Athletics is running out of time to find a home in Oakland, Las Vegas

The Oakland Athletics have spent years trying to get a new stadium while watching Bay Area neighbors like the Giants, Warriors, 49ers, and Raiders successfully move to modern venues, and now they’re running out of time in their efforts.

The A’s lease on RingCentral Coliseum expires after the 2024 season, and although they may have to extend the terms, the stadium has been deemed unsuitable for a professional franchise by the club and Major League Baseball.

They are looking for a new stadium in Oakland or Las Vegas, but have struggled in both areas. The A’s missed a key October deadline for a deal in Oakland, and there was little sign that they would get the kind of funding they wanted from Las Vegas.

“I think the A’s have to look at it two ways,” said Brendan Bousman, managing partner at Las Vegas-based B Global. “Obviously they struggled in Auckland to get a deal across the finish line. Not for lack of effort. … You have an owner who wants to make money, you have a club that wants to sit there and figure out a way to make it work, and you keep running into snags along the way.”

“Time to fish or cut the bait. Oakland, do you want them or not? And if not, where will he get the best deal? Is it Vegas? Is he somewhere else? They’ll have to figure it out.”

What A thinks is a bit of a mystery. Team president Dave Kaval was talkative earlier in the process, saying the A’s are pursuing two different paths with Oakland and Las Vegas. But he has been silent on this subject for several months. Mostly A spokeswoman Catherine Acker said recently that the club would refrain from commenting for the time being.

The A’s are negotiating with Oakland to build a $1 billion stadium as part of a $12 billion redevelopment deal.

The newly elected mayor, Sheng Thao, said a deal was important as long as it made economic sense for the city. Her predecessor, Libby Schaff, had led an earlier effort to reach a deal, but after City and the A’s missed an October deadline, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred expressed reservations about a deal that would ever be done.

“The pace in Oakland wasn’t fast, single digits,” Manfred said at the time. “We’re on a really untenable field. I mean, we need to do something to turn the situation around. So I’m concerned about the lack of pace.”

California’s recent history justifies his concerns. SoFi Stadium in Southern California and Chase Center in San Francisco were built with private money, and Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara is 90% privately funded.

“Then I think there was some contagion as people around the country realized that these deals could very well be done in the private sector and could generate a return on investment for these investors,” said David Carter, a professor of sports business at the University of Southern California. “Why are we spending public money at all?”

This is also a question being asked in Las Vegas, even though in 2016 the Raiders secured $750 million from the Nevada State Legislature to buy a stadium. It was then the largest amount of public money for a sports venue, but it was surpassed last March by the $850 million pledged to build a new stadium for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

Another deal like that for Allegiant Stadium, where the Raiders play, seems unlikely in Nevada. T-Mobile Arena, which opened in 2017, is privately funded. The planned arena south of the Las Vegas Strip would also not be dependent on public funds.

However, Las Vegas Financing has shown creativity. The Triple-A baseball stadium was awarded $80 million in 2017 for the naming rights from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Chamber taxes funded the power, so public money was in a back door way.

Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft, who sits on the conference authority’s board, spoke with A’s representatives about their interest in Las Vegas and said he’s aware of the club’s talks with other Nevada officials. He said the A’s are taking a much different approach than the Raiders, who identified Las Vegas early on as their landing site after many years failing to land a new stadium in Oakland.

“When the Raiders decided to come to Las Vegas, they had a clear plan,” Naft said. “You had a clear body charged with evaluating value and value, and stick to the destination. I haven’t seen that from an Oakland A’s on any level, and it’s not our duty to go out and beg them to come here because we’ve earned the reputation of the greatest arena on earth. We put both dollars and labor into making this the case.

“I think I’ve made myself clear, but through conversations with others, I don’t think I’m alone in that.”

“He will not raise taxes” to attract any team or any other team, said Elizabeth Rae, a spokeswoman for new Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo. But it said the club could qualify for other ongoing “economic development programmes”, which could mean tax breaks similar to what Tesla received in 2014.

Manfred said in December that the A’s transfer fee would be waived if they moved to Las Vegas, savings for the club amounting to $1 billion.

“We are well past any reasonable timetable for resolving the situation in Oakland,” Manfred said at the time.

Naft said Allegiant Stadium filled a hole that outlasted an NFL team’s touchdown. It has allowed Las Vegas to attract major sporting events like the Super Bowl and Final Four and major concerts like Garth Brooks and Elton John that “in many cases we wouldn’t have otherwise.”

He said he didn’t think a baseball stadium would make it happen, and sports economist Victor Matheson agreed.

“I think there’s a real question about how willing people are to watch baseball in Las Vegas,” said Matheson, a professor at the College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. “It’s not like locals don’t have a plethora of entertainment options right now, and it’s not clear exactly how many people might be traveling to see baseball in Vegas either.”

Naft said that if A really wanted to be in Las Vegas, she needed to make it clear.

“I think you can’t play destinations against each other,” Naft said. “If you want to come here and you want to meet with open arms, you have to commit.”

If the A’s fail to come to an agreement in Oakland or Las Vegas, they can consider other destinations such as Charlotte, North Carolina; Nashville. and Portland, Oregon. Whether they have time to explore such options is another question.

Oakland has already shown that it will see the Raiders take on the Nevada Warriors go across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco.

Matheson noted that Las Vegas is not in a desperate situation. He also expressed caution that Las Vegas could go from being among the largest metropolitan areas without a major professional sports team to among the smallest with three franchises.

“I kind of went from not exercising to over-exercising in a short period of time if the first-class guys were going to go there,” Matheson said.

— Mark Anderson, Associated Press sports writer

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