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The Oakland A's are on the verge of moving to Las Vegas

A game at the Oakland Coliseum in July 23, 2022. The Athletics have signed a binding agreement to purchase land for a new stadium in Las Vegas.
Jeff Chiu
A game at the Oakland Coliseum in July 23, 2022. The Athletics have signed a binding agreement to purchase land for a new stadium in Las Vegas.

The Oakland Athletics have signed a binding agreement to purchase land in Las Vegas to build a new ballpark, signaling a move away from Oakland after more than five decades in the city.

Team officials announced this week that they had finalized the agreement to buy a 49-acre site just west of the Las Vegas Strip and hope to play there beginning in 2027. "We realize this is a difficult day for our Oakland fans and community," the team said in a statement.

The A's hope to break ground next year on a new stadium with a seating capacity of 30,000 to 35,000, team President Dave Kaval told The Associated Press.

If the move proceeds as planned, the A's will become just the second Major League Baseball franchise to move cities in more than 50 years.

In the statement, the team said they had made a "strong and sincere" effort to stay in Oakland, where they have played since 1968.

The team has played in its current stadium, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, for their entire tenure in the city. The Coliseum is among the oldest stadiums in the major leagues, and A's owners had long been seeking a new park.

"Even with support from fans, leaders at the city, county, and state level, and throughout the broader community, the process to build a new ballpark in Oakland has made little forward progress for some time," the team said. "We recognize that this is very hard to hear. We are disappointed that we have been unable to achieve our shared vision of a waterfront ballpark."

Negotiations had most recently centered on a waterfront site near downtown Oakland. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao announced Wednesday night that the city had ceased those negotiations with the team, adding that she was "deeply disappointed" with the team's decision.

"The City has gone above and beyond in our attempts to arrive at mutually beneficial terms to keep the A's in Oakland," she said in a statement. "Yet, it is clear to me that the A's have no intention of staying in Oakland and have simply been using this process to try to extract a better deal out of Las Vegas. I am not interested in continuing to play that game - the fans and our residents deserve better."

The A's were a powerhouse when they first moved to Oakland, bringing home three straight World Series titles from 1972 to 1974, then a fourth in 1989 behind the home-run-slugging "Bash Brothers," Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco.

The team's current owner, John Fisher, acquired a majority share of the team in 2005 and became its full owner in 2016. In the Fisher era, the A's have slashed payroll and traded away stars. The team has appeared in the postseason seven times but advanced past the divisional round only once.

After a dismal 2022 season, in which the A's lost 102 games, the team's 2023 season has begun especially bleakly: The team's entire payroll is just $58 million, the lowest in the league, and at 3-16, the A's have the worst record in baseball.

The team's move would mark the third major professional sports team to depart Oakland in recent years, leaving the city with none. In 2019, the Golden State Warriors, who had played at Oakland Arena since 1971, moved across the bay to a new arena in San Francisco. The next year, the Raiders, Oakland's long-time NFL team, left for Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the U.S. Its population has tripled since 1990. The A's would be its third major professional sports team, joining the Raiders and the NHL's Golden Knights, which were added as an expansion team in 2017.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.