OAKLAND, Calif. -- Major League Baseball instructed the Athletics to explore relocation options as the team tries to secure a new waterfront ballpark it hopes will keep the club in Oakland.
MLB released a statement Tuesday expressing its longtime determination that the current Coliseum site is "not a viable option for the future vision of baseball."
"MLB is concerned with the rate of progress on the A's new ballpark effort with local officials and other stakeholders in Oakland," MLB said. "The A's have worked very hard to advance a new ballpark in downtown Oakland for the last four years, investing significant resources while facing multiple roadblocks. We know they remain deeply committed to succeeding in Oakland, and with two other sports franchises recently leaving the community, their commitment to Oakland is now more important than ever."
A's President Dave Kaval remains hopeful of a deal, but there is a time crunch.
"We're going to immediately start working with the league on exploring other markets and working hand in hand with them to identify which ones make the most sense and pursuing that right away," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "We need to keep our options open. People know, we can't even keep the lights on here at the Coliseum."
In November 2018, the A's announced they had found a waterfront location for their new ballpark that would cost more than $1 billion, with picturesque views toward San Francisco, the Bay Bridge and Port of Oakland. The goal had been to open in 2023, but now, even if approved by Oakland's city council this summer it would not be ready until 2027.
Early this year, Kaval asked the city council to make a decision via a vote before it breaks for the summer on a $12 billion privately funded ballpark project and major community development plan featuring $450 million in community benefits, but the team has been given no indication anything is imminent.
The team's lease at the Coliseum is up in 2024, but the aging venue where the A's have played since 1968 is already having lighting and flooding issues.
A's owner John Fisher said in a statement Tuesday he will honor MLB's instructions but remains committed to pursuing the waterfront ballpark proposed for construction in the city's Howard Terminal location.
"The future success of the A's depends on a new ballpark," Fisher said. "Oakland is a great baseball town, and we will continue to pursue our waterfront ballpark project. We will also follow MLB's direction to explore other markets."
The A's, who previously proposed and withdrew plans for ballparks in Fremont and San Jose, are hopeful MLB's pressure might help push that process with the city.
"We share MLB's sense of urgency and their continued preference for Oakland. Today's statement makes clear that the only viable path to keeping the A's rooted in Oakland is a ballpark on the waterfront," Mayor Libby Schaaf said.
The proposed ballpark site is about 6 miles from the Coliseum and there is no mass transit. The A's and city have said they plan to build a gondola that would go from the waterfront area of the ballpark over Interstate 880 to downtown. Kaval said the gondola is approved and undergoing environmental review.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has mentioned as possible expansion candidates Charlotte, N.C.; Las Vegas; Montreal; Nashville, Tenn.; Portland, Ore.; and Vancouver, British Columbia.
The Athletics have moved twice since the franchise was founded in Philadelphia, arriving in Kansas City for the 1955 season and in Oakland for the 1968 season.
Just two MLB teams have moved in the past half-century: The expansion Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers for the 1972 season, and the Montreal Expos transformed into the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season.
The Braves also moved twice, switching from Boston to Milwaukee for the 1953 season and to Atlanta for 1966.