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The Nevada Independent

A’s owner open to selling minority shares of team to Las Vegas investors

In an interview following his first public speaking appearance in Vegas, John Fisher says selling small stakes creates a connection with the community.
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
A's stadiumEconomySports
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The owner of the Oakland Athletics said Wednesday he was exploring the sale of ownership shares of the Major League Baseball team to local investors ahead of the franchise’s planned move to Las Vegas in 2028.

In an interview with The Nevada Independent, A’s owner John Fisher said having local investors owning a minority stake in the A’s “creates another connection to the community” as the team plans its eventual move to Southern Nevada. 

Fisher said he wasn’t looking to sell ownership to any legal gaming companies because Major League Baseball has strict rules and guidelines governing team ownership.

“I think the more we get to know and connect with the community, the greater chance we have for success,” Fisher said.

The team is receiving $380 million in public financing for the stadium that was approved by Nevada lawmakers last summer in a special legislative session and did not have unanimous approval.

The A’s are planning to build a $1.5 billion, 33,000-seat stadium on 9 acres of a 35-acre Strip location that houses the Tropicana Las Vegas. Bally’s Corp., which operates the Tropicana, plans to close and demolish the resort to allow for construction of the ballpark. Bally’s plans to redevelop its portion of the site after the stadium is completed.

Supporters of the team in Oakland, including the mayor, have criticized team management and Fisher for not making a genuine effort to keep the team in the Bay Area, where it has resided since 1968. The team was accused of intentionally not investing in the Oakland Coliseum so that it could leave for a new home on the Strip. The mayor even went so far as to say that the team had negotiated in bad faith with the city.

“I know there are no words that I can say that are going to make people at home who are really upset about the team leaving feel better about the team or about me,” Fisher said. “All I can do is say, I gave everything I had to try and make things work. We're very excited to be coming to Las Vegas and this is where our new home is going to be.”

Fisher said he and his family “have the equity” to finance the more than $1.1 billion in private funds needed for the stadium’s construction. If he were to raise capital through local investors, his family “would retain majority ownership and oversee operations” of the team.

He said bringing on minority investors for the A’s is a business model that has worked for NBA’s Golden State Warriors, “which has 25 different owners.” 

The A’s canceled a December unveiling of new renderings for the ballpark to replace ones that were distributed during the legislative session. The A’s had been secretive about the renderings, although the team was showing them to key decision-makers and gaming executives.

Fisher said Wednesday the A’s asked Bally’s and Gaming and Leisure Properties — which owns the 35 acres — to offer conceptual designs of a new hotel, casino and entertainment attraction. 

“We think that will give everyone a better picture of what the redeveloped location would resemble,” Fisher said. 

A’s President Dave Kaval said in December the team hoped to have the renderings available when the A’s play the Milwaukee Brewers at Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin for two spring training games, March 8-9. 

Fisher squashed internet rumors that the A’s were looking at alternatives to the Tropicana site, touting the benefits of the property, given its proximity to the airport, Strip resorts operated by MGM Resorts International and the ongoing improvements to the Tropicana Boulevard-Interstate 15 interchange that will be completed by 2028.

“We’re excited by the location, we’re meeting with our general contractors and looking forward to moving past this design phase,” Fisher said.

Fisher’s comments followed his 15-minute chat with Vegas Chamber of Commerce CEO Mary Beth Sewald at the chamber’s annual Preview event. The discussion in a ballroom at the Fontainebleau Las Vegas resort in front of an estimated 1,500 attendees marked the first time Fisher has discussed the A’s move to Southern Nevada in a public setting.

Major League Baseball owners unanimously approved the A’s relocation in November. The team will play in Oakland in 2024 and is currently exploring temporary markets for the following three years before the Las Vegas ballpark is completed. 

Fisher wouldn’t address those locations but it has been publicly reported the team is looking at minor league stadiums in Sacramento and Salt Lake City, or sharing Oracle Park with the San Francisco Giants. 

Mary Beth Sewald, left, President/CEO of the Vegas Chamber, moderates a conversation with John Fisher, owner of Major League Baseball's Oakland Athletics, during Preview Las Vegas 2024 on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Creating a presence

Fisher said one of the biggest challenges the A’s face is building a presence in Las Vegas leading up to the team’s anticipated arrival in 2028.

The team announced Wednesday it had given $1,250 to every youth baseball and softball organization in the state. The team awarded an additional $18,000 to Southern Nevada’s two Little League districts.

“We've already started our community benefits work,” Fisher said.

Fisher added that the A’s intend to continue the team’s affiliation with the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators, whose CEO, Don Logan, attended Preview. He said Major League Baseball supports the affiliate being in the same market.

He would also like to find ways of engaging players into the community, following a trail that has been blazed by Las Vegas’ professional sports teams — the Vegas Golden Knights, Las Vegas Raiders and the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces.

He said the model set by the Raiders that incorporated the team’s history while making sure the local community “feels like it’s our team” is the path he wants to follow.

“The history of the A’s is something we think is to be celebrated,” Fisher said of a team that has been around since 1901, has won nine World Series titles and has played in Philadelphia, Kansas City and Oakland.

“But we want the Athletics to be the Las Vegas Athletics,” he said.

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