While the Oakland A’s are seemingly on their way out of the Bay Area after agreeing to buy land in Las Vegas to build its new ballpark, former Miami Marlins executive David Samson believes the A’s move to Sin City is “not a done deal” and the team could remain in Oakland.
“I would say it’s not a done deal by any stretch,” Samson told Front Office Sports on Thursday. ‘You’ve even seen the president of the A’s walk it back a little bit because we all got the news overnight [that] the A’s are gone to Vegas, and that’s not accurate.’
Oakland A’s president Dave Kaval called the team’s planned relocation “bittersweet” in an interview with NBC Sports, detailing local issues to secure government funding that the team faced in its attempted Howard Terminal waterfront stadium proposal to stay in Oakland.
“The challenge is that we had an incredible visionary waterfront plan,” Kaval told NBC Sports. “Maybe the boldness and audacity of it was too much, and we had too much opposition at the waterfront with the maritime polluters, and they were able to delay the project very successfully, which really impeded [our] ability to move forward on a timeline that worked, especially for Major League Baseball.”
The A’s, who have called Oakland home since 1968, have its current lease at RingCentral Coliseum run through MLB’s 2024 season. The team plans to break ground on its new ballpark in 2024 and open its Las Vegas ballpark for the 2027 season.
Samson detailed why he thinks the A’s move to Las Vegas is not a foregone conclusion. Listen to the full episode on Front Office Sports Today.
On why Las Vegas is not a done deal. “The A’s have not yet gotten public financing and they need it. The legislature’s meeting right now in Las Vegas, they have 60 days further to go in their session and they’ve got to figure out how to put a deal together. Because while they say it’s privately funded, that’s not exactly accurate. They do need public money and to do it, they have to have votes, both in the state and actually in the city.”
On why the team could still make a deal with Oakland. “So what they [the A’s] said really was Oakland, if you don’t get back to the table and start giving in on a few of the issues we have left, like affordable housing and certain issues with taxes, guess what? We have a viable alternative. But the truth is they’ve always had the viable alternative. But baseball would much prefer the team to stay in Oakland. [A’s owner] John Fisher would prefer the team to stay in Oakland. So it is not over yet.”
On securing public funding being an issue for the A’s. “We had the same issue in Miami [the Marlins’ ballpark]. You do not want to be in charge of public infrastructure. You don’t want to be in charge of overruns for public infrastructure because you’re not controlling the construction of the public infrastructure. That’s done by the government. And our rule was we’ll cover overruns as long as we have complete control over the process.
“You have politicians who get out ahead of a deal and say, there’s no public money—this is fully privately funded. You have owners who get out ahead and say, hey, I’m doing it all myself. But both sides are not being truthful. All these deals have public money in them. Some of them disguise it as public infrastructure. Some disguise it like in New York as pilot payments, which are payments in lieu of taxes and are still money that is actually from the public going to the project.”
On the “PR battle” happening between the A’s and Oakland. “And by the way, it’s happening in Vegas. They’re talking about not creating any new taxes, but creating a new tax district, and the taxes within that district go to the project. So that’s the same as tax money going to the project. So it really is how you frame it. There’s a lot of PR involved, and one of the steps in the PR battle is the, ‘we’re done with you, we’re moving the team, we’re not negotiating with you anymore.’ All of that is done to get people worked up. You’re getting worked up as a fan, as someone who’s local, your pulse is racing, you’re sweating a little bit, and that is when all of the magic actually happens.
On why the A’s have a crucial deadline. “Is there a chance the A’s move to Vegas? Yeah. But here’s the problem. They’ve got to get a deal done somewhere by January of 2024. Not because their lease runs out in the Coliseum. Not because there’s possums running around. Not because they want to hurry up and get to Vegas, but because in the collective bargaining agreement, if they don’t have a stadium deal done by then, they lose their revenue sharing. That’s a big deal.”
On what it takes to get a deal done. So they’re going to get a deal done somewhere and the way these deals get done, and I’ve done them. You have to get right to the edge where you’re hanging over the abyss and you’re holding on by your fingernails before you get a manicure, you’re slipping off. There’s no net and then a deal happens. And that’s going to happen either in Oakland or Vegas. I’d say we’re in the middle of the third quarter and that’s it.”