Updated May 19, 2021 - 6:38 pm
When it comes to pro sports franchises looking for a new stadium in their home city, you can’t spell leverage without LV.
This explains why a planned introductory meeting between the Oakland Athletics and Las Vegas officials stemming from the A’s frustration in not being able to get a new ballpark has gone more public than Reggie Jackson in front of a clubhouse full of cameras back in the franchise’s glory days.
A’s president Dave Kaval, who will lead the fact-finding mission in Las Vegas next week, on Tuesday issued this public warning to A’s fans and decision makers in Oakland city hall during an interview with ABC Bay Area affiliate KGO-TV.
“We’re running out of time,” said the youthful executive, a Stanford grad who looks even younger than his 45 years, about getting the green light from Major League Baseball to explore opportunities beyond the clickety-clack of the Bay Area Rapid Transit trains.
“This has been going on for 20 years in Oakland, trying to find a ballpark for the A’s. We have our first trip next week to visit Las Vegas to explore what could be possible there.”
Should talks advance beyond next week, Las Vegas Ballpark may prove to be an asset more valuable than a starting pitcher capable of throwing seven innings.
The two-year-old home of the Aviators, by happenstance the A’s top minor league affiliate, could serve as a viable temporary home for the A’s during construction of a new major league ballpark should financing and other considerations be met.
It is even believed that ticket prices could be adjusted to approach or perhaps even increase the A’s bottom line in comparison to revenue projections at fading RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland.
During the 2019 season, the last before capacity at MLB ballparks was limited because of the pandemic, the A’s ranked 24th among the 30 MLB clubs with average attendance of 20,521. Through 23 home games this season, the A’s average turnout is just 5,520, less than half the cap of 12,188 per COVID restrictions.
The A’s average ticket price of $24 is among the lowest in major league baseball. It is considerably lower than the Aviators’ median admission price of around $60. But A’s attendance, except when the Yankees or Red Sox come to town, continues to plummet — much as the Aviators’ did when they were known as the 51s and the plumbing in the toilet behind the first base dugout at archaic Cashman Field backed up and exploded in a noxious quagmire.
After averaging 4,746 paying customers during the last season at Cashman, the Aviators in 2019 averaged 9,299 — a 96 percent increase — and sold out their new 10,000-seat ballpark in swanky suburban Summerlin 47 times.
Oakland has last ups
So if assumptions that Las Vegas baseball fans would be willing to pay more for major league entertainment are accurate — as anybody who stood in line for three innings for a hot dog on Big League Weekend during its run at Cashman Field can attest — the A’s temporarily playing ball in a Triple-A facility may not be the deal breaker some make it out to be.
Provided, of course, it comes to that.
The politicians in Oakland could turn all of this A’s relocation speculation into a routine pop fly if they flip-flop and commit to a waterfront ballpark project, which is still believed to be the A’s preference. A vote is expected July 20.
As they used to say on Sunday afternoons when doubleheaders were in vogue, there’s still a lot of baseball to be played before the A’s move to Las Vegas — or Charlotte, Montreal, Nashville, Portland, Vancouver, B.C., or even the Himalayas near the border of China and Nepal.
Because if somebody wanted to build a new ballpark with a retractable roof on top of Mount Everest, the A’s probably would want to take a look.