Wwjd las vegas a's
Photo Credit: Oakland A's/AP

WWJD #44: Should Nevada Be All-In On The Las Vegas A’s

Franchise Sports Media

 

The state of Nevada hit the green light on the building of a stadium where the Tropicana Hotel currently sits so the Oakland A’s can relocate to Las Vegas in 2028. Let’s examine the move on and off the field.

The Oakland A’s are relocating to Las Vegas in 2028.

WWJD Joe Lombardo
Photo Credit: John Locher/AP

On Tuesday, the Nevada Senate approved a bill that would give the Oakland A’s $380 million dollars to build a $1.5 billion dollar, 30,000-seat baseball stadium on the Las Vegas strip where the Tropicana Hotel currently sits.

On Wednesday, the Nevada Assembly voted in favor of the deal. All that was left was for Governor Joe Lombardo to sign off on it before A’s owner John Fisher takes it to Major League Baseball where 29 other MLB owners must approve the proposed relocation to Las Vegas. Governor Lombardo did that Thursday afternoon.

Now that it has happened, the A’s ownership will need to secure funding for the rest of the $1.5 billion project (if they haven’t already done that).

Late last month, the A’s released renderings of the proposed 30,000-seat ballpark, which would sit on the current site of the Tropicana. As part of the stadium deal, the Tropicana would be demolished and the new A’s ballpark, as well as a new hotel and casino, would be built.

All seem to be moot points and it is a near certainty at this point. But as A’s fans are quick to point out, Fisher and his team’s president, David Kaval, seem to know how to mess up a good deal.

The funding package includes up to $380 million in public assistance, with $180 million in transferable tax credits and $120 million in county bonds, which are tax-payer-backed loans. The A’s would not owe property taxes and a special tax district around the stadium would be carved out. The true cost would be well north of $380 million.

The funding package was so contentious that Nevada had to call multiple special sessions, including working through the weekend to try to get the deal right. Even then, the state politicians were not as enthusiastic as they were when the Raiders were going through the relocation process to Las Vegas.

WWJD David Kaval
Photo Credit: Jim Merithew/SFC

They held the A’s representatives, including A’s president David Kaval (who was there only during the first session), feet to the fire questioning how truthful, willing, and committed they would be to a community benefits package. They wanted more from the team and assurances in the bill that they will honor those commitments.

Assemblywoman Selena La Rue Hatch, D-Reno, said Wednesday night she couldn’t support the public financing given a lack of funding for Nevada’s overcrowded classrooms, inadequate childcare services, and “people sleeping on the streets.”

No amount of amendments are going to change the fact we are giving millions of public dollars to a billionaire,” she said.

But what is interesting is the $380 million funding bill is not specific to the A’s. Should ownership fail to secure the necessary funding for the rest of the project and ultimately not relocate to Las Vegas, the package could be used for another MLB franchise that wishes to relocate or for an expansion team.

A’s ownership has indicated it hopes to move into a new Las Vegas ballpark by 2027. The team’s lease at the Oakland Coliseum expires after the 2024 season, and the A’s would need to find a home for the 2025 and 2026 seasons. At the hearings, the timeline for the new $1.5 billion stadium to open was 2028 per Steve Hill, president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. 

So Las Vegas is getting a major league baseball team and it appears to be the A’s. Now that you have all the details, let’s examine if it is a good thing for the City of Las Vegas.

The A’s are moving to Las Vegas in a new $1.3 billion stadium located on the strip. 

How the A’s are currently run will have to change. If not, it won’t work.

The A’s can’t be cheap after moving to Las Vegas. They have to become competitive and spend on their players. 

WWJD John Fisher
Photo Credit: Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s are notorious for spending the least on their team, but now it is getting quite ridiculous. Revenue has never been higher across the MLB, but some teams still do not spend enough money to field competitive baseball teams.

The A’s have not found any consistent level of success, with occasional trips to the playoffs that ended early over the last five years.

Payroll for a team is something that typically increases year over year, not something that is decreased by over 10 million dollars from 20 years ago. The A’s have a history of being great at identifying talent and developing them for the big leagues. The issue is that they are unwilling to pay those players their worth, so they end up leaving the team early via trade or free agency.

For example, Oakland A’s payroll two decades ago (2002): $39.7 million. The Oakland A’s payroll last year (2022): $29.3 million.

In an article that came out on June 13th, the Washington Post explained how “the A’s have become emblematic of the issues facing the league and some of their owners who don’t spend.” They summarized that teams like the New York Mets, San Diego Padres, New York Yankees, and Los Angeles Dodgers will always be among the top spenders, and more times than not, are consistently in the playoff race.

The Yankees’ owner Hal Steinbrenner, who spoke to the Washington Post, said he’s open to other baseball owners’ consideration of proposing a salary cap for 2027, but only if small-market teams like the A’s are subject to a payroll floor, too.

Major League Baseball owners were meeting in New York this week following continued discussion of a potential salary cap as well as the possibility of the A’s relocating to Las Vegas. Currently, Oakland is averaging a league-low 8,555 fans at Oakland Coliseum.

Steinbrenner’s told the Washington Post that his support of a cap would depend on the figure, but he and the players agree over worries about small-market teams not investing enough in their major league rosters.

Any time a team is putting out a product that’s not good for the industry as a whole, yes, I am absolutely concerned about that,Steinbrenner told the Post Tuesday at the start of three days of owners’ meetings. “I’ve always said that fans should not go to the first spring training game knowing that their team has no chance of making the playoffs. That’s just not good for the game. It’s not good for the industry.

 

WWJD Las Vegas A's Shea Langeliers
Photo Credit: Steven Bisig/USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees opened the season with a $275 million payroll, second only to the record $355 million of the Mets. Oakland was last at $58 million and Tampa Bay, which has the major league’s best record, was 27th at $75 million.

I understand some markets struggle more than others. I live in Tampa, so I know what the Rays go through,” Steinbrenner said. “What really gets me going in a negative way is owners that aren’t putting money into the team when they could. And it’s happened in the past. It probably happens every year to a certain extent. That’s what a lot of the owners like me don’t like.

The A’s finished 2022 with a 60-102 record, second-worst only ahead of the Washington Nationals. On the spreadsheets though, they netted $62.2 million according to a report from Forbes. The only teams they finished behind were the Seattle Mariners who made the playoffs for the first time in two decades, the San Francisco Giants, the Boston Red Sox, and the Baltimore Orioles.

Oakland turned those profits despite one of the worst television deals in baseball. Only the Reds, Royals, Marlins, Brewers, Twins, and Padres have lower tv deals. Their Bay Area neighbors, the Giants, who are on the same network and in the same market as the A’s, pull in double for their TV rights.

That’s what happens when your team’s payroll was just $58 million. Fisher and Kaval have mastered the art of spending at the bottom of the barrel while maximizing a profit.

But the thing is, that will not fly in Las Vegas. With the Vegas Golden Knights winning the Stanley Cup, and the Las Vegas Aces winning the WNBA title, there is no honeymoon period for the A’s. The Raiders brand is stronger than ever and has the backing of one of the most powerful brands in the world, the NFL, and they went to the playoffs in 2021.

 

UNLV Football Doug Brumfield
Photo Credit: Alon Sowell/Franchise Sports Media

Las Vegas will not support a franchise that is unwilling, unable, or incapable of producing a winner. Look at the decline in UNLV Athletics over the past 25+ years. The UNLV men’s basketball program used to be one of the programs that was must-see TV. Now they fail to sell out half of Thomas and Mack Arena. The UNLV football program has made strides over the course of the last few seasons, but they struggle to sell out the lower bowl of Allegiant Stadium (sans the Hawai’i and UNR games).

But as I say that about UNLV, there is a positive buzz around those programs with the job they have done recruiting and being involved in the city. There is hope within Las Vegas sports fans that UNLV is ready to win consistently with the offseason moves they have made (recruiting and new coaching hires).

The “Money Ball” days have to be over for the A’s as soon as they step foot on Las Vegas soil. The days of getting other teams scraps and draining them for what little ability they have left (Billy Beane’s words to David Justice in the movie Money Ball, not mine) are over.

Fisher and Kaval have to show a willingness to spend to keep the talent they have and must also go out and get missing pieces to compete for a World Series.

Marketing the players should be easy considering their Triple-A affiliate, the Las Vegas Aviators, is located in Summerlin. Baseball fans already know the young talent the A’s currently have on their major league roster and will know even more by the time they move to Las Vegas.

If Fisher and/or Kaval think they can put out a subservient product on the field and still have people show up, they are gravely mistaken. The A’s brand is not even in the same realm as the Raiders. They can’t, and shouldn’t, rely on that.  They aren’t an expansion team going to the playoffs five out of their first six seasons who just won a Stanley Cup.

They aren’t a WNBA team that consistently had some of the biggest stars in the game and arguably the best coach in the league coming off a WNBA championship. The A’s are coming off of the second-worst record in Major League Baseball and looking for a way out of Oakland and the outdated stadium they have been playing in.

For example, the A’s won 97 games in 2019 and made the postseason again in 2020. Then Fisher decided to strip the team of its young stars by trading them away and reducing the team’s payroll to the lowest in baseball. The A’s then raised ticket prices and did little-to-nothing to improve the fans’ experience as the team’s wins decreased to near the league bottom. They then used one of the oldest tricks in the books to state a case for relocation. They used poor attendance and the condition of the ballpark to justify their decision to seek a new home.

The A’s are coming in as the low man on the Las Vegas professional sports teams’ totem pole and need to prove themselves to the people of Las Vegas. That starts at the top with John Fisher putting his money where the State of Nevada put theirs. You got your $380 million for a stadium, but Mr. Fisher, you better pony up and pay the players who deserve it and put a consistent winner on the field. If you don’t, they won’t come, even if it is built.

The A’s ownership better pay players and put a winning product on the field, or fans won’t come.

The ones hurt the most in the saga are the fans of the Oakland A’s.

Fans won’t tolerate the Las Vegas A’s being cheap and are upset they are leaving Oakland. 

WWJD Las Vegas A's
Photo Credit: Oakland A’s/AP

One of the American League’s eight charter franchises, the team was founded in Philadelphia in 1901 as the Philadelphia Athletics. The team left Philadelphia for Kansas City in 1955 and became the Kansas City Athletics before moving to Oakland in 1968.

The A’s have been a staple in Oakland for over 50 years. Once they move to Las Vegas they will be only the second team to relocate in the last 51 years in Major League Baseball (the other was the Montreal Expos relocating to Washington to become the Nationals).

The A’s fans are some of the most loyal, knowledgeable, and passionate fans in all of Major League Baseball. They are still upset that the Raiders moved to Las Vegas and left the Bay Area behind. They are hurt, feel betrayed, and are frustrated with the A’s brain trust reneging on multiple potential stadium deals with the city of Oakland, most notably the Howard Terminal project, that would have kept the team Rooted in Oakland.

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said after the vote, California’s Legislature had passed three pieces of legislation to support the construction of a new A’s ballpark at Howard Terminal.

The A’s have been part of Oakland for more than half a century, and they belong in this city,” she said in a statement. “There is no city that has worked harder to meet the needs of a team than Oakland.”

Per Forbes, in 2019, the A’s sold 1,670,734 for their home games. In 2022, when there were no COVID-19 restrictions affecting ticket sales, they sold a total of 787,902 tickets. This drastic decline was noted throughout the season, with some games having just a few thousand fans in attendance.

 

WWJD Las Vegas A's Howard Terminal
Photo Credit: Oakland A’s/City of Oakland/AP

On June 14th, the same day the Nevada Senate voted to approve the $380 million in public money for a Las Vegas ballpark for the A’s, fans in Oakland held their long-planned “Reverse Boycott.” It was a last-ditch effort that was intended to fill the Oakland Coliseum and prove their worth to owner John Fisher and Major League Baseball.

The A’s fans showed up three hours before the start of the game just to grab one of the 7,000 green “SELL” T-shirts which cost $39,000 but were raised with donations from the Oakland community per ESPN.

That game drew 27,759, the largest home crowd of the season and more than triple the team’s home average of 8,555.

Now we just want to let people vent their frustrations,” said Jorge Leon, the president of the Oakland 68s, a fan club that helped organize the protest told ESPN. He wore a “SELL” shirt and a wedding ring that inscribed “Oakland” in A’s script. “If it’s set in stone that they’re leaving for Las Vegas, I hope the mayor kicks them out.

Whatever longshot it is, whoever wants an expansion team should look to Oakland,” a fan named Dee told ESPN. “There’s a fan base here ready to support a team that deserves it.

From this point on, I’m rooting for the Oakland A’s fans,” Oakland mayor Thao told ESPN. “If anybody ever doubted the passion of these fans, just look at the sea of green out here. We’re going to continue to work to keep the Oakland A’s in Oakland. Las Vegas deserves a team — an expansion team. But the A’s must stay in Oakland.

Thao said the city of Oakland and the A’s were just “days away” from agreeing on a $12 billion to $18 billion real-estate project that would have brought a waterfront ballpark to Howard Terminal when she received a call from Fisher telling her the team had agreed to a land deal in Las Vegas.

We were so close,” Thao told ESPN. “We secured $1 billion for outside infrastructure, and I truly believe the city of Oakland was being leveraged in the move to go to Las Vegas. That’s why I said no more. No more. It started to feel a little bit abusive in that sense, and that’s why we walked away.”

When ESPN asked what avenues she could pursue to keep the A’s from leaving, Thao said, “I’m going to continue to talk to the legislature in Nevada, and I’m going to continue to work with Congresswoman Barbara Lee to make sure there are some checks and balances in regards to when and how teams move from one city to another.

I understand business is business, and Major League Baseball is a business before anything else. But it really sucks to see a fanbase’s heart ripped out. The fans of the A’s showed up when the team was putting forth the effort on the diamond and trying to win. They stopped showing up (and rightfully so) when Fisher and Kaval decided it was M.O.B. (Money Over Baseball).

The fans of the A’s are hurt that they are moving to Las Vegas. 

What is the best option for all parties and why won’t it happen?

Should the A’s move to Las Vegas or should MLB keep them in Oakland and give Vegas an expansion team?

WWJD Las Vegas A's
Photo Credit: Oakland A’s/AP

Although the A’s moving to Las Vegas is a done deal, I do think that there is a better solution for all parties. While it may not bring instant gratification, I think it is the most logical and practical solution that would solve issues for all parties.

Keep the A’s in Oakland and have Major League Baseball, the city of Oakland, the state of California, and John Fisher work to get a deal done for the Howard Terminal Stadium.

That project would be one of the must-see stadiums in all of Major League Baseball. It would bring business and revenue to the Bay Area, create jobs, and help the A’s become a destination organization (provided Fisher spends on his team). Until that stadium is built, the Oakland Coliseum has to have upgrades and be kept up. Currently, it is arguably the worst stadium in professional sports.

Then, Major League Baseball could make Las Vegas one of their expansion teams with the Tropicana site as the home for the new stadium. They would have to have an ownership group in place to pay for the stadium (the same amount Fisher was willing to pay) and be ready to go when they break ground in 2024. That way, the city of Las Vegas could have another team that would be built from the ground up in Las Vegas.

I gave those solutions knowing full well that it won’t happen. The A’s are coming to the Strip. MLB has named four cities that are the likely homes for an expansion team, and Las Vegas was not one of them since the A’s are coming. It’s unfortunate since even one of the biggest stars in baseball, born and raised in Las Vegas, thinks the A’s should remain in Oakland.

 

WWJD Las Vegas A's Bryce Harper
Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Philadelphia Phillies superstar Bryce Harper opened up about the subject to the media and what he thinks of the A’s making the move to his hometown.

I feel sorry for the fans in Oakland,’’ Harper told USA Today. “It’s just not right. They have so much history in Oakland. You’re taking a team out of a city. I’m pretty sad because of all of the history and all of the greatness they’ve seen there.

I see the A’s as Oakland. I don’t see them as Vegas.’’

I feel bad for the A’s and their fans,” Harper said Wednesday, per The Athletic. “They’re so rooted in Oakland. Those fans bleed green. Now it’s, ‘Hey, we’re going to pick the A’s to come to Vegas.’ I don’t agree with that. Who cares what I think? It’s my own opinion. But when you see a team like the A’s — there’s so much history at the Coliseum with all the great players they’ve had. And the last couple of years, it hasn’t been the greatest. I get that. I totally understand.

But do I believe they should leave Oakland because of that? No. They could be as good as anybody if they actually went and did it. Those fans deserve that.

Harper believes if the A’s want to catch on in Las Vegas, they will need to change their approach.

They’re going to have to build behind a player,” Harper said. “Who is that player going to be? Because it has to start next year. … If they go to Vegas next year, you have to be able to go, ‘We’re going to get this player. We’re going to spend $300 million on him. And this is what it’s going to be.’ And he’s your guy. You have to build around that player. But it has to be a dude. It can’t be a middle-of-the-road guy. It has to be a dude. And it should be two.

 

WWJD Las Vegas A's
Photo Credit: Oakland A’s/AP

The A’s will need to really market to the youth in Las Vegas in order to hopefully have the type of fanbase they have in Oakland. The Little Leaguers that are between the ages 5-10 need to be their focus so when they move here in 2028 they have a fanbase in place.

If they don’t do that, they will be like the Los Angeles Chargers who are still trying to create a fanbase in L.A.

Baseball fans in the Las Vegas Valley should be excited about the A’s coming to town. They will now get to see Harper, Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis, and Julio Rodriguez come to the Strip.

There will now be a game to go to all year for sports fans who want to have a night on the town with their family, and friends, or a date. It would also be an offerable alternative to Raiders and Golden Knights games which could be too expensive, or an Aces game that would be sold out.

In the end, there are always winners and losers. The losers feel agony, and pain, and are left with the cold reality that they lost for the rest of their lives. Winners rejoice, celebrate, and get to enjoy all the spoils that come with victory. Sadly for the city of Oakland and its fans, they’ve twice lost their teams to Las Vegas, which is quickly becoming the sports and entertainment capital of the world.

The A’s will be the Major League Baseball team in Las Vegas, starting in 2028. That train is full speed ahead. The next stop is the NBA. Don’t worry, Bay Area…it won’t be the Golden State Warriors!

The Las Vegas A’s will be playing their MLB games on the Strip in 2028. 

Major League Baseball will be voting on the Oakland A’s reloaction to Las Vegas in July. Franchise Sports Media will have all the details once the vote takes place.

 

-Joe Arrigo   Franchise Sports Media

Follow Joe on Twitter and Instagram: @JoeArrigoFSM

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