After spending the week in Las Vegas chatting to elected officials and sports and casino managers, Oakland Athletics’ heads are optimistic about the city’s opportunities for Major League Baseball.
Athletics President Dave Kaval said Thursday that he impressed Southern Nevada and excited to return after meeting Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, a trio of Clark County commissioners and a group from Henderson, including City Belonged to manager Richard Derrick, leaves.
“It was a great first trip,” said Kaval in an exclusive interview with the Review Journal. “Everyone made us very welcome. We don’t have all the answers. We are approaching this and trying to listen to understand what could work for a major league team here in Las Vegas. “
Kaval and the A’s group, which also owned John Fisher, also met with executives from Caesars Entertainment, Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts. Kaval met with the Golden Knights owner, Bill Foley while watching a Knights playoff game that drew a lot of attention when he posted an excited tweet about the audience at T-Mobile Arena.
Kaval said his fact-finding mission this week had multiple dimensions. The first was marketability.
“Can 81 home games work here in Las Vegas?” Asked Kaval. “There was the success of the Golden Knights, the raiders who all sold their tickets. To really understand this market feasibility, it was really a matter of give and take in every conversation we had with everyone.”
Second, a stadium in southern Nevada would make the most sense.
Kaval and the local groups toured potential stadium locations near the Las Vegas Strip, Summerlin, and Henderson, including the area near M Resort on Las Vegas Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway. You also checked out Cashman Field near downtown Las Vegas.
“All of these different places and visiting these sights, walking around and seeing with your own eyes and hearing from real estate people and understanding what is possible – that was a huge focus that we devoted a lot of time to,” he said.
Not a preferred location
Kaval said A officials did not have a preferred location for a ballpark, which could be affected by research they need to conduct to determine predicted population participation versus attendance.
After attending the Knights game and an Aviators game at the Las Vegas Ballpark while entertaining several fans, Kaval said he found that the local fan base was deeper than he expected.
“When we met Bill Foley and the Aviators, it was very impressive to see the success of professional sport in southern Nevada with the locals,” said Kaval. “What a mix our organization would have here in terms of tourists and locals, I don’t think we have an answer. But I think it depends a little bit on which location makes the most sense. But surely the resort corridor is one that we are seriously looking at. “
If Goodman had his way, the team would move to the Cashman location she and her husband Oscar Goodman have set up for years.
“The ball is obviously in their field – or their stadium – and they will evaluate everything,” Goodman said in a brief interview.
The mayor’s pitch for the A’s mirrored that of the Raiders about five years ago, Goodman said. In 2016, she put the city’s own Cashman Center as the ideal location for a stadium. The location is located in a federal opportunity zone that is intended to encourage private investment through tax incentives.
The two sides didn’t discuss the financial ins and outs of a new stadium, she said, but the A’s were “certainly very enthusiastic” about the opportunities in southern Nevada.
Henderson officials also met with the team on Thursday morning. A source knowledgeable of the conversations said city officials had not offered any potential locations to house a ballpark.
The city was discussing an earlier stadium concept it developed in an earlier attempt to move the Arizona Diamondbacks to West Henderson, the source said.
The A’s are interested in a ballpark surrounded by mixed-use development similar to what has been proposed in Oakland and what has already been built in Cobb County, Georgia for the Atlanta Braves, the source said.
The third focus for the A group was to gain an understanding of how a public-private partnership could work.
“The Raiders put one together that contained a bill at the state level,” said Kaval. “Of course we are still at a very early stage to understand what is possible. But that’s important to understand. “
The Raiders received $ 750 million in public funds for the $ 2 billion cost of Allegiant Stadium. That money is generated through a 0.88 percent tax on hotel rooms in Clark County.
The final focus was determining the team needed to build a stadium in southern Nevada.
“Who can we add to the team? Who do we need to talk to? ”Said Kaval. “One thing we discovered on that first trip is that there are still a lot of people to talk to.”
Outside of the scheduled meetings, Kaval attended the opening party in the West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The event was full of notable Las Vegas players, including Governor Steve Sisolak.
“He is very happy to see me in Carson City to spend some time together,” said Kaval. “I think that was really encouraging.”
The next step in the process is for Kaval to travel to New York next week to give MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred a report on the trip.
Kaval said he would use game day experience at the Knights game as a blueprint for A’s games in Las Vegas.
“Our business is entertainment and I think the more we do to have a premium experience, both in terms of the venue we have built, wherever it is built, and then the programming experience, this is vital, ”said Kaval. “It feels like it’s an expectation and I think it’s something our league needs.
“I think MLB needs more of that. More funding. More excitement. A show.”
With a week in the area, Kaval and the A’s left Thursday evening in a good mood about what lies ahead and said returns are expected.
“One thing about the Southern Nevada region is that there are many options,” said Kaval. “So we just want to take this thoughtful and do the necessary research, talk to the relevant parties and understand what it all means.”
Contact Mick Akers at [email protected] or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter. The Review Journal’s staff, Shea Johnson and Blake Apgar, contributed to this report.