The A’s should be playing ball, not playing our city


We’ve all seen the news — the Oakland A’s owners entered an agreement to purchase land near the Las Vegas strip for a new ballpark. For years now the team’s owner, billionaire John Fisher, has been playing Oakland and Las Vegas against each other in hopes of gaining a massive taxpayer subsidy to build a luxury stadium complex.

After Oakland refused a deal involving $1 billion of taxpayer subsidies — funds that could instead be allocated to housing, homelessness, clean streets and public safety — for this private project, it was only a matter of time before Fisher made his Las Vegas play. However, the Nevada deal is far from certain.

What the A’s should do is build a state-of-the-art facility at their current Oakland Coliseum site along with housing, shopping, restaurants and entertainment. The Coliseum has been home to the team since 1968. The venue is surrounded by transit, light-rail and a nearby airport. East Oakland would welcome a new stadium that creates jobs and economic activity in the long-neglected neighborhood.

Fisher has made one thing clear: Whether it’s Oakland or Las Vegas, he is dead set on getting taxpayer funding for his stadium. Oakland wouldn’t pay for it, so he’s trying Vegas, where the prospects aren’t promising either.

Nevada’s Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager told The Nevada Independent the A’s could soon “run out of time” for seeking public money. They want $395 million from Nevada taxpayers, but they haven’t presented concrete terms to lawmakers, who only meet every other year and have just a couple weeks left in their current legislative session.

With Nevada’s next regular legislative session in 2025, and the A’s lease at the Coliseum expiring in 2024, the window of opportunity for the team’s Las Vegas play is rapidly closing.

What’s sad for A’s fans is that this isn’t about doing what’s best for the team; it’s not about baseball at all. Fisher is playing his own game with our cities, trying to see which he can convince to foot the bill for a private development project from which he will reap most of the benefits.

Ironically, keeping the team where it belongs by building a world-class ballpark complex at the Coliseum would be vastly cheaper than a new stadium at Howard Terminal in Oakland or in Las Vegas. Nationally renowned sports economist Nola Agha’s study found that rebuilding at the proposed Howard Terminal location would have required at least $850 million in off-site public expenditures solely due to the unique location of the site.

The independent economic analysis of the A’s proposed Howard Terminal facility also found that although Oakland residents would have footed most of the bill, the A’s would have received 75% of the site’s annual tax revenue, leaving only a fraction going back into the community.

That’s consistent with hundreds of studies showing that pouring taxpayer money into sports venues brings little-to-no economic or social benefits to communities. Oakland learned from the Raiders and Warriors that taxpayer subsidies for private stadiums are not an investment in the community nor do they engender loyalty from team owners.

But we can keep the A’s and keep our money. In the Bay Area and throughout the state, teams have built stadiums without massive taxpayer subsidies: the Giants’ Oracle Park, Warriors’ Chase Center, 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium and SoFi Stadium for the Rams and Chargers, for example. Further, these stadiums’ associated developments were all largely privately financed.

The A’s billionaire owner shouldn’t be any different. He should stop asking for a taxpayer handout. If Nevada holds firm — as it should and as Oakland has — Fisher should refocus on the most obvious solution: spending his own money to rebuild at the Coliseum.

Desmond I. Jeffries is an Oakland resident, educator, organizer, policy analyst and A’s fan.


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