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OPINION: Sacramento-bound A’s are not inspiring much confidence

Michael Schaus
Michael Schaus

The Oakland Athletics finally have a plan for where they’ll play before the Las Vegas stadium is built — and it inspires even less confidence than the team’s initial stadium renderings

Last week, the team announced it is apparently headed to Sacramento for a few years before taking up residence on the Las Vegas Strip in 2028 — but the announcement has raised new questions and plenty of criticism

For starters, the stadium in Sacramento is a minor league facility which will, by comparison, make the Coliseum look positively luxurious. Some commentators have also noted that, at a mere 10,000 seats, the facility is a small venue by professional standards. But that’s probably not much of a limitation given the team’s abysmal attendance record in recent years. 

Nonetheless, the decision to move the A’s away from Oakland and into a smaller facility with a Triple-A team leaves one wondering why the club wouldn’t simply move to Summerlin’s minor league ballpark instead. At least here, the team could share facilities with its Las Vegas affiliate and begin building goodwill among locals while the three-year construction project moves forward at the Tropicana site. 

To its credit, the team has announced it will play a few games at the Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin each year to show its commitment to its future hometown — but a few conciliatory games in Southern Nevada aren’t going to be enough to build a meaningful relationship with skeptical Las Vegas residents.

One of the main reasons Nevada was probably rejected as an option is the annual $67 million deal the team has with NBC Sports California. Staying in California likely preserves a sizable chunk of that revenue, even if it will have to be renegotiated as a consequence of leaving the Bay Area. While such a consideration might be relatively good for business, it’s not going to do much to comfort the team’s dejected fans in Oakland or would-be baseball fans in Sin City. 

As if things aren’t chaotic enough, however, it could become even more complicated and uncertain depending on what happens at the Nevada Supreme Court next week

On April 9, the Nevada Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments in a case that will determine whether a group backed by the Nevada State Education Association can move forward with collecting signatures for a referendum on the stadium. 

Late last year, a Carson City judge ruled against the group’s proposed referendum, saying it inadequately explained the issue in its 200-word summary of effect. If the Supreme Court overturns that ruling, the group Schools Over Stadiums will have until June to gather more than 100,000 signatures to get the issue on the November ballot. Should the group be successful, it would turn an already convoluted relocation process into a potential nightmare for John Fisher’s team. 

Major League Baseball would certainly be unhappy as well. As MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed in October, the idea of letting voters decide the fate of a publicly funded stadium is something the league wants to avoid at all costs. The very real possibility that voters could overturn the carefully negotiated corporate handout would, undoubtedly, plague the team’s ad hoc relocation strategies with an even greater level of uncertainty and suspense. 

And make no mistake: There’s a very real possibility voters would kill the stadium deal if given a chance. 

Just last month, voters in Kansas City rejected a plan to extend a sales tax to subsidize renovations to their beloved Arrowhead stadium — and voters in Colorado, Georgia and New Mexico have also recently voted to reject publicly subsidized sports facilities. 

While there remains a strong appetite among politicians and sports moguls for such crony schemes, ordinary voters, as it turns out, have proven themselves to be far more skeptical. It seems unlikely Nevada voters would be any different. 

However, even if things go the team’s way in court next week, there are still plenty of details for the A’s to work out before their eventual move to Las Vegas feels anything like a “sure thing.” 

For starters, even as the team prepares for a three-year residency in Northern California, there are still scant public details regarding how it plans to fund its ambitious project in Southern Nevada. Certainly, it doesn’t seem like debt-saddled Bally’s, which owns the now-closed Tropicana Las Vegas, will have the liquidity to throw money at the project. 

Beyond financial concerns, there’s also the question of what the team itself will look like when (or if) it finally arrives in Vegas in 2028. The A’s are already one of the consistently worst teams in the league, and it seems doubtful that three years in an undersized Triple-A facility will do much to improve its ability to fill seats and sell tickets — and that seems problematic, considering the attendance numbers that will be needed to make a brand-new 33,000 seat stadium profitable. 

Normally, one would expect a professional ball club to be highly organized, deliberate and intentional in how it goes about relocating from a city with a loyal fanbase — but the A’s have proven to be none of those things. Beginning with the team’s absurd “dual path” strategy that pitted Oakland and Vegas against each other, the entire process has been a nonstop cavalcade of moving targets, miscommunication and unanswered questions. 

Rather than coming across as some well-oiled attempt to secure a prosperous future for the team, most of the relocation so far has felt like an improvised and haphazard scramble out of the Bay Area — and sharing a ballpark with the Sacramento River Cats for three years does nothing to change that. 

Michael Schaus is a communications and branding expert based in Las Vegas, Nevada, and founder of Schaus Creative LLC — an agency dedicated to helping organizations, businesses and activists tell their story and motivate change. He has more than a decade of experience in public affairs commentary, having worked as a news director, columnist, political humorist, and most recently as the director of communications for a public policy think tank. Follow him at or on Twitter at @schausmichael.


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