The Oakland Athletics are desperately trying to become the Las Vegas Athletics (whether they will succeed is a different article).
With one year remaining on their lease, the team will be moving most likely after the 2024 season, and moving into a new Strip-side ballpark in 2027. Early indications show that the team would move temporarily to share the existing Las Vegas Ballpark with the current Triple-A team, the Las Vegas Aviators, until their new stadium is ready.
But what will the Oakland A’s do when they vacate the ballpark and move into their brand-new stadium? Will the Las Vegas Aviators remain? How will Minor League Baseball change because of it?
I see a few options:
The Aviators are bought by the Athletics and stay in Vegas
So far, the Las Vegas Aviators have voiced their intention to remain in the local area. MLB has focused on having Triple-A teams close to their parent clubs for ease of travel in call-ups and rehab assignments. Ultimately, though, it may prove difficult for the team to stay if it continues to be independently owned.
The Las Vegas Aviators and the Las Vegas Ballpark are both owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation. If the A’s move in, there should be no problems in the short term. The Howard Hughes Corporation will bring in massive profits by having an MLB team in their ballpark for at least three seasons. On top of that, they will also have a minor league team putting people in seats. But the allure of keeping the Aviators in Vegas will most likely fall apart quickly once the A’s move into their new stadium. Teams located near their parent clubs tend to suffer from their parent club being so close. If the A’s move to Vegas I believe that the Aviators will be forced to rebrand as the Summerlin Aviators (named after the suburb that the team is actually located in, like the Sugar Land Space Cowboys) to avoid branding confusion with the MLB team.
The Gwinnett Stripers and the Sugar Land Space Cowboys were last in attendance last year in the IL and the PCL, respectively. Both clubs are within their parent team’s protected areas and are critically owned by their parent team. The St. Paul Saints and Tacoma Rainiers, both independently owned and located near their parent club, had decent attendance. If the Aviators stay in Vegas after the stadium is built, they would be one of the closest Triple-A teams to their parent club while also being in one of the smallest markets in MLB. For the record, Sugar Land, Gwinnett, Tacoma, and St Paul are in the 5th, 8th, 15th, and 16th-ranked metros in the United States, respectively. Las Vegas, on the other hand, is the 29th-ranked market in the United States.
All that to say, there is a decent likelihood that the Aviators would see a decent dip in attendance once the A’s move happens. If the A’s are insistent on keeping the Aviators around for convenience’s sake, it is possible that Howard Hughes corporation sells the team to the A’s (like Sugar Land sold to Astros once they were admitted into the PCL from the independent American Association). Howard Hughes Corporation would simply rake in the money from the Aviators lease and no longer have to worry about the logistics of operating the ballpark. But that is not their only option. They could also relocate.