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Sisolak denies blocking A’s move to Vegas

Updated April 8, 2022 - 8:36 pm

Gov. Steve Sisolak refuted reports Friday that he is blocking the Oakland Athletics from moving to Southern Nevada because of a request for millions of dollars in public subsidies for a new ballpark.

Sisolak reiterated Friday that he does not support another room tax to finance a new ballpark for the A’s, a position he has stated repeatedly since the prospect of the Major League Baseball team relocating to Las Vegas first came up.

He also said public financing of a ballpark “has not been an issue” in his conversations with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred or the A’s leadership.

Citing unnamed sources, the New York Post reported Friday that Sisolak is threatening to block the A’s from moving to Las Vegas and is pushing back against the team’s demands for subsidies for a new stadium.

In its story, the Post said that Manfred had discussed the A’s potential relocation with Sisolak, which it said signaled that the team has the backing of fellow MLB owners who would vote to approve the move.

The story also said Manfred has signaled that he will not approve the move unless Nevada provides some public financing for a $1 billion-plus, 30,000-seat, domed stadium.

Manfred also threw water on the report Friday. “That would not be accurate,” he said in an email to the Review-Journal. “I spoke to the governor only once and it was some time ago.”

Economic opportunity

For his part, Sisolak said in a statement released by his office that he understands the economic opportunity professional sports teams offer.

But the statement added: “The Governor has been clear from the start that he would not consider a room tax package for this potential move, and that has not been an issue in his conversations with the Commissioner or the Athletics leadership.”

A’s officials declined to comment Friday on how a lack of public money could affect a potential move to Las Vegas. But A’s President Dave Kaval has been adamant that the team could potentially build a Las Vegas ballpark in a number of ways — with or without public money involved.

“I think it’s really important to have a site under control … and then take that next step to meet with the key officials and discuss the possibility of a public-private partnership,” Kaval told the Review-Journal earlier this year. “We’re going to continue on that strategy, basically a two-step process. We continue to make a lot of progress on that. While some of the work is happening behind the scenes, a lot of work is happening.”

The Athletics moved to Oakland from Kansas City in 1968 and shared 56-year-old RingCentral Coliseum with the Raiders, who left for Las Vegas in 2020. The A’s have been trying unsuccessfully to land their own stadium in the Bay Area for the past 25 years.

A’s officials have made multiple trips to Las Vegas to scout locations and meet with officials. They are considering five sites for a ballpark, and Kaval said last week the preferred location could be announced next month.

Earlier this week, Sisolak struck an optimistic tone about the Athletics’ potential move to Las Vegas, telling KWWN-AM (1100) that he and Kaval had a detailed talk Sunday.

“We had quite a conversation about a couple sites that they’re still seriously considering,” Sisolak said. “We went over the pluses and minuses and the obstacles and benefits of the various sites they’re looking at. I talked to the commissioner (Manfred) a couple weeks back about Major League Baseball’s desire to move into Las Vegas. So there’s a lot more movement than I think a couple months ago.”

Lack of appetite

From the start of the A’s exploration of the Las Vegas market, the majority of local politicians have said they had no appetite for any public money going toward another stadium.

The only local jurisdiction that said it would entertain a possible public-private partnership was Henderson. But Henderson is all but out of the picture after Kaval said the team is focusing on the resort corridor for its final five potential ballpark sites.

If an A’s ballpark does land on the Strip, at least one Clark County commissioner is against providing any handout.

“I don’t speak for anyone other than myself, but that’s certainly the case for me,” Commissioner Michael Naft said. “I think we have seen our investment from Allegiant Stadium pay dividends. I think it is incredible to see what that has done for the community.”

The Raiders were provided with $750 million in public financing by way of a 0.88 percent room tax placed on hotel rooms in Clark County. Essentially, visitors are paying for that portion of the $2 billion stadium.

That stadium has allowed Las Vegas to land events that it couldn’t previously, such as the four sold out BTS shows occurring this weekend and next. Naft doesn’t see a potential A’s stadium providing the same benefit.

“The Raiders made that risk. They were first in and I don’t think that same deal gets offered to any future sports team that wants to come here,” Naft said. “I certainly don’t have the appetite for that kind of public investment to be made, because I think we’ve already proven ourselves, and (it) shows why the private sector should invest.”

Naft said the A’s have hinted that they could be interested in public financing for a stadium, despite the lack of appetite for that among local officials.

“They are certainly looking for public help,” Naft said. “But I don’t think, certainly not from the county or anyone else, that they’ve been made that offer.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter. Staff writers Colton Lochhead and Mark Anderson contributed to this report.

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