John Fisher

What economic experts predict for A's pending Las Vegas move

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As the Athletics prepare to leave Oakland for a temporary home in Sacramento while their new ballpark on the Las Vegas strip gets built, many economic experts have predicted whether or not the new stadium will even happen. 

In an exclusive, The San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea interviewed various experts, many of whom believe it will be tricky for A’s owner John Fisher to secure the funding required for the new Las Vegas ballpark that is slated to open for the start of the 2028 MLB season.

Andrew Zimbalist, sports economist and professor at Smith College in Massachusetts, expressed his skepticism that Fisher could pull off the temporary Sacramento relocation and then move to Nevada.

“I don’t see this as a promising project at all. Enormous challenges are in front of the A’s,” Zimbalist told Shea. “Fisher hasn’t endeared himself to anybody in this process. If they do go forward with the plan to play in Sacramento for three years, it’ll be a major economic hit for him also. I think it’s tough. If I had to make a prediction, Las Vegas isn’t going to happen.”

Zimbalist explained to Shea that the way modern ballparks are financed will make it a challenge for someone like Fisher to secure the proper funding, even if he must dip into his family’s deep pockets.

“I think it’s going to be hard,” Zimbalist told Shea. “The way modern stadiums are financed these days is through collateral and real estate deals where the owner will kick in a certain amount of money for the ballpark and in return he’ll get development rights around the ballpark, sometimes well below market value for the land, and also tax abatements to incentivize investments that’ll be made for mixed-use development around the ballpark.

“The problem in Las Vegas is, there’s no land around there to develop on the Strip, and they don’t know where they’ll put parking. It’s a very crowded area. I don’t see how it happens on this site.”

Still, there are plenty of other people who believe that Fisher will have enough funding to cover the construction of his $1.5 billion stadium beyond the $380 million he would receive from the state of Nevada. Former A’s owner Lew Wolff told Shea that he sees no issues with Fisher and the new stadium project.

“John would not take on any activity that he was not financially capable and excited to do,” Wolff told Shea. “I have been involved with John and his family for decades and never encountered any endeavor that they undertook where they were not committed and capable of implementing.”

Oakland fans have made their displeasure of the Fisher regime known for many years, with recent actions including a reverse boycott of an A’s home game as well as signs/shirts asking him to sell the team.

After a series of failed negotiations with the city of Oakland earlier this year, Fisher announced that the team would leave the Coliseum after the 2024 season to play for three seasons at Dignity Health Park in West Sacramento while the Las Vegas ballpark is built.

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