It’s fun from time to time on this Texas Rangers blog to enjoy the misery of other teams, especially teams in the Rangers own division.
The Oakland A’s are having a monumentally bad season. On purpose. Their owner, John Fisher, is unleashing a real live version of the movie Major League onto Oakland fans, deliberately putting together the worst team possible to drive away fans, tank attendance, then plead the team needs to move because they get no support.
What they get, truth be told, is no support for having the city of Oakland, and its taxpayers, to build a billion-dollar ballpark for a multi-billion dollar business owned by a billionaire. As billionaires often do, Oakland’s owner is under the impression he owns the world and the world will do whatever he wants.
For the past dozen years, Oakland has said no. Billionaires don’t like being told no, so Fisher decided to dangle his more beloved asset, the Oakland Athletics, as bait. If you are not going to build me a new ballpark, I am taking my ball, and my ball club, and going to Las Vegas.
Not so fast.
It seems Vegas is not too anxious to gives alms to the rich, either. While a move to Las Vegas had been characterized in the press as a done deal, there is nothing done about it. (Of course, Fisher will probably eventually get his way, guys like that always be, but not without a bit of pain.)
The Nevada State Senate met on Thursday to vote on spending $380 million to fund building John Fisher a new stadium. They did not vote yes. They also did not vote no, so the whole ordeal remains in limbo. But the fact they didn’t rubber stamp it is huge.
The main sticking point is whether the Athletics intend to contribute to the tax base the way all other businesses are bound to do. Apparently, the team thinks it deserves special treatment. The City of Las Vegas enacted a Live Entertainment Tax to bars and restaurants on the Vegas Strip as a way of ginning up additional tax revenue to pay for things like roads and water—you know, unimportant things. The Athletics’ proposal for moving to Vegas stated that they will not, thank you, pay that tax.
When asked point-blank by a state senator whether the team intended to pay the Live Entertainment Tax, Athletics team president Dave Kaval launched into lawyer speak about trying the do what they can to help the situation for small and medium size businesses beyond that tax, blathering on like a crook who has been caught redhanded.
The state senator cut him off and reminded Kaval that it was a simple yes or no answer. He tossed out another confusing world salad that basically come to the conclusion that the Athletics thought they were privileged and did not feel it necessary, at this time, to pay the tax.
So, the Nevada State Senate did not feel it necessary, at that time, to vote yes on funding the new ballpark for the Athletics. The session ended, and they agreed they would reconvene about it Monday.
Especially annoying to Athletics leadership when when another state senator asked the team to explain how, in their proposal, they would attract an average of 27,000 fans to a game in Las Vegas when that would be tripling what they are getting in Oakland.
The team official could not guarantee those numbers. Of course he can’t. Why would anyone believe the owner of the Athletics would suddenly start investing in a winning team? If he wanted to win, he could do that in Oakland where the team is already beloved. What he wants is a floodgate of new revenue sources that Oakland would not give him that, so he wants Las Vegas to.
Embarrassed and humiliated, the team left Las Vegas without an answer. Without funding. And without the slam dunk love affair they had hoped would throw their arms around them and welcome them.
They will probably get the funding, though, when the senate meets on Monday. These things always happen. That’s what weekends are for. Backroom deals to be cut. Palms to be greased. Politicians to revert to being politicians. But at least, for one day, the Oakland Athletics had to squirm and had to lay bare the realization that the team owner has no intention of being a good citizen of the city of Las Vegas, and will make no guarantees he plans to win there. It’s a one-sided deal he is looking for.
It would be justice if Vegas says no. The Athletics wouldn’t be the first to leave Las Vegas feeling financially busted.
But all it would mean is they would have to turn their attention to finding another city to swindle.