The Nevada Independent

Your state. Your news. Your voice.

The Nevada Independent

Lofty numbers of latest poll aside, A’s Las Vegas credibility continues to melt

John L. Smith
John L. Smith
Las Vegas RaidersOpinion

I don’t tell everyone this, but I like ice cream.

Strawberry ice cream has been a personal favorite since childhood, but just about any flavor is fine. A sherbet will do in a pinch, and I suppose I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a frozen yogurt. But, if given a choice, I would pick ice cream.

Especially free ice cream.

With the release of this past week’s poll by the Oakland A’s proclaiming 74 percent of Southern Nevadans surveyed support the team’s plan for a $1.5 billion, 30,000-seat stadium, you could almost hear the song of the ice cream vendor coming. He’s headed this way, and he’s practically giving it away.

The Mellman Group is a credible outfit, but its survey of 700 Clark County registered voters between April 29 and May 5 fell victim to the same chaos that’s been confounding others following the team’s strange journey. At the time of the survey, A’s executives were trumpeting their “binding agreement” with Red Rock Resorts for a stadium and entertainment district at Tropicana Avenue just west of Interstate 15. 

By the time the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported the team’s best version of the numbers this week, the A’s had parted ways with Red Rock and had sidled up to Bally’s Corp. and Gaming and Leisure Properties for a site next to the Tropicana.

That new entertainment district considered essential to the team’s public funding tax calculus had vanished. The poll story came after what can politely be called a clarification by the gaming company to its employees attempting to tamp down speculation and made a point of stating that the plan was far from sealed.

The window shopping of A’s owner John Fisher and president Dave Kaval has incensed some Strip executives who were once excited, or at least intrigued, by the idea of having a Big League baseball addition to Las Vegas’ growing professional sports portfolio. It’s done nothing to bolster the confidence of state lawmakers who would like to keep their jobs and currently lack the political cover to show much affection for the team’s morphing plans.

The out-of-towners have talked a confident game up and down the Strip, but at this point casino industry executives and key lawmakers can’t be blamed for wondering if their word is worth much.

With fewer than three weeks remaining in the legislative session, as the Indy first reported this week, lawmakers have balked at approving a $500 million tax set-aside plan to fund a large portion of the stadium construction. The A’s are now seeking legislative approval of a plan to use taxes they generate to fund a mere $395 million in public financing for their new stadium. As of Friday morning, the free ice cream men had not provided lawmakers with a bill draft and were still trying to work the numbers with increasingly skeptical Clark County officials.

Perhaps what’s most relevant is the question the team’s poll failed to ask directly: “Do you support the use of public financing for a private stadium?”

In this light, that 74 percent advertisement was about as insightful as last year’s box scores. Of greater interest was The Nevada Independent and Noble Predictive Insights poll taken April 18-26, which indicated a lot less excitement from the voting public. Just 41 percent said they supported public assistance for the stadium plan with 38 percent opposed and the rest with either a tepid opinion or none at all.

It's hard to blame Las Vegans for a lack of excitement. Oakland’s fans aren’t thrilled about the A’s or their ownership.

This is an American League team that has the poorest home attendance in baseball and recently officially drew 2,064 fans to a stadium that seats 46,847. On the field, the team is heading for one of the worst records in Major League history. It’s little wonder The New York Times recently called the A’s the “Loneliest Team in Baseball.”

Free ice cream, anyone?

Another problem with the A’s plan is that it has no appreciable community outreach. It has neither the home-grown foundation of the Vegas Golden Knights nor the unbridled excitement that accompanied the arrival of the Oakland Raiders.

Unlike the Raiders, the team lacks the muscle and money bags of the late casino titan Sheldon Adelson and the vocal buy-in of other important players on the Strip. The A’s have nothing approaching the legislative fandom that went on in Carson City for the Raiders.

The Athletics have plenty of former stars. So why aren’t they busy back-slapping lawmakers and talking about the franchise’s interest in being part of the Southern Nevada landscape.

They could be, but they’re not. Why?

This latest stadium iteration might yet stagger across the plate, but the A’s are positioning themselves not as a genuine part of the Las Vegas community, but as a Strip casino-resort amenity.

Like Cirque du Soleil with a high ERA.

John L. Smith is an author and longtime columnist. He was born in Henderson and his family’s Nevada roots go back to 1881. His stories have appeared in Time, Readers Digest, The Daily Beast, Reuters, Ruralite and Desert Companion, among others. He also offers weekly commentary on Nevada Public Radio station KNPR.


Featured Videos

7455 Arroyo Crossing Pkwy Suite 220 Las Vegas, NV 89113
Privacy PolicyRSSContactNewslettersSupport our Work
The Nevada Independent is a project of: Nevada News Bureau, Inc. | Federal Tax ID 27-3192716