A’s lobbying for a new Vegas home

With registered lobbyists on board, including team president David Kaval, the Athletics are ramping up efforts to be able to move from Oakland to Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS — I think the A’s are serious about leaving Oakland for Las Vegas. And for the first time, I’m starting to believe they are coming here.

The struggling Major League Baseball franchise has not been able to close a deal to remain in Oakland. Instead, it has put together a lineup of lobbyists with team president David Kaval batting leadoff, to convince Nevada politicians that it is in the state’s best interests to groove a pitch down the middle so the A’s can knock it out of the park (literally) with a $1 billion stadium somewhere in Las Vegas.

Maybe it’s adjacent to the Tropicana Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. Perhaps it would be at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds at the north end of Las Vegas Boulevard near Sahara Avenue. Or it could be next to the Rio Hotel and Casino on West Flamingo Road near Interstate 15, the site that everyone originally believed would be the landing spot for a MLB team.

But when you start to get political and you’ve put a squad of lobbyists together with the blessing of the commissioner, that’s playing some good ol’ country hardball. Rob Manfred admitted the focus is on Las Vegas when he met with the media Wednesday in Arizona. He just wants this over and done with by January.

I feel sorry for Sheng Thao, the recently-elected Mayor of Oakland. I believe she wants to keep the A’s in her city. But I also believe she is right to make sure this is in the city’s best interests. I mean $12 billion is a lot of money.

Kaval may have gone into radio silence mode in terms of talking to the media about an A’s-to-Vegas move. Instead, he’ll do his talking in Carson City to those in the state legislature who can actually help facilitate such a move. Hey, nobody ever accused him of being dumb.

Even Joe Lombardo, Nevada’s new Governor, may be softening his stance on no public money for a ballpark. He cited there may be existing state economic development program funding available for owner John Fisher to use in helping build a $1 billion retractable-roof stadium that would seat 35,000. Lombardo, who spoke with Fisher and Kaval, will not commit to new taxes or new funding for the A’s and a ballpark. He also said he didn’t want to get ahead of things by identifying exactly which economic development monies the A’s might qualify for, or creating a tax district where the ballpark would be built. 

I’d say that’s a pretty good transition from law enforcement to politics, though some may argue that being Sheriff is a political sporting enterprise, at least here in Clark County.

It’s probably more about helping with infrastructure costs rather than actual dollars to build the stadium. Virtually every sporting venue gets some public assistance when it comes to water, power, sewer, roads, paving, etc. Call it an incentive to bring new businesses to a community.

Proponents of a move to Las Vegas will cite the thousands of jobs it will create in building the ballpark and the hundreds of jobs that will remain one the stadium is operational. You’re going to need ushers, parking attendants, concession workers, sanitation crews and other positions that are used on game day/night. They won’t be high-paying jobs, mind you. But they’ll be jobs that many will find attractive to help supplement their income. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

And I’m all for construction and union laborers getting work. A friend of mine worked on building U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis where the Vikings play and he said it was one of the best work experiences of his life. He would love to help build a Las Vegas baseball stadium.

I’m still not crazy about using public money for sports venues. I still like what the Oak View Group has proposed to do in building an NBA-quality arena over by Blue Diamond Road on their own dime and I hope it happens. 

However, I understand where our Governor is coming from. He’s trying to get a run across home plate without the benefit of a base hit. It’s like drawing a walk, stealing second, moving on to third when the catcher throws the ball into center field and then scoring on a sacrifice fly. It gets the job done without needing a big hit.

Look at it as playing small ball. But in the end, it’s about winning. If Las Vegas can get a team with a 1-0 victory rather than an 11-9 slugfest, does it really matter? You get to hang one in the left-hand column and the A’s join the Golden Knights, the Raiders, the Aces, Formula 1 and the UFC as part of a major league lineup that plays in what the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority boasts in its ads as “The Greatest Arena on Earth.”

The A’s would likely bat toward the bottom of the order. But you still need production from your 7-8-9 hitters. And if the team wins, the A’s would no doubt move up in the order of being a local fan favorite.

If it does come to pass, maybe Fisher will actually invest in his product on the field and put a competitive team out there. Now wouldn’t that be something? 

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