Monday, October 2, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Nevada Legislature balks on A’s stadium

Even after grilling team leadership on plans for a billion-dollar stadium for over four hours, lawmakers couldn't resolve financing issues.

(CN) — The Oakland A’s proposed move out of California and into Las Vegas has entered extra innings after the Nevada Legislature declined to vote Wednesday on a plan to bring the Major League Baseball team to the gambling mecca.

On the heels of a similar bill's failure in regular legislative session Monday night, A's leadership presented Senate Bill 1 during a special session called by Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo. Like its predecessor, the bill looks to allocate $380 million in public subsidies to build a 30,000-seat, $1.5 billion stadium with a retractable roof at Tropicana Las Vegas, which is set to be demolished. Public funding will include $180 million in transferable tax credits and $120 million in Clark County bonds.

Steve Hill, CEO and president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, teamed up with consultant Jeremy Aguero, owner of Applied Analysis, on a presentation and explanation of the bill before plenty of skeptical lawmakers and were grilled with questions — mostly about finances — for more than four hours.

Tropicana owner Bally’s also plans to build a 1,500-room hotel and casino on the property near the planned stadium. GLPI, a real estate firm that owns the land on which the Tropicana sits, will give the A's 9 acres of the 35-acre property for free.

Both Hill and Aguero informed lawmakers that they have analyzed the numbers and are confident bonds will be repaid while boosting the economy and tax base. Hill and Aguero said that two outside consulting firms gave their thumbs up to the plan, noting it was viable.

Proponents of the stadium say it won’t raise taxes and that it will generate enough money to pay off the bonds and interest. Much of the money will be generated by a special tax district around the stadium. Supporters also claim that the stadium will add to Las Vegas’ standing as a world-class tourism destination.

“Thousands of good jobs will happen because this is happening,” said Hill, “and to generate more tax revenue to provide services for all the work you do, because the stadium happens.”

Hill also mentioned the potential publicity value and free advertising for the area’s tourism industry along with a first-class facility.

“It will be the best place in the United States to take in a game,” Hill told lawmakers.

Detractors say giving public money to a billionaire baseball owner is not the path to take. A’s owner John Fisher, son of Gap Inc. founders Donald and Doris Fisher, is also owner of Major League Soccer's San Jose Earthquakes and Celtic F.C., a soccer team that plays in the Scottish Premiership.

Those critical of the bill say there’s plenty of other issues that need addressing, such as helping veterans and the homeless and improving schools and medical care.

Rochelle Nguyen, a Nevada state senator from the 3rd District, said she was “incredibly frustrated” by the governor vetoing bills for summer school, children’s mental health and paid family leave while considering doling out millions to a wealthy owner of a professional baseball team.

“This is the same bill we saw 10 days ago,” said Nguyen, wondering why there hadn’t been any changes made to it since lawmakers failed to make a move on it. She said she was annoyed that it was costing $250,000 a day “to keep us here,” referring to the cost of the special session.

State Senator Edgard Flores of the 2nd District questioned Aguero and Hill about the A’s community benefits program. He said he wanted to see some concrete numbers and that promises be written in the bill. He pointed to past promises he has seen in his lawmaking career that were never honored.

J.C. Bradbury, a professor of economics, finance and quantitative analysis at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, said that stadium deals always turn out to be a bad investment for public entities.

“Subsidized stadium deals never turn out good for taxpayers, despite claims to the contrary. Decades of economic research has demonstrated this to be true, which is why there is universal agreement among economists that stadiums are bad public investments,” he said. “It doesn't matter whether you put it (the stadium) downtown, in the suburbs, or surround it with a business/entertainment district or parking lots. It doesn't work because most spending at stadiums is just reallocated local spending. The case is closed. We are not one tweak away from figuring this out. This one will not be different."

The contentious political battle over the A's fate may not be over just yet: Lawmakers ended their A's business Wednesday at 11:45 p.m., but Governor Lombardo could still call for another special session of the Legislature.

Las Vegas and Clark County are home to several other professional sports franchises, including the National Hockey League's Las Vegas Golden Knights, an expansion team formed in 2017, and the Las Vegas Raiders, who relocated from Oakland in 2020.

Allegiant Stadium, home of the Raiders, was the top grossing venue in 2022, according to Billboard Magazine, grossing $182,503,448. But critics are questioning whether the well is dry in Sin City for public money for attempts to lure professional sports teams after the Raiders received $750 million from public coffers.

Categories / Business, Politics, Sports

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.