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Clark County balks at A’s ballpark bonding terms

Oakland A'sNegotiations between Clark County and the Oakland Athletics over new A’s ballpark bonding over a variety of terms–general obligation backing, expected yields, state contributions–are exposing some gaps in the overall project funding plan.

The A’s have taken an action-filled path to a new 30,0000-capacity Vegas ballpark, beginning with a “binding agreement” to buy part of the former Wild Wild West resort site for a ballpark and development. That $1.5-billion plan called for $500 million in state and Clark County funding, but after some pushback the A’s shifted its sights to the Tropicana resort site. There, the team and Bally’s announced a “binding agreement” to tear down the historic resort and replace it with a $1.5-billion, retractable roof ballpark with a capacity of 30,000 and a public ask of $395 million via Clark County bonding and state tax credits.

It was a nice plan, as far as plans go, but in the process of negotiating the A’s ballpark bonding terms, the actual state and Clark County offers were reduced–but not the team’s financial ask. And with less than three weeks in the Nevada Legislative session, the pressure in on to reach a deal.

Part of the issue has nothing to do directly with the A’s and more a disagreement between the state and Clark County about the terms of public assistance. The state is willing to issue $195 million in transferable tax credits and have Clark County bond the remainder, to be paid back by increase tax revenues generated by the ballpark. But, according to the Nevada Independent, Clark County commissioners are hesitant in bonding the full amount, unwilling to dip into the county’s reserve fund in case ballpark tax revenues fall short in covering bond repayments:

In discussions with representatives from the Major League Baseball team and state lawmakers, Clark County negotiators are worried that under a worst-case scenario, county property taxes would have to be increased to help fund the debt covering the bonds if the stadium wasn’t generating enough revenue or if there weren’t enough funds in the reserve account.

In particular, sources said the county was hesitant given that it needed to dip into a debt service reserve fund to make similar bond payments for Allegiant Stadium during the height of the COVID pandemic, and given examples from other cities where local governments ended up using general fund dollars to make payments on the bonds.

That leaves a gap of $105 million between what the state and Clark County are willing to pay versus the $395 million the A’s are seeking.

However, Plan B is still part of discussions. When the A’s announced a move to Las Vegas, team and Oakland reps were literally in a meeting to cover the final points of a deal to enable Howard Terminal. Now, with the future of A’s ballpark bonding in doubt, Oakland mayor Sheng Thao says that the two sides are so close to a deal they could pick up where talks were dropped and come to an agreement. The A’s have proposed a downtown Howard Terminal waterfront 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, parking for 8,900 vehicles, and an estimated $450 million in community benefits. 

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