Just a few months after publicly expressing doubts in tentative plans for a new Athletics ballpark at Howard Terminal in Oakland, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Wednesday that the focus has shifted to a possible Las Vegas relocation for the Bay Area franchise.
"Look, I think the best way for me to answer that is to say I think that the focus since I spoke to you in December really has been on Las Vegas,” Manfred told the San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea.
“The city [of Oakland] has been really caught up in trying to work their way through these funding issues that I’m sure you’ve read about. But I’ve talked to [A’s owner] John Fisher on a regular basis both about what’s going on in Oakland and about what’s going on in Las Vegas.”
Though Manfred said during the winter meetings in December he would reach out to then-mayor-elect of Oakland Sheng Thao, per Shea, Thao's spokesperson Julie Edwards told the Chronicle: “To our knowledge, he has not directly reached out."
In late October, Manfred joined SiriusXM's Chris Russo and said of the Howard Terminal ballpark, "It just doesn't look like it's going to happen."
Oakland's quest to build a new waterfront stadium for the A's to call home has hit multiple snags along the way. Most recently, the city lost out on a $180 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation that greatly would have benefitted the project’s offsite infrastructure needs for things like roads, overpasses, sewer and other upgrades.
While the city has secured other monies to help bridge the gap, costs will only increase with time.
"There are still conversations going on between the A’s and the city,” Manfred told Shea. “I think the mayor needed a little time, newly elected, to get settled. I think the focus in Oakland has been on the funding, particularly of the infrastructure side of the project. That needs to get solved in order for that process to go forward.”
And while the A’s try to get a deal done in Oakland, the organization simultaneously has explored the option of relocating to Las Vegas -- something team president Dave Kaval has referred to as “parallel paths.”
Manfred added Fisher "wants to make the best deal to secure the future of the A's, whether it's in Oakland or Las Vegas."
"They need a new stadium, I think that’s kind of beyond debate," Manfred told Shea. "If he had to rank them one and two, you’d have to ask him that. I think he’s focused on making a deal that will secure the future of the club."
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Manfred said he plans on speaking with Thao "at some point" in the future.
In the meantime, Oakland fans look forward to spring training -- and, hopefully soon, some answers about their favorite team's future ballpark.