Major League Baseball has taken a big swing at improving the entertainment value of its product this season.
The league implemented a number of rule changes—including a pitch clock to speed up game time and the banning of defensive shifts to stimulate more action on batted balls—which have largely been positively received. America’s pastime will presumably continue to make tweaks to appeal to a wider, and younger, audience in the coming years, but the next major milestone might not come until 2027 in Las Vegas.
That’s when the Oakland A’s are slated to move into a proposed $1.5 billion stadium on the Strip at what’s currently the site of the Tropicana hotel. Tourism officials have begun marketing Las Vegas as the “Greatest Arena on Earth”—a nod to both the city’s newfound sports craze and its longtime “Entertainment Capital of the World” reputation—but the real success has come in bringing those two superlatives together.
Las Vegas has undeniably helped elevate the NHL and NFL game-day experiences. MLB looks like the next major professional sport bound to get a boost when it arrives.
Few hockey teams were going as all-in on production in 2017, when the Golden Knights settled into T-Mobile Arena equipped with a full-fledged pregame show and a cutting-edge in-game presentation. Now, many arenas in the NHL offer an imitation of what the Golden Knights started.
The Raiders might not have revolutionized NFL Sundays the same way, but they certainly raised the bar, starting during 2021, their first season in which fans could attend games at Allegiant Stadium. NFL venues commonly feature something like a local classic-rock cover band playing outside the stadium pregame and perhaps a Frisbee-catching dog showcase at halftime.
Allegiant Stadium has upped the ante with such spectacles as a straitjacketed Criss Angel rappelling from the rafters pregame and actual classic-rock icons like Don Felder and Sammy Hagar performing at the half. More contemporary stars like Ice Cube and Iggy Azalea have also played the halftime show, making it an anticipated weekly surprise among Raiders’ fans.
The opportunities for the A’s with a retractable-roof stadium on the Strip are endless. Postgame fireworks will look all the more glorious accented by the MGM Grand in the background. Cirque du Soleil, which partnered with the Golden Knights during the team’s expansion season, could probably turn the outfield into its canvas for a short show leading up to the ceremonial first pitch.
Those are just two wrinkles that could make the A’s new ballpark stand out. Surely, the professionals will have many more innovative ideas.
There have already been rumblings about the Las Vegas A’s considering a standard 4 p.m. start time—as opposed to the usual 6 or 7 p.m. first-pitches for teams in the Pacific time zone—as a way to allow fans to take in other entertainment options after the game.
That could be essential, considering A’s President Dave Kaval told ESPN the organization expects the ballpark to attract 400,000 tourists per year. Some have accused the A’s of fudging their projections in an effort to secure public financing for the stadium, but that number doesn’t seem outlandish considering the same study estimated Allegiant drawing 800,00 visitors annually.
Kaval also predicted a 70/30 split of locals to tourists. That also doesn’t seem too far-fetched, though one factor could throw it and much more in doubt: if the A’s continue to be as poor on the field as they have been the past two years in Oakland.
During that stretch, the A’s have been the worst team in baseball, and it’s difficult to see the local community rallying around a club with a league-low roster payroll just above $60 million.
Fortunately, it seems unlikely that the A’s would be as comfortable remaining a bottom-feeder after moving into a new market. Kaval has blamed declining revenues as the impetus for owner John Fisher’s stark cost-cutting measures and says securing a modern ballpark will give new life to the team’s baseball operations.
The new stadium should cause the franchise’s value to soar. The A’s need look no further than their former Oakland Coliseum co-tenant for proof. The Raiders have gone from a franchise valued at $2.9 billion (31st in the NFL) during their final season in Oakland to one now valued at $5.1 billion in Las Vegas (9th in the NFL), according to Forbes.
The Raiders have also generated the NFL’s highest ticket revenue over the past two seasons, per Forbes. That’s partially because they have the league’s most expensive tickets, an average face-value price of $153, according to Statista. A’s games should be more affordable.
The average MLB ticket price is 68% cheaper than the NFL’s average and more than 50% cheaper than the NHL’s, which could give locals feeling priced out by the Raiders or Golden Knights a more reasonable major professional sports option.
Concerns over filling the stadium in general feel overblown. Yes, Las Vegas would be the smallest Major League Baseball market, but the ballpark reflects that, with a proposed league-low 30,000 seats.
The eagerness of opposing fans traveling to Las Vegas for a series—and the willingness of casino sponsors to buy tickets for their high-roller customers—shouldn’t be underestimated. But if the A’s win, locals will come, too.
Oakland fans have accused Fisher of having no interest in fielding a competitive team, but that could change in Las Vegas, and there’s even a scenario where it’s not even up to him. In April, the San Francisco Chronicle reported a rumor that Fisher was looking to “pump and dump” the franchise—raise its value before selling to someone more enthusiastic about being in the baseball business.
There would certainly be no shortage of interested parties in that hypothetical. The potential of Major League Baseball in Las Vegas is tantalizing.
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