The A’s are speedrunning the Las Vegas stadium talks

The A’s are packing years of roller coaster stadium talks into mere weeks (and getting just about as far).

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Let’s rewind to just a few weeks back, when news first broke that the A’s had secured a “binding” land deal with the city of Las Vegas to build a stadium there. The city of Oakland did not know this was happening — they had been, as they had been for years and years, in the midst of negotiations with the team to keep them in the city by way of a big bag of public money. And then Oakland found out just a little bit before everyone else that the A’s had agreed to buy some land in another city. Which brings us to the below, from me on April 21:

When the city of Oakland caught wind of this, they immediately cut off negotiations with the A’s. Which, oddly enough, surprised the Athletics. Yes, they had just agreed to purchase land in another city with the express purpose of leaving Oakland, but if A’s president Dave Kaval is to be believed — and really, you should never believe Dave Kaval about anything — the team had no idea this was going to be the result of entering this level of serious in their negotiations with Las Vegas.

And if that actually is the case, that the club expected talks with Oakland to continue after this land purchase, then all it means is that the A’s were planning to continue pitting Oakland and Las Vegas against each other to sweeten the potential offers.

That was just a possibility a few weeks back, but it’s feeling more and more like the case in the present — the A’s didn’t have any real plans for Vegas, at least not yet, and were going to use them as leverage to secure a better deal from the A’s. Whether the goal there was to then turn around and show Vegas that deal to get an improved offer to relocate is unknown, but all that really matters is that the Athletics saw the Vegas land deal as a stepping stone to an even better stadium deal, not as an actual stadium site land deal.

And why do I feel more confident in believing this on May 10? Well, on May 9, the Nevada Independent published two different stories on the A’s and their negotiations with Vegas. The first was about the team reaching out to local landowners besides the one they had a deal with to see if they could work out something better than what they had bound themselves to, and the second was about the team coming to agreement on a different land deal that unbound them from the first one.

As Neil deMause pointed out at Field of Schemes this morning, that second Nevada Independent story is real light on the details as to how anything that’s claimed within will actually happen. And not much has actually changed from where it was before yesterday’s double news hit even if it all does check out in the end! The A’s now have a different land deal that allows them to ask for slightly less in public funds… maybe. Again, the lack of details makes it hard to know if that’s true or if someone just hasn’t seen the full balance-sheet ask, so there are bits missing that’d make up for the supposed $100 million-ish difference in subsidies. And as discussed prior, there’s still the issue of just what those subsidies are and what they could be going to instead of yet another brand new Vegas stadium. Just because a guy hired by the people who want a new stadium and baseball team in town says there won’t be any new taxes doesn’t mean you have to believe what they were paid to say.

So, things are new, but not, which just about sums up two decades of the A’s clamoring for a new stadium paid for by not them, only they’re managing it all in just a few weeks instead of years and years. I’m a little confused about the binding land deal thing being not so binding in the first place, since my previous thinking was that the A’s were buying the land knowing they could pass it off to MLB if they ended up staying put, with MLB promising an expansion team would use the same space. Vegas wouldn’t mind, they just want an MLB-level baseball team, and if it’s the A’s, good, if it’s not the A’s… well, it shouldn’t be all the same to them, it should be their preference, but they’ll take what’s on offer. And there won’t be any expansion teams until the A’s have a new stadium deal, anyway.

The deadlines are still the same, with a deal needing to be worked out before the current political session ends for Vegas in early June (though, there could be a special session called just for the stadium issue) and Oakland needing a new ballpark before 2024 in order to continue to receive the temporary revenue-sharing checks they need because they’ve turned their Oakland home into a ghost town that doesn’t generate much in the way of local revenue. Checks they simply deposit rather than spend, so “need” is more their thinking than mine, but you get it. Oh, and their lease with the city of Oakland is up after the 2024 season, too, so they’re going to Vegas unless Oakland decides to show some mercy. And for a lot of reasons, not limited to how funny it would be, we should be hoping they do not.

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