre-existing fan base re-energized by a new stadium, new team ownership and a new long-term commitment to the city. 

Is Oakland a candidate for an MLB expansion team?

That depends on whether or not the Oakland A's 2.0 can make money.

MLB owners aren't seeking a team that will be waiting for the revenue-sharing checks to clear. They want a revenue generator with a customer base that will consistently consume the product put on the field, whether in person or digitally.

The A's, during periods of sustained success, have drawn well in a two-team market. Attendance in Oakland reached an all-time high when the team advanced to three consecutive World Series between 1988 and 1991, drawing over 30,000 fans per game for four consecutive seasons. 

Amid recent relocation speculation, the team currently has the lowest payroll and worst record in the league while averaging a league-low 10,370 fans per home game. 

Build a winning team, build a new stadium, build a profitable future for a baseball team in Oakland.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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