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MLB threatens to move Athletics out of Bay Area

This would be a brutal blow to Oakland sports fans, who have already lost the Warriors to San Francisco and will soon lose the Raiders to Las Vegas.

MLB: AL Wild Card-Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf confirmed Tuesday that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has threatened to move the Athletics out of the Bay Area due to a recent lawsuit filed by the Oakland city council against Alameda County, effectively blocking the A’s from pursuing a new privately-financed ballpark in Oakland. KTVU’s Sal Castaneda tweeted the news out Tuesday morning:

The lawsuit, which was filed last week, reportedly came as a shock to both the Athletics and Schaaf, as the city council essentially went over Schaaf’s head at the last moment and chose to take the most combative action possible against the team. The A’s had been in active negotations with the city on the same day, and Alameda County had meetings scheduled in the near future with the city council. This issue is scheduled to be addressed on November 14, when there will be a hearing to determine an immediate course of action.

With this relatively unprecedented action taking place, Manfred has unsurprisingly stepped in to defend the owners he works for, while also ostensibly acting in the best interest of A’s fans, though that obviously wouldn’t be the case if the team ends up moving to Las Vegas or elsewhere. The A’s, who have spent the last 51 years playing at the many-times-renamed RingCentral Coliseum, are in clear need of a better facility, as the efforts to make the facility better for the NFL’s Raiders when they moved back in 1995 turned it into a stadium that was no longer optimal for baseball. Of course, time has also taken its course on the stadium, as embarrassing plumbing issues have popped up in recent years. The Athletics have been trying to get a new stadium for 14 years now — most recently with a proposed Howard Terminal location — so it’s easy to understand why both the team itself and the league are becoming frustrated with the proceedings.

While at this point Manfred’s statement should probably be considered more of an empty threat than anything, Oakland sports fans have to have a relatively high level of concern. The Warriors are moving into Chase Center in downtown San Francisco this fall after playing the better part of 53 years at Oakland’s Oracle Arena. The Raiders, continuing their nomadic ways, are set to move to Las Vegas for the 2020 season. Without the Athletics, Oakland would be left without a major pro team, and while that news perhaps isn’t as dire as it would be in most communities because the Bay Area still has the 49ers, Sharks, Warriors, Giants, and Earthquakes, it would still be a major hit to Oakland residents’ civic pride.

Though Las Vegas would not be the only suitor for the A’s if they were to relocate, it’s worth wondering how much appetite there would be for another major pro sports franchise in Sin City — especially if it requires a publicly-financed stadium. The NHL’s Golden Knights have already built up a major following, and the Raiders are bound to be popular as the area’s first NFL team. For what it’s worth, the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators did lead all Minor League Baseball teams in both total attendance (650,934) and average attendance (9,299) following their move into a new ballpark this year.