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New Vegas A’s ballpark one step closer with Bally’s announcement

Oakland A'sWhile today’s news doesn’t address the elephant in the roomstate and Clark County funding–progress on a new Vegas A’s ballpark is made with the announcement of a deal between the MLB team, Bally’s and GLPI regarding the Tropicana site.

Bally’s issued a press release confirming last week’s news, announcing a “binding agreement” with the Oakland Athletics to build a new ballpark on a portion of the current Tropicana Las Vegas property. (Yes, we purposely used parentheses. Remember, the A’s had a “binding agreement” to buy land from Red Rocks Resort at the old Wild Wild West casino site for a new ballpark.) Bally’s and Gaming & Leisure Properties (GLPI), which owns the Tropicana land and leases it to Bally’s, will lease nine acres to the A’s or a stadium authority (hello, elephant in the room!) contingent on the passing of legislation for public financing and related agreements (hello again, elephant in the room!) and approval of relocation by Major League Baseball. And, as part of the deal, GLPI will fund up to $175 million towards certain shared improvements within the future development in exchange for a commensurate rent increase. The end goal: a $1.5 billion retractable-roof ballpark with a capacity of 35,000, featuring $395 million in public funding.

Now, one can quibble about how binding an agreement is when it contains a slew of contingencies, and move on to the aforementioned elephant in the room: public money. No doubt the Trop site is a better location than the Wild Wild West site the team had previously eyed, and we expect that both sides will realize soon enough nine acres isn’t enough land for a retractable-roof ballpark (Target Field and Fenway Park occupy two of the smallest footprints in the majors at eight acres, and the roof alone at T-Mobile Park in Seattle occupies nine acres while not covering the entire ballpark). Still to come and still to be debated by plenty of folks who oppose public financing of a sports facility: a legislative plan to create a new ballpark tax district and authorizing Clark County to issue $395 million in bonds, backed by increased revenues generated by the ballpark. A stadium authority may or may not be involved; again, things are up in the air. The tax district, we’re told, will be comprised solely from ballpark revenues and not from other development at the site, which is set to include a new 1,000-plus-room resort.

There are only three weeks left for the Nevada Legislature to pass such legislation before adjournment, and so far nothing has been presented to lawmakers. (Passing this legislation is key–the Nevada Legislature convenes only in odd-numbered years.) In addition, it doesn’t sound like things are totally settled on the Bally’s/A’s side either, with GLPI potentially becoming a larger player in the ballpark planning and funding process, according to a press statement from Peter Carlino, Chairman and CEO of GLPI:

“The Oakland Athletics’ interest in developing a world-class Major League Baseball stadium on our site underscores its status as one of the most prime locations on the Las Vegas Strip and will enhance any future development of our remaining 26 acres. As the project moves forward, we also expect that GLPI will have opportunities to further invest in the various aspects of the overall project to the extent we deem that doing so will generate an attractive risk adjusted return on our shareholders’ capital.”

If financing is arranged, the plan is to begin design immediately, followed by demolition of the existing Trop tower and then a 2024 groundbreaking, with a new ballpark opening as soon as 2027. Besides the state and Clark County, other government bodies will need to sign off, including the FAA, as the property borders airport land.

“We are honored to have been selected to partner with the Oakland Athletics on this monumental step in helping to bring Major League Baseball to the great city of Las Vegas, and to be a part of the once in a generation opportunity of having a professional baseball team located within a short walk of the Las Vegas Strip,” said Bally’s President George Papanier via press release. “The Tropicana has been a landmark of Las Vegas for generations, and this development will enhance this iconic site for generations to come. We are committed to ensuring that the development and ballpark built in its place will become a new landmark, paying homage to the iconic history and global appeal of Las Vegas and its nearly 50 million visitors a year.”

“We are excited about the potential to bring Major League Baseball to this iconic location,” Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval said via press release. “We are thrilled to work alongside Bally’s and GLPI, and look forward to finalizing plans to bring the Athletics to Southern Nevada.”

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