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Legislators debate new Las Vegas ballpark; Sacramento to host A’s?

With the Oakland Athletics front office a no-show, a joint committee of Senate and Assembly members of the Nevada Legislature discussed the merits of a bill authorizing some $380 million in public funding for a new Las Vegas ballpark.

This is slated to be the only legislative hearing for state and county financial support for a new Las Vegas ballpark. The bill places a limit on public assistance at $380 million, with the state issuing $180 million in transferable tax credits and Clark County floating at least $120 million in bonding backed by tax-increment financing district encompassing the ballpark, covering all tax revenues generated by the ballpark. The A’s would sign a 30-year lease and cover all cost overruns on the $1.5-billion, 30,000-seat retractable-roof ballpark. A 2028 opening day is now anticipated for the new MLB facility. It also has local union support from Culinary Workers Local 226 and the Southern Nevada Building Trades.

But at the hearing it was clear the ballpark bill would need to clear some considerable hurdles to earn legislative approval and face some issues continuing from the Howard Terminal days, including negotiation of an acceptable community benefits agreement, per the Nevada Independent:

Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno (D-North Las Vegas), who chairs the powerful Ways and Means Committee, said outright she would oppose the bill as-is. If the bill advances out of the Senate, it will have to pass through the committee she chairs before reaching the Assembly floor.

“I’m just going to put it out there — I’m at a no,” Monroe-Moreno said. “Almost a hell no. So y’all have to get me to a yes.”

Monroe-Moreno also cited the A’s fanbase hostility toward the owner of the A’s and asked presenters how the bill would ensure the team works to benefit the community.

Several legislators wondered how the A’s justified projections of 2.5 million fans per year at a 30,000-seat ballpark–do the math and you’d see the Athletics say they’d draw at over 100 percent of capacity. (This was a misleading stat thrown out by legislators. The A’s are projecting 2.296 million for baseball–or around 100 percent of capacity–and 2.6 million for all events, including concerts. Still, projecting sellouts as far as the eye can see is a somewhat dubious assertion.)

Even if this bill is passed by the Legislature before adjournment next week, it’s only the first step in a longer process for ballpark construction to begin. Negotiations with the Stadium Authority for a lease would begin, as would the process of crafting a community benefits agreement. Those deals are expected to take 12-18 months, with the team now projecting a 2028 opening. Only after those deals are completed would work on the ballpark begin.

Meanwhile, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg hinted that there’s a chance that the A’s will relocate temporarily to his city instead of Las Vegas Ballpark, as has previously been discussed. In play: Sutter Health Park, home of the Sacramento River Cats (Triple-A; Pacific Coast League). When asked about whether Sacramento was in play–the hot rumor going around–Steinberg was coy:

“Well, break a leg, Las Vegas. Take it however you want,” Steinberg said on Sactown Sports 1140 on Friday morning. “I’ve said this before, I really feel bad for the people of Oakland. And it makes me mad as a mayor of a city. Do right by your city. Especially a loyal city. And I don’t think the A’s have done right by Oakland so let me get that off my chest. 

“Maybe — just maybe — some of the kinds of conversation that you’re just describing — maybe — they are happening and have happened. I can’t confirm or deny. But just maybe they are happening.” 

The Athletics’ lease at the Oakland Coliseum ends in 2024. But with the opening of a new Las Vegas ballpark now planned for 2028, that means that means the team needs to find a temporary home for three seasons. Las Vegas Ballpark is objectively a great ballpark and surely one of the best in the minors.

But in terms of media revenues, the A’s are in the middle of the pack, thanks to a $53 million deal with NBC Sports California in 2022. Could the A’s receive that sort of money on a Vegas TV rights deal? Currently the Vegas media world is topsy-turvy. The NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights signed a deal earlier this month with Scripps Sports to locally broadcast Golden Knights games for free to residents of Nevada and surrounding states within the team’s broadcast territory. Scripps will air Golden Knights games on its local station KMCC-TV channel 34, which will be rebranded as an independent station before the 2023-24 NHL season begins. Scripps and the Knights will partner on a direct-to-consumer streaming option as part of this partnership. 

Staying in Sacramento–at least for two years–would keep the A’s in a much larger media market–Sacramento/Stockton (#20 market in the United States) vs. what will be the smallest media market, #40 nationally, in MLB. The Knights were forced into a play with a Scripps startup because AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain regional sports network, which served Las Vegas, is reportedly shutting down at the end of the MLB season, leaving a local void in Vegas.

Rendering courtesy Oakland A’s.

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