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Do Taxpayers Really Want To Build A Stadium For Adelson And The Raiders?

Doug Puppel
Doug Puppel

Raiders fans flank Napoleon McCallum, a former running back for the team and current Las Vegas Sands executive, during a break from the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meeting to discuss a new stadium that might lure the team to Las Vegas. Local Raiders Nation board member Big John Baietti, top right, said having NFL and UNLV football and Major League Soccer playing under the new stadium’s dome would be a “trifecta of awesomeness.”

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis and soccer legend David Beckham pitched having taxpayers help build a $1.4 billion-domed stadium to bring the NFL team, Major League Soccer, and blockbuster entertainment events to Las Vegas.

Despite the big-name talent on the stage at Thursday’s Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meeting, committee member and Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said many questions remain.

 “It is very murky right now,” Sisolak told KNPR’s State of Nevada.

One of the biggest questions about the stadium is who will pay for it and how.

At the stadium proponents’ presentation, Davis pledged $500 million, which includes a $200 million loan from the NFL.

“The whole organization has worked toward this and we’re reaching goals that where we’re finally getting to where our team is going to be competitive as well and things are looking up,” Davis said, “But we need a home. We need a stadium. We need to hit the future and that’s what I think Las Vegas is going to provide us and I think it’s going to be a great marriage.”

Davis said he wanted to turn the Silver State into the “silver and black state,” referring to the colors of the team.

Other private investors would contribute $150 million and taxpayers would be responsible for the remaining $750 million, through what exact means that money would be raised has not been established. A hike in the room tax or a readjustment of the live entertainment tax have been discussed.

However, since local governments don’t have $750 million for the project it would be paid off in $50 million annual bond payments over 30 years, Sisolak said.

And if the Raiders decide to pack up and leave before then?

“The taxpayer will clearly be on the hook for the $50 million a year when we sell those bonds, if the team wasn’t here and that’s another big question,” Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak added.

Supporters of the idea, including Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which is owned by casino owner Sheldon Adelson, and Majestic Reality, say the stadium will bring top international events, like soccer.

Beckham, who was awarded a Major League Soccer franchise for Miami and is an ambassador of the game, said a stadium would draw a team to Las Vegas. He also suggested exhibition games would be played here by some of the world’s best-known teams, such as Manchester United.

 “If you can bring international soccer matches here, it will attract more people to Las Vegas. They will stay in rooms. They will eat in the restaurants and shop at our stores," Sisolak said. "That will provide some revenue to those properties, to the community, the sales tax and whatnot; it will create some jobs.”

But Sisolak was also quick to point out that those events and visitors are not a guarantee. And taxpayers shouldn’t look at the stadium as a money-maker.

“It is not going to be a profit-making thing for the public certainly” he said, “But I don’t think any community has a stadium built that makes a profit. I don’t think there’s one that exists.”

He added that the stadium would not directly provide any tax revenue to local governments. Indirectly, some benefit could be derived from businesses fostered by the stadium.

One of the investors in the project, gaming magnate Sheldon Adelson, was estimated to be worth about $29 billion in 2015. Couldn’t he afford to build the stadium on his own?

“You could make him pay for it all,” Sisolak said, “I don’t know if he would be willing to do it if he was paying for it all. Oftentimes, people get to be billionaires because they’re getting the benefit of other people’s money.”

Nothing about the stadium is settled at this point. Before the Raiders can move from Oakland to Las Vegas, 24 of the 32 team owners would have to agree to the move. The NFL has had a long history of disliking Las Vegas, although that opinion has thawed recently.

In addition, the Legislature would have to approve the taxpayer financing

Sisolak said he would love to see a team here to improve community pride, like the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels team of the ‘90s did so many years ago.

But Sisolak was asked if tickets to an NFL game in Las Vegas would be affordable to the average resident

“How far, if at all, would the community be able to go, is what’s unanswered,” he replied. “Whether or not it is a worthwhile investment -- that is what’s open for discussion.”

That discussion will continue on May 26, when the tourism infrastructure committee next meets.


Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis at the podium. Soccer superstar David Beckham sits behind him. Photo: Doug Puppel

Steve Sisolak, commissioner, Clark County Commission

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.
Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)
With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.