Another Voice: As Oakland A’s look for new stadium, Sacramento needs to thump its chest

July 29, 2021

Sacramento Business Journal

Downey Brand counsel Sean McKissick wrote this opinion piece for the Sacramento Business Journal regarding the reasons why Sacramento is an ideal candidate for a potential relocation of the Oakland Athletics major league baseball team.

Read the full article below, or view the article on the Sacramento Business Journal’s website.

By Sean McKissick, Counsel, Downey Brand LLP

Sacramento is a city on the move. Long overshadowed by its Bay Area neighbors, Sacramento is the fastest-growing large city in the state, and recent years have seen leaps and bounds in its population, culture, diversity and big city sophistication. What Sacramento still lacks, however, is the century-old badge of American metropolitan accomplishment — its very own Major League Baseball team.

But lo and behold, circumstances are aligning perfectly for that to change. Perfectly, that is, if Sacramento can make the rest of the world see what Sacramento residents already know.

It’s no secret that the Oakland Athletics are in search of a new stadium — that saga has been ongoing for almost 30 years now. Though the search is old enough to have three kids and a Ph.D. hanging on its wall, it’s recently taken on a bit more urgency. The A’s have engaged in a public flirtation with Las Vegas, and Oakland’s mayor Libby Schaaf claimed in a recent radio interview that the team’s pursuit of a new home may soon expand to include at least six additional cities. Though she didn’t specify, it’s safe to assume they include the usual suspects for MLB expansion (Portland, Oregon; Charlotte, North Carolina, Montreal, etc.).

Mayor Schaaf was clear, however, that none of the new candidates are in California. This means that the list of potential relocation cities for the A’s does not include Sacramento. That raises a simple question: Why not?

It’s not because Sacramento isn’t in a big enough media market. According to the Nielsen “Designated Market Area” rankings, Sacramento is part of the 20th largest media market in the country. Every single market ranking higher than Sacramento’s on the list, with one exception (Orlando), already has an MLB franchise. In fact, many of the markets ranking lower than Sacramento’s (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee) also already have an MLB franchise. Sacramento is in a larger media market than all of the country’s typical candidates for MLB expansion, and its market is significantly larger than Las Vegas’, which is all the way down the list at number 40.

It’s not because there’s no room for a stadium in Sacramento. To name just one obvious potential site, the Railyards offer a prime downtown, river-adjacent location that just happens to feature a stadium-sized chunk of land previously set aside for a Major League Soccer franchise that no longer appears to be coming. The Railyards site would be perfect for the futuristic, intimate stadium the A’s say they want to build.

It’s not because there are no baseball fans in Sacramento. Sacramento’s Little League fields are filled to capacity in the spring and early summer, and its sports bars are packed (social distance guidelines permitting) with hollering baseball fans all season long. After their founding in 2000, the Sacramento River Cats led the minor leagues in attendance for eight years straight, and never dipped below second in attendance until 2017 (perhaps not coincidentally, shortly after they shifted their major league affiliation away from the A’s).

And it’s definitely not because there are no A’s fans in Sacramento. A’s hats and bumper stickers are a common sight around here, due to Oakland’s relative geographic proximity, the River Cats’ 15-year affiliation with the A’s, and the growing number of Bay Area expatriates (like myself) that have made their way to the Capital City.

Given the foregoing, it seems that the most relevant question is not why Sacramento is missing from the A’s reported list of potential relocation sites, but rather why Sacramento is not first on that list.

Simply put, the answer may be that Sacramento is not first on the list of relocation sites simply because Sacramento has not yet made it clear to the A’s, MLB and other relevant stakeholders that it should be. It’s time for that to change.