Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao speaks to press at Oakland City Hall. Thursday Apr. 20, 2023. Credit: Amir Aziz

On Thursday morning, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said she got a surprise phone call from A’s President Dave Kaval the night before. Kaval called at 6 p.m. to tell her, “heads up, we have a land deal in Las Vegas.” According to Thao, this was the first time Kaval informed her that the baseball team was on the verge of signing an agreement to build their new stadium in Nevada.

At today’s press conference, Thao called the team’s maneuver “extremely disappointing” and said the A’s negotiations with Oakland over the past few years have been “disingenuous.”

Her comments came after The Nevada Independent broke the news Wednesday night of the A’s impending land deal. According to the Independent, the Nevada legislature is also considering handing the A’s hundreds of millions in tax credit subsidies to sweeten the team’s move.

Thao told media Thursday that at every turn, the city has tried to negotiate in good faith with the A’s to build a new stadium at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal.

“Instead of working with us, they have announced a land deal in another city,” said Thao. “This announcement happened mid-negotiations, and it shows they have no interest in reaching a deal with Oakland at all. Oakland is not interested in being used as leverage in the A’s negotiations with Las Vegas.”

Thao added that Oakland is facing a massive budget deficit and that while the city has been opposed all along to handing the team subsidies, its position now is even firmer.

Meanwhile, A’s leadership has told the media that they’re more or less giving up on Oakland.

“For a while, we were on parallel paths [with Oakland], but we have turned our attention to Las Vegas to get a deal here for the A’s and find a long-term home,” Kaval told the Las Vegas Review-Journal Wednesday. He confirmed that the team is buying 49 acres of land with plans to construct a $1.5 billion, 35,000-person, retractable-roof stadium.

Some question whether this really is the end. As noted by Ray Ratto in the Defector, throughout the team’s time in Oakland, the A’s have talked about leaving, even pursuing deals with Denver, San Jose, and Fremont, but these have fallen through every time. The land deal the A’s are pursuing in Las Vegas is far from done, and there would be many more steps needed to eventually build and move into a ballpark there.

That said, this is the first time that elected officials in Oakland have talked with such clear finality about the unlikelihood of the team staying in Oakland. City Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Carroll Fife, who were in City Hall this morning to attend a rules committee meeting, showed up to Thao’s press conference to say they were in full agreement with the mayor.

“The things I want to say you can’t print and put on the air,” Kalb told reporters, referring to his frustration with the A’s.

“I’m so happy for your leadership in putting Oakland first in terms of our residents,” said Fife in a comment directed at Mayor Thao.

In July 2021, then-Mayor Libby Schaaf (at mic stand) and Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas (right front) announced progress in talks between the city and A’s to develop Howard Terminal. Credit: Darwin BondGraham

For years, the A’s and the city have been locked in tumultuous negotiations over the future of the team. The A’s sought to build a $12 billion housing, entertainment, and commercial real estate project anchored by a new $1 billion stadium on the city’s waterfront near Jack London Square.

Although port unions and some city residents have opposed turning port land into a ballpark and mixed-use development, city officials have been mostly aligned about moving ahead with the mega-project.

But the team and city have never been able to agree on whether Oakland should fund the project with taxpayer dollars, including through special infrastructure districts that would set aside future increases in property values at Howard Terminal, and possibly other nearby areas, to pay for construction. City leaders have also sought commitments from the A’s to build affordable housing and deliver other community benefits at the site, but the team has resisted.

Nevada officials indicated to the press Wednesday that they’re amendable to giving the A’s large public subsidies. Nevada Gov. told the Review-Journal in February that he won’t rule out public funds to incentivize the A’s relocation.

Today, Oakland leaders made a point of emphasizing the public funds they raised to help improve infrastructure around Howard Terminal and other steps they took over the past few years to try to make the A’s stay. The city was able to secure over $375 million in federal and state funds for offsite infrastructure improvements and had agreed in principle to establish an infrastructure financing district at Howard Terminal.

Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas said in a statement that the team’s Las Vegas land deal announcement amid negotiations with Oakland was “not the actions of a good partner or organization committed to Oakland.”

“It’s time for Oakland to move on to other opportunities to develop this site,” she said about Howard Terminal.

Read previous coverage about Oakland’s negotiations with the a’s

The battle over a ballpark at Howard Terminal

The city has to decide whether to build the A’s proposed stadium in West Oakland. There’s far more at stake than just baseball.

Howard Terminal ballpark: A conversation with Libby Schaaf

The mayor is a longtime supporter of the A’s project. The Raiders and Warriors left during her terms as mayor. She’s determined to keep the A’s—but not at the expense of public funds.

Before joining The Oaklandside as News Editor, Darwin BondGraham was a freelance investigative reporter covering police and prosecutorial misconduct. He has reported on gun violence for The Guardian and was a staff writer for the East Bay Express. He holds a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017. He is also the co-author of The Riders Come Out at Night, a book examining the Oakland Police Department's history of corruption and reform.