OAKLAND -- Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao says there was no indication the Oakland A's were closing in on a land deal in Las Vegas, then she got a call at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
When asked at a Thursday morning news conference if the city could have done anything differently in its negotiations with the A's, Thao placed the breakdown squarely on the team.
"Well, there's many things that could have been done differently including bargaining in good faith from the A's side," she told reporters. "We came to the table and we said we were not going to negotiate through the media, we agreed on that. This is why you saw that we were very quiet. However, working on negotiations in one city where your home base [is] and then doing what you are doing in Las Vegas and then calling me at 6 p.m. saying we have a land deal without letting me know there was parallel track, that's a bit disingenuous."
Team president Dave Kaval said Wednesday night the team finalized a deal last week to buy the 49-acre site where the A's plan to build the stadium close to the Las Vegas Strip with a seating capacity of 30,000 to 35,000.
The A's will work with Nevada and Clark County on a public-private partnership to fund the stadium. Kaval said the A's hope to break ground by next year and would hope to be move to their new home by 2027.
"It's obviously a very big milestone for us," Kaval said. "We spent almost two years working in Las Vegas to try to determine a location that works for a long-term home. To identify a site and have a purchase agreement is a big step."
On Wednesday, Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo put out the welcome mat.
"Welcoming the A's to Las Vegas would be great news for Southern Nevada as well as our entire state," he said in a statement. "The prospect of bringing new jobs, more economic development, and an exceptional MLB team to Las Vegas is exciting on many levels. As we continue to navigate this opportunity, I'm in regular communication with the A's, Major League Baseball, legislative leadership, and local and state stakeholders."
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao on Thursday skewered the A's and the team's approach to negotiations with the city.
"The City of Oakland has for years worked to come to an agreement to keep the A's rooted here in the City of Oakland. And on many occasions, we were able to overcome seemingly insurmountable barriers and we showed our commitment to the team and its fans over and over again," said Thao in a hastily-arranged press conference Thursday morning.
"But unfortunately, it has become clear that we are not able to reach acceptable terms, and that the A's have not been engaged as good partners in these efforts," Thao added. "At every opportunity, the A's have made increasing demands on Oakland, and at every opportunity we have risen to the challenge and overcome the hurdles placed before us. Instead of working with us, they have announced a land deal in another city. And I want to be very clear, this announcement happened mid-negotiations and it shows they had no interest in making a deal with Oakland at all."
When asked when she realized the A's were allegedly using the city for leverage to get a better deal for the team in Las Vegas, Thao replied, "When was the moment that I noticed that the A's were just using the City of Oakland to leverage? Six p.m. last night when I received a phone call from Dave Kaval."
Thao characterized Kaval's phone call as, "'Heads up, we have a land deal in Las Vegas.' In mid negotiations. The closest we've ever been to landing a deal," said Thao.
The Athletics had been looking for a new home for years to replace the outdated and run-down Oakland Coliseum, where the team has played since arriving from Kansas City for the 1968 season. They had sought to build a stadium in Fremont and San Jose before shifting their attention to the Oakland waterfront.
Las Vegas would be the fourth home for a franchise that started as the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901-54.
"We're turning our full attention to Las Vegas," Kaval said. "We were on parallel paths before. But we're focused really on Las Vegas as our path to find a future home for the A's."
Commissioner Rob Manfred said in December the A's would not have to pay a relocation fee if the team moved to Las Vegas.
"We're past any reasonable timeline for the situation in Oakland to be resolved," Manfred said then.
After the announcement by the Athletics Wednesday, Thao issued a statement saying she was disappointed the A's didn't negotiate with the city as a "true partner," and said Oakland would continue to look at redeveloping the Howard Terminal ballpark site.
"I am not interested in continuing to play that game — the fans and our residents deserve better," said Thao. "I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished as a City, including securing a fully entitled site and over $375 million in new infrastructure investment that will benefit Oakland and its Port for generations to come. In a time of budget deficits, I refuse to compromise the safety and well-being of our residents. Given these realities, we are ceasing negotiations and moving forward on alternatives for the redevelopment of Howard Terminal."
The A's would be only the second MLB team to change cities in more than a half-century. Since the Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers for 1972, the only team to relocate was the Montreal Expos, who became the Washington Nationals in 2005.
The A's lease at the Coliseum expires after the 2024 season. The A's has struggled to draw fans to the Coliseum in recent years as owner John Fisher has slashed payroll and many of the team's most recognizable stars have been traded away.
Oakland had the lowest opening day payroll in baseball at at $58 million — less than the combined salaries of Mets pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, who tied for the major league high of $43.3 million.
The team is 3-16 this season and has been outscored by 86 runs — the worst mark through 19 games since 1899. The average attendance through 12 home games this season is 11,027 for the lowest mark in the majors and less than half of the league average of about 27,800. The A's haven't drawn 2 million fans at home since 2014 -- their only year reaching the mark since 2005.
"We know it's a difficult message for our folks in Oakland," Kaval said. "Obviously we're grateful for all the hard work that went into the waterfront. But we have been unable to achieve success or make enough progress."
Las Vegas is quickly become a sports mecca after years of being considered a pariah because of ties to the gambling industry. With gambling legalized in much of the country, the city now could have a baseball team to join the NHL's Golden Knights, who began as an expansion team in 2017 and the Raiders.
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