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A’s rethinking new Vegas ballpark plan?

Oakland A'sWith the likelihood of state and Clark County approval for a new Vegas ballpark down to the wire, the Oakland Athletics are reportedly circling back to previously rejected facility plans that would be cheaper to implement.

We weren’t part of the general rejoicing when the A’s announced they had a binding deal to buy 49 acres at the former Wild Wild West property off the Strip. The plan, according to A’s president Dave Kaval, was to construct a $1.5-billion, 30,000-capacity retractable roof ballpark and use the rest of the 49 acres for associated development, potentially including an amphitheater in the mix.

But there were some red flags raised when this was announced–red flags totally ignored by the rest of the media but heavily discussed in the industry. As it turns out, the intention was to buy the 49 acres, but it was not a done deal. While state officials were generally supportive in a very noncommittal way, this plan relied on $500 million in Clark County bonding for infrastructure work and more. We still have not seen a specific A’s ballpark plan hit the state legislature, though one could be introduced as soon as the end of the week. And, most tellingly, Clark County commissioners–the ones with the real power to make this happen, like Michael Naft, were conspicuous by their lack of commitment to the project, despite being part of talks for month.

And, as it turns out, the state legislature has not been presented with a funding plan for a new Vegas ballpark. With the 2023 Nevada legislative session ending in less then a month–June 5–there’s not much time to pass legislation that would enable some level of ballpark funding via a special taxation district and other tax state tax credits. Clark County would be the body actually issuing the bonds, not the state, which adds a layer of complexity. And while the A’s are keeping the Wild Wild West property off the Strip as their preferred location, some Plan Bs are emerging, per the influential, insidery Nevada Independent:

However, they also confirmed the A’s reached back out to ownership of the Rio Hotel & Casino, which offered the team 22 acres of the resort’s 90-acre site, for just $1. The A’s had rejected the deal that could have greatly reduced some of the costs associated with the land acquisition because the team was concerned about traffic access….

The team also has returned its attention to the 34-acre Tropicana Las Vegas, which was revealed as an early target for the team last year. The site at the corner of the Strip and Tropicana Boulevard houses the aging 1,500-room Rat Pack-era casino-hotel….

One location that is off the table is the 37-acre Las Vegas Festival Grounds at the corner of the Strip and Sahara Avenue. Billionaire Phil Ruffin, who owns the site as well as the adjacent Circus Circus Hotel and Casino, said in an email to the Independent Monday that he broke off discussions with the A’s “because there were too many issues I couldn’t agree to.”

In other words, the Oakland A’s search for a new home could be back to Square One in Vegas. Cue the calls for the team to relaunch negotiations with the city of Oakland for a new Howard Terminal ballpark. Remember: the A’s unceremoniously dumped Oakland, but officials there reportedly never closed the door for talks to resume.

Hey, 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. But don’t underestimate what a big hill the team and MLB have to climb to make this happen.

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