Courtesy of AP
Thursday, June 15, 2023 | 5:11 p.m.
Gov. Joe Lombardo signed into law today the $380 million public financing package for a proposed $1.5 billion baseball stadium off the Las Vegas Strip, leaving formal approval from Major League Baseball owners as the final lynchpin in the Oakland Athletics’ relocation bid to Southern Nevada.
Lombardo signed Senate Bill 1 of the 35th special legislative session in front of a small gathering of A’s lobbyists a day after the measure cleared the legislature. The governor intends to have a ceremonial signing in Las Vegas within the next two weeks, according to a spokesperson from Lombardo’s office.
“I’m excited to officially sign SB1 this afternoon,” Lombardo said in a statement. “This is an incredible opportunity to bring the A’s to Nevada, and this legislation reflects months of negotiations between the team, the state, the county, and the league. Las Vegas’ position as a global sports destination is only growing, and Major League Baseball is another tremendous asset for the city.”
Construction on the 30,000-seat stadium to be built on the current site of the Tropicana Hotel would be scheduled to begin next year.
Signing of the bill all but ended the A’s conquest for a new stadium in Oakland, after negotiations for a state-of-the-art waterfront ballpark in Oakland off the San Francisco Bay stalled following years of back-and-forth with city officials. Earlier today, MLB owners began the monthslong approval process to give the A’s the OK to relocate from Northern California.
Team officials lauded passage of the bill, and thanked the governor, legislators and Clark County officials for their diligence in getting a deal done. A’s representatives said the ballpark, which will be built at the current site of the Tropicana Hotel, should be open in time for the start of the 2028 season.
“Today is a significant step forward in securing a new home for the Athletics,” the team said in a statement. “We will now begin the process with MLB to apply for relocation to Las Vegas.
“We are excited about Southern Nevada’s dynamic and vibrant professional sports scene, and we look forward to becoming a valued community member through jobs, economic development, and the quality of life and civic pride of a Major League Baseball team.”
Signing of the bill all but ends the A’s conquest for a new stadium, after negotiations for a state-of-the-art waterfront ballpark in Oakland off the San Francisco Bay stalled following years of back-and-forth with city officials. Earlier today, MLB owners began the monthslong approval process to move the club from Northern California.
Speaking to reporters Thursday after the conclusion of an owners meeting in New York, Commissioner Rob Manfred bemoaned the team’s inability to stay in Oakland, but defended A’s owner John Fisher, who has maintained public silence.
“I feel sorry for the fans in Oakland. I do not like this outcome. I understand why they feel the way they do,” Manfred said. “I think that the real question is what is it that Oakland was prepared to do? There is no Oakland offer. They never got to the point where they had a plan to build a stadium at any site.”
Manfred said the team must submit a relocation application explaining its efforts in Oakland and why Las Vegas is a better market. The committee will define the new operating territory and television territory, then makes a recommendation to Manfred and the eight-man executive council. The group makes a recommendation to all clubs, which must approve the move by at least three-quarters vote.
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao denied the claim the city had made no ballpark offer.
“There was a very concrete proposal under discussion and Oakland had gone above and beyond to clear hurdles, including securing funding for infrastructure, providing an environmental review and working with other agencies to finalize approvals,” spokeswoman Julie Edwards said in a statement. “The reality is the A’s ownership had insisted on a multibillion-dollar, 55-acre project that included a ballpark, residential, commercial and retail space. In Las Vegas, for whatever reason, they seem satisfied with a 9-acre leased ballpark on leased land. If they had proposed a similar project in Oakland, we feel confident a new ballpark would already be under construction.”
Manfred said there will not be a relocation fee.
The stadium bill was amended twice to add provisions revising the team’s community benefits agreement, compelling the state to pay a prevailing wage for railroad and monorail projects and mandatory family and medical leave for companies receiving tax abatements.
Among the new community benefits the team is required to give out, A’s will make annual donations of $2 million or 1% of ticket sales, whichever is greater. The team must also adhere to workforce diversity requirements, pay a “living wage” to employees of the project, and contributions to a county fund for low-income housing.
Further, the amendment added Wednesday restores language to keep the Nevada State Treasurer as a nonvoting member of the Clark County Stadium Authority, and requires that the director of community benefits for the project be a county resident for at least five years and not a current or former employee of the A’s.
The ladder two provisions were revived measures that advanced through the Democrat-controlled legislature and vetoed by Lombardo, a first-term Republican, who criticized mandatory prevailing wage laws while campaigning.
The amendments also establish community engagement requirements that mandate participation by A’s players in community and education programs, as well as provisions for the donations of tickets and a ballpark suite for charitable, community or economic development organizations and programs aimed at supporting youth baseball in underserved communities.
As passed, the A’s are also required to enter into partnerships with local colleges and universities to provide workforce development programs in the sports industry, as well as provide scholarship and internship programs.
To ensure the A’s and the stadium developer are hitting key benchmarks for the project, a seven-member oversight body would be created.
It would consist of two board members of the Clark County Stadium Authority and two people appointed by the Clark County Commission. The governor, Assembly speaker and state Senate majority leader would each appoint one member, and the State Treasurer would serve as a nonvoting member.
The oversight committee would report at least once a year if the A’s and the stadium developer are in compliance with the provisions of the community benefits agreement. If the team or stadium developer fails to meet the benchmarks, it could initiate legal proceedings or other enforcement mechanisms.
Las Vegas would become the fourth home for a franchise that started in Philadelphia from 1901-54, moved to Kansas City for 13 seasons and arrived in Oakland for 1968.
The A’s for years have maintained the facilities at the Coliseum are untenable and have sought for ballpark options throughout California. They have explored ballpark options in Fremont, Sacramento and, most notably, a waterfront stadium along the San Francisco Bay as part of a $12 billion-plus development in Oakland.
The A’s would be the second MLB team to change cities in more than a half-century. Since the Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers for 1972, the only team to relocate has been the Montreal Expos, who became the Washington Nationals in 2005.
“It’s not just John Fisher,” Manfred said. “You don’t build a stadium based on the club activity alone. The community has to provide support. And at some point you come to the realization it’s just not going to happen.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.