MLB Owners to Vote on A’s Las Vegas Move While Stadium Questions Linger

(Bloomberg) -- Major League Baseball owners are poised to vote this week on whether to allow the Oakland Athletics to move to Las Vegas, amid lingering questions about the team’s proposed new home stadium and where the club would play while the venue is being built.

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The 30 owners are convening in Arlington, Texas, starting Tuesday for a quarterly meeting, and the team’s prospective move is on the docket. The club needs to win over at least 75% of the other owners to move ahead with the plan to leave Oakland after 55 years in the Bay Area, all in the same ballpark — the aging Coliseum.

Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis, who’s advising the A’s as well as Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo on efforts to build a stadium in Las Vegas, expects the relocation to win approval. So does Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College, in large part because of what he sees as MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s support for the plan. Sports news site the Athletic reported that the owners are expected to clear the move Thursday.

“We’ve conducted a great amount of due diligence ahead of the vote,” Aguero said in a telephone interview.

Lombardo approved a $380 million public funding package in June for a new $1.5 billion ballpark, about two months after the team announced its decision to buy land in Las Vegas with the intention of building a stadium. The developments set the stage for this week’s vote, and potentially the end of A’s owner John Fisher’s nearly 20-year quest to find a new home for the team.

Read more: Oakland’s Baseball Future Hangs on a Waterfront Stadium Deal

Nevada’s financing plan ties the proposed stadium site to the location of what is now the Tropicana Las Vegas Casino Resort, near the Las Vegas Strip on land owned by Gaming and Leisure Properties, Inc.

The funding would become null and void if MLB owners fail to approve the A’s relocation, or if the team’s agreement with Gaming and Leisure falls through and the A’s need to seek another site. A filing last month from Gaming and Leisure shows their pact with the A’s is contingent on MLB clearing the move before Dec. 1.

Stadium Questions

As the owners gather, there are some key aspects of the plan that remain up in the air, such as whether the proposed Las Vegas ballpark will be ready before January 2028, the tentative completion date originally set by the A’s.

Another issue is that the team hasn’t secured a temporary home field to use before the planned Las Vegas venue is ready. The A’s were supposed to do that before the vote, ESPN reported in September.

MLB media representatives didn’t respond to phone calls seeking comment.

Erica George, an A’s spokesperson, said “we are respecting this process and look forward to having more comments after the vote.”

One solution would be for the team to extend its lease at the Coliseum for a few years. However, in exchange for an extension past 2024, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao wants a guarantee from MLB that the city will receive an expansion team should the A’s move to Nevada.

Meanwhile, Oakland’s city council passed a resolution this month reaffirming the city’s commitment to keeping the team.

Even if the relocation bid passes, there are still a number of steps – including a development agreement, lease agreement, non-relocation agreement and community benefits agreement – that the Las Vegas Stadium Authority still needs to complete before construction on a new ballpark can commence.

“This is not done yet and the A’s can still build a stadium in Oakland where we have not only one but in fact two approved sites that could readily accommodate a ballpark,” said Oakland city council member Rebecca Kaplan.

Clark County, the home of Las Vegas, would issue an estimated $120 million of debt to help pay for the new stadium. Revenue generated from a sports and entertainment improvement district encompassing the venue is expected to help repay the bonds. The remainder of the cost, plus any budget overruns, would be privately financed by Fisher, the A’s owner.

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