Doubt in the air about demolishment of Tropicana Las Vegas, subsequent Oakland Athletics stadium

Tropicana Las Vegas
The Tropicana Las Vegas Casino Resort is in its final two months of existence. (Abigail Hirshbein/MEDILL)

By Abigail Hirshbein
Medill Reports

Two days after Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman publicly communicated doubts about the plan to demolish the Tropicana Las Vegas and build a new stadium for the Oakland Athletics in its place, a longtime Tropicana employee expressed her sadness to be losing a home away from home.

“It’s bittersweet,” she said Wednesday.

Although employees at the Tropicana have been instructed not to speak to the media, one long-term worker agreed to share her feelings about the upcoming changes on the condition of anonymity.

She is planning to retire after the April 2 shutdown date, but the same can’t be said for all approximately 1,400 employees who will be losing their jobs. According to Nicholas Irwin, an assistant professor of economics at UNLV, many of those employees will likely find new homes relatively quickly because of the new casinos and hotels that have recently opened in Las Vegas. 

Irwin, an expert in microeconomics, said he believes the consequences of the plan to demolish the Tropicana likely won’t come with the short-term increase in unemployment. Rather, the trouble will be in the long-term risk of opening a heavily publicly funded stadium that already has significant disapproval. 

“The public generally doesn’t like, and this is a repeated thing in economics, funding stadium projects where they feel like the owners could contribute much more than they are,” Irwin said. 

In June 2023, the Nevada legislature approved and Gov. Joe Lombardo signed a bill that will provide $380 million of public funding to the A’s stadium, slated to open in 2028. On Feb. 5, Strong Public Schools Nevada, a nonprofit political action committee, filed a lawsuit to challenge the funding plan on the basis it violates the state constitution, according to its statement.   

Irwin says especially in the Las Vegas area, where funding for public schools is lacking, the decision by the legislature to approve financial support for this kind of project can be perceived as a trade-off for educational funding. Vicki Kreidel, a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the stadium funding bill, says in the statement that “misguided priorities are why Nevada continually ranks at the bottom of all the good lists.”

According to the National Education Association’s 2022 rankings, Nevada ranked 48th in Public School Current Expenditures Per Student in Average Daily Attendance. Additionally, the report says Nevada was one of only four states to see a decrease in average teacher salaries from 2021 to 2022. 

Irwin says it’s not clear there is a literal trade-off between educational and stadium funding. However, he says, the economic success of the eventual A’s stadium having the ability to mirror that of other new Las Vegas professional sports venues is complicated. A significant portion of the revenue from T-Mobile Arena and Allegiant Stadium comes from outside events such as concerts. 

“I don’t know how much alternative use that stadium’s gonna get,” Irwin said. “There’s a lot of unknowns about the extra uses.” 

On Jan. 29, Bally’s Corporation, which owns the Tropicana Las Vegas, announced in a news release that all operations for the hotel would be discontinued on April 2 and that once the concept design is finalized for the new stadium, the plan will “accelerate.” Currently, no design has been finalized nor has a rendering been provided to the public, despite previous expectations. Bally’s Corporation declined to provide a comment for this story. 

Abigail Hirshbein is a sports media graduate student at Medill. You can connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn