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Athletics Stadium Saga: Where Things Stand in Oakland and Las Vegas

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
With a proposed Oakland Athletics stadium in Las Vegas temporarily falling through, Boardroom looks at what’s next for the franchise.

Not long ago, it seemed guaranteed that the Oakland Athletics would relocate to Las Vegas with a new stadium waiting for them. With a 30,000-seat facility planned for the Strip agreed to in April and a $1.5 billion cost that would be largely publicly financed, it really seemed like the days of playing at Oakland Coliseum were coming to a merciful end.

In the wise words of Lee Corso, not so fast, my friend.

The four-month-long Nevada legislative session ended Monday night without a passed budget on capital improvements that included the proposed stadium. Governor Joe Lombardo and state senate republicans have since vowed to convene a special session to pass the lone budget bill.

There’s a lot to unpack here, from the future of an A’s team that’s among Major League Baseball‘s flagship franchises, to either another major sports franchise calling Las Vegas home or the third and final major sports franchise leaving Oakland.

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The Athletics Stadium Dilemma

The new Athletics stadium would be built on a nine-acre plot in the 35-acre Tropicana Hotel parking lot. Bally’s and Gaming & Leisure Properties, Inc. currently owns the site. The proposal would’ve capped public funding at $380 million, including $325 million from Vegas’s Clark County. But that doesn’t account for an estimated $50 million in waived property taxes, an estimated $180 million in free land, a waived relocation fee from MLB, and a $175 million commitment from GLPI for “shared site improvements.” A’s team president Dave Kaval said he wants to break ground early next year to open the stadium in 2027, which now seems in doubt.

The A’s lease on the Oakland Coliseum ends after the 2024 season — a very tangible deadline for the team to make a decision on the long-term future of the franchise. Will the team leave Oakland and temporarily play at its Triple-A stadium, already in Las Vegas, while the Strip site is being built? Or will this provide an opening for the revival of a proposed stadium in Oakland that owner John Fisher, Kaval, and the team left for dead?

The proposed $6 billion Oakland stadium project at Howard Terminal includes a 35,000-seat stadium, thousands of residential units, hotels, a performance arts space, and commercial space near Jack London Square. The A’s and the city were reportedly close to agreeing to a deal to keep the team in Oakland before Fisher walked away last month.

Nevada legislators will debate how much public funds should be allocated for an A’s stadium project. It remains a budgetary disagreement that seemingly controls the long-term fate of a franchise.

The Ownership Dilemma

Fisher is the youngest son of Donald and Doris Fisher, the founders of retail clothing conglomerate Gap, worth $2.2 billion, according to Forbes. Gap stock has dropped more than 35% over the last six months, and the company’s 2023 proxy statement said that Fisher owns 17.23% of the company. As Oakland reporter Casey Pratt notes, Fisher lost a ton in a short amount of time.

Is it then a coincidence that the A’s opened 2023 with the lowest payroll in MLB? Or that it cut costs by not spending on a team that’s a beyond embarrassing 12-50 and could challenge the expansion 1962 New York Mets for the worst 162-game record in baseball history? It’s no coincidence that the A’s’ average home attendance is an embarrassing 8,675 fans per game. Is it a coincidence that Fisher could reportedly sell the team, especially if this Vegas stadium proposal falls through?

In March, Forbes valued the A’s at $1.18 billion. That number would likely go way up if this stadium proposal passes in Nevada and MLB officially approves its move to Las Vegas. That could happen as soon as next week at the owners’ meetings in New York. Pratt accused Fisher of a pump-and-dump scheme. By quickly agreeing to a Las Vegas stadium deal, it would boost the franchise’s value so he could then sell the team to maximize profit. That would perhaps cover losses accrued from Gap’s stock slump. A new stadium in Vegas would boost the team’s value more than if the A’s stayed in Oakland.

Now we wait to see if the Nevada special legislative session approves the budget to build the stadium. Like all the gambling inside the Las Vegas casinos, there’s undoubtedly a ton at stake.

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About The Author
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.