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Governor signs public funding bill for new Athletics stadium in Las Vegas

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics

Jun 15, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; Oakland Athletics designated hitter Seth Brown (15) hits into a double play with bases loaded as second baseman Tony Kemp (5) runs before being tagged out at home during the seventh inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

RENO, Nev. -- Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo signed into law a $380 million public financing package to help build a Major League Baseball stadium for the Oakland Athletics on the Las Vegas Strip as MLB’s commissioner outlined a months-long approval process for the A’s proposed move there.

The first-term Republican governor and former sheriff in Las Vegas said he was excited to sign the measure the Democrat-controlled Legislature approved after a seven-day long special session.

“This is an incredible opportunity to bring the A’s to Nevada,” Lombardo said in a statement from Carson City.

The $1.5 billion stadium with a retractable roof is planned near the homes of the NFL’s Vegas Raiders, who fled Oakland in 2020, and the NHL’s Golden Knights, who won the Stanley Cup this week in just their sixth season.

“This legislation reflects months of negotiations between the team, the state, the county, and the league,” Lombardo said. “Las Vegas’ position as a global sports destination is only growing, and Major League Baseball is another tremendous asset for the city.”

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred outlined the review process of the A’s proposed relocation during a news conference hours earlier at a meeting of owners in New York. With a capacity of 30,000, the stadium would be MLB’s smallest.

Manfred said the team must submit a relocation application explaining its efforts in Oakland and why Las Vegas is a better market. A relocation committee will define the new operating territory and television territory. It will then make a recommendation to Manfred and the eight-man executive council. The executive council formulates a recommendation to all clubs, which must approve the move by at least three-quarters vote.

The team said in a statement the Nevada governor’s signing of the funding package was “a significant step forward in securing a new home for the Athletics.”

“We will now begin the process with MLB to apply for relocation to Las Vegas,” the statement said. “We are excited about Southern Nevada’s dynamic and vibrant professional sports scene, and we look forward to becoming a valued community member through jobs, economic development, and the quality of life and civic pride of a Major League Baseball team.”

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 would generate enough money to pay off those bonds and interest. The plan would not directly raise taxes.

The 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.

Opposition came from both sides of the aisle, especially in northern and rural Nevada several hundreds of miles away from Las Vegas.

“No amount of amendments are going to change the fact we are giving millions of public dollars to a billionaire,” Assemblywoman Selena La Rue Hatch, a progressive Democrat from Reno, said during the debate.

“Using taxpayer money on pet projects instead of private capital is socialism,” said Republican Sen. Ira Hansen, from neighboring Sparks.

But backers said in addition to creating 14,000 construction jobs and permanent jobs subject to collective bargaining, Major League Baseball on the Las Vegas Strip 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,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Shea Backus, from Las Vegas.