Oakland Athletics President Dave Kaval said momentum in Southern Nevada is building as the team explores possible relocation to the area.
Kaval was in Las Vegas on Thursday and Friday, again taking site visits and meeting with elected officials and resort and business owners regarding possibly building a $1 billion, 30,000-seat Major League Baseball stadium for the A’s in the Las Vegas Valley. Team owner John Fisher wasn’t included on this trip.
Following the two-day trip, Kaval said it shows that Las Vegas is a real option and not just a power play to force Oakland city officials’ hand on a proposed waterfront ballpark there.
“We’re just getting so much positive feedback in Southern Nevada and Las Vegas from all the key constituents and stakeholders,” Kaval said. “We’ve been very impressed with the can-do spirit and the interest in Major League Baseball here, and we remain committed to taking additional steps to see if that might be the option or the future home of the A’s.”
Team officials are already planning their fourth trip to Southern Nevada, tentatively scheduled for July 21-22 — immediately after a critical vote by the Oakland City Council on the waterfront ballpark.
Over 20 sites around Southern Nevada remain in play as a possible ballpark location, as the A’s commissioned several studies on all locations.
“We have some transportation studies that we are doing,” Kaval said. He also said Legends Hospitality of Dallas is preparing a feasibility study for the team.
Those studies will help the organization better understand what the mix of local fans versus visitors would be at a Las Vegas ballpark and help identify a location that is easy to travel to and from.
“All of that has to work in a concerted way for a facility of 30,000 (fans),” Kaval said. “We’re digging in on that and we’re launching those things right now. I think those are all really good signs in terms of having the right information necessary to cut down the number (of potential sites) to a more manageable number, around six or eight sites that we can go even deeper on.”
Despite having a robust list of potential stadium locations, a few sites around the Las Vegas Valley are emerging as favorites for the team.
Two sites in the city of Henderson jurisdiction are appealing to the A’s. One is a parcel of land near the Galleria at Sunset mall just off U.S. Highway 95, and the other is near the M Resort around St. Rose Parkway and Las Vegas Boulevard, just off Interstate 15.
“Those are the two main ones that are close to good transit and transportation options, like big freeways” Kaval said. “Those are the leading candidates for Henderson options.”
The A’s spent Thursday morning with Henderson staff discussing a variety of sites and how a possible deal with the city could work.
In those talks, the first conversations regarding a possible public-private partnership came up, Kaval said.
“We were learning more about ways that they could work with us and how they’ve done other partnerships, like with the Silver Knights and also with the Raiders on their training facility,” Kaval said. “I think we’re learning from what has been done in the past, what’s possible now, what different tools are available through state law or existing local jurisdiction.”
Henderson Deputy City Manager Bristol Ellington confirmed the A’s are exploring public financing options with the city but said Henderson has not yet hired any consultants or conducted any market analysis.
“The discussions, I would say, were still very preliminary at best,” Ellington said.
Another site that stands out is the southwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue. Currently owned by hotelier Phil Ruffin, the Las Vegas Festival Grounds is a spot the team is also keeping an eye on.
“That is certainly a really intriguing site because people already gather there, because there are events there now,” Kaval said. “It’s definitely something that we want to explore further, and I think on our next trip … I think we’re going to spend a little more time digging in on that, engaging Ruffin’s group and his team and see how that would work.”
A’s brass did met with executives of the newest resort on the Strip, Resorts World Las Vegas, and they noted the energy they are already bringing to the north Strip, where the festival grounds are located.
“We had a great set of meetings at Resorts World with Scott Sibella (Resorts World president) and seeing their new property,” Kaval said. “It’s great to see a new world-class resort and casino opening on the Strip. We just got a sense of what they’re doing here and how it’s really bringing a lot of life to the north end of the Strip.”
The A’s also met with Boring Co. President Steve Davis and staff as they showed him how their underground transportation system at the Las Vegas Convention Center works.
The groups discussed Boring’s ultimate plan to extend the system into the resort corridor and downtown Las Vegas, linking resorts, Allegiant Stadium and possibly McCarran International Airport.
“It’s a huge piece of information for us in terms of site selection because locations that are served by the (Vegas) Loop, obviously have the ability to have distributed parking,” Kaval said. “Especially for locals, it’s easier to get to and from. Understanding the timing and even the scope of their endeavor is pretty important to picking the best site for the stadium.”
Kaval said Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Chief Financial Officer Ed Finger was with them as they toured Boring’s site and noted the help the tourism agency has provided with their Las Vegas exploration.
“They have been an incredible ally and supporter,” Kaval said. “They know a lot and they have a lot of data, so it’s been great interacting with them and learning.”
Kaval also noted they were going to get focus groups put together soon to get local residents’ opinions on where an MLB stadium should be located. He said interested Southern Nevadans could email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact him on Twitter at @DaveKaval to provide their suggestions.
When team officials return to Southern Nevada this month for a fourth trip, they plan to meet with officials from the city of Las Vegas and Clark County, among others.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman confirmed the city didn’t meet with the A’s this time around.
“No meeting this trip,” Goodman said via text Friday afternoon. “They have all our information, which they got right up front on their first couple of trips.”
The first day of the planned fourth trip falls just one day after the Oakland City Council is set to vote on the team’s term sheet for a proposed waterfront ballpark.
Kaval said it’s clear two weeks before the vote that there are still big discrepancies between the two sides.
“I think we’re hopeful some progress could be made to get to an agreement there by the 20th, but we don’t know yet,” he said. “We have a pretty incredible vision that we spent five years and $200 million advocating and design and getting community input on. We feel that we’ve given it a lot to make it work there, and we’re hopeful that it could work out in a positive way. But per the direction of the league and being prudent about things … we have to have this parallel path in Southern Nevada.
“The parallel path is gaining a lot of momentum. There’s a lot of positive developments here, and we’ve been really impressed with everything we’ve learned on the three trips that we’ve had here in the last six weeks.”