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Will Nevada Pitch In for the Athletics’ New Stadium? An Economic Curveball Awaits

Nevada lawmakers are facing a significant decision that could dramatically change the state’s sports and economic landscape. They must determine whether to devote up to $380 million in public funds toward the construction of a new baseball stadium in Las Vegas for the Oakland Athletics.

Here’s the backdrop: The Athletics are eyeing a shift from Oakland to Las Vegas due to low game attendance and a rather dated stadium in East Bay. However, the Athletics are hoping for a helping hand from their prospective new home state. They’re asking for tax credits and bonds from Nevada to contribute towards their ambitious $1.5 billion, 30,000-seat stadium plan.

This proposition has sparked division within Nevada, a state that leans heavily on tourism and entertainment for its economic vitality. Business interests, including the influential Culinary Union, see potential in the stadium proposal. They argue it could generate employment opportunities and lure more tourists to Vegas’s famous Strip for pre-and post-game entertainment. The state’s GOP Gov. Joe Lombardo also echoes this sentiment.

Contrarily, critics propose that the vast $380 million could be better invested in alternative projects rather than a baseball stadium, particularly one owned by a billionaire heir of Gap’s founders.

Turning to the experts, Roger Noll, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Stanford, offers an insightful perspective on stadium financing. He maintains that new sports stadiums typically don’t bolster local incomes. According to Noll, for the incentives to pay off, the Las Vegas Athletics would need to attract substantial numbers of out-of-region spectators, a challenging task in a city teeming with entertainment options. Yet, his viewpoint doesn’t seem to have hindered other government bodies from financing stadium projects.

Looking at the broader canvas, despite the consensus among economists, governments have persisted in financing stadium projects. In recent years, public financing was approved for the new bases of the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans. Nevada has also previously contributed a hefty $750 million to facilitate the relocation of the Raiders from Oakland to Vegas.

As entrepreneurs and investors, this debate on public funding for private ventures like sports stadiums demands our attention. It raises critical questions about economic growth, public expenditure, and the dynamics of sports entertainment. We will continue to track this fascinating case to observe how these factors play out in the realm of real-world decision-making.