Oakland mayor hopes A's have ‘change of heart' on Vegas plans


The Athletics' brain trust has made it clear over the last two weeks that they want to leave Oakland and head to Las Vegas in the coming years.

But Oakland mayor Sheng Thao wouldn't be opposed to the A's turning around and staying in the city they've called home since 1968.

"I really hope that they have a change of heart and really, truly feel that they do," Mayor Thao told NBC Bay Area's Raj Mathai in an interview Thursday. "It's not just about the action of the owner of the team but that there's a fan base here, and the fans also are in a way, owners of this team. And to really connect with the words 'Rooted in Oakland.' Again, if they would call me, I would pick up because it's not about me, it's not about John Fisher, it's really about the bigger, more complex issues around the fan base, what it means to drive the economy here in the city of Oakland.

"And what means to really be rooted here in Oakland. And so I really hope we can set aside our differences and work something out, but at the same time, if it doesn't work out, I'm excited for all the opportunities that could be at Howard Terminal."

On April 19, the A's announced that they had a binding agreement to purchase a plot of land in Las Vegas with the purpose of building a new ballpark that would open for the 2027 MLB season, if everything goes according to plan.

Immediately, Mayor Thao released a statement announcing that the city had ceased negotiations with the A's on the proposed Howard Terminal waterfront ballpark project.

A day after the A's Las Vegas announcement, team president Dave Kaval spoke to Mathai and offered his rationale on why the Howard Terminal project was proving hard to complete.

"The challenge is that we had an incredible visionary waterfront plan," Kaval told Mathai. "Maybe the boldness and audacity of it was too much and we had too much opposition at the waterfront with the maritime polluters and they were able to delay the project very successfully, which really impeded our ability to move forward on a timeline that worked, especially for Major League Baseball."

In her interview with Mathai this week, Mayor Thao took exception to that answer.

"With any big project like this, you're going to have opposition," Mayor Thao told Mathai. "If you're going to tell me, somehow, Las Vegas' constituency is just going to say 'Oh, come on in' with no opposition, I can tell you that's absolutely not going to be true. At the end of the day, I'm sorry but I can't find that that statement is actually accurate. Yes, we went through the legal courts, and yes, we came out victorious. And now to say that's the reason why, you just can't help but feel like the goalposts keep moving, right?

"You go through one scenario and the goalposts move, and now it's like, we won this court case and then all of a sudden, that's not good enough. Again, we were in the middle of negotiations and I think we were the closest we've ever been, and we had more meetings scheduled and we very much wanted to get it done but then they dropped this news on us and it was clear they weren't being good partners."

While the two sides aren't at the negotiating table, and one side is focused on another option, Mayor Thao made it clear that if the A's hit roadblocks in their Las Vegas plan, her phone lines are open.

"If the A's called me back, I'll pick up the phone," Mayor Thao told Mathai. "Again, it wasn't the city that walked away from these negotiations summit, it was the A's. And so, absolutely. There still are many, many steps in Las Vegas that haven't even started. Buying a plot of land in Las Vegas is one thing. However, I will not allow for Oakland to be used as leverage in negotiations for a stadium in Las Vegas. I don't think that that's fair and I think Oakland residents and Oakland A's fans deserve better."

RELATED: JTA upset by potential A's move, would remain a fan

A's fans voiced their displeasure with Kaval and owner John Fisher during the first home game at the Coliseum on Friday night, protesting outside the stadium, marching and chanting inside the ballpark and hanging numerous banners decrying the front office.

The A's believe Las Vegas is their best path forward as they try to meet the MLB-imposed deadline of January 2024 to settle on a new ballpark location, but Mayor Thao isn't ready to throw in the towel on keeping the team in Oakland, even if the two sides aren't currently negotiating.

For as disingenuous as Mayor Thao feels the A's are being, she is leaving the door open and the phone lines clear in case they need to come crawling back.

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