Las Vegas ballpark bill gets slow start in second special session, faces hardball questions from lawmakers

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 10:01 AM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - A marathon 15-hour legislative day kicked off day one of Nevada’s second special session, all to review the Las Vegas Stadium Bill for the Oakland A’s.

Governor Joe Lombardo issued a proclamation at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night, after a first special session to tackle a $1 billion Capital Improvement Budget. The proclamation has no ending timeframe.

The package in SB1 includes $180 million in state tax credits, $120 million in Clark County bonds, and $25 million in county funding. The initial bill never made it out of committee on a Memorial Day hearing.

The entire Senate heard a similar presentation from Steve Hill of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis. Economic benefits touted include more than 14,000 construction jobs and 10,000 jobs tied to operations, more than 80 games and close to 100 live events.

“It can allow Las Vegas as a city, as a sports destination, as the Sports Capital of the World to move forward,” Hill said to the Senate Committee as a Whole, stating conventions need more venues, and music acts and other sporting events seek more options for locations.

“This does sound like an exciting opportunity for Nevada,” said State Sen. Lisa Krasner.

Other lawmakers voiced concerns about the rushed and unexpected process.

“We are now ten days removed from that hearing in a second special session that has forced taxpayers to spend another $250,000 a day to keep us here. Yet what is before us today is the exact same bill that we heard ten days ago,” State Sen. Rochelle Nguyen said. Nguyen had asked for guarantees of community benefits.

“Transferring a team and utilizing Nevadans’ money-- we’ve been here 10 days. It’s concerning to me,” said State Sen. Edgar Flores. He asked for a community track record in Oakland, and a written statement or press conference on community benefits and contributions, or even an amendment in state law.

Projections state that 2.5 million visitors will attend games, annually, in the smallest ballpark in Major League Baseball at 30,000 seats.

“Is it reasonable the A’s will triple attendance in year one, two and three?” said State Senator Dallas Harris, noting the attendance projections averaging 27,000 a game.

“By building a new asset... it becomes a draw,” Aguero said, stating that initial attendance will be high for the first few years and eventually level off.

The Oakland team currently has the lowest attendance in Major League Baseball.

Lawmakers asked about potential fiscal impacts to the state and to Clark County residents’ property taxes if projected revenues fall short, and the team fails to fulfill their debt payments. FOX5 has reported that Clark County officials negotiated specific terms to prevent that scenario as much as possible.

“What is the worst-case scenario in case things don’t go well?” Harris asked.

Aguero noted the project would have four years of debt service reserves, which would be fully depleted if there were zero revenue for four years.

“That’s a pretty unlikely scenario considering the order of magnitude,” Aguero said. During the pandemic, when the stadium generated no revenue, Clark County dipped into its debt service reserves to make bond payments.

Lawmakers also voiced concerns about traffic. Hill said that Clark County and the team will have discussions on infrastructure improvements.

A high-level official tells FOX5, the team would have to pay for any additional improvements outside the $25 million in the bill for infrastructure, public works and stadium improvements. A pedestrian bridge could cost $20 million.

For the ballpark bill to pass, SB1 needs a Senate Committee of the Whole vote, then a vote by the entire Senate; then as the bill heads to the Assembly, it would require an Assembly Committee of the Whole vote, then a whole Assembly vote.