Oakland A's are moving to Las Vegas. Here's what it means for Salt Lake's MLB bid

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SALT LAKE CITY — After widespread speculation, it appears the Oakland Athletics are headed to Sin City, potentially tying up one of two loose ends before MLB considers Salt Lake City's expansion case.

The Nevada Independent broke the news Wednesday night that the A's were "closing in on a binding agreement" to construct a 30,000-to-35,000-seat stadium near Tropicana Boulevard and Interstate 15 in Las Vegas.

The team confirmed it had purchased the land shortly after the report came out. The projected $1.5 billion ballpark would be north of Allegiant Stadium, where the NFL's Las Vegas Raiders play.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he is optimistic that the franchise will bring "finality to this process by the end of the year." It's not clear when the move would take place but the newspaper also reported that the new stadium is currently on track to open in 2027. It's also possible the team will have a temporary home before the new stadium opens.

The A's have had a few homes since the franchise began playing ball in 1901. The organization originated in Philadelphia before moving to Kansas City in the 1950s. After a little more than a decade there, the team kept trekking West, playing its first game in Oakland in 1968.

News of the impending deal quickly reached California, where Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao told the San Francisco Chronicle that the city is done trying to work with the A's. The city had negotiated a possible new stadium in another part of the city, while the A's also spoke with Las Vegas.

"I am deeply disappointed that the A's have chosen not to negotiate with the city of Oakland as a true partner, in a way that respects the long relationship between the fans, the city and the team," she told the outlet.

It all but solidifies Oakland's move.

What it means for Salt Lake's bid

Now that the future of the Athletics is all but certain, MLB is expected to focus its attention on the Tampa Bay Rays' relocation situation before it considers an expansion to 32 teams; however, the latest update is good news for Salt Lake City's chances as it bids for one of two new franchises.

Adam Thompson, a sports handicapper for the Florida-based Bookies.com, told KSL.com earlier this week that Salt Lake City's odds would be greatly diminished had the A's stayed in Oakland or relocated to anywhere other than Las Vegas. That's because he believes MLB is deadset on having a team in Sin City, so it would have been the front-runner for one of the two new MLB teams.

Those behind Utah's push confirmed about as much on Thursday. Steve Starks, CEO of the Larry H. Miller Company and one of the founders of Big League Utah, tweeted that the A's moving to Las Vegas "was part of (the coalition's) calculus" and "would likely be a positive" for its chances.

Barring another city's entry into the conversation, the move likely pits Salt Lake City and Portland, Oregon, against each other for a new MLB team in the West. Thompson currently gives Salt Lake City the edge in that debate, saying the city's momentum is stronger with a more robust stadium plan.

MLB has not yet announced an expansion timeline, including when two new cities will be picked or when they will join the league. Cities are still jockeying for position when it happens.

Yes, there are bigger cities but bigger cities don't always translate into support. ... We'll do everything we can to show how great this city and this state can be.

–Utah Gov. Spencer Cox

During his monthly news conference with media on Thursday, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox clarified comments he made last week about providing subsidies to woo a major league team. He explained that the state wouldn't pay for a stadium outright but it would consider helping "alleviate some of the costs around a stadium" should Utah land a team, similar to what Nevada is reportedly doing.

The Nevada Independent reported that the state Legislature is considering a "funding mechanism" with a special taxation district at the stadium site. It would also allow for sales tax proceeds to be reinvested in the area and transferable tax credits worth about $500 million.

"I could see Salt Lake City doing something like that," Cox said, noting it's about the most he can see Utah doing to appease MLB.

"But what we know is Salt Lake City and Utah (are) already very attractive," he added. "Yes, there are bigger cities but bigger cities don't always translate into support. ... We'll do everything we can to show how great this city and this state can be."

Meanwhile, officials with Music City Baseball, leading the Nashville, Tennessee, bid, said Thursday that they don't think the A's bid changes their game plan for a stadium by the Tennessee State University campus. Thompson ranks Nashville as the overall front-runner for one of two expansion teams, likely taking a spot in the East.

"The Stars organization remains committed to bringing a majority minority-owned franchise to Nashville that focuses on diversity and inclusion," Music City Baseball officials said. "That continues to be our focus."

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.


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