A’s move will mean layoffs, ballpark alterations, and a chance to showcase Sacramento

A’s move will mean layoffs, ballpark alterations, and a chance to showcase Sacramento


The Oakland A’s were already on their way out, but the timing wasn’t clear. Now it’s official: The funeral is already underway.

The A’s on Thursday said they will leave Oakland after this season and play in Sacramento for three years, ahead of their planned move to Las Vegas in 2028. The team’s lease at the Oakland Coliseum expires after this season, and it had been in talks with both Oakland and Sacramento about an interim home for 2025-27.

Those negotiations have ended: the 57th season of Oakland A’s baseball will be the last. Just 85 miles away, in another Northern California city, that’s cause for celebration.

In 2022, Vivek Ranadivé, the owner of the Sacramento Kings basketball team, bought the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats and their stadium for about $90 million. In a phone interview Thursday, Ranadivé sounded overjoyed: For at least the next three years, his stadium, the 14,000-capacity Sutter Health Park, will host a big-league team.

“Believe it or not, this is going to be the best ticket in Major League Baseball,” Ranadivé said. “Because it’s a small, intimate stadium. It’s like being in the lower bowl in a basketball game. And so imagine that, (Shohei) Ohtani is there and it’s a small, intimate stadium. So it’s going to be the most sought-after ticket in America.”

Ranadivé said he wants Sacramento to become the “city of the future,” and that “people in Sacramento feel like winners where anything is possible.”

The River Cats, a San Francisco Giants farm team, will continue to play at Sutter Health Park when the A’s are on the road. The A’s have an option to stay in Sacramento for a fourth year, too, in 2028, but team president Dave Kaval said he still expects that season will be the team’s inaugural in Las Vegas.

In Oakland, many fans and employees had come to expect that four years from now, the A’s likely would be leaving for Vegas. MLB owners approved the team’s permanent relocation in November. But there was still hope they’d stick around in the interim.

The new timetable carries real-life consequences beyond fan heartbreak. Some A’s employees will be unemployed as soon as this offseason.

“There will be a reduction in force, unfortunately, that comes with this,” Kaval said Thursday. “Because we’ll need a smaller staff to operate things, and we’re going to be leaning a little more on the Kings and the River Cats up here.”

The size of the layoffs has not been determined yet, nor which workers will be affected, Kaval said. He acknowledged that both the seasonal, gameday staff as well as permanent, front-office employees potentially could be let go.

“Nothing happens immediately because we are going to run out the season,” Kaval said. “But that’s something we’re gonna strive to determine quickly with our staff, and be open and transparent with people. We’ve communicated to people along the entire way that this was a possibility.

“If there are people who are not part of either the move to Sacramento in the interim basis, or Vegas long term, they’re obviously going to be displaced. And we’re going to be providing them severance packages commensurate with how many years of employment, health care, and then also just helping them find other roles and jobs, because these are very qualified people. They’ve given an incredible amount to the organization over the years.”

Kaval said the team was still determining where it would set up its office upon leaving the Coliseum.

For Sacramento, a city with a rich minor-league baseball history gets a chance to demonstrate its worthiness at the next level. Asked if he was positioning Sacramento as a fallback destination were the Las Vegas plans to go awry, Ranadivé pointed to a more concrete vision.

“The longer-term play is that I have been having conversations with Major League Baseball and with Rob,” Ranadivé said, referring to commissioner Rob Manfred. “They will (introduce) two new franchises, one in the West, one in the East, and I think we’re really in pole position to get the one in the west. And so this is, for us, a showcase.”

During this interim period, the A’s are not going not going to be called the “Sacramento A’s.” They’ll just be “the A’s” or “the Athletics.”

Traditionally, a team’s road jerseys carry a geographical element, the city or state that the club claims. But during the Sacramento era, A’s road jerseys will look like home jerseys, saying only the name.

“It’s an interim situation, and we felt it was best to play as the Athletics in this period of our history,” Kaval said. “There’s going to be nods to Sacramento and things we’re going to do with maybe some special uniforms or patches, and things of that nature that we’re going to look at. And obviously, merchandise.”

The road uniforms will say “Las Vegas” once the team moves there.

The commissioner’s office and the Major League Baseball Players Association have already met to begin discussions about Sutter Health Park and what upgrades will be needed to accommodate major-league players and the requirements of the collective bargaining agreement.

Some alterations will definitely follow, but specifics aren’t clear yet. Neither Kaval nor Ranadivé gave specific cost estimates, but both said none of the burden will fall to taxpayers.

The stadium’s capacity could increase, depending on demand, Kaval said. He mentioned lighting upgrades as well.

Sutter Health Park seats roughly 14,000 fans at the moment. (Kirby Lee via Associated Press)

Planning walk-throughs at the park are on the docket for next week, and enhancements could come on a rolling basis over the three years. Some construction might not necessarily need to wait until the 2024 minor-league season ends, either.

“Whatever we do will be absolutely exceptional,” Ranadivé said.

Fans will be able to find the Sacramento-era broadcasts on NBC Sports California just as they do today.

Had they stayed in Oakland, the A’s would have been owed roughly $70 million annually in rights fees from NBC Sports California. They negotiated a reduced rights fee to stay on the station when they’re Sacramento. Kaval declined to disclose specifics.

People briefed on the process had previously said the A’s likely could keep a significant amount of the money if they indeed moved to Sacramento.
“It had to be altered, because this was a slightly different territory,” Kaval said. “We don’t get into the exact numbers. It’s a confidential agreement. … They saw the value, we saw the value.”

An NBC Sports California spokesperson said the company does not comment on rights deals.

The alternate path, the team’s negotiations to extend its lease in Oakland, fell apart because the sides were “very far apart” Kaval said.

According to a person briefed on the negotiations, Oakland’s final offer to the team on Tuesday included a $60 million lease-extension fee the A’s would pay, down from $97 million the city had previously proposed. The A’s were also asking MLB to provide the city with an exclusive, one-year window to find an owner for an expansion team, which Kaval said was not an element that fell in his purview.

“They were asking for things that were out of our control,” Kaval said.

“Oakland offered a deal that was fair to the A’s and was fiscally responsible for our city,” Oakland mayor Sheng Thao said in a statement. “We wish the A’s the best and will continue our conversations with them on facilitating the sale of their share of the Coliseum site. The City of Oakland will now focus on advancing redevelopment efforts at the Coliseum.”

Kaval and Ranadivé revealed little of the financial arrangement the team wound up with instead.

“It’s a little different because they actually they own the stadium,” Kaval said of the River Cats. “It’s more of a business partnership with them to help market and operate the venue and ensure that capital expenditures are done in an appropriate way, where we’re sharing in doing that. … Both sides are working together, hand in hand.”

Ranadivé said he first brought up the idea of the A’s playing in Sacramento to Kaval, but he wasn’t sure when the initial conversation took place.

“John is a friend, and he and I chat often,” Ranadive said. “We both have homes in Cabo, so I see him there, and I’ve been friends with him and his family for many years. So we’d sit around the beach chatting. It’s not something I could tell you, ‘This was the date I first talked to him.’

“I came to my team, and I asked them, ‘Hey, guys, do you think that while they’re doing the move, we could actually have a Major League Baseball team here?’ And my team, no matter what I ask them, the answer is always, ‘Yes.’ And they said, ‘Yeah, we could do that.’

‘So I pitched it to John, and then said, ‘Hey, John, why don’t you just have them play in our stadium, while you’re building the stadium?’ … He came to a game here, and he was just blown away by what he saw, what we had done in Sacramento with the Golden 1 Center (where the Kings play), just how every game is sold out.”

The fact that the A’s negotiated a potential fourth year in Sacramento appeared to be a public acknowledgment that the Las Vegas project might not get done in time to meet the 2028 target. Kaval framed it otherwise.

“It’s just smart business to have that as an option,” Kaval said. “We’re on track for a ’28 opening in Las Vegas right now.”

A rendering of the Las Vegas A’s stadium. (Rendering by Negativ)

He said he expects construction to begin in Las Vegas in 2025.

Even if Sacramento’s time as a major-league city proves short, the city will gain plenty of attention in the next three years. Barry Broome, president of the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, said, “The first mode of building a great community and a great economy is you got to have a strong reputation.”

Kaval said management plans to celebrate the Oakland history of the team this season. Asked if he had any regrets about what has been an arduous and messy exit process, Kaval said he was looking to the future.

“I think the most important thing is that now we have the roadmap and the direction, and people understand that it’s actually happening,” Kaval said. “Because I think in the past, there have been so many questions and doubts. And I think as we continue to make all these key decisions, and the process moves forward, it had really been a 20-year saga to figure out what was going to happen with the A’s: Fremont, San Jose, obviously Oakland a couple of times (as potential destinations). And I think that is always been a challenge in running this franchise, and now to have more certainty is going to be good not only for the A’s, but for baseball.”

(Top photo: Erick W. Rasco / Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)


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