“Bright light city gonna set my soul. Gonna Set my soul on fire. Got a whole lot of money that’s ready to burn. So get those stakes up higher.” These are the opening lines from the 1964 Elvis Presley song Viva Las Vegas. Sin City is in the news this week as the latest round of civic extortion, also known as franchise relocation, has kicked into high gear in Oakland, California. MLB has recently given the Oakland A’s permission to seek viable options in alternative markets if they are not able to come to an agreement on a stadium site at Howard Terminal on the waterfront in the city. <img src="” alt=”Howard Terminal” />
For the uninitiated, where the A’s play is currently known as RingCentral Coliseum. To me, it will always be Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, but I will save my thoughts on that for an article about corporate branding and stadium licensing deals. The Coliseum is about the worst professional sporting ventures in America. Some of the more notable incidents have included, the time the visitor’s clubhouse was flooded with raw sewage after a rainstorm against the Minnesota Twins, the time lights went out during the middle of a game versus the New York Yankees, or the time a section of the wall fell off during a game hosting the Los Angeles Angels. Simply put, the place is a dump. A charming dump, as I have always enjoyed seeing games there, but it is a dump nonetheless.
According to the Environmental Impact Report on the city’s website, the plan is to build a 35,000 seat stadium for the A’s, 3,00 residential units, a 400 room hotel, and a performance venue with a capacity of 3,500. From this plan, there are three possible outcomes. First, the plan isn’t approved and the A’s will remain in the Coliseum as it is until their lease ends in 2024. From this, they will be free to move to another location. Second, there would be a new stadium built on the current site of the Coliseum. Third, and least likely, the plan is approved for the Howard Terminal location. The project is expected to cost in the ballpark of $12 billion. It is up for a vote by the Oakland City Council on July 20th. The main issue will be how much public funding will be used on the project, and given the relocation of the freshly minted Las Vegas Raiders, as well as the Golden State Warriors move across the bay to San Francisco, I don’t foresee there being much of an appetite to spend taxpayer dollars on the Howard Terminal project.
I see the most likely outcome from this situation is the Oakland A’s eventual relocation to Las Vegas, Nevada. Key members of the Oakland A’s front office staff were in Las Vegas this week on what they called “a fact-finding mission”. I can see it as the facts they are looking to find comes down to the funding of the stadium. Allegiant Stadium, the home of the Raiders is partially being paid for with a .88% room tax on hotel rooms. However, the officials in the city of Las Vegas are reticent to pay for another stadium after issues with the Allegiant Stadium funding were exacerbated by the pandemic caused by COVID-19, as room occupancy was severely diminished. For comparison, T-Mobile Arena, home of the Las Vegas Knights hockey team, was completely funded by the Anschutz Entertainment Group. The A’s have thrown out a price tag of $1 billion for their new stadium. They want it to be somewhere near The Strip in Las Vegas.
I don’t think this is the best move for the A’s long-term. In terms of population size, the metropolitan area of Las Vegas is about the same as Kansas City, Missouri, or Columbus, Ohio. According to Neilsen, it is the 40th largest television market, just behind West Palm Beach, Florida, and just ahead of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The market is simply not there to sustain a Major League Baseball team. Teams derive most of their revenue from their local television rights, which are based primarily upon the size of the television market. For example, the Los Angeles Dodgers (Los Angeles is the second-largest television market) are in the midst of a 25-year television contract which is worth $8.35 billion; to put it simply, they receive $334 million per season before a Dodger dog is sold. Compare that with their World Series opponent, the Tampa Bay Rays (Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg is the 13th largest television market), who receive just $82 million per year from their 15-year television deal. With Las Vegas ranking it does in both population and television market does not bode well for a team hoping to build a fan base and draw fans to 81 home games every year. The A’s would be moving to a smaller market, both in terms of population and television. Hoping out-of-town fans will help fill a ballpark in Las Vegas during the middle of the summer is preposterous; there are too many other things people go to Las Vegas for.
Publicly financed stadiums are a boondoggle of the highest order. It is tax money is better used on things that benefit the public at large. Oakland is a city that has fought against urban decay for years. They cannot afford to pay for the A’s stadium idea. In my opinion, the best solution would be for the A’s to privately finance the stadium, at either the Howard Terminal site or the current Coliseum location. The team is the one extracting the profit from the games, so they should have to pay for the building. Using Las Vegas (and Portland, Oregon) as leverage against the city is a bad look in the current climate.