MLB commissioner concerned by potential A’s stadium ballot question

31 October 2023

Last week, a top executive from Gaming and Leisure Properties (GLPI), which owns the proposed site for a Las Vegas ballpark, suggested the company might increase its investment in the project. 

A few hours later, Major League Baseball’s commissioner signaled his worry that a proposed ballot referendum could remove the public financing package.

Contradictory messages such as the two last week have not been unusual since the Oakland A’s launched a “parallel path” two years ago: moving forward on plans to either stay in Oakland or relocate to Las Vegas. The A’s settled in the spring on 9 acres of the 35-acre site that houses the Tropicana Las Vegas for a $1.5 billion, 33,000-seat stadium.

In June, “Schools Over Stadiums,” a political action committee led by the Nevada State Education Association (NSEA), launched a petition drive to qualify a referendum that would allow voters to approve or deny up to $380 million in public financing that was approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor during a special session earlier that month.

“If there was an adverse development with respect to that referendum, that would be a significant development,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said Friday in Arlington, Texas, hours before the opening pitch of the World Series, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“That’s all I can say about that,” he added.

A lawsuit challenging the referendum was filed in September by two longtime Nevada labor leaders. The A’s, precluded from commenting on the stadium matters during the World Series, are part of a coalition of business and labor interests that oppose the ballot question.

The A’s stadium effort has the backing of the state’s major labor organizations, including the Southern Nevada Building Trades, the Nevada AFL-CIO and Culinary Workers Local 226.

A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Nov. 6 in District Court in Carson City.

In an email Monday, NSEA spokesman Alexander Marks said the PAC would be out in Nevada communities collecting signatures to qualify the ballot question over the next few weeks.

“Nevada voters should decide whether their tax dollars are used to subsidize a billionaire’s stadium,” Marks said.

The petitioners must collect and submit at least 102,586 signatures — 10 percent of the ballots cast in the previous general election — by July 8, 2024. If a petition receives enough signatures and a simple majority of Nevadans vote in favor of the corresponding ballot question, it would pass and change state law.

A timeline unveiled at last week’s stadium authority meeting calls for the Tropicana to be closed and demolished by the end of next year with the ballpark’s construction to begin in April 2025.

Later this month, Major League Baseball owners are expected to consider the A’s relocation request. The vote requires 75 percent approval from the owners for the relocation following a recommendation by a committee of three owners.

During GLPI’s third-quarter earnings conference call Friday, COO Brandon Moore said the Pennsylvania-based company confirmed a gaming analyst’s report during the Global Gaming Expo that it might increase its current commitment of $175 million toward the demolition of the resort and “future development”.

He added that the development process is being driven by the A’s and Bally’s Corp., which leases the Tropicana from the REIT for $10.5 million a year.

Moore said in response to an analyst’s question, “I do think there will be an opportunity for us to invest more, but it’s way too early in the process for us to make any sort of commitment on that now.”

Moore said GLPI wants to see the latest stadium design from the A’s. The company would help Bally’s determine what the rebuilt casino resort would look like.

“It really depends on how the project comes together,” Moore said. “As the landowner, we have a unique interest in making sure that the value of what we own there is preserved.”

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