LAS VEGAS — The Oakland A’s disabled comments on their social media a few weeks ago, so here’s a message to them, straight from their supposed future home in the desert:
This isn’t going to work.
And don’t just take it from me — take it from Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who told Front Office Sports this week that the A’s current plan for a ballpark on The Strip “does not make sense.”
I can see where she’s coming from, because I can see where the A’s are allegedly going to build their new ballpark from my Super Bowl hotel window.
The famed but well-past-its-prime Tropicana is slated to be torn down in April, leaving a roughly 35-acre blank canvas on the corner of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. This is some prime real estate.
And of that 35-acre plot, owned by the Bally’s corporation, the A’s will be given a little more than a quarter.
Now, I might have grown up in the Midwest, but I didn’t know an acre from a fathom. Still, that didn’t sound like a lot of space.
Sure enough, nine acres is less than 400,000 square feet.
Or, to make this all super simple: It’s not enough room to build a ballpark.
And I think the A’s know it, too.
The hockey rink up the street — T-Mobile Arena — takes up roughly the same amount of space.
Back in the Bay, the Howard Terminal site in Oakland was 55 acres. But the block I live on in Alameda is 10, and the Costco I go to in San Leandro is on a 15-acre lot.
And having been to nearly every MLB stadium on this continent, I can say this: You’re going to need more space than a Costco.
Yes, even if you want to build even a smaller, 33,000-seat stadium. And certainly, if you want to build one with a retractable roof to create views of The Strip, as promised. (Then again, why would the A’s keep a promise?)
Even the A’s spring training ballpark in Arizona, Hohokam Stadium — capacity 10,500, including the outfield lawn seating — takes up 10 acres.
To be fair, A’s owner John Fisher and team president Dave Kaval have some experience with building small plots — the San Jose Earthquakes, also owned by Fisher, have a 10-acre stadium. Kaval spearheaded the building of it.
This, of course, is the same stadium that I overheard MLS executives bashing as “boring” and “simple” on its opening night in March 2015. It’s a stadium Fisher now considers “outdated” because of its lack of luxury boxes.
And seeing as a baseball field itself will take up half of those nine acres on the Tropicana site, I’m not sure how Fisher expects to squeeze enough luxury boxes and premium seating to avoid the same fate in Las Vegas.
The A’s don’t pay for Major League-caliber outfielders, now they might not be able to afford an actual outfield.
So no, the plans don’t make sense, as far as anyone can tell.
That’s probably why the A’s have refused to release new renderings of their ballpark, despite promising them in early December.
And all that wishy-washiness — the A’s, like in Oakland, have bounced from site to site, promising the next one will be “the one” — isn’t building excitement for the green-and-yellow brand.
Fisher spoke at a Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce event in January, trying to drum up local investment in the team. When Fisher was done speaking, the emcee of the event tried to capture the excitement the audience had for the region’s new team.
“The Las Vegas A’s! We like the sound of that, right Vegas?”
“Are we alive back there?”
Such a disaster. pic.twitter.com/S2UN4N2qf8
— Matt Ortega (@MattOrtega) January 24, 2024
The silence told the whole story.
And I don’t think it’s a surprise that I have not yet seen an A’s logo on anyone in Las Vegas.
The A’s bid for relocation to Nevada was unanimously approved by Major League Baseball in November, after the team secured at least $380 million in public funding from the state. The Nevada teacher’s union is reportedly suing the state, challenging the legality of those funds.
Goodman told Front Office Sports that the A’s “gotta figure out a way to stay in Oakland.”
Now she might have an ulterior motive with her comments. The A’s would be moving to Paradise, Nevada — an unincorporated area in Clark County. Not her territory.
And while she made a push for the A’s to move to the real Las Vegas, the sentiment on the team staying in Oakland was stronger.
The A’s meanwhile, need to figure out where they’re going to go after Oakland.
The A’s lease at the Coliseum ends after this upcoming season. ESPN reported last month that the A’s and the city haven’t talked for nearly a year, and I don’t expect that to change. The A’s might have wanted the city to call their bluff when they said they’d be going exclusive with Las Vegas, but Oakland hasn’t blinked.
Now Fisher and Kaval have backed themselves into a small corner of The Strip. They say their new Las Vegas ballpark will open in 2028.
I wonder if the sportsbooks here will give me odds on that. I’ll take the over.
The Salt Lake City region — desperate to add a second professional sports team — is making a strong push to be the team’s interim home. The A’s have also toured the Giants’ Triple-A ballpark in Sacramento, a move that might allow them to restructure their current television contract with Comcast. Heaven forbid Fisher, whose net worth is estimated to be just shy of $3 billion, walks away from any money.
Las Vegas has many flaws, but it is an event town. If you know how to put on a good show, there is no grander stage in the world at the moment.
And the A’s think the worst show in baseball — produced by Fisher — will rate.
Perhaps one day the A’s will squeeze themselves into a tiny ballpark on The Strip. It’ll probably have a fixed roof, no view, and limited amenities — a place that’s nothing like what was sold to Nevada lawmakers or the Las Vegas public.
Sure, visiting fans will come for a few years, looking to watch their favorite team and lose some money in the process — an ode to the Raiders’ new way of life in Las Vegas, where they’re never the home team at their own stadium. But that novelty will wear off after a while, too.
And then what will the A’s be left with?
The smallest market in baseball and a tiny ballpark that will be “outdated” within a decade.
Fisher is gambling on Vegas, and he should take the advice that no one around here seems to heed:
Cash out. Take your winnings and go.
Sell the team. It’s the only worthwhile path remaining.
Because in this town, the house always wins.
And this stadium can’t.