Las Vegas Sun

May 24, 2022

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Oakland A’s have ‘very, very strong interest’ in Strip site for baseball stadium

0103_sun_StripExteriors

Steve Marcus

An exterior view of the Tropicana Las Vegas hotel-casino Friday, Jan. 3, 2020.

Team officials with the Athletics said they have narrowed down two frontrunner sites out of five possible locations to build a baseball stadium should the team relocate from Oakland, Calif., to Las Vegas.

Citing ongoing negotiations with landowning bodies here in the valley, team president Dave Kaval said he’s unable to disclose which sites are under consideration, but the goal is to secure land for a possible $1 billion, 30,000-seat ballpark near the resort corridor.

“We’re just working through the negotiations with the relevant parties and just making sure that we’re really thoughtful about a really big decision and solicit all the necessary input,” Kaval said. “But we’re working on a path to a public announcement so we can share our vision of the location of the ballparks’ design and everything with the greater Las Vegas community.”

As for the two frontrunner sites, Kaval said one is a lot in which the team would have sole ownership of unless it enters a public-private partnership, while the other would be in partnership with a resort operator.

That group appears to be Gaming & Leisure Properties, the real estate investment trust in control of the land at Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue where the Tropicana sits. Peter Carlino, the CEO of Gaming & Leisure Properties, said in an earnings call Friday that the A’s have showed “very, very strong interest” in having the stadium at their site. The Tropicana is operated by Penn National Gaming; Gaming & Leisure Properties owns the real estate.

“If we can facilitate something exciting, you bet we will,” Carlino said of the 35-acre site. “So there I must say stay tuned, we’ll let you know.”

Before making a final decision, Kaval said they are "getting advice from a lot of our consultants and local members of the business community and elected officials" to learn about the options.

“We have one category of site that’s just kind of going it alone. Kind of like what you see at Allegiant (Stadium),” Kaval said. “Then the other option is more like an integrated design, more like T-Mobile (Arena), integrated into an existing resort operator/casino and a partnership that would involve that. Those are the two types of deals that we’re kind of weighing at the moment, and neither one is right nor wrong.”

The New York Post reported earlier this month that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred had been in talks about the potential move with Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, who reportedly appeared “reluctant” to provide public subsidies to fund a ballpark. A spokeswoman for Sisolak, however, told the Sun April 8 that while the Democratic governor opposes a hotel room tax — which was used to fund the Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium — would not rule out other methods of funding.

“The Governor has been clear from the start that he would not consider a room tax package for this potential move, and that has not been an issue in his conversations with the Commissioner or the Athletics leadership,” spokeswoman Meghin Delaney said in a statement. “The Governor and his team will continue to pursue bringing business opportunities to Nevada to further cement our status as the sports and entertainment capital of the world.”

In May 2021, Major League Baseball gave the A’s permission to relocate since the team’s lease at the RincCentral Coliseum — where the team has played since 1968 — expires in 2024. Other cities, such as Portland, Ore., and Nashville, Tenn., were briefly considered but Kaval said the A’s have spent a majority of its resources scouting out Southern Nevada.

“The commissioner would not have granted us or directed us to take such a specific interest then invest time and effort in Las Vegas if there wasn’t already a widespread amount of support,” said Kaval, adding that any relocation would need the approval of the league’s owners. “I think baseball feels that the solution needs to get resolved. Las Vegas is a really good option because there’s still a lot of challenges in Oakland and it may not come to fruition.”

All this comes as attendance figures at the Coliseum continue to dwindle. After drawing more than 17,000 for the A’s home opener last week, attendance for the following four home games drew crowds of 3,748, 2,730, 4,429 and 7,012.

Through seven games this season, the A’s are averaging 7,943 attendees per game, according to baseballreference.com. That’s compared to the average attendance of 6,645 a game through 15 games for the Las Vegas Aviators — Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate; though the Aviators have outdrew their parent club on at least three occasions this season.

Former players — active and retired — are starting to chime in on the matter.

“Oakland was special to me, but you can no longer play in the Coliseum,” Tigers outfielder Robbie Grossman — who played for the A’s in 2019 and 2020 — told The Detroit News last week. “And if they can’t build a stadium within a year or two, there’s no reason for them to be there.”

“It’s a shame. The A’s have such a long history in Oakland and so many good things have happened there. The fans are great there. It’s a tough situation. I just hope at the end of the day they figure out something to make it better.”

Tigers manager AJ Hinch, who played in Oakland from 1998 into 2000, believes a move to Las Vegas is inevitable.

“It bums me out to watch that environment dissolve,” he said. “It was such a fun place to play. I know the ballpark gets talked about a ton, but it’s a great franchise and the fans there really do love the A’s. It’s unfortunate the way things have gone over the last few years.

The A’s remain on what they call a “parallel path” in negotiating for a new ballpark in both Oakland and Las Vegas. The team, however, has hit several snags in recent months, most recently with the team and the City of Oakland being served with a lawsuit to derail the proposed $12 billion development termed the Howard Terminal district. That project includes a $1 billion waterfront ballpark along the San Francisco Bay.

That lawsuit, filed by the East Oakland Stadium Alliance as well as other area trade groups aims to challenge the Oakland City Council’s February certification of the environmental impact report for the Howard Terminal project. And last month, Oakland councilwoman Carroll Fife held an online town hall exploring the possibility of bringing the final vote for the Howard Terminal project to a public vote via ballot measure.

That came roughly a week after a subcommittee for the San Francisco Bay’s governing body voted against removing port authority protections for the Howard Terminal site and transferring use to the development.

The Bay Conservation and Develop Commission will hold an informational hearing on June 2 ahead of a final vote June 30. With no tentative vote by Oakland’s city council to pass a final agreement on the Howard Terminal project, the BCDC’s vote could be a “make-or-break” moment for the team’s future in the Bay Area.

“If we lose that, we’re dead,” Kaval said. “It’s a tough put. And so, it’s not easy. A lot of work is going into that (from) the city, the port ourselves and it’s by no means a guarantee.”