Las Vegas prepared to give A’s ‘better opportunity’

  • Covered Oakland Raiders for and Sacramento Bee for eight years
  • Member of Pro Football Writers Association
  • Previously worked at Los Angeles Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal and Sports Illustrated

LAS VEGAS — While the Oakland Athletics mull the possibility of moving to Southern Nevada, Las Vegas baseball officials insist the gaming capital is ready to take on a Major League Baseball franchise.

Las Vegas has been home to a Triple-A team since 1983, and currently, the club is the Athletics’ affiliate. The city is also playing host to the Athletics and Cincinnati Reds this weekend for a two-game spring training series at Las Vegas Ballpark.

“Las Vegas had always been a unique sports market, a really good sports market,” Don Logan, president and COO of the Triple-A Aviators told ESPN on Saturday. “It makes sense. My perspective, make the best deal you can in Vegas and start to turn this community on. And every other (fan base) on.

“Las Vegas offers a dynamic that no other team has. We have 45 million visitors annually in this market and that’s what we want — heads in beds. That’s what Las Vegas is about.”

Logan, who acknowledged a retractable roof stadium would be needed for the summer, when temperatures regularly hit 110 degrees, said Las Vegas first looked at the A’s in a “quiet examination” for potential relocation in 2004.

“It’s a better opportunity here (for the A’s) in the long term.”

Las Vegas was affiliated with the San Diego Padres from 1983 to 2000, the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2001 to ’08, the Toronto Blue Jays from 2009 to ’12, the New York Mets from 2013 to ’18 and the A’s since 2019.

The A’s, meanwhile, have played in the Oakland Coliseum since moving from Kansas City in 1968 and have also flirted with San Jose and Fremont. They also are currently exploring a waterfront site in Oakland.

Asked if he preferred a new stadium in Oakland or Las Vegas, A’s general manager David Forst said, “I’m hoping the A’s get a stadium. I don’t take sides. The only thing that affects the way we operate in baseball operations is actually having a facility.

“We really can’t spend a lot of time thinking about the where right now.”

A’s manager Mark Kotsay echoed the company line during batting practice, saying, “For us as an organization, we continue to pursue both in Oakland and in Vegas and we call that the parallel path. For us, we’re always looking for the opportunity in front of us.”

Big League Weekend, which began in 1991 at Cashman Field in downtown Las Vegas, moved to the Ballpark in Summerlin in 2020, when the A’s played Cleveland. So the A’s playing here amid so many rumors and reports of relocation gave this series a certain irony.

In 1996, the A’s played the first six games of their regular season at Cashman Field while the Oakland Coliseum was still under renovation with the return of the Raiders in 1995 from Los Angeles.

The Raiders, though, have called Las Vegas home since 2020, and the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights have played here since 2017. The WNBA’s Aces, who moved to Las Vegas in 2018 from San Antonio, won the league’s championship last year. The NBA has also been rumored to be eyeing Las Vegas.

Jason Giambi, the 2000 American League MVP for the A’s who also played in those 1996 opening series, was all for an MLB team taking up residence in Las Vegas, his home since 1998, be it the A’s or an expansion team to help baseball get up to 32 teams.

Giambi was at Saturday’s Cactus League game with his traveling youth baseball team, the Henderson Hawks, and was torn, though, saying he felt for “some of the greatest fans in the world” with an A’s move.

“But also,” he added, “to be relevant anymore in baseball, you have to be competitive.”

A new stadium, in a new market, might allow for that. Reported potential stadium sites include the current locations of the Rio and Tropicana resorts.

“They want it, the people are hungry for it here,” Giambi said. “Every night is sold out at the Knights. Every night is sold out at the Raiders. Not only are you drawing your own fans, but you’re drawing everybody else, too.”

As Giambi said, there is no competition for the summer sports dollar in Las Vegas, either.

“I came here as a Triple-A player, and it was the best five days of my life. Are you kidding me?” he laughed. “There’s nothing like it. You can wake up in the middle of night, 2 o’clock in the morning, go get breakfast, go watch a show, anything you want to do. It’s a little bit of the wild, Wild West. It’s not like that anywhere else.”

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