A’s to Vegas soap opera continues

The Athletics appear to be switching sites to a location on the Las Vegas Strip for their proposed $1.5 billion ballpark.

LAS VEGAS — This A’s-to-Vegas move is turning into one heck of a soap opera.

Two weeks ago, it was the A’s agreeing to purchase 49 acres of land at the intersection of West Tropicana Avenue and Dean Martin Drive. This week, the team announced it was entering into an agreement to obtain nine acres of land where the current Tropicana Hotel and Casino sits on the Las Vegas Strip to build a ballpark.

What will next week bring? Land from the owners of the Rio for a buck? A 12th-hour sweetheart deal from the City of Henderson? Tune in and find out on “As the A’s Turn.”

It makes you wonder if team owner John Fisher and president David Kaval truly have their act together. They don’t have a deal with the Nevada legislature or Clark County to secure public funding in some form to help defray the $1.5 billion cost to build a ballpark with a retractable roof. They still haven’t applied to Major League Baseball for permission to move the twice-moved franchise from Oakland to Las Vegas. There’s no design for the stadium that has been shown publicly.

Meanwhile, on the field, the A’s remain the worst team in baseball at 8-29. They even lost to the Yankees’ Clarke Schmidt Tuesday night, he of the 0-3 record and the 5.83 earned-run average. A recent protest at the Oakland Coliseum drew a mob of 28 fans, count ‘em, 28, demanding that Fisher sell the team and it be kept in the East Bay.

It’s an embarrassment of riches with the emphasis on “embarrassment.”

If you ask most Las Vegans about the A’s, the majority will likely shrug their shoulders and say, “Meh. Who cares?” That’s not to say they don’t want an MLB team to join their NFL, NHL and WNBA franchises and co-exist with their popular Triple-A baseball team, the Aviators. They just prefer it not be the A’s, especially a publicly subsidized A’s. You give Las Vegas an MLB expansion team and watch the interest and support soar.

Yes, it’s a process which will take longer to fulfill. But ultimately, you would likely see far more support for an expansion team, one that the community can claim as its own rather than one run by a carpetbagging owner who likely would look to cash out once he has his Vegas ballpark following his receiving corporate welfare from the state and county and the valuation of his franchise soars so he can recoup his hefty investment. 

You need only look at the Raiders, Las Vegas’ NFL team. With Allegiant Stadium as their home, the Raiders’ valuation is over $5 billion. That’s a far cry from when the team was in Oakland and the value of Mark Davis franchise was slightly over $1 billion. And the stadium is turning out to be worth the $750 million of public-supported funding that was approved for its construction. The Super Bowl will be played there in February. The NCAA Final Four is coming there in 2028. Big-time concerts featuring Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift and BTS are filling the place and bringing tourism dollars to town from the attendees. 

You can argue that the A’s ballpark will be more than just a place to play baseball. You could have concerts, trade shows, other sports (the National Finals Rodeo perhaps?) and make it generate revenue to help pay off whatever bonds are ultimately created to help pay for building the ballpark, which is expected to seat between 30,000 and 35,000 for baseball.

And if this notion of Kaval’s that 400,000 people are going to visit Las Vegas annually just to watch MLB is real? Yes, it makes sense to build it on the Strip where visitors can easily have access to getting there rather than at the Wild Wild West or Rio sites which would require tourists to walk in triple-degree heat to get there if they choose not to use a rideshare or taxi or rental car.

But for those of us who live here, the idea of traveling down to the Strip to watch baseball is not all that inviting. This isn’t like T-Mobile Arena or Allegiant Stadium where there are back ways into those facilities. At some point, you’re going to have to take Las Vegas Boulevard or Tropicana Avenue to get to the A’s ballpark at Tropicana. And trust me, that intersection is not pleasant to drive to. And even after the Nevada Department of transportation finishes its I-15 Tropicana interchange and widens the road, it’s still going to be nightmarish.

I guess us locals can ride the Las Vegas Monorail to the MGM Grand and walk across the street to the Tropicana ballpark site. We can all pretend we’re on the BART and make believe we’re getting off at the Coliseum. Or maybe there’ll be special gameday busses to A’s games, like the ones that exist for Raiders and Golden Knights games that cost just $2 each way and are very popular. 

If the A’s were indeed committed to Las Vegas, I was hoping, for purely selfish reasons, they would build on the Wild Wild West or Rio sites. I could use the surface streets to get there, or, like my friend and bicycle advocate Alan Snel planned to do, drive to a casino like The Orleans, park there for free, then bike the last couple of miles to the ballpark. I haven’t rode a bicycle in decades but that might be an investment worth making. Besides, I’m guessing I still haven’t forgotten how to ride a bike after all these years though navigating the streets with all the wacky drivers in Vegas might give me second thoughts.

But something tells me this is far from over. The clock is ticking in Carson City for the legislature to receive a detailed proposal for public funding. The Governor prefers not to call a special session to address the A’s request for hundreds of millions of dollars. And while $395 million, which the Nevada Independent reported would be the ask from the A’s in breaking the story earlier this week on the Trop site is less than $500 million, it’s still $395 million. 

Where I come from, that’s a lot of money and if I’m a legislator in Nevada or a commissioner in Clark County, I’m thinking long and hard before I approve any deal that includes public funding for a billionaire sports owner.

Guess we’ll have to stay tuned to “As the A’s Turn” to see what ultimately happens.