It’s starting to look more and more likely that the Oakland Athletics Vegas move is going to happen.
It’s been a rough couple of years both on and off the field for the A’s in Oakland, making the Athletics moving to Las Vegas a strong possibility. But is an Oakland Athletics Vegas move the best option for the franchise and the best option for baseball?
Oakland Athletics Vegas move: Pros and cons
In the last 50 years, only one MLB franchise has relocated. In 2005, the Montreal Expos moved and became the Washington Nationals.
But other than that, MLB hasn’t experienced a lot of relocation in the last half-century. That means an Oakland Athletics Vegas move is a big deal and largely uncharted territory. Let’s look at the team’s potential move from a variety of angles to determine if this is the best option or not.
The A’s get a stadium
On the surface, a move to Las Vegas is a big win for the team because of the new Athletics stadium in Vegas. The team and the city of Oakland have failed to come to an agreement on a new stadium with the Oakland Coliseum no longer being a viable venue, assuming it ever was in the first place.
However, the A’s have agreed to purchase a plot of land in Las Vegas that will be used to build a $1.5 billion stadium with enough room for 30,000 people.
To be fair, 30,000 seats would be the second-smallest park in the majors, larger than only Tropicana Field, which may not be home to the Rays much longer one way or another. But any new stadium is an upgrade over Oakland Coliseum.
It would also be a stadium built specifically for the A’s rather than having to play baseball in a football stadium, which is the case in Oakland. If the A’s aren’t going to be able to build a new stadium in Oakland after years of trying, they have every right to move to a city where they can have a new ballpark.
There are also rumblings that the A’s might be able to expedite their move to Las Vegas despite their lease with the Oakland Coliseum not ending until 2025 and their new Vegas stadium not being ready until at least 2027. It’s possible for the A’s to start playing their home games at Las Vegas Ballpark as early as the 2024 season.
The downside is that Las Vegas Ballpark has a capacity of 10,000 fans and a record attendance of just over 12,000. MLB may not like the look of one of its franchises playing multiple seasons in a stadium that was built for a triple-A team.
However, the A’s averaged fewer than 8,000 fans per game during the 2022 season. Things have only gotten worse in 2023 and are unlikely to get better if the A’s become a lame-duck in Oakland with an impending move to Vegas.
In that sense, a stadium with a capacity of 10,000 fans would at least give the A’s a chance to improve their attendance. Plus, Las Vegas Ballpark just opened in 2019, making it an upgrade over Oakland Coliseum in that sense. Given the unique situation, playing in a triple-A park for a few years isn’t the worst option and could almost be considered a positive if a new stadium in Oakland isn’t a viable option.
Oakland fans deserve better
On the other side of the coin, the sports fans in Oakland deserve much better than the situation that has unfolded in recent years. Attendance has reached such pathetic depths largely because owner John Fisher has declined to invest in the team’s roster. Obviously, the facilities at Oakland Coliseum aren’t helping. But Fisher has chosen not to spend money to keep the team’s homegrown talent or sign players via free agency.
The result has been Oakland’s best players being traded away before they reach free agency or the A’s having no chance to re-sign them in free agency, ultimately leading to a historically bad season in 2023. Surely, the fans in such a historically great sports town deserve better.
Moreover, if the A’s can’t get a new stadium and move to Las Vegas, it could be considered the final nail in Oakland’s coffin as a pro sports city. In 2020, Oakland lost the Raiders to Las Vegas. They also saw the Golden State Warriors move from Oakland to San Francisco when the Chase Center opened in 2019. If the Athletics end up leaving, sports fans on the east side of San Francisco Bay will have no major sports franchises left to call their own, which is a sad reality to face.
Is Las Vegas a Big League City?
Another question that needs to be answered before the A’s move to Vegas can be considered a success is whether Las Vegas can support an MLB franchise. The Raiders have made a good home there, but they only play eight or nine home games per year. Likewise, the Las Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL have enjoyed immediate success in Sin City. But they had the benefit of experiencing immediate success thanks to a giving expansion draft. The Golden Knights have attracted a healthy fanbase on the back of three Stanley Cup Finals appearances in six years.
On the other hand, the A’s won’t have such a benefit. There is no evidence that Fisher will start making a more substantial investment in the team’s roster after the move to Las Vegas. That means Vegas could be getting one of the worst teams in baseball and be expected to support them like a pennant contender. Plus, the A’s will play 81 home games per season, 10 times the number of games the Raiders have most years and nearly double the home games the Golden Knights have.
In the long run, will the A’s be able to draw bigger crowds with a losing team and hot Las Vegas summers in their new home than they are right now? Granted, fans of the visiting team will help contribute because Las Vegas is a tourist destination.
But filling the stands with tourists isn’t the same as having a supportive, homegrown fanbase. In general, it’s never a good sign for any franchise to rely on visiting fans to put butts in the seats, which is a lingering concern in Las Vegas.
MLB expansion can proceed
Of course, MLB will surely be supportive of the A’s moving to Vegas. The league has started to embrace sports betting with a wave of states legalizing it in recent years and appears to have its heart set on a team landing in Vegas.
If the A’s don’t move there, there is a strong possibility a future expansion team would be placed in Sin City. Of course, if the A’s end up moving to Vegas, several other MLB expansion ideas can then be explored.
In fact, MLB is waiting for the A’s and Rays to sort out their stadium issues before getting serious about expansion. The sooner the A’s get settled in Vegas, the sooner MLB can proceed with expanding to 32 teams.
Frankly, there is no clear-cut yes or no response when it comes to the Athletics moving to Las Vegas. Oakland has been a great baseball town in the past and can surely become one again.
The same can’t be said of Las Vegas, which has its benefits but is far from a sure thing. However, the A’s need two things right now: a new ballpark and an owner who will invest in putting a competitive team on the field. If the A’s need to move to Las Vegas to get one of those things, then it’s what’s best for the franchise right now.