CARSON CITY, Nev. — The Oakland Athletics cleared a major hurdle for their planned relocation to Las Vegas after the Nevada Legislature gave final approval on Wednesday to public funding for a portion of a proposed $1.5 billion stadium with a retractable roof.
The deal that backers said will continue to help establish Las Vegas as the “entertainment and sports capital of the world” still needs the governor’s signature, and MLB still must approve the A’s move to the Las Vegas Strip, but both are anticipated.
The Assembly approved the final version of the bill with $380 million in taxpayer money on a 25-15 vote after making minor changes to the measure the Senate approved on a 13-8 vote Tuesday just hours before the Vegas Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup.
The Senate accepted the changes with no debate on a voice vote Wednesday night and sent it to the governor’s desk as an “emergency measure” adopted during the special legislative session that convened with Democratic majorities in both houses June 7. Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo had proposed the stadium spending plan.
The $380 million in public funding would mainly come from $180 million in transferable tax credits and $120 million in county bonds. Backers have pledged that the creation of a special tax district around the proposed stadium – that would be the smallest in Major League Baseball – would generate enough money to pay off those bonds and interest. The plan would not directly raise taxes.
The Nevada plan had revived the national debate over public funding for private sports clubs. A’s representatives and some Nevada tourism officials have said the measure could add to Las Vegas’ growing sports scene and act as an economic engine. But a growing chorus of economists and some lawmakers have warned that such a project would bring minimal benefits when compared to the hefty public price tag.
Assemblywoman Selena La Rue Hatch, D-Reno, said Wednesday night she couldn’t support the public financing given a lack of funding for Nevada’s overcrowded classrooms, inadequate child care services and “people sleeping on the streets.”
“No amount of amendments are going to change the fact we are giving millions of public dollars to a billionaire,” she said.
Under the deal approved Wednesday, the A’s would not owe property taxes for the publicly owned stadium. Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, would also contribute $25 million in credit toward infrastructure costs. The final version of the bill shifted some money that had been targeted for homeless programs to funds for low-income housing.
The Legislature’s vote is a victory in the A’s troubled search to replace Oakland Coliseum, where the team has played since arriving from Kansas City for the 1968 season. The team previously sought to build a stadium in Fremont, California, as well as San Jose and finally the Oakland waterfront – all ideas that never materialized.
The new 30,000-seat baseball stadium is planned along the Las Vegas Strip not far from the Knights’ T-Mobile Arena and another stadium that’s home to the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders.
A last-minute bill in Nevada’s 2016 special session paved the way for $750 million in public funding from hotel room taxes for the Raiders $2 billion Allegiant Stadium.
No public money was spent on the arena for the expansion hockey team.
In places like Buffalo and Oakland, proponents of new stadiums have argued tax incentives prevent the departure of decades-old businesses. But the debate in Nevada differed. The state already heavily relies on entertainment and tourism to power its economy, and lawmakers or appointed boards for years have talked about diversifying the economy to justify incentives to businesses including Tesla.
Assemblywoman Shea Backus, D-Las Vegas, said Wednesday night the amount of public money for the baseball stadium is less than what was spent on the Raiders’ stadium, which she said has exceeded expectations in terms of increased tourism dollars.
In addition to creating 14,000 construction jobs and permanent jobs at prevailing wages subject to collective bargaining, she said the presence of major league baseball in Las Vegas will build on the excitement surrounding the Raiders, the Golden Knights and the WNBA’s Aces in a city that had no major professional sports before 2016.
“With the Aces winning a national championship last year and the Golden Knights securing the Stanley Cup just last night, it is clear Las Vegas is clearly becoming the entertainment and sports capital of the world,” she said.
Athletics stadium deal wins final legislative approval in Nevada