Friday, June 2 2023
(Moe Haidar/Yahoo Sports illustration)

(Moe Haidar/Yahoo Sports illustration)

This column originally appeared in Read & React, Yahoo Sports’ daily newsletter. To subscribe, click here.

On April 1, 1996, the Oakland A’s opened their season at home … in Las Vegas. Their true home, the Oakland Coliseum, was undergoing renovations at the tip of a spear held by Al Davis, who demanded more seats or else he wasn’t moving the Raiders back north.

By April 19, the A’s were back at home, where they’d play the remainder of their season in a literal construction zone, complete with hard-hat-wearing workers eating lunch in the outfield as Mark McGwire stepped into the batter’s box against the Angels’ Jim Abbott.

While it was curiously captivating at the time, it turned out to be the beginning of the end for professional sports in Oakland, which after 66 years will no longer exist beyond the 2026 MLB season. The A’s announced late Wednesday that they have purchased a site for a new stadium in Las Vegas, where they expect to begin playing in 2027.

The move comes on the heels of the Raiders’ own migration to the desert and the Golden State Warriors’ exodus across the Bay to San Francisco. Oakland had hoped to keep the A’s at a new waterfront stadium, but the city was concerned it would be left to foot too much of the bill, just like it was nearly 30 years ago when it bowed to Davis.

The construction of 20,000 extra seats back in the mid-1990s, eventually dubbed Mt. Davis, stripped the Oakland Coliseum of its most precious asset — the picturesque view of the Oakland Hills beyond the outfield wall — and replaced it with seats so terribly far from the action that no one wanted to sit there. By 2006, the A’s were covering all the extra seats with a tarp; by 2013, the Raiders were doing the same.

But just because they weren’t using Mt. Davis any more didn’t mean the bills stopped. The city of Oakland and county of Alameda were still on the hook to repay their $200 million share, which turned out to be more like $350 million. The city felt burned — and for good reason. Even now, with the Raiders no longer in Oakland, the city and county are still paying millions annually for Mt. Davis.

This is the environment in which the city and A’s ownership tried to negotiate the construction of a new stadium, which involved a $12 billion revitalization project of a mostly unused plot of land along the Oakland waterfront. The city of Oakland was willing to go far to keep the A’s, but it wasn’t going to compromise itself like it had in the ‘90s for Mt. Davis. In the end, either the two sides were too far apart on who pays for what or, alternatively, A’s ownership was simply using the city of Oakland to get a better deal in Las Vegas.

Whatever the reason, Oakland will soon no longer be a major-league sports town, and that’s too bad. Because it’s not a good sports town; it’s a great sports town. It’s where the Black Hole was born, where the Bash Brothers thrilled, where a million people turned out to celebrate the Warriors’ championship in 2017 even though they knew the team would soon be leaving.

“How much more disrespect can Oakland tolerate from its ungrateful three sports franchises?” Dave Newhouse, a longtime Oakland sports columnist, wrote in 2015. “There isn’t another sports town anywhere that has enjoyed more success or endured more grief from its sports tenants than Oakland, the carpetbagger capital of America.”

Eight years later, Newhouse’s words ring truer than ever.

For decades, Oakland and its sports fans have been pawns in a game of stadium chicken. The game is finally over. The A’s will soon be gone. But Mt. Davis will remain, looming over Interstate 880, serving as a reminder of how it all went wrong.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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