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Las Vegas fans get first look at A's since stadium funding and relocation were approved

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Oakland Athletics return to Las Vegas this weekend for exhibition games against Milwaukee, their first appearance since announcing the relocation to what the team envisions as its future home city.

The games at Las Vegas Ballpark, home of the franchise's Triple-A Aviators, feature an A's team planning a new regular-season ballpark on the Strip it hopes will open in 2028. The Nevada Legislature last June enacted $380 million in funding for a $1.5 billion stadium, and baseball owners unanimously approved the relocation in November.

Close to a sellout crowd is expected in the 10,000-seat capacity ballpark for the Saturday afternoon game, but breezy temperatures that will drop into the 50s could depress attendance Friday night.

Las Vegas has hosted spring training games since at least 1983, and the A's played their first six regular-season games in 1996 at Cashman Field because of renovations at the Oakland Coliseum. Because of the planned permanent move, this weekend's game create an unusual dynamic for players, who will return to Oakland and a fan base irate at owner John Fisher.

“Being from the Bay Area, it kind of sucks, just the fan base and the community that’s in Oakland," right-hander Paul Blackburn said. "I grew up going to A’s games, watching their teams in the early 2000s, the ‘Moneyball’ year (2002). They lose a big part of (the community). But on the other side, you got a community that’s been looking for a big-league team. For the people in Vegas, I would assume it is exciting for them to have a team to look forward to.”

The A's released renderings for the 33,000-seat stadium on Tuesday, the latest step in the relocation process. That ballpark will be on a nine-acre segment of a 35-acre property owned by Bally's at the corner of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard.

The nearly 67-year-old Tropicana resort that sits on that property will close April 2 in preparation for demolition to make room for ballpark and hotel construction.

Where the A's play from 2025-27 still hasn't been announced. Club officials met with the city of Oakland about a potential lease extension. Other possible options include the San Francisco Giants' Oracle Park or Triple-A ballparks in Salt Lake City or Sacramento, California.

A Nevada teachers political action committee has sued to block the state from distributing the money approved by the Legislature for the stadium. Construction delays also are possible.

The A's went 50-112 last season, the team's most losses since the 1916 Philadelphia A's, and finished 40 games back in the AL West. Fans protested the Las Vegas move throughout the season, aiming their ire at Fisher.

“I think we did a pretty good job of handling it,” said designated hitter Brent Rooker, who hit 30 home runs last season and was the A’s lone All-Star. "I think that we have guys who have the experience where they kind of know what’s coming and we know how to keep things internally.”

Players weren’t the target of fan anger, but had to focus on playing in a negative atmosphere.

“I know there’s a lot of emotions on both sides of it," Rooker said. "Obviously, that kind of thing is out of our control. We’re just hopeful that wherever we end up playing, whether it’s the next few years or whenever the permanent move is made, that we can play well enough to find some support from the community and establish a fan base to make that the home atmosphere that teams have across the league.”

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AP freelance writer Jack Thompson in Mesa, Arizona, contributed to this report.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb