Oakland Athletics signs contract for Las Vegas stadium

It was announced this week that Athletics finally reached an agreement with a group of politicians for the construction of a new stadium for the club, which for years has been standing still in an outdated facility.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the same situation, with the same reasoning, has been going on for over 100 years. The Athletics, a seedy franchise that originally hailed from Philadelphia before moving to Kansas City, Missouri, and then Oakland, California, never seemed satisfied with where it was.

From a stadium constrained by prohibitive blue laws in Philadelphia to a hastily rebuilt minor league park in Kansas City to a brutalist concrete palace in Oakland, they’ve always had their eye on something better. They explored Denver, poked around San Jose and Fremont, picked out various locations in Oakland. But now, in a deal announced by the governor of Nevada that still faces several obstacles, they want to build a stadium on the Las Vegas Strip that would theoretically be ready for the 2027 season.

It’s a situation that causes optimism in Las Vegas, heartbreak in Oakland, and undoubtedly some upheavals everywhere else. The A’s, with nine World Series titles and 17 100-loss seasons, have apparently been on the brink of change for most of their existence.

“It’s possible that a relocation vote could happen as early as June,” Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters on Thursday when asked about the Las Vegas deal. But in keeping with how far the plan must go, and how much has already changed in recent weeks, he cited an earlier location for the stadium rather than the team’s current plan to build on the site of the Tropicana Las Vegas. .

The team’s reputation for fidgeting is earned. The Athletics are tied with the Braves (Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta) and the Orioles (Milwaukee, St. Louis and Baltimore) for most-traveled franchises. But in a rather strange quirk, the A’s have only had four stadiums in their 123 seasons of play – fewer than all but a handful of teams.

Unfortunately for the A’s, none of their four parks would be mistaken for a classic like Boston’s Fenway Park or a modern marvel like Rangers’ Globe Life Field.

A look at these four furlongs makes it clear why the A’s have a perpetually wandering eye.

1901-1908 | World Series titles: 0
Most Improved Player: Eddie Plank, P, 51 wins over replacement

Built for a new team in a new league where no one knew what to expect, Columbia Park was immediately too small. It had a capacity of 9,500, although more watched from nearby rooftops. The team tinkered with it, but even at its peak it had less than 14,000 fans.

The stadium’s most notable moment, at least in terms of absurdity, came in the 1905 World Series, when Connie Mack’s Athletics and John McGraw’s New York Giants conspired to fake a downpour to avoid playing to a sparse crowd.

As reported in The New York Times, Game 3 was scheduled for Wednesday, October 11, but with a crowd of around 4,000 and clubs’ pay completely dependent on ticket sales, officials agreed to pretend that a light drizzle earlier during the day made the course unplayable. Sammy Strang, a useful player for the Giants, helped sell the ruse, with The Times saying: “A typical pantomime was that of Strang, who jumped under the stands and, looking up at the sky, stretched out his arms and waved to the moisture is allowed to fall.”

The play worked. The teams played Game 3 the next day, with a reported crowd of 10,991 that nearly tripled Wednesday’s gate.

The Athletics played three more forgettable years at Columbia, and a decade after he left, the stadium was demolished and replaced with a house.

1909-1954 | World Series titles: 5
Best Player: Lefty Grove, P, 68.4 WAR

Hoping to capitalize on his team’s popularity, Charles Shibe, the Athletics’ primary owner, built baseball’s first steel-and-concrete stadium, beating Fenway Park by three seasons and Wrigley Field by five. The decision paid off, with The Times reporting that Philadelphia’s first game of the 1909 season was attended by a record 30,162 fans. Athletics led the AL in attendances for three consecutive years.

Shibe Park was home to some great teams, with the Athletics winning nine pennants and five World Series titles there, but the ownership routinely cited the state’s restrictive blue laws for limiting its ability to play its home games on Sundays, putting the club in disadvantage for other teams. The team, desperate to raise money, also alienated fans by blocking nearby coverage bleachers with a 34-foot wall that was dubbed Connie Mack’s Spite Fence.

When Shibe Park began to deteriorate, the Athletics never recovered from the sale of the 1930 champions. They finished second last or next to last 14 times over a period of 20 seasons, from 1935 to 1954, attracting just 304,666 fans in their last season in the Philadelphia – less than in all seasons except one, in tiny Columbia Park. .

A fire was set in the stadium in 1971, destroying most of it. “Fire ravaged Connie Mack Stadium the other day,” wrote Arthur Daley in The Times, referring to Shibe under the name he used in his later years. “If nothing else, it sparked some pleasant memories.”

The stadium’s famous corner tower, with Mack’s original office, was demolished in 1976. A church built a shrine on the site.

1955-1967 | World Series titles: 0
Most Improved Player: Ed Charles, third baseman, 14.4 WAR

George E. Muehlebach deserves some credit for predicting that the stadium he built in 1923 for his minor league team, the Kansas City Blues, could one day be home to a major league team. In fact, it was all along: the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues were tenants of the stadium. But with an eye on a National or American League team, Muehlebach designed the stadium with large foundations to allow for expansion. Unfortunately, when Arnold Johnson bought the Athletics and moved the team to Kansas City in 1955, it was discovered that the foundations and nearly the entire stadium needed to be rebuilt.

Cost overruns resulted in the stadium’s capacity being much lower than expected, and the park was barely ready when the season began.

The OA’s finished sixth in their first season in Missouri and would not go that high again, ending their 13-season streak there with an 829-1,224 record and no postseason appearances. Attendance at Municipal Stadium has been in the bottom three of the AL in all but one of the team’s seasons.

It wasn’t all bad. Charlie O. Finley bought the team in 1960 and, amidst various shenanigans, presided over an incredible accumulation of talent, with Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter starting their careers in Kansas City.

The stadium was demolished in 1976. A garden with a plaque stands on the former site, surrounded by a housing development.

1968-Present | World Series titles: 4
MVP: Rickey Henderson, left field, 72.7 WAR

Built in the multipurpose stadium craze of the 1960s, the Oakland Coliseum was quirky from the start. Its circular design gave the Coliseum by far the dirtiest territory in baseball. It was dug into a hill, placing its playing surface 21 feet below sea level. Feral cats, leaking sewage, and a skunk that lives in one of the television booths wouldn’t show up until later.

OA’s had several eras of dominance at the park, winning three consecutive World Series titles in the 1970s and going to the Series three consecutive years from 1988 to 1990 (winning once), but attendances varied wildly, dropping to 306,763 (3,787 per game) in 1979 and peaking at 2.9 million (35,805 per game) in 1990.

Unpopular changes to the stadium at the behest of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders made a boring stadium incongruous and ugly. Park maintenance became unmanageable and the various staff owners constantly complained about the lack of amenities.

An aggressive sale of promising players in recent years, combined with the team’s obvious preference for Las Vegas, resulted in a huge fan reaction. The team averaged just 9,849 fans per game last season, and things are even worse this year at 8,695. It doesn’t help that the team, at 10-42 as of Thursday, is on course for the worst record in baseball’s modern era.

With the Raiders already leaving for Las Vegas, the Golden State Warriors moving to San Francisco, and the A’s lease expiring after the 2024 season, the Coliseum complex may soon have no permanent tenants. It would likely meet a similar fate to the A’s three previous parks, none of which left more than a plaque to remember them.

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