The news broke yesterday that the Oakland Athletics would begin exploring the possibility of relocating their team after struggles with Oakland’s local government getting their new stadium plans off the ground. “The future success of the A’s depends on a new ballpark. 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,” owner John Fisher said in a statement Tuesday.
While the main goal is to keep the A’s in Oakland, this of course raises the question: if forced to relocate, where could the A’s go? After polling about 4,000 people online on my own, as well as doing some research as to what Major League Baseball would prefer, I narrowed down a list of some cities in need of some good ol’ major league ball.
By far the most popular response as well as my own personal choice, Nashville deserves Major League Baseball. The Nashville Sounds, the current Triple-A MiLB affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, have been around in Music City since 1978 and have now been a farm team to eight different ball clubs throughout the years.
Nashville, of course being a tourist attraction on its own, has seen much success with the minor league team in terms of attendance. According to MiLB.com, in 2019 First Tennessee Park held over 578,291 fans during the season, their fifth year in a row of attendance over 500,000. The average attendance per game of 8,631 fans was the third-highest in all of MiLB, only behind Las Vegas and Columbus. Even more impressive, First Tennessee Park hosted 23 sellouts in 2019, the most in a single season in ballpark history.
Needless to say, a lack of interest in baseball is not of concern. While it might be known as Music City, between their NFL team in the Titans and NHL team in the Predators, adding an MLB team to the city could bring a whole new dimension to the already wildly popular destination.
Of course, no one knows this better than the people of Nashville. As a matter of fact, they’ve formed a group called Music City Baseball, dedicated to bringing major league baseball to their home. An organization of Nashville business, sports, music, and community leaders, according to their website their mission is “to secure Major League Baseball approval of an expansion franchise in Nashville, although relocation and rebranding of an existing franchise would also be considered.”
Given the already present push for an MLB team by the organization, if the A’s are forced to relocate, it’s very likely the city most willing to invest in the team and a new park is Nashville.
The second most popular choice for a relocation of the A’s is Las Vegas, and according to Rob Manfred, at the moment it’s also the most likely if it comes down to it.
As previously mentioned, the Oakland A’s Triple-A affiliate, the Las Vegas Aviators, led all of MiLB in attendance in 2019. Las Vegas Ballpark, built in 2019, was named the best of MiLB Triple-A ballparks by Ballpark Digest, and for good reason. Las Vegas Ballpark has the makings to be a major league park and was built with that intention.
Of all the possible landing spots for the A’s, Las Vegas by far has the biggest tourist industry making it a money grab for MLB. No longer do people just travel to Las Vegas for gambling and entertainment. The relocation of the NFL’s Raiders franchise to Vegas as well as the NHL’s most recent expansion team the Golden Knights have thrived in Sin City.
Golden Knights owner Bill Foley spoke on the possibility of the relocation of the A’s yesterday, addressing what value an MLB team could bring to the already wildly popular area: “The one thing about Las Vegas, though, as we come out of the pandemic is there are 42 million or 43 million other visitors a year. That’s what’s really going to make the Raiders a successful team, it’s going to be the other fans coming in to see the Raiders as opposed to a lot of locals going. Locals will be going. They bought tickets, but the same thing will be true to MLB. There would be a lot of people coming from out of town.”
Vegas and Nashville both certainly serve as two prime “vacation” destinations for a major league team, making the most alluring in terms of revenue for MLB.
The “bring back the Expos” crowd is back and better than ever given the recent news out of Oakland.
The Montreal Expos were a part of Major League Baseball from 1969 to 2004 until relocating and rebranding to Washington D.C. and becoming the Washington Nationals. Losing money and fan interest, the Expos’ last winning season was in 1979, and with D.C. vying for an MLB team to complement the Washington Football Team, Wizards, and Capitals already present, the league forced a sale to move the team and rebrand from Montreal to D.C. Unfortunately, it left not only Montreal with just one of the four major sports in their city now, but Canada with just one baseball team!
Canada deserves more baseball, and Montreal deserves a second chance. While the city does have a solid tourist industry, aside from its NHL team, the Montreal Canadiens, bringing back MLB could bring in a whole new wave of visitors to the city. It seems like they already have the support of some big names too.
WE’RE BACK https://t.co/mtIkqXvloy
— Montreal Expos ⚾️ (@Montreal_Expos) April 1, 2021
Charlotte is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States and has been for years now. It’s one of the highest populated states without an MLB team and has been vying for one for a while now.
Charlotte already has the Carolina Panthers (NFL) and Charlotte Hornets (NBA), as well as a successful MiLB team in the White Sox Triple-A affiliate Charlotte Knights. Prior to Vegas taking over in 2019, the Knights held onto top fan attendance in the minor leagues as recently as 2018. While attendance did drop in 2019, the city’s desire to bring Major League Baseball to North Carolina is strong as ever.
It certainly helps their case that Charlotte has a rather wealthy population, meaning potential sponsors from big banks in the area such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Rick Curti, founder of the grassroots organization The Charlotte Bats, whose goal is to bring Major League Baseball to the city, said, “You know, we have other cities out there [North Carolina] that have multiple sports teams. I think it’s great that MLS is coming and it’s great that we have hockey. And while I think it’s great, it’s just showing that our city is growing exponentially every single day. We got the banks out here so you know there’s a lot of potential for sponsorships. You know we have a lot of Fortune 500 companies out here.”
Ultimately it all comes down to if those big Fortune 500 companies are willing to contribute to the cause to bring MLB to Charlotte.
Geographically speaking, Portland would make a lot of sense given the A’s could remain in the AL West that way. Portland is another city that’s been on the hunt to bring Major League Baseball in. The Portland Diamond Project is another grassroots movement similar to the Charlotte Bats all about bringing in baseball in the name of bettering the community. The Portland Diamond Project already has an entire stadium designed! Certainly lack of interest does not seem to be an issue, even if Portland does not have a minor league baseball team like some other options.
People forget adding a major sports team to a city does not just bring in new fans — it stimulates the local economy, brings in new jobs, and creates entirely new sources of revenue for the city and residents. Also similar to Charlotte, Portland is another rapidly-growing city with an already large population. While they might not have the same Fortune 500 companies Charlotte does, MLB would be silly to not tap into such a large population.
Honorable Mentions: Oklahoma City, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Raleigh, and my personal pick: Pawtucket. Long live McCoy Stadium.
Photo by Andyone/Unsplash | Adapted by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)