Could the Oakland A’s, the home of Moneyball and Rollie Fingers’ mustache, soon be no more? According to several news sources, including the R-J, it’s becoming increasingly likely, as Las Vegas becomes a top contender to win the franchise, which would be its third major sports team since 2017. Yup, it’s true. Las Vegas baseball could soon be a thing.
Las Vegas Is No Longer Just About Casinos
At the turn of the Millenium, even a single sports team in the “Big 5 (Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, Soccer)” would have been unthinkable. But it’s not 2000 anymore, and both the city and the nature of gambling have changed. Gaming revenue now accounts for less than half of the total on the Strip, as hotel and restaurant sales have boomed.
But it’s the evolution of sports gambling outside of Las Vegas has also had a major impact on the city’s view toward professional teams. Sin City was always going to have to bring in teams to grow its positioning, but that was likely accelerated as regional and internet gaming boomed. Concerns over the impact of sports on gambling took a back seat, and the city launched its pro sports odyssey with the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team in 2017*. Three years later, the Oakland Raiders followed. Think the city hasn’t gone sports crazy? Check out the price of tickets in the secondary market, or hotel rooms the weekend of a Raiders game.
Will Baseball Follow?
The Oakland A’s are in, as Ned Flanders would say, a dilly of a pickle. They currently have the lowest average attendance of any major league team and play in a stadium built more than 50 years ago. Clearly, the status quo is not working, and the A’s current lease expires in 2024. The team is currently in negotiations with the city to build a new stadium, but the city faces more than a few problems. Forget the fact that we don’t even know if the team wants to stay in Oakland, where it has always played second fiddle to its crosstown rivals, the Giants.
The Team has now missed a big deadline. The R-J noted that if the team wanted to be a part of Oakland’s Howard Terminal waterfront project, the most likely home location, it would have needed to have an agreement in place a couple of weeks ago, to get it in front of the city council this year. The city would also need a federal grant or local bond offering to finance the ballpark. The league is demanding that Nevada offer public financing for a new stadium, as well, but Sin City has additional “outs (pun intended),” since there are more private options for funding available on the Strip than there are in Oakland. And MLB has already tacitly endorsed the move by agreeing to waive franchise relocation fees if the team moves to Las Vegas.
Bottom line: If Oakland can’t do something in a hurry, Nevada natives might soon have a Las Vegas baseball team to root for. And if baseball doesn’t work, the city could always fall back on basketball. Whatever LeBron wants, LeBron gets.
These concerns would become moot a year later, when the Supreme Court ruled that states could set their own rules regarding sports betting.