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Las Vegas Ballpark as MLB home? Maybe, maybe not

Las Vegas Ballpark

After saying it was a possibility the Oakland A’s could play out of Las Vegas Ballpark on a temporary basis, team president Dave Kaval walked back that assertion, saying that it was more of a hypothetical statement.

Speaking to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Kaval praised the home of the Las Vegas Aviators (Triple-A West) and said they were looking at the 10,000-capacity ballpark as a temporary home while a new ballpark is built:

“That’s something we’re exploring as a possibility, because it’s hard to know how long these things are going to take,” said A’s president Dave Kaval. “We would have to understand all the different options and when things could occur. But since there is such a state-of-the-art facility already there, it’s at least an option.”

Las Vegas Ballpark is indeed a state-of-the-art facility–for a Triple-A ballpark. We’ve sung its praises in past years, and in a few ways, such as its expansive player facilities, it’s actually a better facility than the Oakland Coliseum. But at the end of the day it is a Minor League Baseball ballpark. The stated capacity is indeed 10,000, but that would mean cramming every ballpark nook and cranny with SRO fans. There are 22 suites, and the club level seats 400–hardly MLB numbers. (The number of actual seats is closer to 8,000.) That expansive concourse with one large concession stand would soon be cluttered–all that lovely space in front of the team store would likely end up crammed with multiple points of sale–and the SRO theme would need to be extended to the outfield spaces. The pool experience is diminished with lots of people splashing about.

So, upon further reflection, the idea of Las Vegas Ballpark as a temporary MLB ballpark may not be the best of ideas–which is why Kaval walked them back in a San Francisco Chronicle interview:

“There’s no real planning that’s gone into that per se,” Kaval said in a phone interview Friday. “But I think in general if it was required, like maybe for a gap year before (a new Las Vegas stadium) was done, I think it’s possible, only because that facility is so state of the art and top notch, and you don’t always have something like that that’s a $150 million facility in its own right.”

The Aviators’ park is modern but was built as a minor-league venue. Kaval acknowledged moving the A’s into what is now a Triple-A ballpark would not be the team’s decision alone.

“It would have to be something that Major League Baseball would endorse and approve,” Kaval said. “But I think in terms of if it was a short-term option, and it was necessary because there were no other options, I think it would probably be considered. Look at what’s happened this year with the Blue Jays and things like that. There have been other examples of that in the recent era that have kind of been similar or probably even lesser experiences than what that would be.”

Maybe not the best example here: The Blue Jays are fleeing Sahlen Field the first chance they get. And there’s always another option: spending one last season at the Coliseum. But we are a long, long ways from there.

Meanwhile, the A’s are planning a fourth trip to Vegas to discuss ballpark possibilities on July 21-22–not so coincidentally, right after a non-binding vote on a proposed Howard Terminal waterfront ballpark from the City Council. It looks like the focus for the Athletics is shifting to suburban Henderson, where two sites are in the team’s sights, per the Review-Journal: a site near the Galleria at Sunset mall just off U.S. Highway 95, and the other is near the M Resort around St. Rose Parkway and Las Vegas Boulevard, just off Interstate 15..

Henderson has indeed worked to attract sports teams to the area, including a new arena for the Vegas Silver Knights AHL team and the Las Vegas Raiders training facility. But neither is close to the scale of what a billion-dollar ballpark would entail, and Henderson is a little off the beaten path when it comes to the Vegas metropolitan area. That begs the question: who do the A’s expect to attend games? If it’s locals, Henderson isn’t the most affluent part of the Vegas market. If it is tourists, good luck attracting fans that far off the Strip. But as far as meetings with heavyweights like Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, high-ranking reps from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, or business leaders with the local casino heavyweights like Caesars, MGM Resorts or Las Vegas Sands Corporation…they aren’t on the agenda.

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