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A’s throw a curve, plan to build $1.5B ballpark at Tropicana site

Updated May 9, 2023 - 7:40 pm

The Oakland Athletics have shifted their Las Vegas stadium plans, entering an agreement with Bally’s Corp. to build a $1.5 billion, 30,000-seat ballpark where the Tropicana Las Vegas now sits.

The plan would bring yet more dramatic transformation to the Strip: The Tropicana, a relic of the 1950s, would be demolished to make way for a partially retractable roof stadium on nine of the site’s 35 acres, a person with knowledge of the arrangement told the Review-Journal Tuesday.

In moving the ballpark site east, where it would be surrounded by megaresorts, the A’s are reducing the amount of public funding they want from the Nevada Legislature to $395 million. The Major League Baseball franchise was seeking $500 million in tax financing for a stadium on the former Wild Wild West site, at Tropicana Avenue and Dean Martin Drive, land the team last month had agreed to buy from Station Casinos parent company Red Rock Resorts.

Representatives from the A’s and Bally’s Corp. weren’t available for comment on the site switch. A Red Rock Resorts spokesman offered no comment on the development.

The deal includes Bally’s Corp. having an option to construct a hotel-casino on the remaining acreage, the source indicated.

Tuesday morning, during an earnings call for Bally’s Corp., company President George Papanier didn’t make it clear if talks between the A’s and Bally’s remained ongoing.

“The A’s story is going to play itself out,” Papanier said. “The way we view the property (Tropicana) is we feel we have low hanging fruit that we can execute and that’s going to allow this property to pay for itself.”

Papanier did mention that they were still interested in potential redevelopment on the site — including adding long-term development partners — when the right deal presented itself, which apparently occurred later that day.

“We sit on a 35-acre site and we view it as one of the busiest four corners of the Las Vegas Strip,” Papanier said. “So there’s a lot of interest in potential outside investment. We’re a disciplined company and again, we have a long term view on this investment. We’re going to be patient about looking for the right project, with the appropriate terms.”

The A’s were down to three sites for a potential Las Vegas ballpark: the Tropicana, the Las Vegas Festival Grounds site and the Rio. Then, last month, A’s President Dave Kaval announced the organization had entered a binding agreement for the Wild Wild West site.

Tentative plans still call for the A’s to break ground on a Southern Nevada ballpark next year and open play there in 2027, according to the source. That opening date could be pushed to 2028 because of the need to demolish the Tropicana.

The Tropicana is located at its namesake street and Las Vegas Boulevard, where 90,000 vehicles pass daily, according to Bally’s Corp. There are over 25,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the property.

The details of the stadium funding legislation are still being worked out for the Tropicana site, but they are expected to be similar to the plans that were being worked on for the Wild Wild West site, the source indicated.

The public funding the A’s were seeking for the Wild Wild West site would have been generated by a special tax district around the planned ballpark, economist Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis, who is working with the A’s on the funding plan, said last month.

The tax district would be created only if the A’s ended up constructing a stadium at that site. The site would generate taxes including sales, property, live entertainment and modified business levies.

Bonds would be issued to help finance a Las Vegas ballpark, then paid back over a period of 30 years by the taxes generated at the ballpark. Tied to that, the A’s would be required to sign a 30-year non-relocation agreement as part of any public financing deal.

The A’s would need a favorable vote by the Democrat-controlled Legislature, then get the signature of Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo. With 28 days left in this year’s session, time is running out.

Lombardo declined to comment Tuesday on the stadium development through spokeswoman Elizabeth Ray. Last week, Ray told the Review-Journal in a text message that Lombardo was in the process of working on a package for the A’s.

“It is our preference to see this happen before the Legislature adjourns,” Lombardo’s statement via Ray last week said. “But we will consider different options if that is not possible.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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