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A few more thoughts about the proposed Oakland A’s move to Las Vegas

Did you expect this to be smooth? It’s not.

Last month I went to Las Vegas to see U2 at Sphere. (Incidentally, if you can go there and see this, do not hesitate. It’s absolutely spectacular.)

One other thing I did in Vegas is have dinner with some friends who live there. One friend is gung-ho about the proposed Oakland Athletics move to Vegas. He’s pretty plugged-in to the community and media there and one of the main reasons he thinks the A’s will be a success in Vegas is that the city knows how to do entertainment. There’s no question this is true. They funnel thousands of people through the casinos and other entertainment venues all year. I was there in mid-December, not a holiday weekend, and even on a Saturday afternoon the Strip was packed with people walking up and down the street and in and out of the casinos.

My friend contends that one way the Las Vegas A’s will fill their ballpark is with fans of the teams coming to town. He gave the example of how Raiders games are filled with opposing fans, and no doubt this is true. However, that seems somewhat easier in the fall and early winter, when it’s just one game, likely on a Sunday. Would the same thing happen for three-game series in the summer? True, if the A’s do complete their move and the Cubs play there, would I go? Almost certainly yes — once. After that, likely not. How many fans would they have to get to go to Vegas in the summer to make this effort financially viable?

My friend is convinced this will work. Perhaps he’s right, but I am still skeptical.

The A’s have another issue, and that is: Where are they going to get any support over the next four seasons? Even if everything works out perfectly for them to build a stadium in Las Vegas, it likely wouldn’t be ready to open until 2028. The A’s lease at the Oakland Coliseum — granted, a terrible venue for baseball — ends after 2024. Who’s going to go to see the A’s there this year knowing they’re leaving town? And then where do they go from 2025-27? Playing in the minor league park in Las Vegas, nice though it might be for Triple-A ball, isn’t a viable option. The place seats only 11,000, and it’s outdoors, and while that works for Triple-A players, I’d think the MLB Players Association would have something to say about its members having to play outdoors for three months or so in 110-degree temperatures.

My Vegas friend thinks, and I concur, that if the A’s-to-Vegas scenario does play out, they might wind up renting Oracle Park from the Giants for three years. While this might work logistically, again, who is going to go to those games? Many A’s fans have already renounced their fandom, and owner John Fisher would likely charge the same high prices that he’s been charging at the Coliseum over the last couple of seasons, one of the reasons A’s fans don’t go to games. When I went there last April to see the Cubs, I bought tickets on Stubhub, five rows behind the third-base dugout, for half the face price.

So my friend and I ended our spirited discussion with me saying I saw his point, and him saying that if it didn’t work out for the A’s in Las Vegas, they could just move again. Which, in my view, isn’t the optimal way to run a baseball franchise.

And all of that happened before I saw this yesterday:

The folks at Field of Schemes do a great job of writing about, well, the “schemes” that try to suck out public money for stadiums, something that’s been proven over and over and over to never bring in the sort of money teams claim it will.

The linked article in the tweet is mostly about a pissing match between some A’s fans from Oakland and a former Nevada state senator who’s now working in the governor’s office, but also contains this:

All of which is great fun, but it feels like we skipped over something — oh yes, that bit about A’s owner John Fisher still not having provided stadium renderings nearly a month after he had first announced he would, which has “sparked concerns” about the entire deal (hence the asterisks above). Following the chain of links gets us to a series of posts from mid-December by the Vital Vegas Twitter account claiming that “there’s no indication they have financing” in place for the stadium and that while Fisher’s execs are showing the renderings in private to casinos and other prospective partners, it’s “still sitting at 60/40 they come to Vegas.”

That’s about where I’d put things right now, too, on this deal — about 60/40. Which raises questions about what the A’s might do after 2024 if this falls through and they don’t have a stadium lease.

And I’ve written over 800 words without even mentioning the difficulty the A’s might have in getting any sort of TV money in the No. 40 TV market, which is an entirely different article I might write sometime in the future.

What a mess John Fisher has made of his team. He should just sell.


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