By Mick Akers, Las Vegas Review Journal, May 15, 2023
The owners of the Tropicana hope that giving the Oakland Athletics 9 acres of land on the Las Vegas Strip free of charge will help to push the planned $1.5 billion MLB ballpark project to completion.
Bally’s Corp. Chairman Soo Kim told the Review-Journal that the estimated asking price for land on the south Strip is about $20 million an acre, or a potential $180 million for the A’s 9 acres.
This is as state legislators will decide as early as this week the fate of $395 million in public assistance for the 30,000-seat stadium. That would be produced mainly by a special tax district set up around the stadium site.
The 35-acre site is owned by Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc., Kim said. “We own the buildings and right of use. So it’s us together, that we decided to give these 9 acres to this effort. That’s a contribution. There’s no rent for them (A’s).”
GLPI would also fund up to $175 million in shared improvements in exchange for a rent increase for Bally’s. In 2022 Bally’s entered into a 50-year lease agreement with GLPI, that’s worth $10.5 million per year.
The deal is reliant upon the A’s landing a public assistance from the state and MLB approval of the A’s relocation.
“We are pleased to help facilitate their exciting vision for a new ballpark through our contribution of nine acres of that Tropicana site and look forward to the prominent place the overall project will occupy in the Las Vegas skyline,” GLPI Chairman and CEO Peter Carlino said in a statement.
With Bally’s willing to give up around $180 million in money that could be made on the 9 acres, they hope state lawmakers follow suit by approving the up to $395 million ask by the A’s.
“We would love to see some type of similar commitment from the county and state,” Kim said. “That’s a collective community effort to attract all of these franchises and all of the economic activity that comes with it .… We’re planting the flag and hope that everyone gets there.”
Kim noted that the A’s would eventually contribute the land to the Las Vegas Stadium Authority once the project is completed, similar to what the Raiders did with Allegiant Stadium.
“I think this is a once in a generation opportunity,” Kim said. “We looked at the situation and we understood that they needed to have some level of help. We said that we can start this process by contributing 9 acres free of charge.”
Kim noted that the situation would eventually benefit Bally’s Corp., as it has plans to build a new hotel-casino on the remaining 26 acres on the site after the stadium is built.
“The reality is that everybody will benefit,” Kim said. “The MGM has 16,000 rooms on the corners surrounding the site. They’ll be a beneficiary, the whole city and the Strip will be since there is now another reason to visit Vegas.”
Whether the Tropicana would have to shutter completely or if that could be done in phases as the A’s ballpark plans come to fruition is still being determined, Kim said.
“If we could close it off in phases and still use parts of it while we get started with the demo, do the stadium first,” Kim said. “I think the general thought process is to do the stadium first and to not be in a rush to develop the rest of the site. But I think that is going to be dependent on lots of different factors.”
The Tropicana land announcement came weeks after the A’s said they were set to build a ballpark and entertainment district on 49 acres of land owned by Station Casinos parent company, Red Rock Resorts.
Kim noted Bally’s Corp. has been in discussions with the A’s about the Tropicana site for about 2 years, with the situation finally coming to a head this weekend when a deal was finalized for the site.
The planned ballpark would be built on the southeast corner of the 35-acre site, with home plate facing northwest toward the strip, Kim said.
“The site is a square. It’s further to the south and further to the east, so closest to the airport and the furthest away from Tropicana and Las Vegas Boulevard,” Kim said. “From that location you can face toward the Strip. The open outfield will be toward the Strip and the back of it will also face the airport. The back of a stadium is probably best served as a billboard, in a way. Facing the airport will have its own sorts of advantages.”
Bringing in the potential MGM Resorts parking garages into the fray is a big deal for fans who would attend games and events at the stadium.
“The best baseball experiences are ones that have distributed parking and have some that walk toward a stadium,”Kim said.
The Boring Company also has an existing Vegas Loop station planned at the Tropicana site, which could prove beneficial to the transportation system in the area.
One high-profile backer of the A’s potential relocation is Golden Knights owner Bill Foley. Last week he told the Review-Journal that he is excited about the potential of creating a sports district of sorts on the south Strip, with T-Mobile Arena, MGM Grand Garden Arena and the A’s planned ballpark.
“It’s huge,” Kim said. “Look, he’s an important thought leader in the city. … And not only that, his NHL franchise is one of the most popular in the league. I think he knows what he is doing. I think he does see this effort as complementary. We don’t share a calendar.”
Kim said he hopes the public ask works out with the Legislature, as the A’s potentially have other options outside of Las Vegas and Oakland.
“If this fails, there won’t be another legislative session for 18 months or so,” Kim said. “They might not wait. There might be other cities. … I don’t think we should count on there being expansion. I really truly believe that this is our generational opportunity.”
The Raiders received $750 million in public funding paid via a 0.88 percent tax on hotel rooms in Las Vegas. Kim hopes all involved with approving A’s owner John Fisher’s public funding request see his ask, set to be paid for by a tax finance distract around the stadium site, in a different light.
“There is a perception amongst the franchise owners that there is some subsidy needed as they build or move,” Kim said. “I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, but I think in the grand scheme of things, relative to all the other franchises, the Fishers are willing to put up as much of their own money to build this thing is pretty impressive. I don’t think this ask feels like anything close to some of the other asks. I think it’s justifiable given the incremental economic incentives.”