Gov. Joe Lombardo wants to help create MLB’s tiniest ballpark, believing that the poorest club in baseball can bolster Las Vegas’s sports destination status.
The Oakland Athletics stadium plan has reignited the public-private sports club finance argument. Nevada’s powerful tourist sector, including trade unions, faces a rising chorus of primarily progressive groups nationwide who are concerned about using tax resources to support sports stadiums instead of government services or schools.
Politicians in Buffalo, New York; Atlanta, Georgia; and Nashville, Tennessee have authorized hefty government subsidies for sports teams. However, Tempe voters rejected a $2.3 billion proposal that would have built an NHL arena for the Arizona Coyotes.
The Oakland A’s organization has hired more than a dozen lobbyists to convince lawmakers in Nevada’s normally sleepy, 60,000-resident state capital to approve the $1.5 billion stadium project, which will create jobs, boost economic activity, and add a new draw to Las Vegas’ tourism-based economy without raising taxes. The city’s sudden sports success with NFL, NHL, and WNBA clubs that weren’t there seven years ago is the pitch.
“Las Vegas is clearly a sports town, and Major League Baseball should be part of it
Tax credits and other public subsidies have been criticized by opponents of professional sports club incentive packages. They cite accumulating evidence that the new stadium’s revenue would not be spent at surrounding resorts and eateries. The state may not get half the tax credits. After stadium expenditures, the A’s community involvement, including homelessness prevention and outreach, depends on money left over.
“I just cannot justify giving millions of public dollars to a multibillion-dollar corporation while we cannot pay for the basic services that our folks need,” Democratic Assemblywoman Selena La Rue Hatch said.
With two weeks remaining in the legislative session, Lombardo proposed the stadium finance measure last month.
The plan would offer up to $380 million in public aid, including $180 million in transferable tax credits and $120 million in county bonds, and taxpayer-backed loans, to finance stadium projects and a special tax district. Backers say the district will produce enough money to pay off bonds and interest.
Clark County, which covers Las Vegas, would give the A’s $25 million in infrastructure credit and waive property taxes for the publicly owned stadium.
Tax subsidies keep decades-old firms in Buffalo and Oakland, stadium proponents say. Nevada debates differently. For years, policymakers and appointed committees have discussed diversifying the economy to justify subsidies to enterprises like Tesla. To attract large film studios to Las Vegas, legislators are considering a $190 million film tax credit scheme over 20 years.