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A’s to narrow field of Vegas sites after playoffs; three sites cited by locals

Oakland A'sWith negotiations between Oakland and the team over a waterfront ballpark going poorly, the Oakland Athletics’ Dave Kaval says the team will announce finalists for the location of a potential new Las Vegas ballpark after the MLB playoffs.

To say that things have shifted dramatically in the last month when it comes to a future ballpark for the Oakland Athletics in an understatement. The last time we had real action in this process the team and the city embarked on negotiations over a proposed term sheet for a new Howard Terminal waterfront ballpark, working off a plan presented by the city. But reportedly the talks are not going well–to the point where the Athletics are willing to walk away unless major portions of the plan are revised. Whether Oakland is willing to go along with these revisions remains to be seen.

When the Athletics ownership began talking with Las Vegas officials, it was not clear whether they were serious about a move from the Bay Area or whether they saw it Vegas as a useful foil for Oakland officials. We’re pretty sure it wasn’t totally clear to the Athletics, either, but it was the feeling in Las Vegas that the Athletics were not totally committed to the idea of a Vegas move.

That opinion has changed over time. The A’s ownership has been persistent in their efforts to win over local politicos, focusing their efforts on Clark County commissioners. The message pushed by the A’s has changed over time as well: at first the A’s wanted to see how they could get the kind of facilities funding deal the Las Vegas Raiders received with Allegiant Stadium, but when it became apparent there was little appetite for a Raider level of public subsidies–a situation we covered here–the A’s message shifted, as did the parameters of a project. Instead of looking to build a ballpark with major funding promoted by a partner (either a governmental body or business like a local resort or casino), the A’s are now talking about putting together their own mixed-use development anchored by a new ballpark. Makes sense: the A’s have treated a Howard Terminal waterfront ballpark as a development project, not purely a baseball endeavor, and that orientation is now being employed in pursuit of a Las Vegas ballpark.

That orientation can be seen in the three major site contenders mentioned by local politicos and insiders for a ballpark site. The first is a parcel south of the far end of the Las Vegas strip, south of Mandalay Bay and other recent growth in the area. The second is the Festival Grounds site at Sahara and Las Vegas Blvd. The third is the revival of a site once pitched as a Las Vegas Raiders stadium site: the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, located across I-15 from Caesars Palace on Flamingo Road. The site was also mentioned as a potential ballpark site early in the A’s siting process.

These three sites represent the views of officials who have met with the A’s; indeed, the A’s may have a totally different view of where they want a ballpark, and results of traffic studies may also change a ballpark site shortlist. Those studies are due in October, fitting within the stance by the A’s to release a shortlist in late October or early November.

One potential big change: in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, A’s president Dave Kaval opened the possibility of the team funding its own mixed-use development in Las Vegas if the best ballpark site is located off the Strip and off the Resort Corridor. This a first: A’s ownership has always looked to some sort of public-private partnership on the ballpark front, but real-estate developers gonna develop, and controlling all portions of a Vegas baseball city may be appealing to John Fisher and crew, a la The Battery and Wrigleyville.

Perhaps the most striking thing to take away from the Las Vegas politicos: they’ve gone from totally dismissing the possibility of the Athletics moving to Las Vegas and now see it as an inevitability. That may change should Oakland’s stance on the downtown waterfront site changes, but as of now the Vegas locals see it as a matter not of if, but of when.

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