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The Nevada Independent

A’s move to play more games outside of Vegas could undercut stadium finances by millions

A request to play 8 home games a season away from Las Vegas could negatively affect the team’s financial projections and bonding capacity for public financing.
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
A's stadiumEconomySports
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The Oakland Athletics are requesting to play up to eight home games a season away from the team’s future $1.5 billion Las Vegas ballpark, a move that could significantly undercut the financial projections presented last year when the team sought $380 million in public financing for the project.

The request to play more than a half-dozen home games away from Las Vegas is contained within the team’s 37-page proposed 30-year non-relocation agreement and is at least double the amount of negotiated neutral site home games agreed to by other Major League Baseball franchises in their non-relocation agreements. 

The Las Vegas Stadium Authority Board — which oversees the operations and oversight of Allegiant Stadium and the planned A’s ballpark —  is expected to vote on the agreement at its July 18 meeting.

Stadium Authority Chairman Steve Hill said negotiations with A’s concerning the non-relocation agreement are ongoing, but the number of home games away from Las Vegas agreed upon will affect the bonding capacity for the stadium, which stands at $120 million.

Hill, who is also the CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, suggested the team could reduce its requested number of games to ensure the bonding capacity needed to finance stadium construction is not threatened.

“If you eliminate 10 percent of the games that will be played at the stadium, chances are you're going to eliminate about 10 percent of that bonding capacity,” Hill said in a Monday interview. 

Jeremy Koo, a Sacramento-based attorney, A’s fan and an opponent of the team’s move to Las Vegas, analyzed the economic impact of the lost home games and said the eight games were more than double the number of relocated home games that Major League Baseball permitted in similar agreements involving other teams. He estimated it would result in annual projected losses of between $2.6 million and $3 million in incremental tax revenue and between $65 million and $75 million in incremental spending. 

“It is unclear why the A’s require the uncompensated right to play seven, much less eight, home games away from the proposed stadium yearly,” Koo wrote in a letter sent Thursday to the Stadium Authority board.

In the three most recent non-relocation agreements covering new ballparks in Miami (2009), Atlanta (2014), and Arlington, Texas, (2017) the teams agreed to no more than three “home” games in neutral sites per season.

A’s President David Kaval said the idea of holding eight games outside of Las Vegas was a way to build the team’s brand, promote the club and attract players and sponsors. The A’s haven’t participated in a special regular season series or event since 2019.

However, Kaval said negotiations are still taking place with the Stadium Authority over the terms of the non-relocation agreement and a number of neutral site “home” games.

Kaval added that the idea of including the eight games was to have “flexibility” but to also put an “absolute limit” on how many games could be moved.

“We know in most years it’s expected to be way less,” he said.

Kaval and Hill suggested other events, including concerts, would take place at the new ballpark when the A’s aren’t using the stadium. Jeremy Aguero, principal analyst at Las Vegas-based advisory firm Applied Analysis, said Monday that financial projections for the ballpark presented to lawmakers last year were based on uses beyond baseball.

“Let's imagine that the A’s don't play a game or three games over a specific period,” Aguero said. “That also allows the stadium to be reprogrammed for some other use during that same period. The value of a stadium is not just game day. It is everything that happens outside of game day as well.”

Public financing for the stadium includes $180 million in transferable tax credits from the state (which the team could sell to other businesses for cash), an estimated $120 million in Clark County bonds and a $25 million credit from the county for infrastructure needs around the stadium. 

However, Hill said those kinds of events can’t be factored into the bonding capacity figure because the actual scheduling wouldn’t happen until after the ballpark’s construction has been funded. He reiterated the bonds are restored through events.

“We want to be conservative because you don't want the bonds not being able to be repaid,” Hill said.

Las Vegas Stadium Authority Board Chairman Steve Hill and Oakland A’s team president Dave Kaval talk during the board meeting on Aug. 24, 2023. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

‘One foot already out the door’

Applied Analysis, working on behalf of the A’s, told lawmakers last year that the stadium would host 95 events annually — including 81 A’s home games — and that it would attract 405,000 visitors to Las Vegas who came exclusively for the games or events. The annual result was estimated at $36.5 million in incremental tax revenue and $900 million in incremental economic activity.

Aguero said Monday the figures were based on the information provided ahead of the legislative session. Similar to the preliminary economic projections the firm produced for the then-planned Allegiant Stadium in 2016, the numbers can change based on new events.

The $750 million public financing for Allegiant is funded through a 0.8 percent increase in the hotel room tax along the resort corridor.

Aguero suggested the 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium exceeded its preliminary projections by filling dates with different ticketed events, including international soccer matches, rugby tournaments and concerts. 

“All those types of things have been tremendous, and the value in terms of out-of-town consumers has well-exceeded expectations,” Aguero said.

Koo, who testified twice in 2023 during legislative hearings in opposition to the public funding for the ballpark, said in an email that he was not representing any party in the A’s planned move to Las Vegas. 

“Given that the economic analysis was predicated on 81 home baseball games, the board must obtain appropriate compensation or a change in terms to protect the economic activity and tax receipts the A’s themselves have said will only come because A’s baseball will be played in Las Vegas,” Koo wrote in a letter last week to the Stadium Authority. 

He suggested the Stadium Authority board require the A’s “to justify the reasonableness of this uncompensated request.” 

“The Athletics should not be arriving in Las Vegas with one foot already out the door,” Koo wrote.

The non-relocation agreement is one of several required contracts spelled out in SB1, which was approved during the Nevada Legislature’s special session last year, that need to be signed before developers can begin construction on the ballpark. Construction needs to begin by April 2025 so the stadium can be ready for opening day in April 2028.

A lease for the ballpark and a development agreement are still being discussed. In the interim, the A’s plan to play at a minor league ballpark in Sacramento for three years, beginning in 2025. 

A spokesman from Major League Baseball did not respond to an email request for comment. A spokeswoman for the MLB Players Association referred to the organization’s 2022-26 collective bargaining agreement, which stated that only four neutral site series — one or two-game events — can be scheduled each regular season. 

Since 1996, teams have played in international and domestic markets. The A’s have played six neutral site games in Tokyo, two each in 2008, 2012 and 2019. The A’s were the designated home team each year.

In March, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres opened the regular season with two games in Seoul, South Korea. The Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies played two games in Mexico City in April. The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies will play two games in London, England, this weekend. Each team is designated as the home team for one of the games in all three series. 

The one-game “Field of Dreams” game, which took place the last three years at the Dyersville, Iowa, location where the 1989 movie of the same name was filmed, was moved this year to the historic Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, to honor the Negro Leagues.

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