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The A’s Las Vegas stadium discussion in the Nevada legislature gets contentious

Don’t think this is a done deal, because it’s not.

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Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

EDITOR’S NOTE: Just to let you know before you begin reading this article, politics are going to be discussed. This is because the potential stadium for the Oakland A’s relocation to Las Vegas is, in fact, a political issue. You can feel free to discuss that — just please leave OTHER political positions out of it, and keep it civil. Thanks.

The Nevada legislature adjourned earlier this week without bringing up the bill for the subsidy the A’s want for their stadium. A special session was called — and that’s already a problem for some:

In a special session Wednesday that one state senator said costs taxpayers $250,000 per day, Nevada legislators were largely skeptical and sometimes outright critical of a plan that calls for $380 million in public funding.

That’s off to a roaring start, right? You ain’t heard nothing yet:

“You’ve all called us in here for a special session, and are asking, minimally, for the state to give you all $36 million per year for the next five years for a taxpayer-funded stadium, at the same time that the governor has vetoed funding for summer school, a bill to support children’s mental health, a bill requiring paid family leave — all because the governor said we couldn’t afford them,” State Senator Rochelle Nguyen said early in a three-hour back and forth with two advocates of the bill.

“Can you explain to me why we need to provide hundreds of millions of dollars for a billionaire team to come to the Las Vegas Strip, on some of the most valuable property in the world, if we can’t provide funding for critical resources?” Nguyen continued. “Can you explain to me why this is such a good deal that we should agree that no taxes generated on the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana should go to these critical state and local services for the next 30 years?”

Those would seem to be reasonable positions. It’s been written many, many times that public subsidies for stadiums don’t ever, EVER bring in the money or jobs their proponents purport they will. For a lot more on that, you can read the great Field of Schemes site run by Neil deMause, who has written books on the subject.

It just doesn’t sound like the Nevada legislature is really interested in doing this. The skepticism is warranted. Beyond that, there’s been a letter sent to Commissioner Rob Manfred by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) that’s worth quoting in part here:

“MLB’s continued active encouragement of the A’s abandonment of Oakland and the East Bay runs counter the rationale supporting MLB’s century-old exemption from federal anti-trust law. I ask you to reconsider efforts to subsidize or otherwise encourage the relocation of the Oakland A’s out of the East Bay.”

There’s a not-so-veiled threat in there to re-examine MLB’s antitrust exemption in Congress. That’d be fun, considering all the consolidation of various parts of baseball (the minor leagues, for example) that Manfred has already helped lead in his “One Baseball” effort.

There is no question that the Oakland Coliseum is probably 20 years past the end if its useful life. Again, as I have previously written here, the Giants’ insistence that they continue to have San Jose as their “territory” has forced the A’s into what I think is a nonsensical pursuit of Las Vegas. Had the Giants and A’s simply shared the Bay Area — as is done in the other three shared markets of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — the A’s would likely have moved to San Jose a decade ago.

Meanwhile, A’s owner John Fisher has torn down the A’s roster to the point where they might be the worst team in MLB history. How’s that going to sell in Vegas? You can’t market a MLB team by saying, “Come see your favorite team beat up on the A’s when you’re in Las Vegas!”

Fisher should sell, and the new owner should either re-engage with the city of Oakland, or maybe consider moving to Sacramento, just 90 miles away and the largest TV market in the USA without a MLB franchise. The smallest TV market with a MLB team is Milwaukee, which ranks 38th. Las Vegas ranks 40th. Other TV markets without a MLB team that are larger than Milwaukee (based on the ranking in that link): Charlotte (21), Portland (22), Raleigh-Durham (23), Indianapolis (25), Nashville (27), Salt Lake City (29), San Antonio (31), Columbus (32), Hartford (34), Austin (35) and Greenville-Spartanburg (37). Now, not all of those are suitable for Major League Baseball, but many of them are more suitable than Las Vegas.

Lastly, this San Francisco Chronicle article by Scott Ostler blasts the entire idea of moving and concludes, correctly in my opinion:

On Tuesday, A’s fans in Oakland will stage a reverse boycott at the Coliseum, hoping to pack the seats and expose Fisher’s fib that Oakland isn’t a baseball town. If the protest is successful, it could help give Las Vegas a clearer picture of whom they are about to get into bed with. If Fisher and team President Dave Kaval can alienate Oakland and its baseball fans, why would they treat Las Vegas and its fans any differently?

Therein lies the hope for Oakland: Vegas realizing that it wouldn’t be getting a baseball team, it would be getting a failed businessman in desperate search of a bailout. That might kill the deal.

In which case, Fisher would have only two choices: crawl back to Oakland and hope to strike a deal with a city that is sick of bending over backward for him, or sell the team.

Las Vegas is a bad idea — at least the way the proposal for public money for a stadium there has been made — and MLB and the A’s should do something else.

As always, we await developments.


The A’s should...

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    ... stay in Oakland
    (140 votes)
  • 11%
    ... move to Las Vegas
    (32 votes)
  • 17%
    ... move to Sacramento
    (48 votes)
  • 7%
    ... move to Portland
    (20 votes)
  • 2%
    ... move to Salt Lake City
    (7 votes)
  • 7%
    ... move to Nashville
    (20 votes)
  • 4%
    ... move to a different city not mentioned above
    (12 votes)
279 votes total Vote Now