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A’s, Bally’s reach deal on new Strip ballpark

Oakland A'sThe rumors about the Oakland A’s shifting course on a new Strip ballpark were true, as the team and gaming giant Bally’s Corp. have a tentative deal for a new $1.5-billion facility at the Tropicana site in Las Vegas — but a request for public money will still impact the deal.

We reported yesterday the A’s were looking to dump the plan to build at the former Wild Wild West resort site off the Strip–so much for the deal being “binding,” as the A’s originally touted–and were revisiting previous sites for a new Strip ballpark. That’s exactly what happened. From the Nevada Independent:

Sources with knowledge of the negotiations told The Nevada Independent on Tuesday that under the scope of the deal, Bally’s plans to demolish the Tropicana and allow the A’s to construct a 35,000-seat retractable roof stadium on 9 acres of the 34-acre site on Tropicana Avenue near the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip.

“This is now the deal. This is what we’re working on,” a source familiar with the negotiations said in regard to the team dropping the focus on the Red Rock land.

The tentative plan calls for a 35,000-seat retractable-roof ballpark on the 35-acre Tropicana Field site, with construction beginning in 2024 and the ballpark opening in 2027 or 2028. (We question the viability of a plan for a nine-acre retractable roof ballpark. Eight acres is pretty much the smallest you can go in building an MLB ballpark–Target Field and Fenway Park both occupy eight acres. At T-Mobile Park, home of the Mariners, the roof canopy alone take up nine acres and doesn’t cover the entire ballpark site. The loanDepot park roof covers over five acres, but the total ballpark footprint is 17 acres.)

On the plus side, the Tropicana site is a much better location for a ballpark than the Wild Wild West site: the Tropicana has been a major element of the Strip since opening in 1957, offering that glamorous Vegas experience with poolside gaming and midcentury chic. But the Trop of today bears little resemblance to the Trop of the old; it’s been renovated and operations have been scaled back. You’re not likely to see any preservationists clamor to preserve the Trop.

Without the need to buy the land, the new deal reduces the price tag on the A’s side of the ledger. But one shadow is following the deal from the Wild Wild West side to the Trop: instead of asking for $500 million in financing from the state and Clark County, the team will ask the pair for $395 million. The same deadlines apply not as before: there are 28 days left in the Nevada legislative session, and so far no legislation has been introduced to create a new tax district (state approval is needed), allowing Clark County to issue $500 million on 30-year bonds as part of the ballpark financing, to be paid back with increased revenues generated by the ballpark development. As we noted yesterday, neither step is a done deal.

While this is a much better site for a new ballpark, it’s not as good a financial deal for the A’s, who are entering a deal where Bally’s and not the team will be monetizing the rest of the 35-acre ballpark site. Bally’s will retain the rights to development next to the ballpark, planning a new 1,500-room resort. The appeal of the Wild Wild West site was that the A’s had land available for development; this won’t be the case at the Trop site. No Battery for the A’s.

So, with legislative and Clark County approval needed to finance a new Strip ballpark, the A’s are in a the same position as yesterday. It will still be a challenge to complete this deal. As we wrote yesterday, we may end up in four or five years sipping a beer at a new Vegas ballpark and toasting the A’s for pulling off a last-minute ballpark deal.

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