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Graney: Public-private details key in A’s desire to relocate

Do you know when the narrative about the Oakland A’s relocating to Southern Nevada will really become interesting? When the team publicly shows its hand regarding a public-private partnership.

Right now, we haven’t even seen the river card.

“If you look at where we are in Oakland,” said A’s president Dave Kaval, “we’re in the bottom of the ninth inning.”

Countered one person intimately involved with the talks here: “If that’s the case, they just got to home plate to exchange lineups in Las Vegas.”

While a July 20 date looms in which a non-binding vote from council members in Oakland should take place on whether to approve the team’s proposal to build a new stadium as part of a $12 billion Howard Terminal waterfront project, you can still define progress here as a baby taking his first steps.

That could quickly translate to a sprint should things fall apart for good in the Bay Area. Symmetry doesn’t exist in tales of relocation. What occurs in one municipality isn’t perfectly arranged around some contrived axis with another.

A mayoral debate?

I’m certain three trips here — there is a fourth tentatively scheduled — have educated the A’s well enough to understand where potential partners stand on the use of public money for any ballpark/redevelopment project.

The team reportedly broached the topic with Henderson officials this week when discussing possible sites for a $1 billion, 30,000-seat Major League Baseball stadium.

It wouldn’t take multiple visits to grasp that anything close to a repeat of Senate Bill 1 — which included $750 million of Clark County bond proceeds and room-tax revenue for Allegiant Stadium, along with the renovation and expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center — isn’t happening. Nor should it. Like ever.

Which makes the ultimate search for an A’s project site — Kaval says his group has toured more than 20 — and how it would ultimately be financed all the more fascinating.

Now, if you tell me this entire thing could be decided by a debate between mayors Carolyn Goodman of the city and Debra March of Henderson, with Anderson Cooper as moderator, well, bring the Golden State Warriors along also and we’ll find the money. (Kidding on the last part).

There is a chance, perhaps a good one, a partnership could be developed between the team and certain gamers on The Strip. Kaval met with such executives this week. Never discount the allure of 81 home dates to those who see the potential for a profitable bottom line.

I can’t believe there is much hunger at all from the county to involve a cent of public funds toward such a project. Things are hardly robust in the pandemic’s menacing shadow.

There are assuredly those options in Henderson and likely similar ones in Summerlin as well. One could be selling the land given to the Athletics for less than the appraised value. Developing the land around a stadium is a priority for A’s owner John Fisher.

Would either community have the ability to also pony up, say, 10-15 percent of public money if included in any A’s proposal?

It has always made sense that the A’s and — perhaps to even a larger degree — Major League Baseball are all sorts of intrigued by Las Vegas. The sport is starving for more in-game entertainment options to interest and draw a younger audience. Nobody does flashy like this city. See Knights, Golden.

The A’s and the league undoubtedly envision great potential for that here. It might not be first on their list of enticements, but it’s close.

Still, the first pitch hasn’t really been thrown.

Taking the temperature

While the July 20 vote in Oakland is critical in that the A’s should have a better sense of whether the obstacles there can be overcome, things like market feasibility and economic studies and potential sponsorships and transportation and projected ticket sales must be investigated and vetted in Las Vegas.

The A’s need to take a temperature of several facets, an undertaking having already begun by the team retaining Legends Hospitality of Dallas.

“Our concerns are growing about the gap between the city (of Oakland) and our position, but we remain optimistic there will be a change between the two between now and the 20th,” Kaval said. “At the same time, we have built momentum in Las Vegas and Southern Nevada. There are incredible things happening here and that’s very appealing to us.”

Three trips later, I believe it is. The same with Major League Baseball.

And one day soon, the A’s might even reveal the only cards that matter. How they plan to pay for a new stadium in Las Vegas.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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