MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred warned that Oakland could lose the Athletics baseball franchise if the city doesn't drop a lawsuit aimed at halting the construction of a new stadium.
Manfred recently held meetings with Mayor Libby Schaaf and City Council President Rebecca Kaplan to discuss a lawsuit against the team's plan to develop a new baseball stadium in Oakland, CBS San Francisco reported.
"The commissioner basically said that he wants this lawsuit to go away. That the A's had other options that they could consider if we didn't get our act together," Councilmember Larry Reid told the station.
Manfred hinted at a possible move to Las Vegas, where the A's have a minor legue team and where Bay Area fans travel to see the Oakland Raiders.
The A's currently play in the Oakland Coliseum, which opened in 1966 and is considered one of America's ugliest ballparks. Oakland-Alameda county is attempting to sell its $85 million ownership stake in Oakland Coliseum property back to the A's franchise — who hope to use that land to develop a new stadium — but the city of Oakland has sued to block the transaction. The lawsuit was filed by the city attorney's office at the behest of the City Council, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
It appears some contention by city officials and their constituents has to do with development provisions that would go along with the construction of a new stadium, specifically affordable housing. CBS San Francisco affiliate KRON-TV reports the city is seeking to protect public interest under the "Surplus Land Act," which stipulates any publicly-owned land that is sold must be first used for parks, recreational and affordable housing purposes. KRON-TV reports the Oakland-Alameda County doesn't believe the Oakland Coliseum's land even applies to this law. Others view Manfred's threat of relocating the A's as an empty threat.
"For them to come in and lay down the gauntlet, so to speak, and threaten or put out into the atmosphere that A's would be leaving Oakland, I think it's part muscle, it's part scare tactics," said LJ Jennings, a pastor and president of the Bay Area Community Benefit Organization, who spoke with CBS San Francisco. "I think the A's cannot go anywhere else in this country with having a better fan base that Oakland already provides them."
Schaaf has been clear she would like to keep the franchise in Oakland, where the team has played since 1968. The franchise has won four World Series championships in that time period.
"I've been clear about the path to keeping the A's in Oakland — build a privately-financed ballpark that's responsible to taxpayers and enhances neighborhood vitality," Schaaf said, according to CBS San Francisco.
The A's recently competed in the 2019 MLB Playoffs, where they lost a Wild Card Playoff Game at the Oakland Coliseum to the Tampa Bay Rays. Despite having one of the smallest payrolls in MLB, the A's have made the playoffs 10 times since 2000. They have not won a playoff series since 2006.
The lawsuit is scheduled to have a court hearing November 14.