Oakland mayor Sheng Thao met with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred behind closed doors Sunday in Seattle, making the trek to the 2023 MLB All-Star Game festivities to dispel the notion her city hasn't presented the Athletics with a ballpark proposal.
In an interview with The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, Thao said she's fighting to keep the A's in Oakland despite the team's pursuit of a Las Vegas relocation. The mayor has repeated her willingness to re-open negotiations for a new A's ballpark in Oakland, and on Sunday she showed Manfred pages upon pages detailing the city's efforts to get a waterfront park built at Howard Terminal.
"For me, it was very important that [Manfred], and not just him, but the [league’s relocation] committee and the owners had a copy of all that we are presenting, for transparency purposes," Thao told Rosenthal. "Through the press, we have heard that Manfred has stated there was no proposal. We wanted to dispel that notion. If people were misinformed, we wanted to make sure everybody had all the real-time information of how close we were to a ballpark."
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As Manfred addressed the A's potential move last month, he said, “There is no Oakland offer, OK? They never got to a point where they had a plan to build a stadium at any site.” Immediately after the commissioner's remarks, Thao released a statement refuting Manfred's claims.
The A's have begun the relocation application process and received approval from the Nevada State Legislature on a funding bill for their new Las Vegas ballpark, but MLB owners still need to vote on the relocation. Manfred's last-minute meeting with Thao was a sign the league is taking the entire situation seriously, and the mayor told Rosenthal she left her first face-to-face encounter with the commissioner feeling as if the city accomplished the goal at hand.
"We did what we came here to do. To ensure there was transparency. To make sure this dialogue was open, and continues to be open," Thao told Rosenthal, making it clear she was the one who reached out to Manfred for the meeting. "... There is no ego in this at all. [We wanted] to ensure that the [relocation] committee understands all of our deal points and that there was, and is, a proposal.
"And there is room, and a want, for a new stadium for the Oakland A’s in Oakland."
Among the documents shown to Manfred were a summary of terms, an infrastructure financing plan, a preliminary development plan, design guidelines and a tentative tract map. Thao told Rosenthal that Manfred seemed “receptive” to Oakland's presentation and informed her he would forward the materials to the owners’ three-person relocation committee.
“We had a good meeting, a very open exchange of views,” Manfred told reporters Tuesday before the All-Star Game, via Rosenthal. “I understand she came to the process late and is doing her best to figure out if there is something that can be done in a process that was in a lot of ways kind of over when she showed up on the scene.”
Included in the summary of terms presented to Manfred was a cover letter from Thao, who told the commissioner Oakland "very much had a specific and concrete proposal on the table, we had a detailed and mutually agreed upon plan and schedule, and after two years of negotiations, we were, I believe, extremely close to finalizing a deal with the current ownership of the A’s."
Nothing is official yet as the A's continue the relocation process, but it's clear Thao is doing all she can to keep baseball in Oakland.
"I don’t believe in completely closed windows,” Thao told Rosenthal. “What I believe is that it’s an option for people to open windows. And I’m going to continue to push for that window to be open if they do think it is closed.”