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A’s focusing on two Vegas sites, raises possibility of ballpark tax subsidies

Oakland A'sThe Oakland A’s have reportedly settled on two potential sites for a new Las Vegas ballpark, with local politicians raising the possibility of ballpark tax subsidies.

It’s a slow drip in the river of development, to be sure; team management had already announced it was focusing on two preferred sites, with three more potentially in play. So eliminating three sites is not huge news, though it does let A’s ownership to keep a focus on Vegas at a time when the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission will hold an important vote late in June on the waterfront Howard Terminal ballpark site. Staff had already recommended removing the ballpark site’s 56 acres from port designation, clearing way for development, featuring $12 billion in private investment, including a billion dollars for a new 35,000-capacity ballpark to replace the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum as the team’s home. The development would also include 3,000 units of housing, as well as 1.5 million square feet of office space, 270,000 square feet of retail space, a 400-room hotel, 18 acres of parkland and an estimated $450 million in community benefits. It would represent a massive makeover of the Oakland waterfront, transforming a industrial site into a mixed-use development. It’s received recent support from a key environmental group, saying that affordable housing and smart development is a better use of the land than port storage.

Of course, a lot has changed since the original Howard Terminal proposal: construction costs are likely much higher and the economy has significantly slowed. So the potential of public subsidies for a new $1 billion covered ballpark in Vegas may have some appeal. As noted, the team is looking at two options, one that basically has the team developing its own ballpark and entertainment destination, or one partnering with an existing resort owner.

What kind of public assistance remains to be seen, although it looks like the use of hotel tax revenues is already off the table, according to Steve Hill, CEO and president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Hill said there are means of assistance outside of a room tax that could benefit the A’s if the team relocates to Southern Nevada.

“There’s a spectrum of possibilities for that partnership and I think it’s worthwhile to explore some of them,” Hill said. “I think there’s a broad set of options that could be helpful in making this move forward.

“I don’t think it’s really the right use of room tax,” he added. “But, I do think there’s some methods to make a contribution that probably could and do make sense.”

Hill wouldn’t specify what those options could be.

We expect more news to trickle out of Vegas for now: as noted, the next milestone event is consideration of the port issues at the end of June. If approved, the next step will be some more consideration by state agencies, negotiation of a Howard Terminal lease (which will specify community benefits and affordable housing) and approval by Alameda County. Still plenty of potential roadblocks on the road to a new Oakland ballpark, though the goal is to wrap up much of the approvals in June and July.

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