OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Athletics have gone from the team desperately trying to leave Oakland just a few years ago to the one that will soon become the lone pro team left in the East Bay city.
With the Oakland Raiders having been approved this week by the NFL to move to Las Vegas in 2020 and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors set to move across the bay to San Francisco in 2019, the A’s will soon have Oakland to themselves and are playing up their long connection to the city.
“When I took over as team president, I saw Oakland as a strength,” said David Kaval, who started in his new role late last year. “We have 49 years here. This has one of the best fan bases in all of professional sports. We wanted to make sure that we leaned into that fan base and we did everything we could to show we cared about everything they’ve done to support us over 49 years.”
One of the A’s main mottos this year is “Rooted in Oakland” and in a promotional move to win back old fans the team has an offer for people to turn in old San Francisco Giants hats to get a new A’s one instead.
Then in a coincidence of timing earlier this week, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf raised an A’s flag on top of city hall just an hour after the vote Monday that approved the Raiders move.
“When you have great fan bases like Oakland and the East Bay, it’s really not fair,” Kaval said. “We don’t think that’s a good thing for the community. It’s something we are sad about. But at the same token, we’re just focused on our efforts.”
The attachment to Oakland is a change of heart for the franchise.
The A’s bought land in Fremont, about 25 miles south of Oakland, in 2006 with hopes of building a new stadium there. When that plan failed, the team turned to San Jose but were blocked by the San Francisco Giants, who held territorial rights to Santa Clara County.
Now they are committed to picking out a new ballpark location in Oakland before the end of the year. The team is looking at four choices: the Coliseum site, one on the water by Jack London Square, and two other sites close to Lake Merritt near downtown.
The choice will come down to which site offers the best combination of accessibility and the ability to build a “ballpark village” around the stadium that will allow fans to go to restaurants and bars before and after games.
“You have to be very thoughtful,” Kaval said. “If you build in the wrong place or don’t build the right way, you can make a generational mistake. We can’t afford that. We have to make sure we build in the right location with the right plan that creates the right ballpark village.”
But while waiting for a new home, the A’s ignored their old one at the Coliseum, which is one of the most rundown, outdated facilities in the majors.
Kaval has put in a major effort to improve the game-day atmosphere with a new Shibe Park Tavern that celebrates the franchise’s history back to the Philadelphia days, improved concessions, food trucks outside the stadium and a kids zone.
“It’s important for fans to know we care now,” Kaval said.