Decision looming: What to know about the Oakland Athletics possibly moving to Sacramento

Things are moving quickly for the Oakland Athletics as they decide where to call home before eventually playing in a newly built stadium slated for a 2028 opening in Las Vegas.

The decision: Stay put in Oakland or relocate 90 miles northeast to Sutter Health Park in Sacramento in 2025 before the new stadium’s completion in Sin City.

Things are coming to a head, with A’s officials and the city of Oakland having a meeting scheduled for Tuesday. The city will make an offer to extend the team’s current lease, which is due to expire after this season, according to a report from ESPN and KGO-TV in San Francisco over the weekend.

A decision between staying in Oakland or bolting for Sacramento for three seasons could come soon thereafter. The A’s currently do not have a home for the 2025, 2026 or 2027 seasons; Major League Baseball hopes to resolve the issue soon for scheduling purposes.

The extended lease in Oakland includes a five-year contract with an opt-out after three that would cost the team $97 million. According to the report, the city says the money will be put toward its $170 million general fund deficit. The deal would also include the A’s selling their 50% share of the Coliseum complex to a local developer to allow for redevelopment of the site.

Additionally, the city is hoping to agree with MLB on at least one of three stipulations: Granting an exclusive one-year window to solicit ownership for a possible expansion team in Oakland; having a vote to leave the A’s colors and branding in Oakland; or helping facilitate the sale of the team to a new, local ownership group.

Sacramento officials have been outspoken in their support of adding another professional sports team, particularly if the A’s become an option after leaving Oakland, though Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg has said he’d prefer the team stay in Oakland.

Sacramento is the country’s 20th-ranked media market, according to Nielsen. Orlando is the only other market in the top 20 with just one team from the NBA, NFL or MLB. Sacramento has long hoped to become a candidate for Major League Soccer expansion that would include Sacramento Republic FC building a new stadium in the Railyards that would grow downtown to the north.

Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive bought the Pacific Coast League’s Sacramento Rivers Cats, who play at Sutter Health Park, in August 2022 for roughly $100 million. In a rare interview, Ranadive last week said that he’s been in discussion with A’s ownership about coming to Sacramento for some time.

“It’s no secret that I’m friends with (Athletics owner) John Fisher,” Ranadive told CBS 13 in Sacramento. “And I’ve been talking to him about having the A’s play here for a few years. And I’ve also been in touch with the baseball commissioner about possibly having a major-league team here. And if we make the A’s thing happen, and we can show that, ‘Hey, this is an amazing fan base, we’re going to have a huge response if we had baseball here.’ “

A successful stint from the A’s could put Sacramento into the running for MLB’s eventual expansion to 32 teams. California’s capital would join a crowded field of candidates that includes Charlotte, Nashville, Montreal, Portland, Salt Lake City and San Antonio.

What’s unclear is whether the A’s would draw spectators to a minor-league ballpark. A significant number of the team’s fans have decided to boycott games amid Fisher’s decision to leave Oakland for Vegas, which would likely continue regardless of where the team played. There are also a substantial number of San Francisco Giants fans in the Sacramento region. The River Cats, the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate, have made it clear they “are not going anywhere” even if they become co-tenants with the A’s.

The A’s under Fisher in recent seasons have been one of the least successful teams in professional sports amid their plans to uproot from Oakland. The team went a league-worst 50-112 in 2023 while having the lowest payroll in MLB at $62 million, roughly $9 million less than the Baltimore Orioles, who were second to last. The league’s average payroll in 2023 was $165 million.

The A’s have averaged 7,592 fans in Oakland during their first three games of the 2024 season, which began March 28. Opening night drew 13,522, while boycotting fans hosted a block party in the Coliseum’s south parking lot and watched the game on a projection screen. The A’s lost to the Cleveland Guardians, 8-0.

Ranadive and Sacramento officials would likely point to the success and fan interest in the NBA’s Kings and USL’s Republic FC as reasons to believe the A’s could be successful at Sutter Health Park despite the team’s recent track record.

“In my mind,” Ranadive told CBS 13, “this should be a mecca for sports. It should be soccer, it should be baseball, women’s volleyball. It should be a whole range of sports. ... I don’t see any reason why that can’t happen. Certainly we have the community, we have the fan base, we’ve got a track record of doing what we say we’re going to do.”