Spectators watch an April 27 game at Sutter Health Park, where some Oakland A’s fans were protesting the team’s temporary move to West Sacramento. (Photo by Steve Martarano)

We’re Hitting One Into the Ballpark!

Back Commentary May 2, 2024 By Winnie Comstock-Carlson

This story is part of our May 2024 issue. To subscribe, click here.

Successful people, companies and regions share something in common — we don’t quit while we’re ahead. 

In April, it was announced that the Oakland Athletics will be playing for at least three seasons at Sutter Health Park, the home of the Sacramento River Cats in West Sacramento. This was very giddy-making news for those of us who love not only baseball but also our own home base. 

I enjoy watching baseball (might prefer to play, though). And it’s exciting to think that the A’s will be in residence here while they await a permanent home to be built in Las Vegas. They’re slated to play their home games here for the 2025-27 seasons, with an option for a fourth season in case their new home isn’t ready in time for the 2028 season. Bay Area fans aren’t at all happy about this, and I empathize with them. Throughout the years, they’ve been loyal and hopeful their team would make a comeback in a new, modern ballpark.  

You might know, since this story has dominated every possible media and social media outlet as well as our sometimes most reliable source, word-of-mouth, how this came about. The A’s lease with the City of Oakland expires at the end of this season, and the team rejected a proposed five-year lease extension at the Oakland Coliseum, one that would have cost the owners $60 million. The Athletics didn’t like the idea of heading to Salt Lake City, which tried to get them. I gather this had less to do with that beautiful area than with keeping its local broadcasting revenues intact.

From everything I’ve read or been told by people who closely follow the baseball business, the deal the team made with Sutter Health Park was one of the quickest ever made for a contract of this magnitude. To those of us outside the negotiations, everything seemed to come together in a staggering 24 hours. Many inside the negotiations say it didn’t take a whole lot longer than that, though that diminishes the groundwork done by the region’s economic development teams, tourism officials and Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, who’s also an owner of the River Cats. He told reporters that the Sacramento region has the potential to become a “mecca for sports.” Indeed it does!

John Fisher, who owns the A’s franchise, released a statement after the announcement was made that confirmed the team had “explored several locations for a temporary home, including the Oakland Coliseum. Even with the long-standing relationship and good intentions on all sides in the negotiations with Oakland, the conditions to achieve an agreement seemed out of reach.” Fisher added that he understood “the disappointment this news brings to our fans, as this season marks our final one in Oakland.”

So other than joy and excitement, what does this move, even if temporary, mean for us? At the moment, the Greater Sacramento Economic Council said it didn’t have projections about the A’s economic impact. But the council had commissioned a study not long ago that showed the Golden 1 Center and the Kings brought roughly $665 million in 2022 to 2023 to the region, through a combination of visitor spending and the arena’s other events and operations.

“Visitor spending” is a sometimes vague term. What it means is how much people spend when they come here, from around the region or from out of town, in our restaurants, our hotels, parking lots and all of the ancillary services someone might require when away from home. Collectively, the tourism industry calls these “indirect economic benefits” of bringing people to your city. 

The Capital Region has always been a great place for sports, with our remarkably strong fan base, our consistent and mild weather and our history. We’ve supported sports heavily since the Solons played here in the 1930s through 1960, when they were sold and moved to Hawaii, leaving many grieving the loss. Just look at the success of the Sacramento Kings, the River Cats and the Republic FC. I’m guessing A’s owner John Fisher did.

Mega-mega kudos go to Kings’ owner Vivek Ranadive, COO Matina Kolokotronis and president John Rinehart. They are the real heroes of this saga, as are all of you who made your enthusiasm and willingness to support the effort known. 

Finally, the great news is that when (and if!) the A’s move on to Las Vegas, it will open the prospect of our being the next expansion team site in 2028, when MLB will be opening another one on the West Coast. Personally, I’m betting that a brand-new ballpark — one that’s dramatically larger than the current one — is in our future. Maybe it will be right next door to the existing one. This new one will be a beautiful ballpark with a retractable cover, allowing for year-round entertainment.

Sounds unlikely? Why? Let’s not quit while we’re ahead!

Winnie Comstock-Carlson
President and Publisher

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