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‘A great asset’: A’s move to Las Vegas approved; Strip ballpark on horizon

Updated November 16, 2023 - 7:23 pm

ARLINGTON, Texas — Major League Baseball owners unanimously approved the Oakland Athletics’ relocation to Las Vegas on Thursday.

The A’s needed at least 23 votes — or 75 percent of the 30 franchises — for approval of their move to Southern Nevada.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said during a news conference he is excited to add the Las Vegas market to the league.

“Tremendous support locally for having the A’s there,” he said. “We believe over the long haul that Las Vegas will be a great asset to Major League Baseball.”

If the A’s complete other required relocation steps, it would give Las Vegas its fourth major league sports franchise. The Golden Knights were the first, beginning play as an NHL expansion team in 2017. The WNBA’s Aces relocated from San Antonio in 2018, and the Raiders moved from Oakland in 2020.

The success of those teams made the market especially attractive to A’s owner John Fisher, who said during his first trip to the valley in 2021, when MLB said the franchise could explore relocation, he knew the market could work.

“We landed, saw some of the military guys there and took a picture with them, and they told us how excited they were for the potential for the A’s coming to the market,” Fisher told the Review-Journal on Thursday. “Then we went to the Strip and saw all the energy that is there. And then we went out to Summerlin and saw the Aviators play in the greatest minor league ballpark in baseball. It became very clear that not only was the community, both locals and visitors, passionate about sports, but they’re passionate about baseball. And that’s ultimately what’s going to make us successful, is having an incredibly passionate local fan base.”

Gov. Joe Lombardo said he’s excited to welcome the A’s, noting the economic impact it will have on the valley.

“As more and more Americans are finding out — and as MLB owners recognized today — Nevada is a great state to do business,” Lombardo said in a statement. “This relocation will bring thousands of new jobs to our state while also generating historic economic development and providing a return on public investment for the direct benefit of Nevada taxpayers.”

Approved for public funding

The A’s plan to build a $1.5 billion, 33,000-seat stadium on 9 acres of the 35-acre Tropicana Las Vegas site on the Strip.

“This is a huge win for the city to realize yet another major league franchise is coming to Vegas,” Soo Kim, chairman of Bally’s Corp., which owns the Tropicana, told the RJ. “I think it’s great for baseball, because they can showcase their product to 40 million-plus visitors to Vegas, many of which are international. That will help keep the sport growing strong.”

Bally’s is locked in at providing the 9 acres for the A’s to build their ballpark, Kim said. The two sides will share about 3 acres of space leading from the Strip to the stadium, of which Bally’s will have control.

“They’re limited to 9 acres. We do have the responsibility that they have ingress and egress,” Kim said. “The shared space is really our space, that we’re responsible to provide access to their space. We’ll obviously do it in a way that’s congruent to the ballpark but meets our commercial requirements. … It’s still 9 acres. That was the deal, and it’s not changing.”

The franchise still needs to finalize various agreements with the Las Vegas Stadium Authority, a requirement to receive up to $380 million in public funding passed in June by the Legislature as Senate Bill 1 and then signed into law by Lombardo.

The A’s would be tasked with securing more than $1 billion to finance the ballpark’s remaining construction costs. Initial plans call for construction to begin in April 2025 and be completed in January 2028 — in time for the start of the season.

Manfred said the public funding that the A’s secured was a major factor in the decision to waive the relocation fee, which would have cost the A’s hundreds of millions and been divided among the 29 other franchises.

“We felt that a relocation fee in this particular situation was inappropriate,” Manfred said.”There was significant expenditures by John Fisher and his family to get this stadium built. It’s a billion-and-a-half dollar project.”

The A’s will play at Oakland Coliseum through the 2024 season, when their lease at the aging ballpark expires. It is unclear where they would play during the 2025 through 2027 seasons. Summerlin’s Las Vegas Ballpark and the San Francisco Giants’ Oracle Park are options, as is an extension of the A’s lease at the Coliseum.

To make way for the planned stadium, the Tropicana will first have to be demolished and the site cleared before construction can begin.

The exact details of when the Tropicana will shutter and demolition will begin are still being finalized, Kim said. But officials expect the work to begin next year.

Bally’s also is undecided on how to develop the rest of the Tropicana site, where the company plans to build a new hotel.

“We’re still talking about the scope of it, in terms of which way we want to go,” Kim said. “It could be one phase and a larger project, a multiphase, smaller to start and larger over time.”

Oakland remains obstinate

Despite the unanimous vote, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao remains optimistic that the A’s ultimately will stay in the Bay Area.

“We are disappointed by the outcome of this vote. But we do not see it as the end of the road,” Thao said in a statement. “We all know there is a long way to go before shovels are in the ground and that there are a number of unresolved issues surrounding this move.”

The city tried to get owners’ attention in Texas. When some were arriving Tuesday for the start of the three-day meeting, a plane pulling a banner that read “A’S BELONG IN OAKLAND —#VOTENO” flew above the hotel where they were meeting adjacent to Globe Life Field.

But in the end, none of them was swayed, and Manfred said relocation was the only answer.

“The fact of the matter is, there was never a deal in Oakland.” he said.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on X. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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