Get ready, Las Vegas. When John Fisher comes to your town, you better prepare yourself. After reading over some Las Vegas media this week, it does seem that most in the area understand the many financial issues that come along with rooting for a team owned by John Fisher. I have also seen some who are just happy getting a baseball team, while others believe that there is a chance of Las Vegas getting a NEW John Fisher. One who spends money!
“Let’s hope the worst team in baseball is also serious about spending money for the on-field product more than it has been in what seems like forever. It won’t work if not” – Las Vegas Review Journal, 04/20/23
If anyone thinks that he will spend money on the team in Las Vegas, they do not know John Fisher’s history while owning the A’s. This is a man with billions in art collections yet gets angry when minor league players ask to continue receiving their $400 weekly stipends so that they could pay rent or eat food. By doing this, the multi-billion dollar owner was saving under a $1 million dollars. This is a man who has a known net-worth above $2.5 billion yet tells local media that the team doesn’t do long-term deals because they can’t afford them. This is a man who has spent years complaining about the lack of revenues from his current ballpark, then turns around and tries to buy a part of one of the biggest soccer teams in the world.
I am not sure why, but I love the way that the Oakland A’s SBNation writer framed it when discussing the 2021 payroll. It seems to sum up how Fisher runs his teams.
“The A’s opened 2020 with a payroll in the neighborhood of $92 million. Their current roster (in 2021), with three weeks to go before spring training, carries a payroll around $72 million, and they reportedly “have no money” to spend beyond that” – AthleticsNation, 01/27/21
Since he became owner of the A’s, he has spent so little that he angered other MLB owners. To briefly summarize, the A’s received $34 million in revenue sharing in 2015. The A’s were only allowed to spend this money on team-improving things. Instead, they kept lowering their overall payrolls and making money. This seemed odd to other owners since the A’s were in the sixth-biggest market in baseball yet continued to be last or near last in payroll every year. So, they gave them a deadline and kicked them off MLB welfare in 2020 after slowly phasing them out over the previous years.
“The A’s big annual revenue-sharing check, over $30 million per season at one point, will disappear completely after this season. MLB is stripping Fisher of this annual bonanza partly because he was putting too much of it in his own pocket and too little into payroll” – San Francisco Chronicle, 03/20/19
What about today? Nothing is different. The A’s spend little to zilch on players and get revenue-sharing extensions from MLB. Then we will hear rumblings about possibly increasing the payroll and get….nothing. Want a recent example? The A’s spent more on payroll in 2002 than they did in 2022. Thanks to Spotrac, we know that the A’s payroll in 2002 was $39.7 million. Their payroll in 2022 was $29.3 million.
In addition to spending little, I hope Las Vegas fans realize that he will also bring in much less than expected. For just about every part of an owner. He won’t spend money on the team, he won’t spend money on the city/state, he won’t make games more fun (by upgrading the ballpark out of his own wallet) and he sure as hell won’t ever own a consistent winning team.
Then last week, I read a good article in the Nevada Independent wondering whether the Oakland A’s were inflating the potential tourism dollars that they would bring to the area with a new ballpark. Essentially, the A’s were using quite high numbers as a way to get positive PR and to get every possible public dollar out of the city of Las Vegas and/or state of Nevada. So far, every single argument that the A’s have given for needing taxpayer money in Las Vegas is completely misleading.
Currently, the A’s are still trying to get at least $500 million in taxpayer money for the new ballpark. Yet, as the Independent points out, that alone is slightly lower than the total amount that the city of Las Vegas brings in YEARLY from gaming taxes. The Oakland A’s believe that they are worth this money because they will bring in “400,000 new tourists to Las Vegas”. This is crazy. The A’s would not bring in anywhere near this number of visitors. Based on airline issues alone with Las Vegas, making half this number would be an achievement. But maybe the A’s could pull it off, considering they were dead last in attendance last year and are the lowest so far in 2023.
What about the massive amount of new spending that would come from the visitors and fans? The A’s have told us to look at Atlanta and see how their taxpayer-funded ballpark and district are doing.
“A’s president Dave Kaval told Channel 13 this week that the Atlanta Braves stadium development could be something to emulate.” – KTNV.com, 04/21/23
Good idea, Dave. Let’s look at the vast number of articles detailing what a financial disaster that ballpark and development are for residents of that area. Just a quick reminder, in 2016, Cobb County decided to give the Atlanta Braves all sorts of goodies in return for relocating several miles. They got a new ballpark, land around the ballpark (which they got for free yet control completely), and tons of tax breaks and credits. After initially costing just $270 million, the real cost of everything is moving on to $400 million and counting.
- $16.4 million paid yearly towards the public debt obligation on the stadium
- $6.4 million paid out of the county’s general fund,
- $10 million paid through a countywide hotel/motel tax, a countywide rental car tax, a localized hotel/motel tax, and localized commercial property taxes,
- $1.2 million paid for stadium operation and maintenance,
- $1 million paid for police and traffic games and events,
- Unknown millions of dollars spent on transportation infrastructure (One specific area cost $41 million to fix the roads).
I won’t even go into detail about the many millions that have gone missing and unaccounted for with this deal. Or the fact that a year before this deal, the Braves Triple-A team was facing massive financial issues due to the lack of economic impact of their own new publicly funded ballpark. There is no reason to worry, though. One local politician who voted to approve the Braves deal boasted that the “deal would provide a 60 percent annual return on investment on taxpayers’ money” and that it would be “the single greatest economic development project in the history of Cobb County”.
Did I miss a massive amount of economic success? Let’s ask a professor and economist years after the new ballpark opened:
“The findings indicate a net increase in taxable sales in the county; however, the magnitude is small and not statistically significant. Though an influx of net new spending is evident, approximately one-third of the project’s sales derive from crowding out other local economic activity. In total, added tax collections fall well short of covering the public subsidies that fund the stadium” – J.C. Bradbury of Kennesaw State University.
Much like every other time that a new sports place is built, the areas around it see little new investment and sporadic spending spikes. Moving forward, Cobb taxpayers are and will continue to be dealing with a $15 million a year deficit thanks to the new ballpark. As one economist noticed, this ballpark was “not a home run for Cobb as it was touted” and that local taxpayers “will never come close” to breaking financially even on this deal. Every year, we see more arena, ballpark, and stadium deals that seem to get worse for local taxpayers. When will people finally realize what some have been touting since 1997: “The effect of stadiums on the cash flow of teams and cities suggest that new facilities rarely, if ever, are worthwhile. Sometimes they can be financially catastrophic”.
Back to Oakland, we left off wondering why or how a new ballpark in Las Vegas would somehow bring about record tourism and new spending. It wouldn’t. Furthermore, didn’t the city previously give the Oakland A’s $80 million for their Triple-A team could build a new ballpark? In Las Vegas? Sadly, if you look at the attendance numbers of both the Triple-A team and the MLB team, you will see a number of times in which the home attendance at the Triple-A game was higher than the Oakland A’s home game.
“On a windy Thursday night, 7,255 fans found their way to the Las Vegas Ballpark for the Aviators home matchup against the El Paso Chihuahuas. Earlier in the day, the Oakland Athletics home game at the Oakland Coliseum drew just 4,429 fans. It was the third straight day the Athletics’ Triple-A team in Las Vegas drew a larger crowd” – Fox5Vegas.com, 04/22/22
If you are a Las Vegas taxpayer, I would also be a bit worried about just how much money the A’s will get from the city and state. Fisher has not come out and said anything yet (or ever on anything) but it has been reported that the A’s are asking for “roughly $500 million” in public money JUST TO BUILD the ballpark. That doesn’t include this so-called entertainment district that the A’s also want. When the Las Vegas Sun broke the story about the A’s wanting $500 million dollars, it came with other requests from the team:
- The A’s want $500 million for the building of a new ballpark
- The A’s want all property, sales, live, entertainment, business or other taxes collected in or around the ballpark to go back to the team through a special tax district
- The A’s want transferable tax credits.
- The A’s want redevelopment tax incentives
- Unknown costs
Suddenly, we are looking at many more millions being given to the team through all sorts of tax breaks and payouts.
Good luck, Las Vegas.