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Las Vegas officials say A’s Strip ballpark timeline will be met

Updated May 28, 2024 - 9:01 am

LAS VEGAS — The Oakland Athletics are on a tight schedule to get agreements in place and demonstrate that financing is set for construction to begin on time for the team’s new stadium in Las Vegas.

The A’s hope to open the approximately $1.5 billion, 33,000-seat ballpark for the 2028 season.

This is the A’s final season in Oakland. They agreed to play the following three seasons, with an option for a fourth, in a Triple-A stadium in West Sacramento, California.

Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said the timelines will be met.

“They’re coming and they’ve said they can finance this stadium,” Hill said. “They are going to play baseball here in 2028. I frankly think it’s just fun (for critics) to create some drama around it and that’s happening. That keeps all of our lives a little more interesting, but it doesn’t change the facts on the ground, which is they’ve said what they’re going to do and they’re just doing it.”

Attempts to reach A’s officials for comment were unsuccessful.

Managing partner Brendan Bussmann of B Global, an international consulting firm based in Las Vegas, said ideally ground would be broken on the Strip-located stadium by March 1 for the A’s to play there in 2028.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday at an owners meeting that construction needed to begin by April to ensure a 2028 opening. Hill said the A’s themselves have provided that timeline, and he noted Allegiant Stadium — home to the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders — was built in 31 months.

“You think you could probably get the ballpark built in a very similar period of time,” Hill said. “It’s obviously a little bit smaller structure.”

He said starting later than April didn’t necessarily mean the opening date would be pushed back, saying construction could be done in double shifts and on weekends.

Two key documents still need to be approved by the Las Vegas Stadium Authority Board, which Hill chairs.

One is the non-relocation agreement, which was introduced last week. That agreement, expected to be for a term of 30 years, could be approved in the authority’s planned July meeting.

The likely most critical piece is the development agreement. That will lay out the financing to supplement the $380 million in public funding approved by the Democratic-controlled Nevada Legislature in a special session last June and signed by Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo.

Hill said he wasn’t concerned whether A’s owner John Fisher can provide the roughly $1.1 billion of financing on his end. The A’s have hired New York-based Galatioto Sports Partners to help find investors.

“I think John’s looking at options,” Hill said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily out of need. I think it’s to make sure that the funding is the most efficient for the A’s.”

Would Fisher be willing to fund the stadium without investors?

“He has the ability to do that, yeah,” Hill said.

Bussmann said the A’s have not laid out enough of a financing plan to assuage the public’s concerns whether the money will be there.

“This is where the A’s need to put forward, ‘Here’s our plan and this is what we need to stick to,’” Bussmann said.

He said if the A’s aren’t transparent, criticism of whether a financing plan will be achieved will dog the organization throughout the process of building a stadium.

Hill, however, pushed back on the notion the club wasn’t properly communicating its plans. He said there haven’t been as many public meetings as when the then-Oakland Raiders went through the process of building Allegiant Stadium, which was completed in 2020, because that was all new for Las Vegas officials.

“We’ve got a template that’s in place,” Hill said. “(It) helps with these documents and helps simply list all the issues that might come up. So both sides are doing the work and it’s getting done and we’re on track and we don’t see any reason why that won’t continue.”

Manfred said the A’s don’t have time pressure to put their financing in place.

“I don’t think that John has a necessity of effectuating any of that in order to meet this deadline,” Manfred said. “That could happen before or after. And there’s actually a play there, right, when you sell (equity), the closer you get, the more it looks like reality, the more it’s worth.”

Manfred also said the 2025 major league and Triple-A schedules are being constructed to allow the A’s and River Cats to both use the ballpark in West Sacramento.

The authority and the A’s had a legal victory May 13 when the Nevada Supreme Court ruled against a proposed ballot initiative that would’ve put public funding for the stadium up for a vote this year. Now the Schools over Stadiums political action committee said it would attempt to do so again in 2026, but that likely would be too late to prevent the stadium from going up.

“If it’s on the 2026 ballot, that’s 18 months into construction,” Bussmann said.

Another PAC, Strong Public Schools Nevada, which is backed by the Nevada State Education Association, filed a lawsuit in February challenging whether the money allocated by the Legislature violates the state constitution.

Hill did not comment specifically on those two legal challenges, but said he was confident in the end the stadium will open when scheduled.

Bussmann, for all his concerns about what still needs to be accomplished, didn’t necessarily disagree.

“You’re on the clock at this point,” he said. “They have 10-plus months to get this done. What needs to happen at this point in time is doable.”

The A’s also are focusing on what needs to be accomplished in Sacramento, and Manfred said the club is building a separate clubhouse and renovating the visiting one. Other upgrades are being made, as well, including club seating, video boards and new artificial turf.

“So there’s a lot going on there to get it up to snuff for the interim period,” Manfred said.

More than 13,000 fans have expressed interest in tickets in Sacramento, an A’s spokesperson said.

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