With NFL-Ready Stadium Bill Passed, Vegas Backers Go on Blitz

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By William H. Carlile

Oct. 17 — Now that Nevada has enacted a package to fund a $1.9 billion, NFL-ready stadium and convention center for Las Vegas, what’s next?

That became the key question as politicians and public figures gathered in Las Vegas on Oct. 17 to mark Gov. Brian Sandoval’s (R) signing of legislation (A.B. 1 and S.B.1) that cleared the Legislature during a special session that ended late Oct. 14. The $750 million in taxpayer funds that will fuel the effort is the biggest tax subsidy ever awarded for a professional sports stadium, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Action now turns to convincing at least 24 of 32 National Football League team owners that Las Vegas is worthy of becoming home to an NFL team. It isn’t a foregone conclusion that NFL team owners would support the team relocation when they convene early next year, however.

Team owner Mark Davis reaffirmed to ESPN Oct. 15 that he plans to play the next two seasons at the Oakland Coliseum, even if the team gets the green light from the NFL to move to Las Vegas.

Lots of Questions

Meanwhile, speculation is rising as to the team’s true intentions: Does it intend to accept Nevada’s offer and relocate to Las Vegas? To use the legislative debate in Nevada as a means of getting a better financial deal with Oakland? To remain in Oakland because the city builds the stadium ownership desires? Or to remain in the Bay Area, perhaps under a change of ownership?

Moreover, in the wake of the legislative passage, some Nevada residents were left to wonder at what cost did the Legislature’s tax-and-incentives policy come to its citizens?

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson (D) was among those who questioned the wisdom of committing $750 million in public money, derived mainly from hikes to the room tax, at a time when the state faces a $400 million budget deficit. He voted against the measure.

During legislative debate, some expressed concern that citizens would be left holding the bag if the stadium couldn’t generate sufficient revenue to cover the debt.

“It doesn’t seem appropriate to consider giving $750 million on a stadium when we cannot take care of our basic needs,” Anderson told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 17. “I don’t know how wise it is to continue a tax based upon other people’s disposable income, especially when you consider there is a 60 percent chance of a recession,” Anderson said.

Minimum Vote Achieved

Jeremy Aguaro, principal analyst of Applied Analysis, who was instrumental in preparing the economic analysis underlying the stadium project, took a different view.

He told Bloomberg BNA that there is “some excitement” in the community as a result of the planned construction. The area lost two out of every three construction workers to layoffs during the height of the economic recession and is hoping to gain back some of them, he said.

S.B. 1 passed Oct. 14 after a week-long special session. It calls for an increase in Clark County’s hotel room tax to help finance a $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat domed stadium. Lawmakers passed the measure by the minimum two-thirds vote required in both the Assembly and the Senate. It was approved in the Assembly on a 35-7 vote, and in the Senate by a vote of 21-0.

In addition to a $750 million public investment, terms of the stadium deal include contributions of $650 million from the family of Sheldon Adelson, chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp., and $500 million from the Raiders.

$1.4 Billion in Improvements

The bill also includes a separate hotel room tax increase to help fund $1.4 billion in improvements to the Las Vegas Convention Center. Both projects were touted as drivers of tourism that would help fill Las Vegas hotel rooms.

The Raiders already have annual options on the 2017 and 2018 seasons at the Oakland Coliseum and would need to stay put while a new stadium is under construction.

“We want to bring a Super Bowl championship back to the Bay Area,” team owner Davis told ESPN.com.

After attending the Oct. 17 bill signing in Las Vegas, Davis was expected to travel to Houston for the NFL fall meetings on Oct. 18-19 to give the league an update on the Raiders’ stadium progress, as will the Los Angeles Rams and San Diego Chargers.

To contact the reporter on this story: William H. Carlile in Phoenix at wcarlile@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ryan C. Tuck at rtuck@bna.com

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