Oakland A’s Buying Land for Las Vegas Ballpark
Owner John Fisher has taken a major step forward in his efforts to move the Oakland Athletics to Las Vegas. He has agreed to purchase 49 acres of land West of the Las Vegas Strip, as reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The goal is to have a stadium built in time for the 2027 Major League Baseball season.
A’s president Dave Kaval explained what the agreement means in terms of making a move to Las Vegas finally official.
“We’re not all the way there in Nevada. We are in serious discussions with the elected leaders and public policymakers at the state level and at the county level for an incentive package for a public-private partnership for their contribution.”
The type of public-private partnership being talked about between the two sides is similar to the deal between Clark County and the NFL’s Raiders for the building of Allegiant Stadium. For that stadium, $750 million in public funding was raised by municipal bonds, backed by a hotel room tax in the Las Vegas area.
The stadium cost being talked about between the A’s and public officials is for a total of $1.5 billion, with $500 million of that coming from public financing.
Staying in Oakland is Off the Table
The exodus of sports teams from the city of Oakland began in 2019 with the Golden State Warriors of the NBA, when they moved across the Bay to Chase Arena in San Francisco. The Raiders moved to Las Vegas and Allegiant Stadium in 2020, and since then the A’s have been the only team in town.
The A’s have been working on a new stadium since 2009, and just a year ago, it looked like a new ballpark in Oakland might be built at Howard Terminal, a 56-acre site at the Port of Oakland. The entirety of the waterfront project would have included a ballpark and was estimated at a construction cost of $12 billion.
In November, Sheng Thao was elected mayor of Oakland. In February, she told KRON 4 that she was hoping to begin negotiations to keep the team in town. But now she says that is no longer an option.
“I am deeply disappointed that the A’s have chosen not to negotiate with the City of Oakland as a true partner, in a way that respects the long relationship between the fans, the City, and the team,” she said in a statement, per the San Francisco Chronicle.
“In a time of budget deficits, I refuse to compromise the safety and well-being of our residents. Given these realities, we are ceasing negotiations and moving forward on alternatives for the redevelopment of Howard Terminal.”
Kaval echoed the sentiment of Thao. “We were on this parallel path for a while, where we had kind of two markets, and we were kind of juggling,” he said. “That period is over. We’re focused on Las Vegas.”
The Professional Sports Turnaround for Las Vegas
There was a time when the four major sports in the United States avoided Las Vegas because of Nevada’s legalized sports betting. The NFL went as far as banning Las Vegas tourism ads during the 2014 Super Bowl. At the time of the controversy, the NFL said, “We prohibit our network partners from accepting any message that includes any reference to or mention of gambling or sports betting.”
There were also concerns because of attendance figures for past professional teams that called Las Vegas home. The Las Vegas Posse played in the Canadian Football League for one season in 1994, and in their penultimate home game, they had the lowest recorded attendance in CFL history at 2,350 people.
The Las Vegas Outlaws played the 2015 season in the Arena Football League. But they were taken over by the league and eventually disbanded because they averaged just 3,547 fans per game. They weren’t able to pay their employees.
But as gambling attitudes changed and professional sports leagues began to embrace daily fantasy sports, so, too, did the attitudes about locating teams in Las Vegas.
The National Hockey League acted first by awarding Las Vegas the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, who began play in 2017 and made the Stanley Cup Finals in their very first year. The Raiders came three years later, and their home, Allegiant Stadium, will host Super Bowl LVIII in 2024, just 10 years after Las Vegas wasn’t allowed to buy Super Bowl commercial airtime.
All signs point to the A’s becoming Major League Baseball’s first team in Las Vegas, and the first MLB franchise to fully relocate since the Montreal Expos moved to Washington, D.C., in 2005.