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The A's move would mean layoffs, stadium modifications and a chance for Sacramento to pitch

The A's move would mean layoffs, stadium modifications and a chance for Sacramento to pitch

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 said Thursday they will leave Oakland after this season and play in Sacramento for three years, before their planned move to Las Vegas in 2028. The team's lease on the Oakland Coliseum expires after this season, and it has been in talks with both Oakland and Sacramento about a home. Temporary for the period 2025-2027.

Those negotiations are over: the 57th season of baseball in the Oakland A's will be their last. Just 85 miles away, in another Northern California city, this is cause for celebration.

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

“Believe it or not, this is going to be the hottest ticket in Major League Baseball,” Ranadivé said. “Because it's a small, intimate court. It's like being in the lower bowl at a basketball game. So imagine (Shohei) Ohtani is there and it's a small, intimate court. So it will be the most coveted ticket in America.”

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

The River Cats, the 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 the option to stay in Sacramento for a fourth year as well in 2028, but team president Dave Kaval said he still expects this season to be the team's opener in Las Vegas.

In Oakland, many fans and staff predicted that four years from now, the A's would likely leave for Vegas. MLB owners approved the team's permanent relocation in November. But there is still hope that they will continue in the meantime.

The new timeline has real-world consequences beyond fan heartbreak. Some of the A's staff will be out of work once this season is over.

“There will, unfortunately, be a reduction in force that comes with that,” Kaval said Thursday. “Because we're going to need less staff to run things, and we're going to be relying a little more on the Kings and River Cats here.”

The extent of the layoffs has not yet been determined, nor which workers will be affected, Kaval said. He admitted that seasonal and permanent staff in the front office would likely be laid off.

“Nothing happens immediately because we will finish the season,” Kaval said. “But this is something we will strive to quickly identify with our staff, and be open and transparent with people. We have communicated to people along the way that this is a possibility.”

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“If there are people who are not part of the move to Sacramento on a temporary basis, or to Vegas on a long-term basis, obviously they will be displaced. We will offer them severance packages proportionate to the number of years of employment, health care, and then also help them find Other roles and jobs, because these are very qualified people. They have given an incredible amount to the organization over the years.

Kaval said the team is still determining where it will set up its office when it leaves the Coliseum.

For Sacramento, a city with a rich history in minor league baseball is getting a chance to prove its worth at the next level. Asked if he was positioning Sacramento as a backup destination if Las Vegas plans fail, Ranadivé pointed to a more realistic view.

“The long-term play is I've had 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 and one in the East, and I think we are in first place to have a franchise in the West. So for us this is a showcase.”

During this interim period, the A's will no longer be called the Sacramento A's. They'll just be “A” or “Athletics.”

Traditionally, team jerseys carry a geographic element, the city or state claimed by the club. But during the Sacramento era, the A's road jerseys would look like the team's jerseys, with only the name mentioned.

“It's a temporary situation, and we felt it was best to play as an athletics team at this time in our history,” Kaval said. “There will be nods to Sacramento and things we'll do with maybe some uniforms or special patches, things like that we'll look into. And obviously the merchandise.”

The road uniform 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, what upgrades would be needed to accommodate major league players, and the requirements of the collective bargaining agreement.

Some modifications will certainly follow, but the details are not yet clear. Neither Kaval nor Ranadivé provided specific cost estimates, but said none of the burden would fall on taxpayers.

Kaval said the stadium's capacity could be increased depending on demand. He mentioned lighting upgrades as well.

Sutter Health Park has a capacity of about 14,000 fans at the moment. (Kirby Lee via Associated Press)

Planning for guided tours of the park is on the agenda for next week, and improvements could come on a rolling basis over the three years. Some construction may not necessarily need to wait until the 2024 minor league season ends, either.

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

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

Had they stayed in Oakland, the A's would have been owed nearly $70 million annually in rights fees from NBC Sports California. They negotiated a reduced rights fee to stay on the station when they were in Sacramento. Kaval refused to reveal details.

People briefed on the process had previously said the person would likely keep a large sum of money if they did move to Sacramento.
“It had to be changed, because this was a little different area,” Kaval said. “We don't get into the exact numbers. It's a secret agreement. … They saw the value, we saw the value.”

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

The alternative path, the team's negotiations to extend its lease in Oakland, collapsed because the two sides were “too far apart,” Kaval said.

According to a person familiar with the negotiations, Oakland's final offer to the team on Tuesday included a $60 million lease extension fee that the A's would pay, down from the $97 million previously proposed by the city. The A's were also asking MLB to provide the city with a one-year exclusivity period to find an owner for the expansion team, which Kaval said was not an item that fell under its purview.

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

“Oakland offered a fair deal and was fiscally responsible for our city,” Auckland Mayor Sheng Thao said in a statement. “We wish everyone the best and will continue our conversations with them regarding facilitating the sale of their interest in the Coliseum site. The City of Oakland will now focus on enhancing redevelopment efforts at the Coliseum.”

Kaval and Ranadivé revealed a few of the financial arrangements the team ended up with instead.

“It's a little different because they already own the stadium,” Kaval said of the River Cats. “It's more of a business partnership with them to help market the place and operate it and make sure the capital expenditures are done in an appropriate way, where we're involved in doing that. … Both sides are working together, side by side.”

Ranadivé said he first brought up the idea of ​​playing first-team football in Sacramento to the Cavs, but wasn't sure when the initial conversation took place.

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“John is a friend, and he and I chat a lot,” 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 and talk. It's not something I can tell you, 'That was the date I first talked to him.'

“I came to my team, and I asked them: 'Guys, do you think that while they're making this 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.” They said: Yes, we can do that.

“So I brought it up to John, and then I said, ‘Hey, John, why don’t you have them play on our field, while you build the field?’” … He came to a game here, and he was blown away by what he saw, and what we did in Sacramento with Golden 1 Center (where the Kings play), and how every game is sold out.”

The fact that the A's are negotiating a potential fourth year in Sacramento appears to be a public admission that the Las Vegas project may not get done in time to meet the 2028 goal. Cavall framed it differently.

“It's smart business to have this as an option,” Kaval said. “We are on track to open 28 in Las Vegas now.”

View of Las Vegas Stadium A. (Submitted 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 receive a lot of attention in the next three years. “The number one way to build a great community and a great economy is to have a strong reputation,” said Barry Broome, president of the Economic Council of Greater Sacramento.

Kaval said management plans to celebrate the team's Oakland history this season. Asked if he had any regrets about the arduous and messy exit process, Kaval said he looked to the future.

“I think the most important thing is that we now have the roadmap and the direction, and that people understand that this is actually happening,” Kaval said. “Because I think in retrospect, there were a lot of questions and uncertainties. And I think as we continue to make all these key decisions, and go through the process, it's been a 20-year odyssey to figure out what's going to happen with the initials: Fremont, San Jose, who Obviously, Oakland a few times (as potential destinations.) I think that's always been a challenge in running this franchise, and now having more certainty would be good not only for the A's, but also for baseball.

(Top image: Eric W. Rascoe/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)