It May Be Bust, After All (Or Not)

The moment I saw this clip from an episode of Succession two weeks ago, I immediately thought about the City of Oakland hashing out Howard Terminal with the A’s braintrust.

At the time I had an idea swimming in my head as a thesis for a future article: “What if Howard Terminal never gets past the point where we are right now?” That point was April 7. I decided against publishing then because I felt it would be too inflammatory and entirely speculative. Unfortunately, sometimes life comes at you fast. Now the question:

What if Howard Terminal never gets past the point where we are right now?

…is no mere speculation. My only response when I heard the news Wednesday night that the A’s entered an agreement to purchase land near the Las Vegas Strip for a ballpark was something more of a gut reaction.

In case you weren’t aware, the A’s struck a deal with the Station Casinos corporate parent to purchase 49 acres of land in Las Vegas, on the northwest corner of Tropicana Avenue and Dean Martin Drive next to I-15. The location is only one mile from the famed Strip, and curiously, was not among the top sites the A’s were reportedly pursuing. In hindsight, it’s not hard to connect the dots, as Station/Red Rocks shut down the Wild Wild Wild West Gaming Hall that occupied the site since the mid-70’s. Station is not a major player among the Strip properties as they mostly operate many smaller “locals” casinos in the area. Some major demolition occurred earlier this month, including a hotel tower. Kudos to the A’s for keeping this on the DL.

I pulled out the Google Earth and snapped a shot of the view from where home plate could be, looking east-northeast. You can see the CityCenter development to the left, Park MGM (formerly Monte Carlo) in the center, then T-Mobile Arena and New York New York Casino to the right. While the Oakland waterfront beats it in terms of summer climate, the skyline backdrop would put this site in the Top 3 in MLB.

View from Wild Wild West site east toward The Strip

Acquisition of land is no slam dunk, as any A’s follower knows from the last 20+ years. The A’s signed land deals for Fremont, San Jose, and Oakland’s Howard Terminal which to date haven’t produced finished ballparks. So if you heard this agreement is “binding,” it always comes with strings attached. Clark County approves uses especially for heavily trafficked commercial sites like this close to the Strip, so it stands to reason that they won’t approve this until an actual stadium deal is in place. What that deal would look like is up for debate. 

An initial report pegged the cost at $1 Billion for a retractable roof ballpark, later revised to $1.5 Billion with $500 million in public financing. To me these are back-of-the-napkin math based on similar ballparks built like Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX. That park cost $1.2 Billion to build, experiencing a roughly 20% cost overrun despite clear signs of value engineering. Total project cost was $1.5 Billion including ancillary development.

Obviously, the cost estimate will only go up in the coming months due to market realities and the usual feature creep. And also, I suspect, we’ll see the inevitable growth of the project. 49 acres is a decent chunk of real estate to have adjacent to the Strip, and it seems that the fuzzy public financing model will include (with no current specifics) any number of ways to tax the crap out of everything sold or rented from the ballpark and ancillary development. There’s talk that the A’s and the state of Nevada need to complete a deal before June in order to get it approved before the end of the legislative calendar, which runs in two-year cycles. But there’s also this from the Nevada Independent:

If an incentive package is not agreed to by the end of the legislative session on June 5, state officials may be forced to call a special session to move forward with the relocation deal before Major League Baseball’s self-imposed deadline of Jan. 1, 2024, to sign off on the deal. If talks get far enough, frankly I expect NV to create the special session complete the deal if only because it’ll give a greater sense of due diligence. Rushing to get this done from soup to nuts in five weeks is a recipe for disaster. 

The rush to complete this is because of the *arbitrary deadline alert* January deadline from MLB. What is this deadline? To get a stadium deal done or else the A’s forfeit revenue sharing. That’ll teach ‘em to sign Shintaro Fujinami with their first revenue sharing receipt in five years, right? Don’t make me laugh. Forbes’ annual valuations story had the A’s profit as a result of revenue sharing at $60 million. Forbes admitted to miscalculating and factored in a quarter-share in their revised number, which became $29 million. That’s still fairly healthy for a poverty franchise that pulls in over $90 million annually from national TV, streaming, and merchandising revenue. They’ll do fine with or without the welfare check. The one thing ownership has an argument about is that the A’s are historically cash poor. The revenue sharing doesn’t come until the winter after each season ends, and the team doesn’t get much advance revenue from season ticket sales or big sponsorship payments. But that’s how the franchise is run, so they have no one to blame but themselves.

Now that Vegas is elevated beyond the exploratory phase to a real threat, I’ll opine on how this might work out. First of all, I don’t expect this deal to wrap up by June because there are still loads of implementation details to work out. The project price estimate of $1.5 Billion makes for a limited ancillary build, making the best scale comparison Globe Life Field, which the A’s visited over the weekend and I visited a couple years ago. It has a hotel and retail next to the ballpark, de rigueur for baseball currently. Does Vegas need another small hotel or another indoor mall? Certainly not. They might get it anyway if the ballpark happens.

As for Oakland, Mayor Sheng Thao announced that she was “blindsided” by the news and cut off further talks for the time being. She also spilled the tea that the City and the A’s were supposed to have some sort of “summit” next week to try to bridge the remaining funding gap. That the mayor’s office had this defense prepared shortly after the announcement showed that they A) knew something was coming, and B) they had the CYA story ready for when the inevitable happened. Does this mean baseball in Oakland is dead? Of course not. The Vegas deal may not consummate in time, in which case it also won’t be dead. The whole idea is to create real competition between the two cities in terms of how much subsidies the A’s and MLB can squeeze from them. The A’s are looking for $500 million from Southern Nevada to surpass the $375 currently offered by Oakland. And it’s working. Casey Pratt and Brodie Brazil keep the fire burning through video reports, while the Chronicle’s staff wrote a series of obituaries of A’s baseball. I chose to wait to do a blog post until this first news cycle washed over me in order to take time to reflect. I’m not going to say that the A’s are gone, and I won’t say there’s a sliver of hope. Often deals like this turn on new information or factors, which we’re probably not aware of yet. I wouldn’t blame you for tuning out the A’s as many fans are doing. I’m in for the long haul, even if they move to Vegas. Forgive me for not prematurely writing an obituary yet. There’s still work to do. After all, this site is, not

P.S. – I’m in my late 40’s, which makes me past the normally acceptable music discovery age. That meant I didn’t catch New Zealand band “The Beths” when they came through America earlier in the spring or in prior tours. Still, I was eventually able to check out The Beths’ awesome third album last fall, shortly after the A’s were officially eliminated from contention after a long, laborious regular season. The leadoff single from The Beths was “Expert In A Dying Field,” a catchy little number to which I suspect many A’s fans can relate all too well.

P.P.S. – This story gets more predictably bizarre by the hour.

22 thoughts on “It May Be Bust, After All (Or Not)

  1. Been a minute since I posted here……

    ML- I remember you screwing me on that sj council person I was trying to give info to the group…..since you thought ur real media and blew me up.

    You made me look awful to all my friends as I was just thinking this blog (which all this is and is going to be done soon) was for pro A’s to San Jose and for bay fans in general but you took yourself way too seriously as real media… violated my trust.

    So know I have no love lost for you on this as we are at the end……your health problems I’m truly sorry about as your a native SJ man like me…..I’ve been in SF now 4 years. I hope your doing better and winning in Arizona.

    With that said……..did you see what Mark Davis said? He is right, he wanted to stay in Oakland but the A’s squatted on him.

    Now he is so mad as a “east bay native” wanted to stay in Oakland but the A’s selfishness was in the way.

    The A’s to Davis’ point screwed the bay out of two teams….

    He had a proposal for two new stadiums at the coliseum with split development around the area. Raiders and A’s share for 3 years with their counterparts and comeback to two new stadiums….

    But no…..Wolff and Fisher (forget kaval) are the worst.

    Mark Davis (as a niner season ticket holder) defied all the odds and now he is mad as you can see he “truly wanted to stay in Oakland”.

    A’s I hope never win in Vegas and this “blog” shuts down forever….

    • Can Raiders owner Mark Davis thwart the Las Vegas A’s??? Would the late Al Davis be having a cow too?

    • Sid – How’s it going? Thankfully for Davis, I also have a receipt. Davis’s plan, such as it was, was not fleshed out and not would’ve been great for Davis as he’d get another highly subsidized stadium without lifting a finger. He eventually got it in Vegas.

      • ML- Going very well…….you are ok right? You’ve gone thru a lot as all of this is just nothing compared to life…..know I wish you nothing but positivity and great health.

        Davis was going to privately finance his part. He asked the A’s for the current site since all the lines run underneath as his stadium (at the time) was double the cost. A’s build next door…..

        Warriors were gone already to SF…..A’s squatted on him with a new lease as his anger stems from I now see for a few reasons.

        -If the A’s couldn’t pay the Giants for San Jose (which as a lifelong Giants fan from sj we all know is complete trash) then leave as Davis never asked Oakland for a dime as he wanted to stay on the current site 100 percent privately.

        -Oakland in turn out of haste gave the A’s a new lease and they stopped Davis upgrading the stadium even on a small level….cause of the A’s.

        -Davis had a great idea to keep both teams in Oakland and do it where they shared in development and profits at the coliseum.

        -What Davis pulled off in Vegas regardless of a handout is remarkable… a niners season ticket holder here who tailgates every game (2016 with 2-14 yes….I’m that guy who sets up 2 TVs)…..round of applause 👏🏾….forget public money for his dome.

        -Privately done in Oakland all ways was his goal…..granted sharing with the Giants and 49ers for 3 years would hurt, but both teams were arms wide open to do so to keep them around.

        With that said…….Davis’ anger is justified as now the A’s moving to Vegas kills his soul as a “east bay native” leaving Oakland with zero forever cause of the A’s selfishness?

        If the A’s left to Vegas first hypothetically and opened in 2020? The Raiders would be playing in a brand new Oakland stadium right now……….that’s why Davis is so mad

        Unbelievable……..A’s are long gone and they took the raiders with them.

        In the end……Wally Haas screwed them being a rich kid who didn’t understand biz and should have made the Giants share Santa Clara County forever or taken it himself…..or even stopped them from even trying like the Giants did later.

        Viva Las Vegas Athletics…..your bitterness towards the raiders is misguided.

      • I’m doing well. What Davis suggested – building two venues simultaneously on the same land – was last done in Kansas City, and had enormous amounts of federal and state help to get it done. It simply isn’t possible today as the tasks and the venues themselves are far more complex than 50 years ago. Davis didn’t even have a temporary stadium lined up. You can back Davis’s story all you want. I know it’s BS. He should’ve been mature enough to move on long ago. He got the big stadium in his dad’s honor. The Davis family chose to abandon Oakland twice. That’s the legacy. End of story.

      • Oh wow….you are bitter. The A’s cannot do wrong in your own mind. Comparing Kansas City to Oakland is nuts……like where to start on that.

        That’s where I was trying to speak logic but you will be able to see the A’s on a short flight in a dome in 4 years…..AZ to LV is a milk run.

        Davis never asked for a handout, he was trying to bridge the gaps between the A’s, Oakland and the county…..A’s and Raiders should be at the coliseum now with 2 new stadiums privately financed with development coming and shared…..

        Davis being mad says it all…..the A’s are inherently selfish and his remarks say it all.

        A’s should have just built at the coliseum and stayed but now?

        Viva Las Vegas

      • Sid, you’re a weirdo. You come here after probably lurking for years to talk shit on behalf of Mark Davis, of all people? And the Raiders, a team I couldn’t care less about. You’re barking up the wrong tree, man. Look around. No one plans shared complexes anymore. Why is that? Greed and complexity. I’m sorry that you need some sort of convenient scapegoat. I really don’t care. Onward.

      • I seem to remember that 10 year lease agreement… wasn’t there a clause that said if the Raiders put down a minimum of $500k on a plan at the Coliseum site, that “broke” the lease agreement and the A’s had something like 3 years to find an alternate spot to play. Funny how nobody remembers that and calls Mark Davis out on it.

      • Correct, that was the “bonafide plan” clause.

  2. Interesting. You have a paragraph mostly repeated

  3. What I’m most surprised by is no one is publicly calling out the giants who ultimately will get what they have wanted all along- also surprised that MLB owners are ok giving one of the wealthiest areas of the country to the giants all by themselves and foregoing any relocation fee/expansion fee for A’s- As an A’s fan giants/Larry Baer are top of my list for who I hold accountable followed by Manfred who has been a willing participant.

    • The Giants won three World Series since I started this blog. That comes with a halo effect.

      • That’s BS R.M.!! F**kN “halo effect” my a$$!! GoA’s is spot on!! The A’s would be a successful franchise, playing in a “NEWBALLPARK” in downtown San Jose, IN THE BAY AREA if not for the f**kn Giants. Although credit where credit is due; I see a lot of Giants fans, and even some sports writers, saying the Giants should’ve allowed the A’s SJ (God Bless you Mark Purdy!), but not enough unfortunately. I guess it’s easier to go after Fisher, Kaval, Manfred than the Giants in order to stay in their good graces. That halo’s gonna fade pretty quick when those a$$h*les are rotting in hell. F**K the Giants forever!!!

  4. I believe they’re gone for good this time. Now Oakland will officially become like Long Beach, CA and Newark, NJ: a large city with all the features of your typical major American city without one of the primary identifiers that it is an actual major city: a professional sports team.

    Sad times for us Oaklanders.

    • Long Beach is always the example I give. LB is actually larger with even more well known rappers.

      They are Ft. Lauderdale and SF is Miami
      They are Ft. Worth and SF is Dallas
      They are Providence and SF is Boston
      They are Camden, NJ and SF is Philly

      I would say Newark and St. Paul but at least those municipalities have the NHL so they aren’t even on Newark and St. Paul’s level

      Sad times indeed

  5. F**K the Giants forever!!! Antonio, you’re so wishy-washy!!! Tell us what you really think!!! On that note, Las Vegas A’s? Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!

  6. It’s great how a’s fans (however few of them there are) are always blaming the Giants for their own team’s problems. If they had an owner that built a privately financed stadium and did the political work necessary as did the Giants, they wouldn’t need to complain. Cry on a’s fans, cry on.

    • We had all that in San Jose. BTW, if you’re a giants fan, you’re welcome for the A’s granting the giants territorial rights to San Jose/SCCo. in the early 90’s so they themselves could build a ballpark in SJ and not leave the state. But keep claiming we’re crying if it helps you sleep better.

      • I never understood this though. The Giants were in the bay area first. How did the A’s wind up with South Bay rights in the first place?

        Also, what Oakland and other A’s supporters fail to say is that they gave up those rights because they also wanted to be in the city. Put the Giants in SJ and we can take over the city. Had the Giants gone to St. Pete, the A’s would’ve been on the horn with the Mayor of SF in no time

      • Prior to 1992, the South Bay was unassigned, unclaimed territory. When the Giants started talking about moving there, they asked A’s owner Walter Haas for permission to make a deal in Santa Clara/San Jose. Haas said yes. Was his decision motivated by altruism, or did he see the A’s taking a greater portion of the Bay Area? We’ll never know. Probably both. FWIW the North Bay counties remain unassigned.

  7. Marine, are you Zennie? I know you bro, we’ve hung out.
    I was curious with the comments Davis made if you guys were still around. Sid you are correct, Davis was going to get a deal for both teams done if allowed.
    The A’s pissed in their own cereal bowl when they divided their fan base by going against the Raiders. Sabotaging their own team on the field, trying to leave the city for decades, all that was no where near as bad as enraging 80% of your fan base that were and will forever be Raiders fans. I grew up with the Coliseum lights shining the skies over my front yard. Rickey & Mac were my idols, yet now I hate the A’s, and they have no brand or fans left. Book a ticket from any Northern California airport the weekend of a game in Vegas or when they play the Chargers on the road and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about, the A’s will never have that. The Giants do! Of course half of Allegiant stadium is opposing fans 😂, but who cares we party anyways.

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