OAKLAND, Calif. - The Major League Baseball Association has asked the Oakland Athletics to start exploring the possibility of relocating the team.
The league said the A's have run into several obstacles over the past four years as it worked to meet the city's demands for a proposed ballpark at Oakland's Howard Terminal.
"We have instructed the Athletics to begin exploring other markets while they continue to pursue a waterfront ballpark in Oakland," the MLB said in a statement. "The Athletics need a new ballpark to remain competitive, so it is now in our best interest to also consider other markets."
Despite the directive, the team said it remains committed to Oakland and is not abandoning its plan for the proposed 35,000 seat stadium in the city's entertainment district of Jack London Square.
In a letter to fans, Oakland A's President Dave Kaval said, "We believe in our vision we presented for a waterfront ballpark; it is a project that will create jobs, housing, open parks, and countless community benefits for Oakland residents, and it will set the stage for more World Series titles for our fans."
Since 1968, the Oakland Coliseum has been home for the team, situated next to mass transit, providing fans with multiple travel options.
But the MLB says a site is not a "viable option" for the future of baseball.
In November 2018, the A’s announced they settled on the Howard Terminal site for their new ballpark, with picturesque views toward San Francisco, the Bay Bridge and Port of Oakland. The goal had been to open in 2023.
The proposed ballpark is not located near mass transit, making it less accessible to fans. But the A’s and city have said they plan to build a gondola that would go from the waterfront area of ballpark over Interstate 880 to downtown.
Oakland has seen two sports franchises pack up and leave in the last few years, the Warriors and the Raiders, so fans are left to worry if the A's are next.
However, the city's Mayor Libby Schaaf said it's evident what the team wants, "the only viable path to keeping the A’s rooted in Oakland is a ballpark on the waterfront."
Bay Area Council, a business interest group, in which Kaval is a member of the executive committee, has called on the city to move forward with the waterfront ballpark.
East Oakland Stadium Alliance took issue with the lack of access to mass transit at the proposed waterfront site. They responded to MLB with their own statement and questioned the team's loyalty to Oakland.
"The City of Oakland and its residents should not be pressured by threats from the Oakland A’s and Major League Baseball into a bad deal that involves handing out hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to fund a massive real-estate development," the statement read.
EOSA argued the Coliseum is already approved for a new ballpark village. Their statement included this sharp criticism: "While the Oakland A’s have claimed to be ‘Rooted in Oakland,’ after openly exploring moves to Fremont, Portland, San Jose, and Las Vegas over the past two decades, we now see that their roots in Oakland are shallow."
Moving the team and operating the ballpark along the Oakland estuary could have some negative impacts on the environment and surrounding neighborhoods, as outlined in a 6,000-page environmental report for the ballpark. Among those concerns is air pollution from the increased traffic and congestion.