LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Matt Ortega has a warning for Nevadans excited about the idea of the Oakland Athletics moving to Las Vegas. Don’t for a minute trust the ownership of the A’s, he says. And contrary to the pitch by A’s management, a new ballpark in the Southern Nevada desert won’t translate to a winning team. Nevadans should be against the idea of a billionaire owner wanting $500 million from the state to finance his new ballpark.
Ortega, 38, is on a one-man crusade. The lifelong A’s fan and web developer and designer, Oakland, California, born and bred, has a website – nonevadamoney.com – urging Nevadans to rise up and fight the seemingly already-done deal of the team’s Las Vegas move.
He says he’s out to inform “Las Vegas fans and residents about the A’s owner, John Fisher, and how much of a terrible owner he has been.”
Perhaps it’s futile, a one-man stand to save his boyhood team and foil big-shot plans behind the move. But since announcing April 18 a purchase agreement with Red Rock Resorts for a stadium site on 49 acres at Dean Martin Drive and Tropicana Avenue, the A’s ballpark plans have met some resistance. Ortega wants to see more.
Tax money aside, his arguments against the relocation include:
- The team with Major League Baseball’s worst attendance in 2022 and next-to-last attendance in 2021 won’t use revenue from a new stadium to keep its best players and build a contending team. Fisher is part owner of Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes, which have a new stadium (PayPal Park, built 2015). San Jose was 26th in attendance in a 28-team league this past season and in the middle of the pack in 2021, ranking 16th. Since the stadium was built, the Earthquakes’ best finish overall was 12th in 2017, and it has made the playoffs twice in that span. “Don’t buy the claims that if we get a better ballpark we’ll put a better product on the field,” Ortega says, using the Earthquakes as an example. “It’s a very good example of the bait and switch (Fisher) pulls.”
- Don’t expect an aggressive front office when it comes to player acquisition. The A’s won’t be like the Golden Knights, who have brought in top-level talent. The A’s let their top players leave through free agency. Among baseball’s top 10 leaders in OPS (on-base plus slugging) this season, three – Matt Chapman, Sean Murphy and Max Muncy – are former A’s. “People turn out for winners, people turn out for players they recognize year after year,” Ortega says, “and get behind them and buy their merchandise and buy tickets to see them. … That’s what we’ve been dealing with for 20 years as A’s fans. We can’t keep our stars and win a championship.” Ortega is sure that A’s ownership won’t keep or pursue top players.
- Will the team be able to develop loyal fans in Las Vegas, Ortega asks? In Oakland’s glory years, the 1970s and 1980s, the team had significant attendance, including 1989, a World Series championship year, when it ranked fifth in overall attendance with nearly 2.7 million fans. In Las Vegas, the relocated Raiders have noticed a loyalty factor. At Allegiant Stadium, there are large pockets of fans for the opposing team. Will that happen with the relocated A’s? Would big-league baseball be more appealing in the desert if it were an expansion team, like the Golden Knights, instead of another relocated franchise? “It’s basically a constant away game for the Raiders, and a lot of folks bring up the desire for an expansion team rather than a relocated team,” Ortega says. “It seems like the city has embraced the Golden Knights … whereas the Raiders, it seems like it’s a lot more lukewarm acceptance.”
Ortega says nonevadamoney.com, launched April 25, started out getting 1,000 unique hits daily. He says it’s tapered off some, but still has generated more than 500 letters – the site has a form letter supporters can copy and send to legislators, plus links to make telephone calls to Gov. Joe Lombardo, the state legislature and the Clark County Commission.
Ortega admits to launching the site for selfish reasons – he’s totally against the move and wants desperately to bring his sons – Luca, 3, and Nico, 7 months – to games, to experience the A’s as he did as a youngster.
“I’m trying to reach out to folks in state to work with them to make this as effective of a tool as possible for folks in Las Vegas who don’t want another Raiders deal,” Ortega says, “and instead want the state to be more prudent with their tax dollars.