Opinion: If Athletics move occurs, throw Oakland fans a bone



Oakland Athletics fans hang signs at RingCentral Coliseum to protest the team’s potential move to Las Vegas and to call for team owner John Fisher and president Dave Kaval to sell the team during a baseball game between the Athletics and the Cincinnati Reds in Oakland, Calif., Friday, April 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Something’s brewing in Oakland.

If you told a sports fan this 50 years ago, they would perceive it as something good. Are the A’s going back to the postseason? No, the Oakland A’s might not even be around long enough to see it again.

The long-suffering Oakland Athletics, well-known for their financial struggles, paltry attendance (especially compared to the size of the massive Oakland Coliseum the team calls home), and few successes over the past 3 decades, might be on its way out of the San Francisco Bay Area. Franchise owner John Fisher spearheaded a statement released on April 20, 2023, which laid out plans to purchase a plot of land off of the Las Vegas Strip, with plans to build a new stadium there for the team to relocate to by 2027.

The move to a new stadium, at the very least, is no surprise to many who have paid any sort of attention to the baseball world as a whole in the past couple of decades. The Oakland Coliseum is the MLB’s dinosaur, and not one that you’d want to put in a museum, at that. The cookie-cutter bowl design is a relic of the past, and, to make matters worse, the addition of the box seats in center field for the A’s previous roommates, the Raiders, which were put in in the 90s, make the stadium feel walled off and severely more outdated than it really is.

The move from Oakland, though, is currently angering many in the Oakland sports community. The area has lost multiple key teams in the recent past, from the aforementioned Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, and the Golden State Warriors, who played at the iconic Oracle Center right across from the Coliseum, to the greater Bay area. The announcement from Fisher and team management that yet another one of Oakland’s established sports franchises is being ripped away from them, and also being moved to Las Vegas, is gut wrenching for many.

However, one of many wrenches (including angry fans, the owner’s potential lack of finances, and Vegas’ hesitancy for the move) in the Athletics owner’s plans is the fact that Vegas already has a minor league baseball team – and it’s the Athletics’ own AAA affiliate, the Las Vegas Aviators. The Aviators and Athletics being in the same city puts either one in a tricky spot – only the Twins have their AAA affiliate within a 30 minute distance of their major league ballpark; however, their St. Paul Saints, by name, are more so affiliated with the city of St. Paul, while the Twins are more affiliated with the entire state of Minnesota.

With the Athletics and the Aviators, however, the 18-minute drive between Las Vegas Ballpark, where the Aviators currently play, and the intersection of Dean Martin Drive and Tropicana Ave, where the proposed site of the new ballpark is, would make it so there would be little differentiating the teams. Why watch the Aviators when you could watch the A’s, and vice versa?

Now, all this isn’t to say the move is a done deal. While the land has been tentatively purchased, the details are still relatively hazy. Fisher and the ownership team behind the move is seeking $500 million in public funding from the city of Vegas in order to simply build their ballpark – a 35,000 seat park, at that. Las Vegas, known for their lively gambling business, already brings in $622 million in gambling taxes each year. So, the Athletics are asking for nearly a full year’s worth of gaming taxes from the city known for its gambling industry. That would be a hard sell for the city.

But, presuming the city allows the funds to pass through and the team does move, that doesn’t fix the issue of the two teams being in the same city as one another. So, Oakland is sapped of its major league franchise, and Las Vegas essentially has one and a half baseball teams, for the same franchise. What could the franchise potentially do going forward?

Well, maybe the Aviators could move to Oakland. Take over the Coliseum, bring some semblance of baseball back to Oakland again. It wouldn’t be a huge transition, after all.

The Athletics, in 2022, brought in an average of 9,973 fans per game. For a stadium that can hold upwards of 60,000 fans, that’s a truly paltry number. The Aviators, however, saw the highest attendance numbers at the AAA level in 2019, and, in 2022, saw an average attendance of 6,910. If this level of attendance is enough to keep the franchise afloat, then Oakland could, theoretically, be a workable home for a AAA franchise.

Some would say that the Coliseum is simply too large for a minor league franchise, as far as seating capacity is concerned. As far as these worries are concerned, the Coliseum has become home to experts in tarping off seats ever since their attendance troubles began. In center field, on top of “Mount Davis”, as the box seating section is called, there are upper deck seats that, nowadays, seem to be constantly tarped off with the Athletics wordmark painted over them. This could be a solution for more seating to ensure that only the amount of seats needed is available, and that more staff wouldn’t be needed to clean more of the ballpark than would be needed.

Regardless, if the deal to bring major league baseball to Las Vegas goes through, and ownership throws Oakland fans a bone by awarding them their AAA franchise, the fans shouldn’t be in for that much of a change; they’re used to their franchise being run like it’s been a minor league team for some time now.