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Why Owner’s Upcoming Relocation Vote Isn’t As Crucial As It Seems

Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels
You can run, but you can’t hide.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

There is a familiar meme amongst anguished A’s fans that there is but one hurdle left for the Fisher/Kaval group to clear and that is the faint hope MLB owners might vote down relocation by failing to offer the necessary 75% support.

Don’t hold your breath on this one, as it appears the only path to a “no” vote is if there is a massive hotel break-in and owners return to their rooms to find someone has absconded with their rubber stamp.

This vote is not about logic, facts, or figures. If you need proof just consider that the owners are poised to ignore their own rules, which state a team must procure an interim location to play its home games before it even submits the application.

“No clue where you’ll play for 3 years, how you’ll pay for it or how you’ll get the actual thing built? WHERE DO I SIGN???” So even though Mayor Thao is putting all the correct reasons to vote no right in front of their eyes, owners are likely to ignore their own procedures and all the facts and base their decision on whether or not their ink pad is wet or dry. “Wet? Hand me that rubber stamp!”

That’s the bad news. The good news is that while a no vote would obviously be huge, this vote is not “Thou shalt relocate to Las Vegas.” It’s “Hey, you can try.” The hope Oaklanders have to lean on is not that the owners will suddenly develop a conscience or a sense of the rational, but rather that no matter how hard they try the owners cannot, in fact, conquer the realities of basic math.

Ahead of the owners’ vote, here is a reminder of what obstacles the vote cannot overcome and what developments would actually move the team closer to Las Vegas.

How Will You Pay For It?

John Fisher has yet to reveal how he intends to pay for the missing $1.1B that must be privately funded. He pulled out of the Howard Terminal project because he couldn’t pay for that, and MLB’s concern over the possible referendum on $380M shows how close to the margins Fisher must be working on any ability to fund the project.

This suggests that even if Fisher can scrape together the needed $1.1B — and nothing has come out yet to show he can — he is unlikely to be able to handle the inevitable overruns that come with roughly 99.8998% of construction projects.

You Should Worry If And When: A blow far bigger than the owners vote would be if a Fisher sibling steps forward to contribute millions towards the $1.1B price tag. This has been vaguely alluded to by Kaval, but if it’s real and meaningful why hasn’t it actually happened or been specifically announced as who and how much? Maybe it will come to pass and then you have more reason to worry about the A’s landing in Vegas.

How Will You Replace The Public Money?

The Nevada Teacher’s Union isn’t blowing smoke. They are forging ahead just as promised with a referendum for the November, 2024 ballot to turn $380M of public money into exactly zilch.

Granted, the union suffered a setback on November 6th when a court agreed their petition’s wording didn’t pass legal muster but this is presumably a minor delay because smartly the union had not yet begun collecting signatures.

Now the union has clarity as to what will satisfy the court and so if and when they resubmit it will likely not be subject to another challenge. Assuming the group still has enough time to collect the needed 105,000 or so signatures between filing and July, 2024 — and they have said they have prepared for this all along — the prospect of the A’s losing this $380M in a year is very real.

MLB has tipped its hand on how problematic losing 1/4 of the overall funding would be, as Rob Manfred recently characterized it as “a significant development”. A rational group of owners would delay a relocation vote until this played out, but they already have their rubber stamps in their hand so why waste a perfectly good morning?

Nonetheless, vote or no vote if Fisher loses $380M overnight the builders aren’t going to comp him the rest of the work in exchange for a free shirsey. If it’s unclear that Fisher can come up with $1.1B it seems pretty clear that $1.5B is out of the question.

You Should Worry If And When: A blow far bigger than the owners vote would be if the teacher’s union fails to get the referendum successfully on the ballot. That would relieve the A’s of what appears to be a crucial 1/4 of the cost but we won’t know that until next summer.

How Is That 12 Acre Peg Getting Into That 9 Acre Hole?

We’ve been through this many times: just because you want something to fit doesn’t mean it will or can. If the idea is to draw, as promised, 2.5 milliion fans, what the A’s need is a stadium that can hold more than 30,000 fans. They need a stadium with a retractable roof, which is a shame because that won’t fit, so they at least need a stadium with a dome — which probably won’t fit either but they can try to squeeze one in.

What has happened since the initial promises of 2.5 million fans? The A’s have increased the stadium’s capacity to 33,000, which means now the math actually works so long as they sell out each and every game without fail.

But of course while making the capacity 10% bigger overnight the A’s didn’t explain how a stadium that already wouldn’t fit onto a 9 acre parcel will now fit just fine. The owners can vote before hearing how the architects and builders can solve this problem, but it doesn’t mean the problem is actually solvable.

You Should Worry If And When: A blow far bigger than the owners vote would be if Bally’s gifted the A’s an additional 3-4 acres on top of the 9 already gifted. If that happens, your level of concern should rise considerably.

Where Exactly Are You Going To Play For 3 Years?

Or 4 if the stadium isn’t ready by 2028, but who’s counting? 3 seasons of putting the A in nomAd is plenty to cause ample concern from the MLBPA, which has to sign off on any agreement.

Options just don’t abound, which is why so far this crucial issue hasn’t been resolved ahead of the upcoming vote. Oracle is only half an option since only 40 dates are even being floated as a possibility. Summerlin, home of the Aviators, has no roof or dome. Neither does Raley Field in Sacramento. Reno’s facility is sub-standard and probably thus a non-starter for the union.

The last 3 stadiums also hold about 10,000 fans while seeing temperatures of well over 100 degrees in the summer. And “all night games” conflicts with the CBA, which ensures daytime starts for certain getaway games.

It’s telling that no solution has yet been found for an issue that is so big it is supposed to be resolved before a team even submits relocation papers. Owners can vote to let the A’s relocate, but until they say “where to before 2028” it doesn’t mean a whole lot.

You Should Worry If And When: A blow far bigger than the owners vote would be if MLB and MLBPA jointly announced an agreed upon venue for the A’s to play from 2025-27.

I guess what I’m saying is that there are legitimately several developments that would move the A’s substantially closer to Las Vegas. I’m just not sure the upcoming owners’ vote is one of them. But maybe 8 of them will be out of ink that same day and then there will be much rejoicing.