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A’s succeed in launching bidding war in Las Vegas

Oakland A'sWith team ownership making an offer on a Strip property and Howard Hughes Corp. officials willing to discuss free land for a Summerlin facility, it appears the Oakland Athletics have succeeded in launching a bidding war for a new Las Vegas ballpark.

Two events to note, potentially related. First: A’s Dave Kaval told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the team has put in an offer on land somewhere in the Las Vegas region, though the assumption is that the location is in the city proper and either on or very close to the Strip, which fits into what insiders have been saying for several weeks now about potential ballpark sites. Kaval wouldn’t specify the location, exactly what sort of transaction under discussion (option or outright purchase), the amount of the offer or whether it was accepted. So take the news for what it’s worth; Kaval has been very good at providing hints about Vegas without actually providing much information, and throwing out an offer for land at this point doesn’t mean as much as you’d assume.

One subsequent development: Hughes Corp. officials indicate they’re willing to discuss free land for a new A’s ballpark in Summerlin, the planned development on the west side of th Las Vegas Valley. Presumably there will a few strings attached to such an offer, such as Hughes Corp. maintaining development rights to additional acreage. From the Review-Journal:

“I know they’re getting a hard sell from different people on the Strip that own the land that they want the A’s to buy,” Peter Riley, senior vice president and general counsel for Hughes Corp., told the Review-Journal. “We can donate land. That would give us a big leg up, should they make the decision (to relocate).”…

The A’s met with Hughes Corp. officials this month about a plot of land the real estate development and management company owns just west of the 215 Beltway and Summerlin Parkway. Riley said the team has visited multiple sites owned by the corporation….

Riley emphasized that a land deal with the A’s is not underway. But he said if the A’s officially announce they intend to relocate to the area, the process could ramp up quickly.

The land, in and of itself, may not be worth all that much to the A’s if there’s not enough acreage for additional development. Spending a billion dollars on a ballpark is a huge risk without the revenue from non-baseball development, and by now the economic model for investments in new and renovated ballparks is clear: build the ballpark and reap the bigger benefits from the associated development. That’s been true since John Moores invested in the area around Petco Park, and it’s true now.

And Summerlin does have an advantage: Hughes would be willing to let the A’s play temporarily at Las Vegas Ballpark, the $150-million, 10,000-seat home of the Las Vegas Aviators (Triple-A West). Kaval has mentioned it as a possibility, then walked it back, so it’s hard to say if the A’s really will consider it as a viable option.

But the fact remains that the presence of a potential deal with Summerlin injects some uncertainty into the negotiating process, both with Las Vegas landowners and the city of Oakland, giving an additional layer of leverage to the A’s. The A’s are expecting the results of surveys and studies in coming weeks, and that will likely provide further focus into the decision-making process. Honestly, even if all this ends up just putting more pressure on Oakland officials to make a deal on a Howard Terminal ballpark and development, it will not be a wasted effort by Las Vegas officials: the groundwork will have been paid for a Vegas bid for expansion in coming years.

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