MILWAUKEE — Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred says a vote on the Oakland Athletics’ prospective move to Las Vegas could take place when MLB owners meet June 13-15 in New York.
“It’s possible that a relocation vote could happen as early as June,” Manfred said Thursday at Milwaukee during his tour of major league stadiums to speak with players. “It’s very difficult to have a timeline for Oakland until there’s actually a deal to be considered. There is a relocation process internally they need to go through, and we haven’t even started that process.”
Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo said Wednesday that legislative leaders and the Athletics had reached a tentative agreement on a $1.5 billion stadium funding plan that would lure the franchise to Las Vegas. A funding bill still must be approved by the legislature.
Manfred was asked whether he believes the door is completely closed on the possibility of the Athletics remaining in Oakland, where the team has played since 1968.
“I think you’d have to ask the mayor of Oakland that,” Manfred said. “She said she had cut off negotiations after an announcement was made in Las Vegas. I don’t have a crystal ball as to where anything’s going. There’s not a definitive deal done in Las Vegas. We’ll have to see how that plays out.”
The Athletics have agreed to use land on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, where the Tropicana Las Vegas casino resort sits. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao had issued a statement after the Athletics’ land purchase in Nevada saying she was disappointed the team didn’t negotiate with the city as a “true partner.”
The Athletics have been seeking a new ballpark to replace Oakland Coliseum, which has served as their home park since they arrived from Kansas City and where the team’s lease runs through 2024. The A’s looked at a location near Oakland’s Howard Terminal before shifting their focus out of state.
With their future unsettled, the Athletics are struggling at a historic level on the field and in the stands.
They began Thursday 10-41 after matching the 1932 Boston Red Sox and 1897 St. Louis Browns for the fourth-worst 50-game start in major league history. Their average home attendance of 8,695 is nearly 3,600 fewer fans per game than that of any other team.
Manfred was in Milwaukee as Wisconsin legislators debate potential funding plans for American Family Field, the Brewers’ home stadium since 2001. Manfred expressed confidence the state would work something out.
The Brewers’ lease, which runs through 2030, calls for the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District to cover repairs. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the team have said the district does not have enough money to pay for what is needed, and the state surplus provides a chance to fund the repairs without implementing a new tax or borrowing money.
“This is a gem of a ballpark,” Manfred said. “It’s really important that the existing obligation under the lease be funded so that this great ballpark is maintained on a regular basis. It needs to be done in a timely way.”
Evers proposed spending nearly $300 million in taxpayer money to make improvements at the stadium, a plan that Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos declared to be dead on arrival. Republicans who control the legislature have yet to unveil their own alternative, but talks have been ongoing in private.
Vos has said he wants to work a deal that would look for a commitment from the team to remain in Milwaukee longer and not rely as heavily on money from a one-time budget surplus that’s projected to be around $7 billion.
“The choices that are made between the various ways that public funds can be spent are choices that legislators have to make,” Manfred said. “What I can say is that this ballpark is an asset. The Brewers are interested in a long-term relationship, an extension of the lease that keeps them here.”
Manfred noted that Milwaukee’s situation is “really the antithesis of what happened in Oakland.”
“This is an A-plus facility when it’s built,” Manfred said. “It’s been well maintained. Ownership has made a commitment not only to put a competitive team on the field, but to do its share in terms of keeping this stadium. And most important, the fans here have supported the team enthusiastically. I think the real decision that needs to be made here is what we can do to maintain that really great dynamic.
“Oakland, unfortunately, it’s a facility that was never as good as this one when it started. They made some unfortunate decisions not to maintain the ballpark in the way that it needed to be maintained. It resulted in a decline in the attendance, which had an impact on the quality of product the team could afford to put on the field.”