Weekly Column: Athletics in Las Vegas

In his capacity as a Columnist for California Sports Lawyer®, Founder Jeremy Evans has written a column about the Oakland Athletics likely move to Las Vegas, Nevada, with an analysis on why the move is happening.

You can read the full column below.


It looks that the Oakland Athletics (“A’s”) are finally leaving Oakland, California, the place they have called home since 1968. Prior to that, the A’s were in Kansas City, Missouri, and before that Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Connie Mack, Reggie Jackson, Moneyball, and Barry Zito are all a part of the illustrious allure of the iconic franchise as are the green, white, and yellow colors.

The City of Oakland once had three professional sports franchises, which made for six in the Bay Area (San Francisco 49ers, San Francisco Giants, San Jose Earthquakes, Golden State Warriors, Oakland Raiders, and the A’s, not to mention the Sacramento Kings a little further northeast of the Bay. The Warriors have since left Oakland for downtown San Francisco in the Chase Center. The Raiders also left for Las Vegas, Nevada.

On the one hand, fans and analysts can point to the City of Oakland’s leadership not wanting to put up any or enough public funding to keep the teams from moving. On the other hand, professional franchises like any other business are interested in where they can get the best deal (public funds, land, location, etc.) so there is always some incentive to leave. There is history that the two sides have tried for thirty or more years to help find the A’s a better home ballpark. It has not happened yet. The Tampa Bay Rays find themselves in a similar situation as the organization tries to find a new ballpark of its own. Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Rob Manfred has said that until the A’s and Ray’s have new ballparks, expansion will be delayed (e.g., Nashville, Tennessee, Portland, Oregon, Las Vegas, Nevada, Montreal, Canada, Charlotte, North Carolina, San Antonio, Texas, and Mexico City, Mexico, and maybe others overseas).

If the A’s do begin playing in Las Vegas, it would likely be near the In-N-Out Burger off the Highway 15 and Dean Martin Drive and Tropicana Avenue. The A’s would somewhat bend the rule on delayed expansion because although the franchise is not a new one, it would moving to an MLB-targeted city in Las Vegas. If the A’s leave for Las Vegas (assuming they get the public funding through a bond measure in Clark County and negotiations are not reopened with the City of Oakland), then California will have lost two sports franchises (Oakland Raiders and Oakland Athletics). San Diego also lost the Chargers to Los Angeles and of course the Rams have now come to Los Angeles for a second time.

Oakland as a city for sports has a storied history, but the Raiders and Athletics are also the only two franchises in the same city to have moved three or more times to three different cities, with the Raiders returning to Oakland after being in Los Angeles. There are several reasons why that has occurred, but mainly it comes down to the four tenants of good franchises: a great venue, lease/ownership of facility, market, and personnel.

Both Oakland franchises complained about the Oakland Coliseum for years in terms of infrastructure and general use and integrity of the venue. The lease terms have been somewhat favorable for the teams that have played there, but the city and both franchises were reluctant to spend more money than necessary to maintain the status quo. The fans in Oakland always loved their teams, but with the venue being undesirable and with the Oakland franchises some being mediocre on the field, fans were often absent from the stands. Winning of course changes everything and that starts with the players and front office. The A’s were the first to implement analytics and have been successful at putting competitive teams on the field through drafting, farm development, and trades, often before having to trade the best players about to enter free agency. The lack of a great venue and no public money (or fewer funds than the city accepting the moving franchise) were likely key factors in both franchises moving to Las Vegas.

Emotional responses aside to the move, fewer professional sports franchises in California will not be great for tourism and tax collection. However, the City of Oakland will save money it would have spent trying to keep the team(s) in town. Unless something changes, the United Soccer League (USL) team (Major League Soccer (MLS) second division), Oakland Roots SC, will be the only professional sports franchise left Oakland if the A’s do indeed move to the desert. The A's Triple-A franchise in Las Vegas (Aviators) will either continue to play in the city or move.


About Jeremy M. Evans:

Jeremy M. Evans is the Chief Entrepreneur Officer, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clients in contractual, intellectual property, and dealmaking matters. Evans is an award-winning attorney and industry leader based in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, California. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com. www.CSLlegal.com.   

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Jeremy M. Evans is the CEO, Founder & Managing Attorney of California Sports Lawyer® representing entertainment, media, and sports clients and is licensed to practice law in California.