The Mayor of Oakland meets with Rob Manfred to prove the city’s proposal to A.J

SEATTLE — On Sunday, at a meeting at a Seattle hotel, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said she gave MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred documented evidence of her city’s plan to build a new stadium for Oakland games.

At the meeting, which Thao said took place at her request, she presented Manfred with 31 packages, one for him and one for each major league owner, detailing her city’s efforts to create a park on a waterfront site at Howard Terminal.

Thao said it was the first time the two had met. Previously, they only spoke through the media. On June 15, addressing the potential move for the ‘A’, Manfred said, “No Oakland bid, okay? They never got to the point where they had a plan to build a stadium in any location.” Thao immediately issued a statement, calling Manfred’s claim “completely false”.

On Sunday, she took her case directly to Manfred.

Read the conversation with Mayor of Auckland Sheng Thao

View documents given to Manfred (PDF files):

League approval is perhaps the last major step in the planned move to Las Vegas, though that move is still pending. He faces political opposition. But Thao, in an exclusive interview, said she continues to fight for the team’s survival in Auckland, and is ready to reopen negotiations for a new soccer stadium.

“For me, it was very important that (Manfred), and not only him, but the (league transfer) committee and owners have a copy of everything we offer, for the purposes of transparency,” Thao said. “Through the press, we heard that Manfred stated there was no motion. We wanted to dispel that notion. If people were misinformed, we wanted to make sure everyone had all the information in real time as to how close we were to the field.”

Manfred seemed “responsive” to the city’s presentation and said he would send the materials to the three-person owners Transportation Committee Headed by Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, Thao said.

“We had a good meeting, a very open exchange of views,” Manfred said on the Tuesday before the All-Star game. “I understand that she came to the operation late and is doing her best to see if there was something that could be done in an operation that in many ways ended when she came on the scene.”

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Thao was sworn in as mayor on Jan. 9, replacing Libby Schaff who has held the position since 2015. The process wasn’t over at that time. The A’s continued negotiating with Auckland after Thao’s inauguration.

Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement states that he must reach a binding pitch agreement by January 15, 2024, or lose the money he will receive from that year’s revenue sharing. Manfred described the potential loss of revenue sharing as “a cosmic kind of change in their economic situation”. Apparently both the A’s and league thought Auckland did not have enough money to build a new park.

Auckland Mayor Sheng Thao said she had asked to meet with Rob Manfred. (Jane Tesca/Getty Images)

The packages prepared by the city for Manfred and the owners included three brochures: a 52-page terminology presentation summarizing the transaction documents, a 114-page explanation of Howard Terminal’s design guidelines and a 120-page preliminary development plan including detailed maps, construction, and grading plans. The football stadium will be part of a $12 billion development project required by the A’s at Howard Terminal. In Las Vegas, the team will get a retractable rooftop park worth just $1.5 billion.

“Oakland very much had a specific and concrete proposal on the table,” Thao said, in a letter submitted to Manfred, and he believes he is “extremely close to finalizing a deal with A’s current ownership.” City officials said they presented the proposal to A at 6:00 a.m. 25 p.m. PST on April 14. The A’s announced five days later that they had entered into a binding agreement to purchase land in Las Vegas for a future ballpark site.

At that point, Thao said, the city “paused negotiations” with the team, which subsequently struck a deal with Bally’s Corp. to build a different site on part of the Tropicana Las Vegas resort site and secured approval from the Nevada Legislature for about $380 million in public funding.

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“I’ll be very honest. I was obviously upset,” Thao said of her reaction to the initial announcement of the A. But there are no shovels on the ground (in Las Vegas). Until there is a shovel in the ground and construction starts, it can still be Oakland. A in Oakland is a reality. This is the position I will continue to take.”

Asked if the city would be willing to put forward a developer proposal, Thao said, “Absolutely. If (A’s owner) John Fisher and (Chairman) Dave Kaval or a new owner come to the table to start a real conversation again, a real partnership, about how do we keep Oakland A here and how do we build a stadium, sure, 100 percent.”

The city, in the presentation it prepared for Manfred and the owners, said it had secured more than $425 million in financing for off-site infrastructure costs, $65 million more than A.J. The team will pay for infrastructure and development costs at the site, but the city will pay about $500 million of that cost through the creation of the Infrastructure Finance District, according to Molly Mybron, the city’s principal negotiator and project manager for the Howard Terminal site.

Thao said the city had not yet heard from the Aleph.

There is a current offer on the table. “Since this bid was made, we’ve got two more grants,” Thao said. “The offer becomes more attractive as the month rolls around and applicants should reconsider.”

Manfred has said repeatedly that the league plans to expand from 30 to 32 teams, but only after the A’s and Tampa Bay Rays resolve their positions on the field. Manfred said the A’s, who must formally apply to the league for relocation, have begun filing information on that application but have not completed the process.

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Among the items the players haven’t touched on yet, according to Manfred: where the team will play from 2025-27, after their lease on the Oakland Coliseum expires and before their new stadium is built in Las Vegas. Thao said Fisher and family members had not initiated a conversation with the city about possibly remaining in Oakland during that time.

If the A’s are successful in their plan to relocate to Las Vegas, Oakland will become an immediate candidate for an expansion club. If necessary, Thao said, she would welcome the possibility. But citing the A’s 55-year history in Oakland, she believes Las Vegas is better suited to an expansion team.

The television market in the Bay Area, including Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose, is the tenth largest in the country. Las Vegas, which ranks 40th, will be Little baseball. Thao cited the difference as Oakland’s first advantage over Las Vegas. She also noted the excellent weather in Oakland, in contrast to the desert heat of Las Vegas, and made particular mention of the city’s diverse population.

“I know it is a core value of MLB to continue to diversify its fanbase,” Thao said. “Leaving Oakland for Nevada doesn’t help prove the point. Keeping the MLB and A’s rooted in Oakland, that’s how you diversify your fan base. Oakland is one of the most diverse cities in the entire country.”

When asked if she felt from Manfred that the A’s move to Las Vegas was a foregone conclusion, Thao refused to speculate on what the commissioner was thinking, speaking only for herself.

“I don’t believe in completely closed windows,” Thao said. “What I think is an open option for people to open windows. And I will continue to push for that window to open if they think it is closed.”

– the athleteEvan Drilich contributed to this story.

(Top photo by Rob Manfred: Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images)

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