May 28, 2024
Sheng Thao would like to have discussions about expansion, keeping Athletics nickname in Oakland

OAKLAND – Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao says there are people who are interested in buying the Athletics from owner John Fisher.

But should Fisher retain the team — as he has stated — and want to extend the A’s lease at the Coliseum past next season, then Thao feels there’s a price that needs to be paid.

In exchange for extending the A’s lease at the facility past 2024 prior to the team’s proposed move to Las Vegas, Thao wants a guarantee from Major League Baseball that Oakland will receive an expansion team should the A’s move to southern Nevada. Thao also wants the A’s franchise name to remain with the city.

“To extend the ballpark lease for the Oakland A’s to play here in Oakland, there’s going to have to be some conversation, some real conversation, some tangibles for our city of Oakland,” Thao told NBC Bay Area in an interview that aired Thursday. “Including the possibility of an expansion team guaranteed, including the possibility of a name staying here in the city of Oakland. … I’m not going to stand here and allow for there to be abuse in this so-called relationship that we have.

“And so, if (the A’s are) willing to have that conversation and be … a good tenant here in the city of Oakland and a good team player, then that’s a conversation we should have. We should really talk about possible expansion and keeping the name here in Oakland.”

Thao told the network she wants the A’s to remain here in Oakland if there are “viable people willing to buy, which there are, then let’s go ahead and give that opportunity to the Oakland A’s and expand in Las Vegas and give that expansion opportunity to the Fisher’s if they want that.

“But the Oakland A’s should remain here in Oakland.”

Fan groups aren’t giving up on the effort to stop the team’s relocation. Before the A’s beat the Angels 2-1 on Saturday, those arriving to the Coliseum saw several digital billboards calling on Fisher to sell the team, the latest in a fan-led “Summer of Sell” campaign.

The A’s have submitted an application for relocation to Las Vegas and hope to move into a proposed new ballpark along the famed Strip in 2028. The organization’s lease at the Coliseum expires in 2024.

Fisher told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last month that he had no intention of selling the Athletics and team president David Kaval told this news organization in April, soon after plans to purchase land in Las Vegas were first announced, that opening a new stadium at Howard Terminal in Oakland would be seven or eight years away.

Thao’s chief of staff, Leigh Hanson, told this news organization Friday that if the A’s somehow took the city up on its offer to remain in Oakland permanently, both the Coliseum and Howard Terminal would be on the table as a long-term home.

“And if the ownership transitioned and an exceptionally wealthy new owner was drawn to Howard Terminal, we would explore that as well,” Hanson said.

Hanson noted that Oakland retaining the Athletics’ nickname would mirror the Cleveland Browns’ departure to Baltimore in the mid-1990s, which led the National Football League to ensure the franchise’s name and logo stayed behind.

“The mayor believes the Oakland A’s as a brand belongs in Oakland,” Hanson said. “And there’s some precedent … where leagues recognize the power and value of the brand staying connected to the city.”

For now, Thao’s office isn’t in regular communication with the MLB; despite what Hanson described as an earlier commitment to staying in touch, the two sides are “back to talking in the press,” she said.

Thao could have some leverage with her proposals. The A’s would need to remain in the Bay Area for their television contract with NBC Sports California to remain valid. That deal, which runs through 2033, was worth $53 million to the team last season, per Sportico.

Kaval told the Nevada Independent last month that the team was considering playing its home games after the 2024 season either at the Coliseum, Oracle Park in San Francisco, or at Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin, Nevada, where the organization’s Triple-A team plays.

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The San Francisco Chronicle reported last month that the Giants could be amenable to hosting a limited number of A’s games – possibly up to 40. The potential cost of that arrangement is unclear, but if that is the case, the A’s would still need a place to play their remaining home schedule.

Thao said until construction on that ballpark has begun, she remains hopeful that the city can keep the A’s.

“I’ll be working with the fans and other stakeholders to really push for MLB to do the right thing,” Thao said, “and the right thing is to keep the A’s here in Oakland with or without the current owner.”

Staff writer Shomik Mukherjee contributed to this story.