We’re about to find out if Nevada’s legislators are as gullible as Oakland’s lawmakers were back in the mid-90s. That’s when the Oakland-Los Angeles-Oakland Raiders used smoke, mirrors, pressure and false promise to get Oakland’s legislators to agree to basically “shoot themselves in the foot and like it!”
That horrific deal included building Mount Davis and spending millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars that “Personal Seat Licenses” were going to cover. Until it didn’t and Oakland wound up losing the Raiders yet again — with the Raiders walking away from $189M in debt — while the city of Oakland was still paying off its own debt from a truly disastrous deal.
Fast forward to John Fisher and Dave Kaval’s attempt to pull wool over the eyes of Nevada’s lawmakers in 2023. Should legislators be impressed that the A’s have entered into a “binding agreement” with Bally’s casino? Or should they remember that less than a month ago the A’s entered into a “binding agreement” for a different plot of land that is suddenly no longer being mentioned?
Should lawmakers be impressed with Fisher’s promise to bring a new stadium to Las Vegas, and with it increased payroll for a more competitive team that attracts and retains top players? Or should they look at the San Jose Earthquakes, where the exact same pair of Fisher and Kaval built a new stadium full of fans — but have maintained low payrolls in order to pocket more revenue?
Should lawmakers trust Kaval when he says “We’re building here, folks!” Or should they note that Kaval made the exact same proclamation about Laney College 6 years ago, only to accidentally dot his t’s and cross his i’s, making a definitive announcement for a project that would fall apart long before the first shovel could be introduced to the ground?
The devil is usually in the details, especially when the guys across the table are the closest things to the devil you will find. Perhaps Nevada’s lawmakers should notice that in the agreement just drafted, neither “the A’s” nor the Bally’s property are specifically mentioned, giving it all the teeth of the front office “floating a concept” to Marcus Semien.
And maybe, just maybe, they should take a closer look at the ballpark rendering released yesterday and take note of how shoddy an effort it is. Could a college student not have produced this in a 48 hour cram session? Because it looks a whole lot like the Oakland Coliseum, complete with unusually cavernous foul territory, photoshopped to look like it was plopped down on the Las Vegas strip.
Only it isn’t on the 9 acres that is Bally’s backyard. It appears to be on the entire Bally’s 35 acre property, suggesting that in a back alley deal the A’s must have convinced their landlord to tear down its own casino, as a courtesy, to make room for its new tenant. That’s not roulette Bally’s is playing; it must be Russian roulette.
And then, of course, comes the key issue of public financing as the A’s come up with figures that have all the trappings of a slick used car salesman. Apparently, despite the absence of “Personal Seat Licenses” the A’s are going to generate revenue from 2.5M fans each year despite building a 30,000 seat stadium.
This will be evidently be accomplished in part by luring 400,000 new tourists each year to come watch the A’s, a figure plucked out of the air for no particular rhyme or reason. And then the A’s will be able to overcome basic math, because even if they were to sell out every single game that would only add up to 2,430,000 fans. Maybe my calculator is just broken, or perhaps “standing room only” overflow will make up the difference.
I suppose it’s vaguely possible, though, that the A’s could fail to sell out a game on some Tuesday night when they’re playing the Pirates. That could mess up the projections, but that’s ok — taxpayers won’t mind funding the difference after it’s too late to say no. We didn’t sell out Wednesday afternoon either when it was 106 outside and no one really wanted to leave their homes or hotel rooms? Hmm...oops.
Soon, Nevada’s lawmakers are going to have to decide whether an owner with a history of operating strictly on the cheap, a team president whose main skills appear to be lying and failing to build stadiums, a financial package that asks for $380M from taxpayers but doesn’t add up, and a “breathtaking” rendering that looks like someone crammed for their final at 11:00pm the night before and hasn’t actually ever been to the Las Vegas strip, is worth committing to.
In other words, Fisher and Kaval have arrived to town with lipstick on a pig shouting to the rooftops that they have “a thoroughbred horse and you can have him but only if you sign here before midnight because everyone wants him!”
We will soon learn whether P.T. Barnum was right when he said there was a sucker born every minute. Nevada legislators, the ball will soon be in your court and you might want to remember who, and what, you’re dealing with because it ain’t a stallion.