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“Done Deal”: Now Fisher Just Needs To Go 6 for 6

Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels
A rendering of Mike Trout.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Since the dawn of baseball in the 19th century, fewer than 100 major league players have gone 6 for 6 in a game. Now John Fisher is trying to join the list. Despite all the proclamations that the A’s move to Las Vegas is a “done deal,” by my count Fisher still has 6 legitimate hurdles to clear any one of which could, on its own, derail the project like a BART train trying to get to the Orinda station.

This list does not even include approval from the FAA, whose denial would in fact prevent the stadium from taxiing to reach the tarmac. That approval is expected, or at least it’s presumed that the designers and architects won’t create something unless they know it meets FAA approval.

We also presume, here, that the A’s are capable of showing renderings to the public even though they claimed to be about to on December 4th, abruptly canceled the press conference same day, and curiously have not rescheduled for over a month now. Surely those renderings exist and are ready, even if they may be another clumsily photo shopped entry from google images bearing no particular relationship to the actual plot of land on which SB1 requires them to build.

No, there are still 6 other hurdles the A’s have yet to show they can clear. Here they are, with updated analysis on where things stand — or teeter as the case may be.

9 acres

The A’s have yet to explain how they intend to make what is now being described as a 33,000 seat stadium (it magically gained 3,000 seats when it was pointed out that selling out every single game in a 30,000 seat venue still fell short of the promised 2.5 million fans) fit, with a covering, on 9 acres.

Presumably the renderings will answer this question, which makes it all the more curious that these renderings keep forgetting to introduce themselves to the public eye. Given that an open air stadium is untenable in the desert and how much of a footprint a retractable roof requires, one can only assume we will eventually be shown the ultimate monstrosity: a domed stadium that purports to fit on 9 acres and seat over 30,000 fans.

I am not intimately familiar with the Las Vegas strip, but several fans who live in Las Vegas and work on the strip have scoffed and given the “no way” vote to whether such a stadium can fit on such a parcel. Maybe it barely can and maybe it can’t quite — what we know for certain is that it is a tighter fit than a sorority girl’s wet shirt on spring break, which is an apt analogy when you consider that 2 boobs (named John and Dave) are in charge of leading the stadium project.

Unless the A’s are suddenly gifted additional acreage or move the project and get legislators to take up a new vote to move the $380M with it, the question of whether the stadium they need to provide can fit in the space allocated will remain a fair question.

Bally’s demolition

I’m intrigued by this “wild card” that hasn’t been much mentioned. Needed, apparently, to make room for the new stadium, is the demolition of the existing Bally’s casino. While the A’s were in negotiations for tax payers’ money, Bally’s said it planned to demolish the casino “in the next year or two,” but never really committed to a hard date or timeline.

What’s interesting about this is that Bally’s has no particular incentive to tear the building down or to do it on someone else’s timeline. Currently the A’s appear to be trusting that it will happen and happen soon, and that they won’t have to pay for it.

What’s fascinating about this is that it seems the casino contains asbestos, which makes its demolition far more costly — as well as potentially subject to environmental lawsuits that could delay demolition if concerns are raised that it will be done cheaply instead of safely.

EIRs and lawsuits could delay any planned demolition, and if the A’s aren’t absorbing the demolition cost then Bally’s might be tempted to delay a costly action they don’t have to take at any given moment, if ever.

The bottom line is that it is going to be expensive to tear down a building that isn’t costing anything by just standing there. Is this demolition a certainty the A’s have every right to count on? Maybe. But if it isn’t a contracted promise, it could be one that is reneged on as costs — or perhaps litigation — make demolition prohibitive while “doing nothing” continues to be the easiest and most cost effective move.

Financing

This is the one most experts believe stands the best chance of derailing Project Betray Everyone. Does Fisher have the means to get financing for the $1.1B needed even with $380M gifted tax payer dollars and no overruns?

To answer this question, I aggressively pushed through the long line of bankers and lenders trying to court Fisher and clawed my way to the front. Then I put my shoes on my head and A’s caps on each foot to further celebrate “Opposite Day”.

You see, Fisher has more hair than he has “cash flow” and he’s nearly bald. No financing plan has been announced because no lender has looked at the books and said, “Yeah that’s a good bet. How could this possibly go sideways?” If lenders are anything, they’re conservative around risk and anyone paying attention to the clown show that has been Fisher and Kaval — with laughable renderings and impossible math based on absurd promises — isn’t rushing to put up over $1B hoping that 8% of Las Vegas tourists will actually attend A’s games.

Referendum

$1.1B is the A’s figure as to what they need to come up with to build a stadium, but two factors threaten to raise that number significantly. One is the referendum Schools Over Stadiums has vowed to get on the ballot in November, 2024, provided they can figure out how to get a court-approved petition submitted and just over 102,000 signatures evenly distributed across 4 congressional districts.

According to Schools Over Stadiums, “Depending on the court schedule, we’ll hopefully be ready to go (whether the court agrees with our position, or doesn’t and advises us on what needs to be changed) by late February or early March, which is still plenty of time [to collect signatures].”

They appear to have calculated that 3 months is ample time to get the necessary signatures. Otherwise it would have made far more sense just to refile the petition 2 months ago according to the court’s objections and get going.

Hopefully they know what they’re doing, because in all likelihood the biggest hurdle is just the act of getting the referendum on the ballot. Recently history shows that every time the public is asked to vote on allocating public money for a stadium, whether through an affirmative vote or referendum, voters oppose spending their money in that way.

It’s rumored that the $380M is actually worth closer to $600M when you factor in associated tax breaks and such, which would raise the stakes even higher for the A’s. If that money disappears, whether it’s about 1/4 of $1.1B or about 1/2 of $1.1B, it’s enough to break the camel’s back along with its neck and spine.

Overruns

Another way the $1.1B could become more is if it was never $1.1B to begin with. That is, if the project was never going to come in at $1.5B. The Sphere, a just completed arena in Las Vegas, seats only 18,000 and was also budgeted at $1.5B. However, the actual price tag turned out to $2.3B.

How the A’s intend to build a stadium that seats 33,000, and protect it from the 116 degree weather, and do it for $1.5B, hasn’t really been answered other than flapping gums that insist “That’s what it will cost.”

And indeed that’s what it will cost, until it doesn’t. And then what? What does an owner, who apparently can’t weather losing $380M, do if the cost turns out to be close to a billion more than it was supposed to be?

Interim Venue

Finally, while solving the above 5 problems the A’s need to figure out where to play from 2025-27. Oakland isn’t making the Coliseum available, not without being promised an expansion team and keeping the A’s name, and you would hope the MLBPA would nix the absurd idea of splitting between 2 home venues one of which is an open air minor league park of 10,000 capacity in 100 degree temperatures (pick your choice of Summerlin or Sacramento).

A third “mystery city” has two distinct problems. One is that it doesn’t seem to actually exist, at least not to the extent that anyone is prepared to utter it out loud. The other is that it comes without the mega TV deal the A’s stay tapped into if they play at least half their games in NorCal.

Presumably there are solutions that, while ridiculous, would at least allow the project to go forward. Such as playing 162 away games for 3 years, or hosting games at Cal in front of cardboard cutouts.

So here sit the A’s, incapable of even producing renderings that look realistic or exist at all, trying to 6 for 6 or else watch it all go up in smoke just as did Laney College and every idea before it. You’ll forgive me if I haven’t reserved my 2028 Opening Day seats in Las Vegas just yet.