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Las Vegas MLB Relocation: Nevada public officials say “no” to public funding – for now

Scott Gulbransen
Las Vegas MLB relocation Oakland athletics stadium
Photo: Noah Berger

The Oakland Athletics are heavily flirting with Nevada as a new home as Las Vegas MLB relocation chatter continues, but the franchise goal of a public-private (ie. public dollars) partnership to build a $1 billion stadium doesn’t look hopeful.

If the current mood amongst political leadership in the biannual Nevada legislature is any indication, the A’s will need to find their own funding if they want to build a new stadium in Las Vegas.

As reported in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Sunday, Nevada Assembly Majority Leader Jason Frierson (D) said there is no current appetite for the legislature to discuss funding of a new A’s domed stadium to trigger a Las Vegas MLB relocation somewhere near the famed Las Vegas Strip.

I believe we can lure an MLB team to our world-class city without using taxpayer money

Assemblyman Tom Roberts (R) – Las Vegas

“I think that the notion of giving away public money for those types of endeavors, I just don’t think that we can afford that as a state,” Assembly speaker Frierson told Colton Lochead of the RJ.

The Nevada Legislature, which only meets once every two years, is mired in battles to fix the state’s depleted budget thanks to the COVID-19 shutdown and its impact on the tourism industry in the state. In addition, Nevada’s deplorable public education system is also a key focus as the session comes to a close. Funding of another publicly-funded stadium in Las Vegas, and the hard work to trigger MLB relocation, isn’t on the agenda.

Despite Frierson’s assertion, there are no clear thoughts of the legislature taking up a funding proposal to help lure MLB relocation during the session, but others, including the Republican opposition, don’t want to close the door yet.

Some lawmakers open to discussion of MLB relocation and funding

Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer (R) said he’s willing “to have the discussion,” according to the report, but his Republican colleague Assemblyman Tom Roberts (R – Las Vegas) didn’t agree. He believes A’s president Dave Kaval and team ownership need to find their own financing.

“I believe we can lure an MLB team to our world-class city without using taxpayer money,” Roberts told the RJ. “Our loyal fan base, sense of community, team spirit and sportsmanship are second to none.”

Translation: find private financing if you want Las Vegas MLB relocation to become a reality.

Jason Frierson Nevada Assembly Majority Leader
Nevada Assembly Majority Leader Jason Frierson says the State’s elected officials aren’t considering public funding for a new stadium in Las Vegas for the Oakland A’s.

The A’s are reportedly seeking a deal similar to the $750 million deal their former neighbors in Oakland – the Raiders – received. The funding of the Raiders Allegiant Stadium, and their headquarters in Henderson, included a 0.88 percent increase on hotel taxes in Clark County to fund a portion of the project. It was the key piece of state legislation that convinced the NFL to approve the relocation of the historic franchise to Southern Nevada.

Because the biannual session is coming to a close, doesn’t preclude lawmakers from calling a special session – as they did with the Raiders stadium deal – later.

With Nevada still reeling from the impact of a pandemic on its singular biggest economic engine, the tourism and hospitality industry, and a public school system that serves as a national embarrassment and an economic development obstacle, funding a stadium at the state or local level may be too politically risky for most.

“It’s great for the community, it’s great for branding. But I would be hesitant to consider any policy that proposed to use public dollars to provide a vehicle for a private endeavor like that if it’s not going to have a relatively immediate return on investment,” Frierson told the newspaper.

While Las Vegas has been overwhelmingly successful in luring two major league franchises to the area in the Raiders and the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, making MLB relocation a reality, and luring a team to Las Vegas, may require a heavier lift and out-of-the-box thinking to get the money to make it happen.