By CHRIS WOODWARD
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – Nevada officials announced an agreement to bring the Oakland A’s franchise to Las Vegas with a plan that includes hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars.
Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo said in a news release that negotiations have been going on for months between the state, Clark County, and the Oakland A’s. According to the governor’s office, the franchise would relocate to the Las Vegas strip in a publicly-owned, 30,000 seat stadium with a retractable roof at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue.
“I believe it gives us a tremendous opportunity to continue building on the professional sports infrastructure of southern Nevada,” Gov. Lombardo said. “Las Vegas is clearly a sports town, and Major League Baseball should be a part of it.”
The project, which will cost an estimated $1.5 billion to complete, would be paid for in part with “public financing constituting less than 25 percent of the cost,” according to the governor’s office. That would equate to up to $375 million in taxpayer funds.
While some critics argue taxpayer-funded sports complexes aren’t a good use of public dollars, Democratic Nevada Treasurer Zach Conine argued the agreement “minimizes the risk to Nevada taxpayers in the most fiscally responsible manner.”
“I’m also pleased that this project will leverage the most private investment of any baseball stadium in the country,” he added.
Chris Douglas, professor of economics at University of Michigan-Flint, disagreed that the proposal would benefit Nevada taxpayers.
“A stadium that is closed for 88% of the year cannot support surrounding businesses that are open for 100% of the year,” Mr. Douglas told The Center Square. “A public/private partnership of ‘only’ 25% of the total construction cost still consists of $375 million in taxpayer dollars being used to construct something that provides absolutely no benefit to taxpayers.”
“Using taxpayer dollars to build a baseball stadium is a complete waste of money and will only serve to increase the A’s owner’s profits,” he said. “If the A’s want to move to Vegas, then fine, but they should pay for their own stadium just like any other business would pay for its own facilities.”
Lawmakers are drafting legislation to put the agreement before the Nevada Legislature.
“I am excited that we have finally received the A’s proposal and we are currently reviewing it,” Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, said in a statement. “As I have continuously said throughout this process, no commitment will be made until we have both evaluated the official proposal and received input from interested parties, including impacted community members. At the end of the day, any decision will be guided by what is best for Nevadans, our economy, and our communities.”