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Indy Gaming: A’s turn on the charm during a Las Vegas weekend

The team won’t play a regular season game at its new stadium for at least four years, an eternity in Las Vegas’ evolving sports landscape.
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
A's stadiumEconomyGamingSports

The A’s came to Las Vegas last week, played two games and openly displayed the once elusive stadium renderings. I’m surprised they weren’t printed on an A’s T-shirt and sold in the team store. But the A’s have much to do before construction begins on the $1.5 billion stadium on the Strip.

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It will be at least four years before the Oakland Athletics officially become the Las Vegas Athletics. 

But the team’s two spring training games last week at Las Vegas Ballpark carried a bit more significance than the seven previous times the A’s have been part of Big League Weekend.

A’s President Dave Kaval termed Friday and Saturday as the Major League Baseball team’s Las Vegas “debut.”

The A’s sales team had a “Get on Deck for Vegas 2028” table on the concourse with a prominently displayed QR code directing fans to sign up for information about the team and future season ticket sales. 

The team store for the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators had more A’s merchandise than in years past, including baseball caps with the minor league team’s LV logo but in the A’s green and gold color scheme. 

Kaval said he understood the A’s need to build beyond two annual spring training games and have a year-round presence in Southern Nevada long before 2028. 

Three days before the team’s first spring training game — and more than nine months after state lawmakers approved legislation for $380 million in public financing to build a stadium — the A’s released new renderings of their planned $1.5 billion, 33,000-seat ballpark on a 35-acre Strip site housing the soon-to-be-demolished Tropicana Las Vegas. 

The A’s wanted to celebrate the milestone.

Before Friday’s game, a roped-off area in front of the first base dugout allowed invited guests to stand on the field and watch batting practice. State and local lawmakers, labor leaders and others responsible for helping push through the stadium legislation mingled with team representatives, including A’s owner John Fisher. 

The historically media-shy Fisher bantered with several Las Vegas reporters.

Hall of Fame pitcher Rollie Fingers, who was part of the team’s three World Series championships in the 1970s and is now a Southern Nevada resident, joined the festivities, posing for photos and offering support for the Las Vegas move.

Before the game, the A’s brought dozens of young fans on the field to represent Nevada’s 22 youth baseball and softball leagues and presented them with donations totaling $200,000.

The team’s elephant mascot, Stomper, joined the mascots from Summerlin and the Aviators — the A’s top farm team since 2019 — for the pregame activities. 

A’s manager Mark Kotsay said most of the players brought to Las Vegas from the spring training site in Mesa, Arizona, will be on the Aviators’ opening day roster in a few weeks. 

“It gives them a chance to get their feet on the ground and experience this place,” Kotsay said. 

According to the Aviators, the two games with the Milwaukee Brewers at the 10,000-seat Ballpark had a combined attendance of 17,280 — more than 7,900 on a chilly Friday night and a near sellout of more than 9,300 on a pleasant Saturday afternoon — signifying a clear effort by the franchise to establish a presence. 

However, the team has numerous unanswered questions before it moves to Las Vegas. The $1.2 billion private financing piece hasn’t been settled, although Fisher told the San Francisco Chronicle last week that $200 million would come from debt, $500 million from his family and yet-to-be-determined equity investors would be responsible for another $500 million.

“Our goal is to have everything to present to Clark County by sometime this summer,” Kaval said this weekend.

Another overhanging question — where the A’s will play home games in 2025 as their lease with the Oakland Coliseum expires this year.

“We have the stadium designs and we’ve shared our vision and our timeline,” Kaval said. “All those things are coming together. It’s fair that people have been asking questions and we're just slowly answering one at a time. We won't have all the answers right away.”

With the design in place, a few details were revealed about the stadium.

According to the architect, the roof’s tallest point is 290 feet — 255 feet above the playing field and 35 feet added by the building’s support base. The stadium’s peak is 60 feet taller than the Tropicana’s towers.

Kaval said the designs have been shown to Federal Aviation Administration consultants who believe the roof’s design blocks out light from the ballpark and alleviates concerns about its proximity to Harry Reid International Airport.

Also, the stadium won’t be in the far southeast corner of the site as shown in previous renderings.

“It’s more to the center than people realize,” Kaval noted. He said landowner Gaming and Leisure Properties and Bally’s Corp., operator of the soon-to-be-demolished Tropicana, were on board with the change. The plaza entrance area extends from the ballpark out to the Strip.

Architect Bjarke Ingels talks about his design for a new A's stadium on the Strip during a press conference at Las Vegas Ballpark on March 8, 2024. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Architect: Stadium comparison to Opera House ‘accidental triumph’

Former Las Vegas journalist Ian Mylchreest, who now lives in Sydney, Australia, emailed me last week about the comparison between designs for the A’s $1.5 billion Las Vegas stadium and the Sydney Opera House.

“I hope the appearance is the only similarity between the new A's stadium and the Sydney Opera House,” Mylchreest wrote.

According to the Sydney Opera House website, the original cost was estimated at $7 million in 1956. Construction began in 1959 but wasn’t completed until 14 years later with a final price tag of $102 million — paid for by proceeds from a government lottery. The original architect, Jørn Utzon from Denmark, was fired before the building was completed.

“Masterpiece though it is, the delays and costs brought down a state government,” wrote Mylchreest, who worked in Las Vegas from 2002 to 2014 as an editor with the Las Vegas Business Press and a producer at KNPR. He said having the lottery pay for construction, “prevented it from becoming a total financial crisis.” 

Bjarke Ingels, the architect who developed the stadium design, also happens to be Danish. He said Friday he was “quite surprised but also quite happy” about the comparisons to the Opera House, saying it is “one of the most elegant buildings on Earth. To make something so large draw notations to something so elegant, I see as an accidental triumph.”

Attendees gather around AGS slot machines during G2E in Las Vegas on Oct. 11, 2023. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

AGS CEO says slot maker will benefit by IGT-Everi merger

The $6.2 billion merger between Everi Holdings and International Game Technology (IGT) will create a slot machine industry giant competing for casino market share with the two leading gaming equipment providers, Aristocrat Gaming and Light & Wonder.

But David Lopez, CEO of Las Vegas-based slot developer AGS, viewed the merger as a positive for smaller slot machine providers. During AGS’s fourth-quarter conference call last week, Lopez used history as an example when asked about the Everi-IGT deal.

He cited the combined $14.3 billion in four gaming equipment provider mergers between 2012 and 2014 that created two gaming industry behemoths and shook up the supplier landscape.

Lopez, who has been CEO of AGS since 2014, said after the mega-mergers, smaller suppliers tripled their game sales over the next few years.

IGT’s slot machine division and its digital gaming operations will be spun off from the lottery business into a separate public company. According to the Feb. 29 announcement, the new company will combine with Everi, with the merged operations taking on the historic IGT name.

AGS was created as a slot machine supplier to the tribal gaming industry but eventually expanded into commercial casino markets, including Nevada. In 2015, AGS acquired another small slot maker, Cadillac Jack, for $370 million, flying under the radar of the giant mega-mergers.

“We think [the IGT-Everi merger] will create a little air pocket here for some smooth sailing, and give us an opportunity to sort of step up and get more eyeballs from the customers,” he said.

Lopez said AGS, which has been considered a potential merger candidate in the past few years, said the company would just “run its playbook” as the IGT-Everi deal winds its way through the approval process, which could stretch into early 2025.

A customer looks over his Super Bowl LVI wager placed at the BetMGM sportsbook at the MGM Grand Las Vegas on Feb. 11, 2022. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

News, notes and quotes

BetMGM unveils responsible gaming ad with hockey standout McDavid

Sports betting operator BetMGM launched a new ad with NHL reigning MVP Connor McDavid discussing responsible gaming. McDavid, who plays for the Edmonton Oilers, has been featured in previous ads with Hall of Fame hockey player Wayne Gretzky promoting the sports betting app operated by MGM Resorts International. 

In a statement, McDavid said the ad is "all about being responsible if you choose to bet — staying in control and not getting carried away. That's super important to me. And I really hope it's advice that everyone follows."


CasaBlanca in Mesquite to undergo $6 million renovation

Mesquite Gaming will spend $6 million on remodeling the CasaBlanca Resort & Casino beginning in May with a targeted fall completion. The renovation will double the size of the casino’s center bar, add a new sports bar and expand the casino floor with more than 200 new slot machines.

Oaktree Capital Management acquired Mesquite Gaming last year for an undisclosed price and hired gaming industry veteran Justin Moore as CEO. The company also operates Virgin River Hotel & Casino in Mesquite. 


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