Top Nevada lawmakers applaud MLB approval of A’s relocation to Las Vegas

November 20, 2023 8:20 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
November 20, 2023 8:20 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports

As Major League Baseball authorized the move of the Oakland A’s to the Las Vegas Strip, leading Nevada lawmakers defended their decision to approve $380 million for a $1.5 billion stadium project, confident it will boost tourism and continue to build a sense of community.

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Nevada State Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro and Nevada State Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager addressed their votes from more than five months ago during Friday’s 2023 Gaming Law Conference hosted by the State Bar of Nevada.

MLB approved the relocation to Las Vegas in a unanimous vote of the 30 team owners on Thursday. The 33,000-seat stadium is expected to be completed in 2028.

“Having another team here and the infrastructure to come with it is going to be great,” Cannizzaro said. “While I know there are skeptics out there, at the end of the day, we’re going to see something here in Las Vegas that I never thought was possible. We’ll not only have a team that we can all join in, but it’s going to be a great destination on the Strip and bring ancillary benefits to Las Vegas. As a legislative body, we have to be forward-thinking and generate proposals that not only support our biggest industry in the state, but bring new ideas and new experiences to the Strip.”

Yeager cited the construction jobs that the stadium and MLB will bring, along with tourism to Las Vegas during the excessive summer heat when visitation is down.

“Those are all added benefits and there are intangible benefits to having a professional baseball team here as well,” Yeager said. “The Knights have been a success story in the way it’s galvanized the community. That really matters for the quality of life. I’m not too excited about the construction and traffic, but we’ll get through that. Hopefully, we’ll all be there on Opening Day 2028 and having a great time.”

Cannizzaro said the initial funding bill left the state “in a very unstable position” in terms of putting money on the line. She called that fiscally irresponsible, which is why it required changes before it was ultimately passed in a special session.

“I was born and raised in Las Vegas and I remember when they said they were going to bring a hockey team here. That was the dumbest thing I ever heard, hockey in the desert,” Cannizzaro said. “As it turns out, I’m a giant Golden Knights fan and didn’t know I loved hockey so much. We’ve seen what it means to have a major league sport in Nevada.”

The project is facing opposition from the teachers union that represents teachers outside of Las Vegas and are trying to put the stadium-funding issue before voters in 2024. Cannizzaro insisted the bill is fiscally responsible.

“Despite what you see on social media, the public dollars are in the form of tax credits. We’re creating a tax district and those proceeds will not only help support the stadium, but they’ll repay a big chunk of the tax credits. That’s huge, because when we issue tax credits to businesses, we typically see that there’s a willingness to give that money back to the state.”

Yeager said he met with representatives from the A’s for the first time about a year ago. He told them that when it comes to tax money for stadiums, a number Democrats and Republicans would never support it based on principle. He said the A’s had to build a bipartisan coalition, the same as the Raiders did with Allegiant Stadium funding.

“It took a long time to get there due to concerns about where the stadium was going to be,” Yeager said. “That matters tremendously to legislators.”

Then, the special session made it harder to get votes. Legislators were upset about having to stay in Carson City beyond what they were expecting.

“Our goal was to get the best deal possible for Nevada,” Yeager said. “We have the least amount of risk for the state and we did that by lowering the price tag from $500 million to $380 million — with a lot of refundable to the state.”