OAKLAND, Calif. - Major League Baseball threw a curveball to Oakland city leaders Tuesday, announcing that the A's are free to relocate to another city if they can't reach a deal with Oakland on a new ballpark plan.
"We have instructed the Athletics to begin to explore other markets while they continue to pursue a waterfront ballpark in Oakland," the Major League Baseball statement said in part, explaining they are "concerned with the rate of progress on the A’s new ballpark effort with local officials and other stakeholders in Oakland."
That came as a shock to many Oakland residents still feeling the sting of losing two professional sports teams, the Warriors and Oakland Raiders, at the Coliseum site.
Longtime, loyal Athletics fans don't want to see their team leave.
Among the cities reportedly being considered are Las Vegas, Portland, Nashville, and San Antonio.
"The A's are Oakland. And if they leave to go out of state, I'll be upset about that," said Theo Miller of Oakland.
"As a supporter, we really want them to stay here," said Esmail al-Basiri, an Oakland resident, "the city should help them out."
The A's gave the Oakland City Council their proposal In January to build a 34,000-seat waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal. The A's say the $12-billion-dollar project would be privately financed and include retail and housing, with the city reinvesting $855 million in infrastructure improvements.
The A's say time is running out. Their lease at the Ring Central Coliseum ends in 2024.
"We need the city council of Oakland to take its role as the lead agency and vote affirmatively on the project," said Dave Kaval, the Oakland A's President who says the team hopes for a city council vote by July.
The Oakland A's motto "Rooted in Oakland" reflects the team's long history in the East Bay. Hometown fans have been sporting the team's green and gold colors since 1968. Many people say it's been an inspiration for generations of youth in the community.
One former A's player Bip Roberts who grew up watching the team, says the A's have helped Oakland youth reach for big dreams.
"Oakland's produced so many major league ball players. And it goes all the way back to Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan, and then it comes all the way up to Dontrelle Willis and Jimmy Rollins, and Nico Hoerner now with the Chicago Cubs," said Roberts, "We all had that dream growing up here in Oakland and it all happened because of the Oakland A's."
The Bay Area Council says along with preserving the history, Oakland has a lot at stake financially.
A 2019 Bay Area Council economic study showed an A's waterfront ballpark would have a $7 billion dollar benefit over ten years.
"From an economic standpoint it's really important to keep the A's and get this project done and a lot of people existing jobs as well as future jobs depend on it," said Jim Wunderman, Bay Area Council President and CEO who assisted with the San Francisco Giants' move to the current waterfront ballpark.
Opponents with the East Oakland Stadium Alliance and shipping companies say a ballpark at the port would hurt the industrial area.
"They shouldn't be pressured by Major League Baseball," said Mike Jacob, VP of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, and a spokesperson for the East Oakland Stadium Alliance.
"We have 325,000 truck moves at that facility right now and it provides critical infrastructure," said Jacob.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s spokesman said, "Today’s statement makes clear that the only viable path to keeping the A’s rooted in Oakland is a ballpark on the waterfront."
The mayor is calling on the community to support a "fiscally responsible" waterfront project.
Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU. Email Jana at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.