MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently made headlines when he said he was skeptical about a deal to keep the A’s in Oakland. That it doesn’t look like a $12 billion Howard Terminal project – which would include an approximate $1 billion stadium – would materialize.
He then expressed his optimism about the team’s move to Las Vegas. Sources even told the Review-Journal that the city was able to accommodate him.
Everything is fine.
One thing: Is this the right team and the right time for Southern Nevada?
That’s a big demand for the market – filling enough seats for 81 home games a year.
You could argue that the best summer sport for Las Vegas right now, given the demographics and the fact that it would only involve about 20 home dates per season, is Major League Soccer.
(That’s for another time and column).
Desired public money
Major League Baseball and the A’s want public money from Las Vegas. You’re in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars for the billion-dollar raise – although current interest rates and construction costs certainly point to a heftier end price.
It’s a really big ask, but know this: MLB probably no longer allows its teams to relocate without using public funds. This ship sailed when the Giants built Oracle Park in San Francisco.
One side of the coin insists that there is no political appetite for public money to be used for the project here. Local and state officials have said so, though there may be ways for officials to sweeten the pot for the A’s outside of offering a direct tax for funding a stadium.
But the $750 million in Clark County bond proceeds and council tax revenue for Allegiant Stadium and the Raiders, as well as the renovation and expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center, were unique.
This will not happen again. Neither should he at that level of commitment.
It was also reported that if some form of public money was not approved, the team planned to “begin relocation talks with other markets”.
Wondering if A’s President Dave Kaval knows that Southwest Airlines also flies to Portland and Nashville?
A lure for the A’s, even if they don’t get any public money, that’s what we heard with the Raiders. That tourists are the key. This baseball plays a series and not just a game against a specific team. That enough people from out of town would be interested in traveling here to watch their favorite side while spending time and money at hotel-casinos.
Half of Allegiant Stadium is often packed with NFL fans of a visiting team on Sunday afternoons. But the A’s would be making a mistake if they relied too much on tourists to fill a new stadium in Las Vegas. More important would be the locals and their desire to attend A’s games.
The two sites proposed for a ballpark are the Tropicana on the South Strip and the Las Vegas Festival Grounds on the North Strip. It could be a hassle for families battling traffic for a night game.
Many might prefer – for good reason – an evening at the Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin watching the Triple-A Aviators for their baseball fix.
You could counter the Golden Knights and their consistent attendance numbers. But they play half of a baseball team’s home games and have established a winning culture. They captured the hearts of a community when they arrived in 2017. Heck, they’re the best team in the NHL right now.
The A’s, on the other hand, are only really good at the following: they’ve been a franchise for a while, destroying things, rebuilding into a playoff team, falling short, and destroying things again.
More clearance sales?
Kaval insists that with a new stadium and all the revenue streams it could generate, the franchise and owner John Fisher would agree to retain high-priced players and even compete for top free agents.
Should we really take them at their word given their recent history?
It wouldn’t matter once a ballpark was built.
We never know. The elections are (almost) over here and in the Bay Area. Where some officials might now stand on the A’s and any proposed projects in Oakland or southern Nevada might change.
Is this the right team and the right time for us?
Las Vegas terms only, not MLB or A’s terms.
If a powerful push comes to a serious push on public money, I hear Nashville is beautiful in the spring.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports writing and can be contacted at [email protected] He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, 7-10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter