OAKLAND, Calif. — Major League Baseball instructed the Athletics to explore relocation options as the team tries to secure a new ballpark it hopes will keep the club in Oakland long-term.
MLB released a statement Tuesday expressing its longtime determination that the current Coliseum site is “not a viable option for the future vision of baseball.”
“MLB is concerned with the rate of progress on the A’s new ballpark effort with local officials and other stakeholders in Oakland,” MLB said. “The A’s have worked very hard to advance a new ballpark in downtown Oakland for the last four years, investing significant resources while facing multiple roadblocks. We know they remain deeply committed to succeeding in Oakland, and with two other sports franchises recently leaving the community, their commitment to Oakland is now more important than ever.”
In November 2018, the A’s announced they had found a waterfront location for their ballpark, with picturesque views toward San Francisco, the Bay Bridge and Port of Oakland. The goal had been to open in 2023.
A’s owner John Fisher said in a statement Tuesday he will honor MLB’s instructions but remains committed to continuing to pursue the waterfront ballpark proposed for construction in the city’s Howard Terminal location, close to the popular Jack London Square neighborhood.
“The future success of the A’s depends on a new ballpark,” Fisher said. “Oakland is a great baseball town, and we will continue to pursue our waterfront ballpark project. We will also follow MLB’s direction to explore other markets.”
The proposed ballpark site is about six miles from the Coliseum and there is no mass transit. The A’s and city have said they plan to build a gondola that would go from the waterfront area of ballpark over Interstate 880 to downtown.
The team’s new downtown offices would have a view of the project, including right from President Dave Kaval’s large corner window.
Kaval has asked the City Council to make a decision on the ballpark plan via a vote before summer break.
The Athletics have moved twice since the franchise was founded in Philadelphia, arriving in Kansas City for the 1955 season and in Oakland for the 1968 season.
Just two MLB teams have moved in the past half-century: The expansion Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers for the 1972 season and the Montreal Expos transformed into the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season.
The Braves also moved twice, switching from Boston to Milwaukee for the 1953 season and to Atlanta for 1966.
There were a flurry of switches in the 1950s and ‘60s: the St. Louis Browns became the Baltimore Orioles (1954), the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles for 1958, the New York Giants moved to San Francisco for 1958, the original Washington Senators became the Minnesota Twins (1961) and the Seattle Pilots became the Milwaukee Brewers (1970).
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has said MLB will not consider expansion until the A’s and Tampa Bay Rays get new ballparks.
Rays owner Stu Sternberg had been working to build a ballpark in Tampa’s Ybor City area but abandoned that plan in December 2018. MLB’s executive council gave the Rays permission in June 2019 to explore splitting their home schedule between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal after their lease at the Trop expires at the end of the 2027 season.