Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo has signed off on a bill that will provide up to $380m (£300.4m/€351.7m) in public funding for a new Oakland Athletics stadium in Las Vegas, setting up what will likely be a months-long process for Major League Baseball (MLB) to approve the franchise’s relocation.
Lombardo’s signature on Senate Bill 1 (SB1) yesterday (Thursday) came after it was passed in two separate state votes on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. The $380m in public funding would mainly be derived from $180m in transferable tax credits and $120m in county bonds.
Backers of the scheme to deliver MLB to Vegas have pledged that the creation of a special tax district around the proposed stadium would generate enough revenue to pay back the bonds and interest, with the plan not intended to directly raise taxes.
Lombardo said: “This is an incredible opportunity to bring the A’s to Nevada, and this legislation reflects months of negotiations between the team, the state, the county, and the league. Las Vegas’ position as a global sports destination is only growing, and Major League Baseball is another tremendous asset for the city.”
A formal celebratory signing ceremony will be announced in Las Vegas in the coming weeks, with the A’s stating: “Today is a significant step forward in securing a new home for the Athletics. We thank Nevada Governor Lombardo, Legislative leaders, and Clark County Commissioners and staff for their hard work, support, and partnership. We will now begin the process with MLB to apply for relocation to Las Vegas.
“We are excited about Southern Nevada’s dynamic and vibrant professional sports scene, and we look forward to becoming a valued community member through jobs, economic development, and the quality of life and civic pride of a Major League Baseball team.”
Lombardo announced last month that a tentative agreement had been reached with the A’s to relocate the team to Las Vegas. It came after the A’s reached a binding agreement with Bally’s Corporation and Gaming & Leisure Properties Inc. (GLPI) to build a new ballpark on the Tropicana hotel site. Bally’s is providing the A’s with nine acres of the 35-acre site free of charge, with chairman Soo Kim having estimated the plot is worth $180m.
The A’s had previously signed a binding agreement with Red Rock Resorts to build a new ballpark on a 49-acre site at Dean Martin Drive and Tropicana Avenue. The decision to switch focus was said to revolve around the A’s seeking to reduce the project’s dependency on public funding from the Nevada Legislature, from $500m to $395m.
The A’s unveiled the first renderings of the proposed Las Vegas ballpark last month. The 30,000-seat stadium, set to be the smallest in MLB, would feature a retractable roof and a playing surface that would allow the outfield to open to the corner of the Tropicana and Las Vegas Boulevard, providing views of the Strip.
It is also hoped that the stadium will serve as a hub for sports, entertainment and community engagement by hosting concerts and other events throughout the year. The A’s hope to break ground on the project next year, with a view to opening the stadium in time for the 2027 MLB season.
Road to MLB approval
Lombardo’s approval came shortly after MLB commissioner, Rob Manfred, discussed the A’s proposed relocation following an owners meeting in New York. Manfred said the A’s must enter a relocation application explaining its efforts to develop a new stadium in Oakland and why Las Vegas is a better market.
A relocation committee will draw up the new operating territory and television territory, before making a recommendation to Manfred and the eight-man executive council. The executive council will provide a recommendation to all clubs, with relocation requiring at least a three-quarters vote.
Manfred said there will be no relocation fee for a team that is set to move into its fourth market following spells in in Philadelphia from 1901-54, Kansas City for 13 seasons and Oakland from 1968.
Manfred said: “It has always been baseball’s policy and preference to stay put, and I feel that always colours any conversation about relocation. That being said, I think the owners as a whole understand there has been a multiyear, and approaching a decade-long effort, where for the vast majority of the time the sole focus was Oakland.”
While the Nevada Senate vote was taking place on Tuesday, the A’s were taking on the Tampa Bay Rays in their current home – the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. A’s fans enacted their long-planned ‘Reverse Boycott’ scheme, designed to protest against club owner John Fisher and demonstrate to MLB the club’s fanbase in Oakland.
Manfred said: “I feel sorry for the fans in Oakland. I do not like this outcome and understand why they feel the way they do. I think the real question is, what was Oakland prepared to do? There is no Oakland offer. They never got to the point where they had a plan to build a stadium at any site.”
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao, who was in attendance at Tuesday’s game, this week stated that the City of Oakland and the A’s were “days away” from making a breakthrough on their proposed Howard Terminal stadium project when she received a call from Fisher telling her the team had agreed to a land deal in Las Vegas.
Thao’s spokeswoman, Julie Edwards, told the Associated Press yesterday: “There was a very concrete proposal under discussion and Oakland had gone above and beyond to clear hurdles, including securing funding for infrastructure, providing an environmental review and working with other agencies to finalise approvals.
“The reality is the A’s ownership had insisted on a multibillion dollar, 55-acre project that included a ballpark, residential, commercial and retail space. In Las Vegas, for whatever reason, they seem satisfied with a nine-acre leased ballpark on leased land. If they had proposed a similar project in Oakland, we feel confident a new ballpark would already be under construction.”