Can the A’s actually draw 2.5 million folks in Las Vegas?
The Oakland Athletics cleared the first hurdle of their proposed move to Las Vegas on Monday, with the owners of the Tropicana Hotel land announcing they had reached agreement with the team to reserve nine acres of that 35-acre site for a ballpark on the Las Vegas Strip.
The deal is contingent on “the passing of legislation for public financing and related agreements,” and state legislators are expected to learn exactly how much taxpayer money the A’s seek as soon as Monday. According to a statement announcing the agreement, the A’s would pay rent to play in the ballpark, and the owners of the site would retain the ability to develop the rest of the site.
Two numbers jumped out from the statement: The ballpark would hold “approximately 30,000 fans” and is expected to attract “more than 2.5 million fans and visitors annually.”
In other words, the A’s are projecting sellouts for just about every game. Good luck with that.
First, the math: If you sell 30,000 tickets to 81 home games plus two preseason games, you get 2.49 million. The ballpark no doubt will host other events, including concerts, although the sheer number of venues already available in Las Vegas will limit those opportunities for the A’s. Still, you can understand the projection.
Second, the reality: The A’s would be playing in the smallest ballpark in the major leagues, in the smallest media market in the major leagues, in a market where the NFL and NHL already are there and the NBA could follow soon. They would need a lot of fans from the booming communities outside Las Vegas itself — that might be doable; the triple-A team there is a perennial league leader in attendance and has averaged as many as 9,299 fans per game.
But the A’s would not have the capacity to balance smaller crowds on some nights with larger crowds when high-profile teams like the Dodgers, New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs roll into town.
Of the 30 teams in the major leagues, only 11 announced an attendance of at least 2.5 million last season.
The A’s and their Nevada consultant have claimed the ballpark would attract 400,000 tourists per year, or 4,938 per game. As with the overall attendance projection, this appears overly optimistic.
New ballparks generally enjoy a honeymoon period. In a city where something new and exciting is happening all the time, Major League Baseball would be new and exciting for two or three years.
Then the team would have to win. The A’s are on pace to lose 127 games this season, which would be the most losses by any MLB team since the 1899 Cleveland Spiders.