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Baseball owners approve move to Las Vegas

The first step towards a series of hurdles
City of Las Vegas image from Unsplash

Last week, all 30 owners of Major League Baseball voted unanimously to relocate the Oakland Athletics to Las Vegas. While this did not come as a surprise given commissioner Rob Manfred’s support for the move, it marks an important first step of this process.

Unfortunately for Manfred and John Fisher, the team’s owner, there are still many hurdles that need to be cleared. With just one of these hurdles being the amount of funding needed to build the Athletics new ballpark. While Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo signed a $380 million public funding bill in June, the cost of the stadium will be much greater than this amount. In total, the cost should be close to $1.5 billion which will leave Fisher and the city of Las Vegas needing private financers to help fund the stadium. This will be difficult as some people have questioned how long the Athletics will last in Las Vegas.

The new ballpark is supposed to be built at the Tropicana Las Vegas Casino on the Strip. It will hold a capacity of 30,000 people and will feature a retractable roof. When examining projections, the A’s are relying on 30% of their attendance to consist of tourists. Given everything else that is in Las Vegas, this is a number that will not remain consistent when the new stadium opens. This does not include the lack of success the team has had on the field, losing 214 games over the last two seasons and, according to ESPN, consist of the 27th ranked farm system in baseball.

A short-term issue that is potentially even more pressing is where exactly the Athletics will be playing their games. Their lease at the Oakland Coliseum ends after the 2024 season, leaving the Athletics without a home stadium for the 2025-2027 seasons. Potential options include playing at the A’s Triple-A affiliate stadium in Sumerlin, Nevada or sharing a stadium with a major league team such as the San Francisco Giants. The Athletics could also extend their lease at the Coliseum but Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao has said that the city will only extend the lease if Oakland receives an expansion team.

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While the move appears imminent, there is no guarantee it will happen. Moving to Las Vegas would put the Athletics in the league’s smallest market, putting the team at a disadvantage compared to the other 29 MLB teams. Including this with the Athletics overreliance on ticket sales could lead to a risky move that quickly becomes difficult to justify. Because of that, there is great uncertainty around the Las Vegas Athletics becoming a franchise.

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