Graney: Las Vegas should drive hard bargain with A’s

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred recently made news when he said he was skeptical a deal could be worked out to keep the A’s in Oakland. That it didn’t appear a planned $12 billion Howard Terminal project — which would include a $1 billion ballpark — would come to fruition.

He then expressed optimism about the team moving to Las Vegas. Sources even told the Review-Journal that the city was in position to welcome it.

All well and good.

One thing: Is this the right team and time for Southern Nevada?

It’s a big ask for the market — filling enough seats for 81 home games annually.

You could make an argument that the better summer sport for Las Vegas right now, given demographics and the fact it would entail around just 20 home dates a season, is Major League Soccer.

(That’s for another time and column).

Public money desired

Major League Baseball and the A’s want public money from Las Vegas. You figure in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars toward the raising of a $1 billion ballpark — although current interest rates and construction costs sure would make it seem like a heavier final price tag.

It’s a really big ask, but know this: MLB likely isn’t allowing any more of its teams to relocate without the use of public funds. That ship sailed when the Giants built Oracle Park in San Francisco.

One side of the coin insists there is no political appetite for public money to be used for the project here. Local and state officials have said as much, although there may be ways officials can sweeten the pot for the A’s, outside of offering a direct tax toward funding a stadium.

But the $750 million of Clark County bond proceeds and room-tax revenue for Allegiant Stadium and the Raiders, along with the renovation and expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center, was a one-off.

That’s not happening again. Nor should it at that level of commitment.

It was also reported that if some form of public money wasn’t approved, the team plans to “begin relocation talks with other markets.”

Wonder if A’s president Dave Kaval knows that Southwest Airlines also flies to Portland and Nashville?

One lure for the A’s, even if they do not receive any public money, is what we heard with the Raiders. That tourists are the key. That baseball plays a series and not just one game against a specific team. That enough out-of-town folks would be interested in traveling here to watch their favorite side while spending time and money in casino hotels.

Half of Allegiant Stadium is often filled with a visiting team’s NFL fans on Sunday afternoon. But the A’s would be making a mistake if they are counting too heavily on tourists to fill a new ballpark in Las Vegas. More important would be the locals and their desire to attend A’s games.

The two proposed sites for a ballpark are the Tropicana on the south Strip and the Las Vegas Festival Grounds on the north Strip. It could be a hassle for families to fight traffic for a night game.

Many might prefer — for good reason — an evening at the Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin watching the Triple-A Aviators for their baseball fix.

You might counter with the Golden Knights and their consistent attendance numbers. But they play half the home games of a baseball team and have established a culture of winning. They grasped a community’s heart upon arriving in 2017. Heck, they’re the NHL’s best team right now.

The A’s, on the other hand, are only really good at the following: They have for some time now been a franchise that tears things down, rebuilds into a playoff team, falls short and tears things down again.

More fire sales?

Kaval insists that with a new ballpark and all the revenue streams it could deliver, the franchise and owner John Fisher would embrace retaining high-priced players and even competing for top free agents.

Should we really take them at their word given their recent history?

It wouldn’t matter once a ballpark was built.

You never know. The elections are (almost) over both here and in the Bay Area. Where certain officials might now stand on the A’s and any proposed project in Oakland or Southern Nevada could change.

Is this the right team and time for us?

Only on Las Vegas’ terms and not of those of MLB or the A’s.

If a mighty push comes to a serious shove over public money, I hear Nashville is beautiful in the springtime.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at [email protected] He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 am to 10 am Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter


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