Public funding challenge to A’s new stadium rejected


Oakland Athletic new Vegas stadium update November 2023 Image: Oakland Athletics

Plans to build a new $1.5 billion Major League Baseball (MLB) stadium in Las Vegas for the Oakland A’s have been boosted after a challenge against public funding for the project was thrown out by a court.

The Nevada Independent said a Carson City judge has rejected the language of a proposed ballot referendum petition that would have repealed public funding for the new venue, saying the language was “legally deficient” and at points “confusing.”

“Schools Over Stadiums” can either resubmit a new referendum petition or appeal the court’s decision to the Nevada Supreme Court.

The hearing on November 6 in the 1st District Court in Carson City — where all legal challenges to statewide ballot questions are filed — was the first hearing in a lawsuit that challenged the ballot initiative filed by the teacher union-led political action committee (PAC) “Schools Over Stadiums.”

The PAC is seeking to qualify a ballot question asking voters to approve or reject $380 million in public financing for a proposed 33,000-seat stadium on the Strip that would become home to the relocated Oakland A’s.

A’s owner John Fisher is bidding to move the MLB franchise to Las Vegas after 55 years in Oakland. After a decades-long pursuit of a new stadium to replace the dilapidated Coliseum, the A’s in August filed a formal application to relocate.

In a June special session, Nevada’s Legislature approved $380 million in public financing for the stadium, which was signed into law by the governor. The Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) launched the PAC behind the ballot measure in June and filed the referendum petition in September.

In his ruling, Judge James Russell said the issue is not about the content of the ballot question but whether the petition follows state law governing the referendum process.

According to the Nevada Independent, the judge said the state’s referendum law requires the full text of the measure to be included on any forms used by organizers to collect signatures to qualify the measure.

“The order of the court is that the referendum petition is legally deficient because it does not provide the full text of the measure … when gathering the necessary signatures as mandated by the Nevada Constitution,” Russell said.

The ruling means that the PAC would need to refile petition language with the secretary of state’s office and that any signatures gathered would be invalidated, though a spokesman for the PAC said it has not yet collected any signatures.

The Nevada Independent reported that under State law, the PAC needs to collect at least 102,586 signatures (including 25,647 from each of the state’s four congressional districts) by a deadline of July 8, 2024, to qualify the referendum for the ballot.

Schools over Stadiums spokesman Alexander Marks wrote in a text message to The Nevada Independent that “the plan is to appeal this decision to the [Nevada] Supreme Court and/or refile the referendum petition.”

Major League Baseball owners are expected to consider the A’s relocation request this week during the group’s winter meetings in Arlington, Texas. The vote requires 75 percent approval from the owners for the relocation following a recommendation by a committee of three owners.

The A’s have an agreement to construct the stadium on 9 acres of a 35-acre site on the Strip that currently houses the Tropicana Las Vegas. Gaming and Leisure Properties, which owns the site, agreed to commit $175 million toward the project.

A timeline unveiled at the Oct. 26 Las Vegas Stadium Authority meeting calls for the Tropicana to be closed and demolished by the end of next year, with the ballpark’s construction to begin in April 2025.

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