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Not MY Las Vegas A’s

Despite winning seven of their last ten games as of the morning of June 15, the Oakland Athletics still sit at an abysmal 19 – 51 on the season, only one game better than the equally awful Kansas City Royals (although the A’s do have the worst run differential in Major League Baseball at -195). As crazy as it may sound, the poor performance is intentional – not by the players, but by the ownership of the team. The thought process, again, as crazy as it may sound, is that by putting a losing team on the field, John Fisher and the ownership team could help shoehorn a move of the team to Las Vegas for financial reasons. Fans are (rightfully) angry at this decision given that Fisher has spent years running the team on a stingy payroll,[1] ranking 27th out of 30 Major League Baseball teams in spending since the 2016 season and never ranking higher than 23rd, while also trading away some of the team’s top young talent. After striking out (pun not intended) numerous times when trying to obtain public funding with the city of Oakland for a new stadium,[2] Fisher and ownership set their sights on Las Vegas. Not even a reverse-boycott, where 27,659 fans of the Oakland Athletics packed the stadium and chanted for Fisher to sell the team (among other less kind words),[3] could make the ownership stop to think about the ramifications of moving the team

The move to Las Vegas has been seemingly imminent since ownership signed a deal earlier this year to purchase a 49-acre site just west of the Las Vegas Strip to build a new stadium.[3] An aggressive timeline for the building was set: ground would be broken in 2024, with the first season of playing as the Las Vegas A’s to be 2027.[5] Even with a contract for the land needed to build the stadium in place, there were still several pieces that ownership would need to figure out before they could fully commit to the move – the purchase and sale agreement with the land was surely peppered with closing conditions that would need to be satisfied before the ownership group would close on the land. (The closing conditions ultimately will not matter as the team backed out of this contract in favor of an agreement with Bally’s Corporation to lease the land it owns for the stadium given that ownership was once again having issues obtaining local funding, this time in Las Vegas instead of Oakland).[6] With the stadium set to cost approximately $1.5 billion, ownership asked for public funding from the Nevada Legislature in the amount of approximately $395 million (just under the $500 million the team was initially expected to ask for before working out the Bally’s arrangement).[7] Public funding is by no means guaranteed, and it is often hotly debated as cities and their residents question whether they should take on increased taxes in order to help pay for a billionaire’s (Fisher is estimated at a net worth of 2.2 billion) new stadium, but it has increasingly become the norm for professional sports teams looking to upgrade their stadiums. Sports are big business, and big business often gets what it wants through a combination of money and lobbying power.

Ownership did, however, hit an initial snag as the Nevada Legislature reportedly was only willing to fund up to $195 million in transferable tax credits for funding the construction of the stadium.[8] Among financial issues, per Michael Colbruno, the team also needed to work through a transportation mobility study and parking study in order to ensure that the stadium would be feasible from a planning perspective.

Despite the hurdles faced in the Nevada Legislature, and the general hostility of fans of the OAKLAND Athletics, ownership scored a major win this week as the Nevada Legislature approved $380 million in funding for a new Major League Baseball ballpark in Las Vegas.[9][10] The next two steps, signing of the bill into law by Nevada’s Governor, Joe Lombardo, and approval of major league owners, is all but guaranteed at this point. Interestingly enough, to appease the concerns of local taxpayers, ownership guaranteed an annual value of $2 million in community benefits from the stadium.[11] The term "community benefits" is a bit of a loose term without any real definition, but here’s to hoping that the new stadium makes good on its promise of being a good steward in its community, even if it may be the bane of fans being left behind in Oakland.

Grant Williamson is a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law - J.D., Class of 2019. He can be found on Twitter @GrantWilli33.

Sources: [1] John Fisher is redefining sports owner malpractice as he spitefully tries to move his Oakland A's to Las Vegas - Fisher was also the only owner of a Major League Baseball team NOT to pay minor leaguers during the cancelled 2020 season, only deciding to pay the players once public disfavor reached a breaking point. Id. [2] The Las Vegas A's? The latest on potential move from Oakland - ESPN. [3] Oakland to Las Vegas: A's move could be held up over request for nearly $400M in public funding, per report -

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