Las Vegas Should be Wary of a Deal for the Athletics | Citizens Against Government Waste

Las Vegas Should be Wary of a Deal for the Athletics

The WasteWatcher

The lure of landing a major league team has led many cities to provide massive handouts and subsidies.  Las Vegas became home to the Golden Knights of the National Hockey League in 2017 and the Raiders of the National Football League in 2020, and now may be poised to add Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Oakland Athletics.  The A’s, as they are also known, have expressed a desire to leave their home by San Francisco Bay follow their former RingCentral Coliseum co-tenants Raiders to Las Vegas, this time with a facility of their own.  While the extent to which a prospective stadium might receive public funding is unclear, such a move would likely come at great taxpayer expense.

Rumors of a pending move to Las Vegas have increased in recent weeks after Oakland failed to secure billions of dollars in federal grants to build new infrastructure around the team’s preferred site in the city’s Howard Terminal area.  As talks faltered in the Bay Area, the A’s and the MLB have reportedly begun to focus on three sites in the Las Vegas area, with Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo (R) refusing to rule out the possibility of public subsidies.

Las Vegas residents have good reason to be concerned about doling out more money for a new baseball stadium.  After several years of fruitless demands for the city of Oakland to upgrade or replace what was then the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum and now the RingCentral Coliseum, the Raiders’ owner, Mark Davis, elected to decamp for Las Vegas.  Davis, who has an estimated net worth of $1.9 billion, was able to secure a then-record $750 million in public funds to construct Allegiant Stadium.  Given the large sum of taxpayer funds funneled to the Raiders, it should come as no surprise that the MLB and A’s leadership has centered on Las Vegas as the potential new home for the franchise.

Taxpayers should worry that the overtures by the A’s to relocate their stadium could lead to greater concessions as part of another bidding war between Oakland and Las Vegas.  Even more worrisome is possibly surpassing the new record for a taxpayer subsidized stadium.  In 2021, the Buffalo Bills entertained the possibility of departing the Empire State for Austin, Texas, before reaching a deal that will cost New York taxpayers more than $850 million in public funds to remain in their current location. 

Publicly subsidized professional sports stadiums have a long history of failing to provide taxpayers with the anticipated economic win for local taxpayers.  Despite promises of increased economic activity from major events, increasing tourism, and adding jobs, publicly funded professional stadiums tend to have little to no positive economic impact.  Numerous studies have found that dumping hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars in public money into professional stadiums provides no benefit to taxpayers.

If constructed, a new stadium for the A’s in Las Vegas would only be guaranteed to host 81 MLB games each season.  If the team made a World Series run, they could expect to host up to 13 additional games, bringing the total of days the stadium would be in use by the team for games up to a possible 94.  Outside of major sporting events, professional stadiums can also be used for major concerts.  However, in practice, few performers provide a large enough audience to justify touring in a large MLB stadium.  Moreover, Las Vegas is already home to a plethora of entertainment venues that offer entertainers ample space, making the addition of another stadium in the city for the purpose of entertainment a waste of resources.  Finally, Las Vegas’ economy already relies heavily on tourism.  Another professional baseball team moving to the city is unlikely to make a significant addition to the economy.

On top of the immediate costs of building a stadium that will fail to provide a return on investment for taxpayers, state and local leaders should also take note of the long-term consequences of a potential deal.  A new stadium deal using public funds could also leave taxpayers on the hook for improvements and upgrades decades from now.

Rather than giving in to demands for some form of public support for a new stadium, the city of Las Vegas, Clark County, and the state of Nevada should ignore any overtures to build a stadium for the A’s.  Providing any sort of public support, whether it be direct subsidies, infrastructure spending, or tax breaks will not pay off for local residents.  Las Vegas Knights owner Bill Foley, who paid for the team’s T-Mobile Arena with his own money, said in 2017 that public money is better spent “on firefighters, teachers, and policemen.”  Lawmakers should follow the Knights’ precedent and reject the Raiders’ precedent, and then take Foley’s advice to focus on public needs rather than subsidizing a new baseball stadium.