LAS VEGAS — Well, it looks like Las Vegas will be getting a Major League Baseball team.
I say that with tongue firmly implanted in cheek.
The Athletics, who are major league in name only, appear to be headed this way after they announced late Wednesday they had purchased a 49-acre parcel of land at West Tropicana Avenue and Dean Martin Drive near Interstate 15 to build a ballpark which will seat between 30,000 and 35,000 at a cost of approximately $1.5 billion. It doesn’t say how much public money will be involved but you can rest assured there will be some sort of public funding component for the project.
I guess all that lobbying of the Nevada legislature by David Kaval, the A’s president, and others is paying off.
The site is where the Wild Wild West Hotel-Casino used to sit. The Fertitta family, which runs Red Rock Resorts and Station Casinos and owns the property, which totals 100 acres, appears to have made yet another shrewd land deal. They’ll still retain half the land of the site.
Hey, nobody ever said Frank and Lorenzo were stupid guys. Quite the opposite actually. They’re very astute businessmen who know this community. They’re building a new hotel-casino — Durango — on the west side of the 215 Freeway which is going to have zero competition when it opens this fall, likely ahead of schedule.
The ballpark site, one of 20 in Southern Nevada the A’s explored over the last couple of years, will be reachable from the Tourist Corridor on the Las Vegas Strip. It will be accessible to locals without having to take the freeway, though by the time they finish the improvements to the I-15-Tropicana interchange, it will be ready to accommodate the additional traffic to the ballpark.
It’s a good site to build at as it’s near both Allegiant Stadium and T-Mobile Arena, creating a “Sports Corridor” if you will with perhaps a tax district formed to help with the infrastructure costs and perhaps the ballpark itself.
It’s going to create jobs, both in the construction of the stadium and for those who will work in it when it opens. That’s always a good thing for the economy.
Plans are to have the A’s in their new home for 2027. That should give owner John Fisher enough time to put a product on the field that represents a major league ballclub because the one that currently resides in the American League West hardly qualifies as such. At 3-16, the Athletics are currently the worst team in all of baseball.
We know the A’s current situation in Oakland was untenable long-term. Hell, everyone knows that, from the commissioner’s office to the Oakland mayor’s office. Nobody likes to see a city lose assets like a professional sports team. And Oakland will be a four-time loser, being jilted, first by the Seals, who played in the NHL and moved to Cleveland in the mid-1970s, then the Raiders (twice, actually), then the Warriors, and now, the A’s. You feel for the fans who have supported the team and now will have to figure out if they want to shift their allegiances across the bay to the Giants or find another American League team to root for.
But let’s remember why these things happen. Professional sports are big business. And when businesses struggle, they either move or they shut down. The A’s said they’ve tried for over 20 years to find an equitable solution to their stadium situation and they’re not lying.
That said, it was clearly apparent that once MLB commissioner Rob Manfred gave his blessing for the A’s to explore a move to Las Vegas, Oakland’s days were numbered. And now, here we are.
The A’s lease at the Oakland Coliseum runs through 2024. Construction on their new home will likely be underway by the time the turn out the lights and perhaps MLB allows the team to play at Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin in the interim while its new home is being built. What happens to the Triple-A Aviators with all this I’m not sure. Those details will be announced in the coming months. But I’m pretty sure the possum who has claimed the visiting radio booth at the Coliseum as its home is not going to accompany the team to Vegas.
Here’s what we do know: the arrival of Major League Baseball in Las Vegas will be a game-changer for the city. It enhances what we already have in the pro sports landscape with the NFL and NHL and WNBA. It opens the door for the NBA to come here, which would likely happen at some point with or without baseball, and perhaps Major League Soccer, which I always thought made sense.
Like the Raiders, it gives kids in Las Vegas an opportunity to have a local team to root for as they grow up. It creates an opportunity for baseball to cultivate a new generation of fans. Adults are not likely to change their allegiances and become A’s fans. Yes, they’ll go to games, check out the ballpark, and when their team visits, they’ll be there rooting against the A’s. It’ll be an interesting and fun dichotomy when say, the Red Sox are in town and a father, a lifelong fan wearing his Red Sox cap, holds his 6-year-old daughter’s hand who is decked out in green and gold A’s gear as they get their tickets scanned on their smartphone entering the ballpark. It’s a sight you should get comfortable with seeing.
So as we celebrate here in Las Vegas, let’s not forget the sadness that is permeating throughout Oakland and the East Bay today as they lament the loss of their team. And let’s hope that when they yell “Play Ball!” in 2027, the team occupying the home dugout is of major league caliber as the stadium they occupy and the opponent they’re facing.