Friday roundup: Tampa official stonewalls, Falcons get sued, Amazon is the new Olympics

Okay, let’s do this thing:

PawSox asking for $38m subsidy for team only worth $11m

The owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox are asking the city of Pawtucket and state of Rhode Island for $38 million in public money so they can build a new stadium to replace historic, 4.5-star-Yelp-rated McCoy Stadium, which means they need to explain why they can’t just build the damn thing themselves. As part of that mission, the team gave the state senate figures on Wednesday showing that they have net equity in the team of $11.2 million:

The current PawSox owners have never disclosed how much they paid the Mondor family to buy the team in 2015, but The Boston Globe has reported the price was more than $20 million.

“We are a small, stable, but declining business,” PawSox Chairman Larry Lucchino and Vice Chairman Mike Tamburro wrote in a letter to the committee. “Nonetheless, in our opinion, the business is unsustainable over time if we continue operating at McCoy Stadium and declining trends continue.”

This is one of the core strategies in the stadium playbook, of course: Crying poor and insisting that the only way forward to profitability is to receive taxpayer cash. Which sort of makes sense, until you think about it and realize two things:

  • This is pretty much saying that the goal of a new stadium is to use public funds to put more money in the pockets of a private business, which, while certainly true — it’s our book’s subhead, after all — is maybe not the best argument here.
  • If you’re asking for $38 million for a team that’s only worth $11 million — or, to be generous, $20 million if you figure the sale price is a better representation of the team value than just net assets on hand — maybe it’d be cheaper for Pawtucket just to buy the damn team and forget this stadium nonsense, huh?

And while we’re on dubious arguments, the Pawtucket Foundation, a pro-development business group that strongly backs a new stadium, hired University of Michigan economist Mark Rosentraub to study the project’s revenue potential, and he determined it would generate enough revenue for both the team and the public “to enjoy positive returns on their investments.”

Reading the actual study shows the math behind Rosentraub’s conclusions, which is not exactly robust: He assumes that the team would leave without a new stadium, and then attributes all income and sales taxes paid at the stadium to the team’s presence, even though the substitution effect means that much of that money would be collected even if the PawSox relocated, as Rhode Islanders would spend their entertainment dollars on something else. (Rosentraub indicates his calculation assumes that all PawSox fans would just drive to Worcester to see games, which, uh, sure.) Plus, he counts money from tax revenues generated by additional development the team would build around the ballpark, but doesn’t indicate whether that would soak up housing demand that would otherwise lead to construction elsewhere in the state, or if the housing could just be built without the stadium (or the stadium subsidies) anyway, and … you get the idea.

Rosentraub is an inneresting character, as Neil Young would say: He wrote a book on the ill effects of stadium subsidies shortly before Joanna Cagan and I started working on Field of Schemes, but has since then carved out a lucrative career as a consultant who’ll say nice things about your stadium project for the right price. His change of heart, according to the Providence Journal, was prompted not by his own paychecks but by the realization that “demographic changes have drained cities of people and new tax-generating opportunities,” which, uh, Mark? The Great Inversion? Millennials? Any of this ring a bell?

The Pistons held their home opener at their new arena, and an L.A. Chargers game broke out

Everything I learned about great web headline writing I got from Deadspin, and this is one of their best:

The Pistons Couldn’t Give Tickets To Their First Game At Detroit’s Dumb New Arena Away

That’s right: Much like the Los Angeles Chargers, the Detroit Pistons dedicated their first game at their new home with tons of fans arriving disguised as empty seats. Here’s a lovely photo of the opening tip:

Okay, so this was a new arena, with all the new-arena bells and whistles — maybe everybody was still wandering around in the concessions concourses, looking for a bacon-wrapped hot dog. Those empty seats are pretty evenly dispersed around, not in entire empty sections, so that suggests people who bought seats but just aren’t sitting in them, right?

Except that Deadspin also reports that Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who is partners with Pistons owner Tom Gores in an attempt to get Detroit city subsidies for a new soccer stadium — if all this owner fraternizing is starting to remind you of syndicate ball, you’re not alone — had his Quicken Loans staffers send out an email to employees offering 50 free tickets to the game for free to anyone who asked, “to celebrate our new Marketing partnership with the Detroit Pistons.” (Goofy capitalization in original.) In other words, Quicken Loans got a bunch of free tickets to the game as part of being a Pistons sponsor, but no corporate clients wanted to be wined and dined by being taken to a damn Pistons game, even at a new arena, so instead anybody who wanted got to go for free.

Most of this, clearly, is about the fact that the Pistons were terrible last year and will likely be terrible this year, and nobody wants to go see bad basketball. (Except for New York Knicks fans, apparently.) Still, it used to be that you could just throw open the gates of a new building and people would clamor to get in; now, there’s clearly some stadium fatigue going on, to the point where any new-arena honeymoon period for attendance may be measured in weeks, not years. Which is fine — we really shouldn’t have team owners trying to build stadium after stadium just to recapture the new-car smell — but still a significant change to the heyday of Camden Yards and the like.

About the most positive thing you can say about the new Detroit arena is maybe it’s got so many cool things to do that aren’t watching sports with your own eyes that fans are all off doing that during the game — that’s what seems to have happened during the Red Wings‘ home opener, which likewise saw seas of unoccupied seats. (Red Wings tickets are still holding their prices pretty well on the secondary market, a good sign of actual fan demand; Pistons tickets not so much.) I’m not sure “our arena is so great, you won’t want to stop to watch our team play!” is really the sales pitch I’d go for if I ran a sports franchise, but then, I’m one of those old-fashioned fans who goes to a basketball game to watch basketball.

Columbus Crew owner: I’ll move team unless — wait, did I forget to come up with an “unless”?

Yesterday morning’s report that the owner of the Columbus Crew, one of the most historically popular MLS franchises, was set to announce that he’d move the team to Austin if he didn’t get a new stadium was a bit weird and unexpected. Then team owner Anthony Precourt made his announcement, and things got so much weirder and unexpecteder:

  • Precourt’s actual statement was vague about what he was looking for, saying only that the Crew’s “current course is not sustainable,” that “we have no choice but to expand and explore all of our options,” and that “MLS in Austin could be an ideal fit.” That covers the first two of the six steps in the stadium-grubbers’ playbook: the obsolescence claim and the non-threat threat.
  • The Crew issued a letter to fans saying, in effect, Thank you for your support and sorry about this, but it’s not you, it’s us. Please buy playoff tickets.
  • Franklin County Commissioner John O’Grady said that Precourt never actually asked for help with a new Columbus stadium, but only said he needed “a better location.” O’Grady told the Columbus Dispatch: “If he needs a Downtown stadium, he should have said something. That’s a weird negotiating ploy.”
  • Austin Mayor Steve Adler emailed the Dispatch to say that he’d love to host the Crew, but “I don’t think there’s support for public funding of a stadium.”

All this points to an owner who either really really wants to move the Crew to Austin no matter what and is using this whole “my stadium sucks” argument as an excuse, or is really really bad at this whole stadium money shakedown thing. Either way, it sucks for Crew fans, who are now facing losing their team to one of the few media markets that’s actually even smaller than Columbus. “I don’t understand the obsession with Austin,” supporters’ club organizer Kevin Glenn told the Dispatch. That makes a whole lot of us.

Nenshi re-elected as Calgary mayor, enraged Flames staffer tweets this is “worse than Trump”

Oh, hey, did I neglect to inform you all about the results of the Calgary mayoral election? Turns out Naheed Nenshi was re-elected by a 51-44% margin over challenger Bill Smith — either those polls showing Smith surging out to a double-digit lead were wrong and the ones showing Nenshi with a huge lead were more accurate, or all polling in the age of cell phones and political cynicism is crap, and you could have predicted Nenshi’s win just as well by throwing darts at a board.

Either way, this means that Canada’s member of the Gang of Four and 2014 winner of the World Mayor Prize — yes, that is apparently a thing —will be back at the negotiating table with the Flames over their arena demands for the foreseeable future, and the team’s communications director had something to say about that on Twitter (briefly, until he deleted it):

The Flames quickly backtracked and said the statement of the guy in charge of speaking to the media on behalf of their team shouldn’t be taken to be a statement on behalf of the team. Asked about the tweet on CBC yesterday, Nenshi replied, “I have no idea who this person this is, I’ve never met him, and boy, what an out-of-touch tweet to send.”

Clearly, if if they’re not all tweeting about it, Flames execs are steamed, especially after their arenaful of anti-Nenshi ads failed to bear fruit with voters. And according to National Post columnist Jen Gerson, the NHL was working behind the scenes as well to undermine Nenshi:

Amid a stalled negotiation for a new hockey rink, the NHL unabashedly attempted to interfere with Calgary’s election. Finding Nenshi uncowed by the might of our local hockey squad, league commissioner Gary Bettman even made strategic calls to select media insinuating that should the team relocate the mayor would be indifferent…

At the very least, Nenshi’s win seems like suitable comeuppance for Bettman. There are limits in this country to even hockey’s power.

Leaving aside the particulars of the Nenshi-Smith showdown, what terrible signal would a Smith victory have sent to politicians in other hockey cities? Play nice, pony up or pack out?

Now that Nenshi has won re-election, what now? Gerson concludes that “an emboldened Nenshi and dejected Flames ownership will re-open arena negotiations with all the grace and goodwill of screaming marmots,” which sounds about right. There will almost certainly be renewed threats of the Flames leaving town, though as we’ve covered here before, it’ll be tough for owners to find a city where they’ll make more money than they’re already raking in in Calgary. And Nenshi knows this, and knows that this gives him leverage, and is likely to stick to his guns in demanding that if the city puts up money for an arena, it get repaid from a cut of arena revenues. The Flames owners will continue to consider this a supreme insult. In other words: enraged mustelids. Ah, love.

 

Columbus Crew: Without public stadium funds, we’ll go demand public stadium funds in Austin

MLS has seen a ton of attempts to extract public money in exchange for granting expansion teams of late, but not so much in the way of existing teams threatening to move if they don’t get cash for new homes. That’s about to change in a big way, as Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt is reportedly set to announce today that if he doesn’t get money for a new stadium in Columbus, he’ll instead demand money for a new stadium in Austin, Texas:

Columbus owner Anthony Precourt is set to announce in a press conference on Tuesday that he will move his team to Austin in 2019 if a downtown soccer stadium for the Crew cannot be finalized in the next year…

Alex Fischer, the president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership, a group of 60 Columbus business leaders and CEOs, said Precourt had rejected offers to buy 100 percent and 50 percent of the Crew by a group of local business and community leaders in Columbus…

Fischer continued: “We’ve received notice from the ownership that at a press conference [Tuesday] they are going to announce they are jointly pursuing that plan in Austin as well as continuing conversations about a possible new stadium in Columbus.”

When asked if he thought Precourt was seeking public financing or support for the stadiums in Columbus and Austin, Fischer was clear. “I think there’s no question he expects public financing and or support for any stadium in either city,” he said.

This does not come entirely out of the blue — right after Precourt bought the team in 2013, his ownership group started talking about the need to replace their then-14-year-old stadium, and they hired a consultant to start looking into it last fall. Still, jumping straight from “we’d like a new stadium, we haven’t figured out how to pay for it” to “if we don’t get a new stadium, we’re out the door after next year” is an unusual tactic, to say the least. And Austin is an unusual target, given that it’s not one of the 12 cities bidding for an expansion team, though who knows, maybe city leaders figured they could skip that whole process if they thought they could get the Crew instead.

The Columbus Dispatch, meanwhile, seems to think this is less a leverage threat on the team’s current home than an all-but-finalized plan to relocate the team, coupled with keeping the door open in Columbus in order to keep ticket sales from going through the floor:

One source close to the team said a deal to host home games at the University of Texas is “all but done” for 2019. The source also said Precourt paid $68 million — above market value — for the team in 2013 because he long entertained plans to move it. Another source said plans for a “pristine, waterfront development” in Austin are gaining steam.

The sources spoke off the record because negotiations to keep the team in Columbus are not officially dead. It is standard practice for team owners who might want to move to keep hope alive for the purposes of selling tickets for a lame-duck season. The late Art Modell, for instance, made a public promise to keep his NFL team in Cleveland before he moved it to Baltimore.

Unlike in other major pro sports — or maybe “more major pro sports” is a better way of putting it — it’s really tough to tell whether MLS move threats make sense just based on such things as market size, since the league’s finances are so screwy. (For the record, Austin is a slightly smaller media market than Columbus.) Would it make sense for Precourt to pull the trigger on a move to Austin, depending on how lucrative a deal he got there? Would he stay put in Columbus for the right level of cash subsidies? This isn’t hockey, so it’s hard to dismiss the threat as saber-rattling — but it’s also hard to say that it isn’t. Hopefully we’ll have more tea leaves to read after Precourt makes his announcement later today.

Orlando officials hate bill to halt land giveaways to sports teams, for all the wrong reasons

From the Department of Maybe Well-Meaning Ideas That Probably Should’ve Been Thought Through a Little More, we have Florida House bill HB 13, which, as the Orlando Sentinel notes, would “ban teams from building or renovating stadiums on publicly owned land and also bar governments from leasing existing facilities to teams below ‘fair market value.'” The bill’s sponsor, Broward/Miami-Dade state rep Manny Diaz Jr., says he introduced it because of anger over the Miami Marlins stadium deal, and that it “aims to do is to try to curtail abuses that have gone on, where cities … are being held hostage.”

Orlando city officials are griping that the Diaz bill would make it harder for his city to lure or retain sports teams by gifting them with generous lease terms to hide from the public how big the subsidies are offering competitive deals, and that this is an unforgivable intrusion by the state on cities’ right to throw money away for no good economic reason determine their own development policies. But to note that the objections to the bill are dumb does not preclude acknowledging that the bill itself is pretty dumb, too.

As I told the Sentinel (it didn’t make the cut, though other of my quotes did), the “no leasing land below market value” bit is reasonable enough, though it’s going to be tough to enforce: If you determine “market value” by what other sports teams are paying in rent, you get into the problem that most franchises have sweetheart lease deals. And in any event, there’s nothing that I can tell in the bill that would stop a city from charging “market rent” and then handing the money back under the table through “operating subsidies” or somesuch.

The bigger problem is with the first half of the bill, which sets out to solve a problem that doesn’t exist: the unwarranted use of public land for sports facilities. Unless you’re the hardest of hard-core libertarians, there’s nothing wrong per se with government land being used for sports stadiums any more with it being used for housing developments or libraries or whatever — the public just should get some benefit from the deal, whether it’s lease payments or a cut of stadium revenues or discounted tickets or something. If “can’t renovate buildings on public land” means that the Magic, say, are restricted from paying for improvements to their arena on government property and end up using that as an excuse to demand public funds or tax breaks (which aren’t addressed at all in this bill) to build a new arena on private land, that’s not exactly a step in the right direction.

A well-written bill would have provided an ironclad prohibition on deals that directly or indirectly gift public land to teams, and maybe ruled that sports facilities run for private profits should be subject to property tax even if they’re owned by the public or on public land, to get around that subsidy loophole as well. I don’t know enough about Diaz to know whether he wrote his bill this way because of his own ideological beliefs (there are a surprising number of conservatives who consider government cash a subsidy but not government tax breaks, on the Casino Night Principle) or just because he has sloppy bill-drafters in his office. Or maybe he’s just tired of being confused with the other Manny Diaz, who was mayor of Miami when the Marlins deal was approved. Either way, before this sails through the state legislature on “sounds good enough to me!” grounds, let’s hope somebody goes in there with a red pen and does some judicious editing.

Friday roundup: A’s pollution woes, Falcons roof woes, Hansen email woes, and more!

Whole lot of news leftovers this week, so let’s get right to it:

  • It’s not certain yet how serious the environmental cleanup issues at the Oakland A’s proposed Peralta Community College stadium site are, but anytime you have the phrases “the amount of hazardous materials in the ground is unclear” and “two possible groundwater plumes impacted by carcinogens” in one article, that’s not a good sign. Meanwhile, local residents are concerned about gentrification and traffic and all the other things that local residents would be concerned about.
  • There’s another new poll in Calgary, and this time it’s Naheed Nenshi who’s leading Bill Smith by double digits, instead of the other way around. This poll’s methodology is even dodgier than the last one — it was of people who signed up for an online survey — so pretty much all we can say definitely at this point is no one knows. Though it does seem pretty clear from yet another poll that whoever Calgarians are voting for on Monday, it won’t be because of their position on a Flames arena.
  • The Atlanta Falcons‘ retractable roof won’t be retracting this season, and may even not be ready for the start of next season. These things are hard, man.
  • Nevada is preparing to sell $200 million in bonds (to be repaid by a state gas tax) to fund highway improvements for the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium, though Gov. Brian Sandoval says the state would have to make the improvements anyway. Eventually. But then he said, “I just don’t want us to do work that has to be undone,” so your guess is as good as mine here.
  • Pawtucket is preparing to scrape off future increases in property tax receipts for a 60- to 70-acre swath of downtown and hand them over to the Pawtucket Red Sox for a new stadium, an amount they expect to total at least $890,000 a year. Because downtown Pawtucket would never grow without a new baseball stadium, and there’s no chance of a shortfall that would cause Pawtucket to dip into its general fund, and nobody should think too hard about whether if minor-league baseball stadiums are really so great for development, this wouldn’t mean that property tax revenues should be expected to fall in the part of the city that the PawSox would be abandoning. Really, it’ll all be cool, man, you’ll see.
  • Somebody asked Tim Leiweke what he thinks of building a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays for some reason, and given that he’s a guy that is in the business of building new stadiums, it’s unsurprising that he thinks it’s a great idea. Though I am somewhat surprised that he employed the phrase “Every snowbird in Canada will want to watch the Toronto Blue Jays when they come and play,” given that having to depend on fans of road teams to fill the seats is already kind of a problem.
  • The study showing that spending $30 million in city money on a $30-million-or-so Louisville City F.C. stadium would pay off for the city turns out to have been funded by the soccer team, and city councilmembers are not happy. “There’s something there that someone doesn’t want us to find,” said councilmember Kevin Kramer. “I just don’t know what it is.” And College of the Holy Cross economics professor Victor Matheson chimed in, “I expect for-profit sports team owners to generate absurdly high economic estimate numbers in order to con gullible city council members into granting subsidies.” I don’t know where you could possibly be getting that idea, Victor!
  • Congress is considering a bill to eliminate the use of federally tax-exempt bonds for sports facilities, and … oh, wait, it’s the same bill that Cory Booker and James Lankford introduced back in June, and which hasn’t gotten a committee hearing yet in either the House or the Senate. It has four sponsors in the House, though, and two in the Senate, so only 263 more votes to go!
  • A Miami-Dade judge has dismissed a lawsuit charging that the sale of public land to David Beckham’s MLS franchise illegally evaded competitive bidding laws, then immediately suggested that the case will really be decided on appeal: “I found this to be an extremely challenging decision. Brighter minds than me will tell me whether I was right or wrong.” MLS maybe should be having backup plans for a different expansion franchise starting next season, just a thought.
  • The New York Times real estate section is doing what it does best, declaring the new Milwaukee Bucks arena to be “a pivotal point for a city that has struggled with a decline in industrial activity,” because cranes, dammit, okay? Maybe somebody should have called over to the Times sports section to fact-check this?
  • And last but not least, Chris Hansen is now saying that his SoDo arena plan missed a chance at reconsideration by the Seattle city council because the council’s emails requesting additional information got caught in his spam filter or something. If that’s not a sign that it’s time to knock off for the weekend, I don’t know what is.

Cincinnati considers offering Bengals’ stadium as home for MLS team, seeing how that flies

Cincinnati really does appear to be one of the front-runners for an MLS expansion franchise, based on its record attendance for the minor-league F.C. Cincinnati, but local soccer advocates are worried about the league’s stated rule that any new teams need to bring with them new team-controlled soccer-only stadiums. (Which worrying is exactly the goal of said rule.) So while some people still dream of applying to have an MLS team play at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, the Hamilton County Commission is wondering, hey, maybe MLS would like the Bengals‘ stadium better?

Commissioners are offering up the stadium, which county taxpayers own, as a solution to keep FC Cincinnati in Ohio — without spending the $100 million from the public the team says it needs to build a $200 million stadium.

“We own a stadium on the riverfront, that from my understanding, soccer can be played at,” Hamilton County Commission Vice President Denise Driehaus said. “I’ve asked the (county) administration to take a hard look at Paul Brown, to pursue it or get it off the table.”

Yes, soccer can be played at Paul Brown Stadium, just as it can be played at Nippert. And sure, maybe MLS will be placated by a non-soccer-specific facility that isn’t owned by the local team if it’s a non-soccer-specific stadium that has nicer cupholders. But since MLS has made pretty clear that it intends to conduct its expansion decision as a stadium arms race — consistent with its greater mission of getting as much short-term cash as possible, because who knows what the future may hold, especially now that any hope of getting an attendance boost from the draw of seeing next year’s U.S. World Cup stars just went out the window — they probably would be just as well off saying, “We’ve got a terrific market, you’ll just have to put up with our oldish stadium if you want us,” and see how that works out. Probably poorly, but when the alternative is spending $100 million you don’t have, it’s worth a shot, anyway.

Las Vegas to help fund 51s stadium by spending $80m to call it “Las Vegas Ballpark”

The owners of the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s are going to build a $150 million stadium that won’t be in Las Vegas but will get $80 million from Las Vegas so the stadium will be called “Las Vegas Ballpark.”

You know what, let’s let the Las Vegas Sun and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, both of which are probably kicking themselves now that they didn’t demand naming-rights deals with the city, explain it:

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority acquired naming rights for the stadium in a 20-year, $80 million deal approved by the organization’s board. It will be called Las Vegas Ballpark.

And:

Representatives of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors debated for 1½ hours on whether the $80 million dedicated to stadium naming rights is money well-spent…

Board members Ricki Barlow, a Las Vegas city councilman, and John Lee, the mayor of North Las Vegas, opposed the measure and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who expressed concerns about the public perception of the move, and Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown, who works for the 51s, abstained. Brown, a former Major League Baseball pitcher, did not participate in the debate.

“This is public money and it comes to us by taxes that were voted on by the Legislature and that Legislature was voted in by residents of my community,” Lee said in the explanation of his vote. “And I don’t think, as their leader, that this is a very good and responsible thing to do.”

Okay, so if you read this site regularly you know that team owners can be awfully clever at finding under-the-table ways of seeking public money for their stadiums and arenas, but this, this is just weird six ways from Sunday. The argument by the tourist authority is that spending $4 million a year on naming rights to a stadium in the nearby suburb of Summerlin is a good investment, because the city is getting its name out there on not just the stadium, but advertising signage and the like. The counterargument would be, oh, lots of things:

  • For Las Vegas to spend a whole bunch of money on enabling the 51s to move out of Las Vegas — in fact, to move out of a stadium owned by the tourist authority — doesn’t exactly make a lot of sense. Sure, the economic impact of a minor-league baseball team isn’t much, but moving it beyond the city limits is a net negative, even if a small one.
  • Sure, the 51s might have been able to sell naming rights regardless, so on one level Las Vegas is just buying the name like anyone else would. But anyone else would almost certainly be paying far, far less: Minor-league naming rights deals typically top out at $1 million a year at most, meaning Vegas is overpaying here by a factor of at least 300%. Or, looked at another way, is sneaking money to the 51s owners — the Howard Hughes Corporation, a major development firm that traces its origins back to one namesake, but sadly not to a far more respected one — by writing “4 NAMING RIGHTS” in the memo field of the check.
  • Even if you grant that Las Vegas needs to buy more publicity — I’m pretty sure most people have heard of the place by now — it’s beyond ironic to do so for a team that already puts your city’s name on the front of its damn jerseys. (The 51s are currently the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets, incidentally, but won’t be by the time the new stadium opens, because the Mets just bought an entire team in Syracuse in order to have a team that’ll agree to be associated with the Mets.) The logic here, presumably, is that non-local TV viewers of 51s games will think, “Time to sit down to watch my team play against Las Vegas. Oh hey, the Las Vegas team plays in a stadium called ‘Las Vegas.’ I haven’t thought about Las Vegas in, oh, three or four seconds before this! I should book a vacation there!”

How the Hughes Corporation managed to pull this off I’m not clear, though to hear tourist authority president Rossi Ralenkotter talk, it was by hinting that the 51s would leave town without a new stadium, while simultaneously hinting that Las Vegas is such a great market for baseball it could get a major-league team if it played its cards right:

Ralenkotter said possibly the biggest benefit to preserving professional baseball in Las Vegas with a new stadium and superior training facilities is that Las Vegas would position itself well when Major League Baseball considers expanding or moving a franchise.

I suppose there is actually the possibility that MLB will look at this deal and think, “Man, sure are a bunch of suckers in Las Vegas. We gotta get in on that action!” Now that’s the kind of publicity you just can’t buy.