Sources: Baseball commissioner and Lombardo discuss potential A’s move to Las Vegas
Gov. Joe Lombardo said Thursday he would not support a tax increase to pay for a baseball stadium for the Oakland A’s despite having discussed the subject with Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred shortly after the November election.
The A’s have been on a two-year quest to find a new home to replace its dilapidated 57-year-old Ring Coliseum in Oakland. The team has been hoping to reach a deal on a new waterfront ballpark but has said it would relocate to Las Vegas if it could secure a location with favorable financing terms.
Former Gov. Steve Sisolak previously met with team representatives but said at the end of 2021 he was “not inclined” to consider a public financing package for the A’s. Prior to his election as governor, Sisolak supported a $750 million room tax package to help fund the $1.9 billion Allegiant Stadium, which secured the relocation of the Las Vegas Raiders from Oakland. Sisolak was chairman of the Clark County Commission at the time.
Manfred, according to sources, spoke on the phone with Lombardo shortly after he defeated Sisolak in the general election. Representatives from Major League Baseball and the governor’s office declined to comment on the phone call.
In an emailed statement Thursday, a spokeswoman for Lombardo said the governor “will not raise state taxes to bring a sports team to Nevada. However, the Oakland A's, or any other team or company looking to relocate to Nevada, may or may not be eligible for a variety of existing economic development programs in the state.”
It’s unclear what programs Lombardo was alluding to.
“The Governor’s Office of Economic Development stands ready to work with local jurisdictions to see what possibilities there are for different structures,” said GOED spokesman Greg Bortolin.
Sisolak told A’s representatives more than a year ago there were different types of public financing the team could consider. He said infrastructure, such as freeway exits and entrances, could possibly be funded by Clark County.
In a July 2021 interview with The Nevada Independent, A’s President David Kaval said the team was on a “parallel path” between developing a new ballpark in Oakland and possibly moving to a new stadium in Las Vegas.
Kaval did not return a message seeking comment Thursday.
The A’s are seemingly running out of options to remain in Oakland through an effort to build a 35,000-seat ballpark as part of a 56-acre waterfront site near the city’s Jack London Square. Last fall, the city missed a key funding deadline. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Transportation rejected a nearly $183 million application by the city through the agency’s Mega Grant Program.
During the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings in December, Manfred said the team was “past any reasonable timeline for the situation in Oakland to be resolved.” The A’s have played at the Coliseum since 1968 and their lease expires after the 2024 season. He has also said a relocation fee would be waived if the A’s found a new home in Las Vegas.
The A’s interest in Southern Nevada comes six years after Raiders gained the single-largest-ever pot of public money for a stadium project in the U.S. A special session of the Legislature was needed to approve an increase in the Strip’s 6.5 percent hotel room tax.
As of late last year, the team was focused on two Las Vegas sites on opposite ends of the Strip – land which includes the Tropicana Hotel Casino to the south and the Las Vegas Festival Grounds along Sahara Avenue to the north.
The Tropicana site is owned by real estate investment trust Gaming and Leisure Properties (GLPI) while the hotel-casino is operated by Bally’s Corp. Last April, GLPI Chairman Peter Carlino said on a quarterly earnings conference call the A’s seemed most interested in putting a baseball stadium next to the hotel-casino.
“They've looked at others (sites),” Carlino said. “I think … it’s safe for me to say that they have a very, very strong interest in our site if the transaction can work to their advantage.”
In early January, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported talks between the A’s and casino owner Phil Ruffin, who owns the Festival Grounds, have gone silent.
In a December interview, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Steve Hill said Major League Baseball sees the value in being in Las Vegas and that having a team would also be beneficial for Las Vegas.
“Things that ought to work out don't always happen, but it just seems to me that there should be a way to figure it out,” Hill said.