Major League Baseball chiefs have given the Oakland Athletics the green light to relocate the team to another city following frustration at delays on a proposed new stadium, the team said Tuesday.
Athletics president Dave Kaval said in a statement that the team had been given approval to investigate moving the team altogether as it continued to seek final approval on a new stadium in Oakland.
The Athletics are hoping to build a new $1 billion ballpark on the Oakland waterfront as part of mixed-use development that will also include 3,000 affordable housing units as well as office and retail space.
However, the project has become mired in delays with local government officials balking at the requested $855 million in public money the A's are seeking to complete the development.
"Today, Major League Baseball instructed the A's to begin to explore other markets while we continue to pursue the Oakland waterfront ballpark project," Kaval said in a statement.
"This is not an easy directive for our fans to hear... after four years of work, MLB is concerned with the rate of progress with local officials and other stakeholders on our new ballpark efforts.
"The time is here for a decision on our future, and it is unclear to us and MLB whether there is a path to success for the A's in Oakland."
If the Athletics moved out of Oakland, it would leave the northern California city without a major professional sports team.
In recent years, the Oakland Raiders NFL team relocated to Las Vegas while the Golden State Warriors NBA franchise moved to a new stadium across the bay on the San Francisco waterfront.
The Athletics currently play at the 55-year-old Oakland Coliseum and have a lease at the venue which runs through the 2024 season.
However, the ageing arena is increasingly seen as outdated for professional sport, a view shared by Major League Baseball.
"The Oakland Coliseum site is not a viable option for the future vision of baseball," Major League Baseball said in a statement on Tuesday.
"We have instructed the Athletics to begin to explore other markets while they continue to pursue a waterfront ballpark in Oakland.
"The Athletics need a new ballpark to remain competitive, so it is now in our best interests to also consider other markets."
Las Vegas is widely seen as the most likely option if the Athletics do move out of California although the team has also reportedly looked at other sites in northern California including San Jose and Fremont.
Athletics manager Bob Melvin said Tuesday he hoped the team would remain in Oakland and dismissed suggestions the issue could destabilize players on the field.
"I think they're just focused on playing," Melvin said of his team.
"We're not going anywhere. We play in the venue we're at. Until something changes, I don’t think they think too much of it.
"The A's have been an important organization in Oakland for a long time and I think that's still the hope."