6-hour hearing on A’s Las Vegas stadium bill yields some answers

Published: May. 29, 2023 at 4:52 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - The Nevada Legislature held a hearing today on a bill to help fund the stadium for the Oakland A’s coming to Las Vegas.

SB509, introduced to the senate Friday night by the office of Gov. Joe Lombardo, followed the conceptual designs being released earlier that day.

Lombardo’s Chief of Staff Ben Kieckhefer opened the hearing. He began by saying the first time he sat in a state senate seat in 2011, Las Vegas did not have a “major league professional sports team.”

“At that time, people pretty much scoffed at the idea and it goes without saying now that all that has changed,” he said.

Regarding the bill, Kieckhefer said, “It contains no new taxes imposed against the residents of Nevada or our guests. Stadium construction costs would also include the owners of the Athletics investing more private capital than anybody has put into a baseball stadium in the history of this country.”

Principal Analyst for Applied Analysis Jeremy Aguero answered many of the questions from state lawmakers Monday night, particularly about the economic viability of the stadium plan. At one point, Aguero made a connection to other big projects the state has taken on.

“We’ve made bets, and we’ve won a lot relative to that,” he said, referencing public investments in Allegiant Stadium and Tesla. And I’d suggest that element that has made us successful and so many of those others has a very substantial potential to do the same thing here.”

In regard to making the money work, State Senator Dina Neal asked why the state can finance a stadium but cannot put money toward a 20% increase in teacher pay.

“For regular citizens, they’re not looking at economic numbers,” she told Aguero. “They’re looking at real life. And they’re saying these two things are not congruent.”

Aguero says the money does bear out in the end after the initial investment.

“When we run the numbers out relative to the stadium, the State of Nevada, local governments and state governments combined are over $360 million to the good,” Aguero forecasted. “Those are dollars that will go toward our schools and to our roads and to our parks and to our public safety.”

Aguero emphasized several times Monday night that he believes Clark County will make money on this deal.

“If the A’s are able to do what they expect to be able to do, Clark County as well as the state will be in a net positive fiscal position,” he said.

That’s the multi-million dollar question: Will the A’s hold up their end of the bargain and provide a winning team for Las Vegas to embrace?

Although half of owner Steve Fisher’s years as owner have seen the team finish with a winning record, the A’s are currently on pace to lose more games than any team in the modern era, which goes back to 1901. They’re also drawing only about 8,000 people on average, last in the league, and well short of the 30,000 the team is hoping to attract for each game in Las Vegas.

Some important context for that number, though: the team has always had attendance problems in Oakland, which many attribute to their lackluster stadium. The franchise has been bottom-five in attendance in 15 of the 19 years that Steve Fisher has been the owner, despite several playoff appearances during that span.

LVCVA President Steve Hill also answered questions tonight. He was asked about whether the A’s would consider other cities if this bill did not go through. He said yes, they would.

If the A’s do strike a deal and move to Las Vegas, Aguero says they’d pay a $300 million fee to do so. That fee could be waived, though. The team has a 2028 target for the new stadium to be built, a year later than what was previously told to FOX5.

Lawmakers have until June 5 to approve this bill.