A’s new ballpark saga drags into another MLB season

Oakland Athletics fans cheer before the opening night game against the Baltimore Orioles on Mon ...

OAKLAND, Calif. —

As the Athletics rang in the first home stand of the 2022 MLB season Monday in Oakland, the “home” part remains in flux for future seasons.

The A’s took on the Baltimore Orioles at the aging RingCentral Coliseum, a facility both the team and MLB don’t see fit for long-term use.

As the franchise negotiates a potential $12 billion mixed-use project centered around a $1 billion waterfront ballpark at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal, the team has also been pushing some of its betting chips in Las Vegas’ direction.

Due to the continued exploration in Nevada, some fans of the team — which pushes the “Rooted in Oakland” mantra — believe those roots are running thin in the Bay Area.

“I was never happy that the Raiders left and I’m certainly not going to be happy when the A’s leave,” said Angela Pacheco, lifelong A’s fan. “I think it’s all but a done deal.”

Last May, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred gave the A’s permission to explore possible relocation after years of talks about a new facility in Oakland dragged on. Nearly one year later, Las Vegas is the only location the A’s have seriously researched.

Team brass including A’s owner John Fisher and President Dave Kaval have made almost a dozen trips to Southern Nevada. During those trips team officials met with various politicians, resort owners and other groups with land to offer for a potential $1 billion domed stadium.

Five potential sites

The A’s have a final site list of five potential spots in Las Vegas the team could call home. And while some worry the Las Vegas overture is a leverage play by the A’s, Kaval insists, as he has all along, the search is real.

“Both (Las Vegas and Oakland) are progressing at a pace where we’re going to know a lot this summer,” Kaval said Monday in Oakland. “We want to know as soon as we can because the uncertainty is difficult for fans, it’s difficult for both communities, really everyone involved.”

Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf with the raising of the Atheltics flag to kick off opening day at the coliseum. #oakland #mlb #athletics pic.twitter.com/Rj6TQ1AN1O

— Mick Akers (@mickakers) April 18, 2022

Kaval said he’ll be back in Las Vegas Tuesday for several important meetings with area land owners as the organization pushes to identify that final Southern Nevada site. With the site list sitting at five, the possible options could shorten when Kaval heads back to Oakland Wednesday evening.

“We’re in final negotiations on a couple of the options and (there’s been) really positive dialogue with the different potential partners,” Kaval said. “We’re not at the point yet where we can make a public announcement, but we are getting closer… We want to get to the point where we can divulge the information and get the support of the community, the elected leaders and everyone involved in the process.”

Pacheco said she believes the A’s are doing everything in their power to ensure that the team ends up in Las Vegas. She also likened the situation to a classic baseball film.

“Have you ever seen that movie ‘Major League?’ How the owner makes the conditions the worst that they can so they can lose and go away?” Pacheco said. “That’s what I think Dave Kaval is (doing.) They should make that movie instead of “Moneyball,” referring to a 2011 film about the A’s.

Mayor wants A’s to stay

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has made it clear every chance she gets that she’s not a fan of the Las Vegas area. Earlier this month Schaaf stirred Las Vegas residents into an uproar when she dubbed the city a “gross desert.” In response, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman invited Schaaf to visit Southern Nevada.

Schaaf said she respects the pushback that she’s heard and seen from residents and Southern Nevada dignitaries.

“I totally respect Mayor Goodman. I respect the Las Vegans who are going to stand up for their city and who are going to defend it,” Schaaf said. “That’s what we do in Oakland all day long. Let us all love our cities, stick up for them and express our pride. We’ll see where the ballpark goes.”

Last month, Oakland City Council member Carroll Fife last month brought up the possibility of putting the Howard Terminal project to a public vote. Schaaf said she doesn’t think that will go forward.

“I have not seen anyone bring it to be scheduled for discussion,” Schaaf said. “I do not think it is going to happen. I do not think that it has any merit… I don’t know of a single other council member that supports the idea.”

Kaval and the A’s have been at odds for months over various aspects tied to the Howard Terminal project, mainly related to community benefits, affordable housing and infrastructure costs. Schaaf acknowledged they’re still negotiating those points.

“I find that myself and Dave Kaval are extremely aligned on our vision,” Schaaf said. “Sometimes the devil is in the details and while we share a vision, the question is how will we pay for it?”

Some fans resigned to losing team

Many fans aren’t optimistic that Oakland will keep the A’s, just as the city couldn’t stop the Raiders from relocating to Las Vegas in 2020.

“This is very sad to me, this is like home to me,” said Mario Cruz, another fan attending Monday’s game. “We already lost to the Raiders, the Warriors are in San Francisco now and I won’t be surprised if the Athletics leave. It’s going to be a sad day when that comes.”

Cruz said he would remain an A’s fan, as he begrudgingly did with the Raiders when they left. Trips to Las Vegas to see the A’s would be in the cards for Cruz and his group if the team lands in Southern Nevada.

Pacheco on the other hand said she might not even be a fan of the sport anymore if the A’s abandon ship in Oakland.

“I might not even care about baseball,” Pacheco said. “I might become a Giants fan, because they’ve got a great stadium, a good organization and a good location. I mean to be determined, but I’m certainly not going to spend my money and my time to go watch games in Vegas. Certainly not.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.