LOS ANGELES — Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said the Oakland Athletics need to quickly reach a binding agreement for a new ballpark and that relocation could be considered if a deal isn’t struck for a facility in the Bay Area.
“I was at the Coliseum myself recently,” he told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday before the All-Star Game. “The condition of the Coliseum is a really serious problem for us. I’ve said it, this is not news. It is not a major league-quality facility at this point.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is pushing for approval of a waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal. The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission voted last month to reclassify a 56-acre terminal at the Port of Oakland as a mixed-use area where a new ballpark could be built. The team, under controlling owner John Fisher, also has explored a possible new ballpark in Las Vegas.
An Oakland City Council vote on a ballpark is possible later this year.
“Mayor Schaaf continues to work hard to try to get an arrangement, an agreement to develop the Howard Terminal site,” Manfred said. “I’m hopeful that that can still happen. And I said this recently and I’ll repeat, it needs to happen now. It needs to be done.”
The A’s have played at the Coliseum since 1968 and their lease expires after the 2024 season.
After proposing and withdrawing plans for ballparks in Fremont and San Jose, the team announced in November 2018 it had found a waterfront location for a new ballpark at Howard Terminal, close to the Jack London Square neighborhood. The stadium would cost more than $1 billion, with views toward San Francisco, the Bay Bridge and Port of Oakland.
After trading veterans and cutting payroll to a major league-low of $48 million on opening day, the A’s are an AL-worst 32-61 and have drawn a big league-worst 362,756 in home attendance, an average of 8,637.
“I think Oakland, the A’s, face an extraordinarily difficult situation. John Fisher has invested literally tens of millions of dollars over the entire period of my commissionership in an effort to get a stadium done in Oakland,” Manfred said. “I think that negativity always accompanies the situation where players are traded and a club for whatever set of reasons decides to start over. But I think bigger picture, John is committed and has invested really significant dollars in trying to get baseball in Oakland on an even footing, a sustainable footing over the long haul.”
A’s President Dave Kaval said last month he has made weekly trips to Las Vegas, investing time on design work and feasibility studies. Manfred declined to discuss whether MLB would waive charging the team a relocation fee – MLB has not charged relocation fees in the past.
“Mr. Fisher has to make a decision as to whether he wants to make an agreement or can make an agreement that is approved by the City Council that would keep the A’s in Oakland,” Manfred said. “If that’s not possible, we have a process that deals with an application for relocation, and I assume that’s where it goes if in fact no agreement can be made in Oakland.”
Baseball owners have put off possible expansion from 30 teams to 32 until Oakland and Tampa Bay get deals for new ballparks.
“I need to get Oakland and Tampa resolved before we could realistically have a conversation about expansion,” Manfred said.