As Oakland A’s explore Coliseum lease extension, fan relations remain fraught

The Oakland A’s say they’re open to splitting the Coliseum venue with two local professional soccer teams, a team spokesperson told The Athletic. It’s an indication that the team is willing to make concessions in order to remain in their current market until their new home in Las Vegas is ready, likely in 2028.

Remaining in Oakland would allow the club to collect a reported $67 million a year on their current TV deal, which is apparently enough of an enticement to sign up for several more years of heavy criticism that the club is actively working to quell.

The potential concession comes at a time when the move to Las Vegas itself is facing potential legal challenges and questions as to whether the Las Vegas community even wants them there. Meanwhile, relations with the current fanbase are becoming even more fraught.

The club has recently faced backlash for a perceived effort to squash an independent Fans Fest organized by two fan groups that have lobbied to keep the team from moving. And recently, the A’s became the only team in Major League Baseball to block replies to their social media posts, a direct reaction to a barrage of criticism on various platforms.

“This decision is in response to a lack of civil discourse in some comments,” the A’s spokesperson told The Athletic.

But despite the continued contentious discourse around the team, the A’s have signaled a willingness to consider remaining in Oakland rather than finding an interim home in Salt Lake City or Sacramento. The A’s have indicated they would be open to sharing the Coliseum in 2025 with two local soccer teams: the Oakland Roots of the USL and the Oakland Soul of the USL W.


Roots and Soul to include soccer fans as owners, become ‘Oakland’s team more than ever’

While the A’s did not explicitly say that they prefer to remain in Oakland after their lease expires following this season, a team spokesperson confirmed to The Athletic that conversations remain ongoing in that effort. The A’s TV deal with NBC California could be voided if the A’s move out of their current media market.

“We have shared with the City of Oakland and Alameda County that we are open to being co-tenants of the Coliseum with the Roots and Soul in 2025,” the spokesperson told The Athletic. The A’s declined an interview request with The Athletic, but answered a series of questions in an email.

With the A’s current lease at the Coliseum set to expire after this season, the City of Oakland and Alameda County (which co-own the property) had reportedly begun negotiations with the local soccer clubs about becoming tenants of the Coliseum in 2025. However, those negotiations appeared to be in peril last week when a Feb. 16 meeting to discuss the potential lease was abruptly canceled.

The development came a day after the A’s met briefly with representatives from the city and county about possibly extending the lease on the Coliseum, which was the first such discussion since last April when the A’s announced their intentions to move to Las Vegas.

The Coliseum has history as a dual-tenant venue. The A’s and Raiders shared the Coliseum from 1968 through 1981 and again in the aging facility from 1995 until 2019. One of the reasons the teams attempted to move was to avoid sharing the stadium.

The potential desire to remain in Oakland for the short term comes at a time when relations with the current fanbase continue to be strained.

In January, the A’s blocked a newly formed independent league baseball team from hosting a Pioneer League game at the Coliseum in June. Then, at the start of spring training the A’s social media accounts shut off replies across all their platforms. This week, the team was accused of influencing a major sponsor to drop out of this Saturday’s fan-hosted Fans Fest.

Fans Fest, which will feature several former A’s players as guests, as well as many other local professional sports teams, is being run by the two groups that organized last season’s “Sell” movement in response to the A’s intention to move the team. Funding for the event has come entirely from sponsorships and fan donations. Drake’s Brewery beer is served at several locations at the Coliseum. The local company was one of the first businesses to commit to sponsoring the event — which is why it came as a surprise when they pulled out of the event just days prior.

The A’s denied having any involvement in Drake’s pulling their sponsorship, though some fans remain skeptical.

“I don’t see why they need to make the fans’ life worse than it already is because of their actions,” said Bryan Johansen, a co-founder of The Last Dive Bar, one of two fan groups that’s hosting the Fans Fest. “If you want to move, go ahead and move. But let us have our fun. Let us celebrate our team. Let us celebrate our civic pride.”

Johansen said Jordan Houseworth, the retail marketing and promotions coordinator at Drake’s, emailed the group on Wednesday to pull their sponsorship. Johansen said Houseworth did not respond to follow-up emails from the Oakland 68s, the other group hosting the festival. Neither Houseworth nor Drakes’s responded to a request for comment.

Since Drake’s pulled its sponsorship, numerous local breweries have stepped up to fill their place.

“I don’t support the A’s or current ownership,” said Barry Braden, cofounder of Fieldwork Brewing in Berkeley. “I support the idea of the A’s and their Bay Area roots. Frankly, I’m angry to lose my baseball team. You can print that. I don’t expect to ever serve beer at the Coliseum.”

The A’s did acknowledge communicating with another sponsor of the event — their own Low-A affiliate in Stockton. However, the A’s spokesperson denied that the A’s tried to change the Ports’ mind about participating. The Ports remain a sponsor of the event and will have a booth there.

“We wanted to get out in front of some like-minded fans that are excited to watch some baseball,” said Stockton Ports general manager Jordan Feneck when asked why they sponsored Fans Fest. “… I think people know we’re going to get fans. That’s the reason we’re doing it. We’re trying to get in front of our fanbase and get more people to the park.”

Even if the A’s do sign a lease extension in Oakland, getting people to want to come to A’s games will be a challenge, especially as they continue to limit their interactions with their fanbase on social media.

When asked about the collection of measures taken by the team, the A’s spokesperson said that they “appreciate the passion our fans bring and understand their disappointment with our move to Las Vegas. Our goal is to maintain a positive and engaging fan experience for all our fans and to continue making meaningful contributions to the communities we serve.”

Shutting off comments on social media doesn’t track with the industry’s standard for what drives a positive fan experience, however.

“I would not want to take that away from them,” said one social media manager for a Major League team. “You can limit your posting, but limiting what the fans say …. There are certain things that you owe the fans.”

The Athletic’s Eno Sarris contributed to this report

(File photo of a fan protest at the Coliseum last summer: Lachlan Cunningham / Getty Images)

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