Las Vegas Sees Daylight on NFL Stadium for Oakland Raiders

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By William H. Carlile

Oct. 11 — The NFL’s Oakland Raiders, as a condition of relocating to Las Vegas, would be required to sign a 30-year stadium lease, to have “financial skin in the game,” as one official put it.

The team would be subject to a lawsuit if it were to break the lease.

That is one provision contained in Nevada’s proposal to use room tax hikes to build an NFL-ready, 65,000-seat stadium for the Raiders. New details were unveiled Oct. 10 during the first day of a special legislative session called to consider the stadium proposal and how to fund it.

Questions continued into Oct. 11, as taxpayers expressed opposition to the public financing provisions, claiming that the deal would put them on the hook if revenue didn't match expectations.

The stadium, as well as a proposed expansion of the existing Las Vegas Convention Center, are critical for Las Vegas to maintain its place as an international tourism and convention destination, said Steve Hill, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and chairman of the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee created by Gov. Brian Sandoval (R). Hill and Sandoval both back the proposal.

Total maximum investment in the stadium and convention center is $1.17 billion, or $750 million for the stadium, and $420 million for convention center. The stadium’s fate is expected to be decided by the 63 lawmakers by week’s end.

If the Raiders relocated, it would be the second professional sports team to move to Las Vegas in the last year—an expansion National Hockey League team is scheduled to open play in 2017-18.

Team Moves Before Stadium Built

S.B. 1 is the major legislative vehicle for the proposal.

Hill walked senators through the particulars of the bill, how much it would raise, and protections for Clark County taxpayers who could be left holding the bag if the economy tanks and room taxes become insufficient to cover the debt.

According to Hill, the stadium/convention center project would create 14,000 permanent jobs on site and in the community with the average annual wage projected to be $39,000.

The terms state that the Oakland Raiders must commit to Vegas before the stadium is built. Hill said: “It’s not ‘build it and they will come.'”

The NFL would be required to pay rent to use the Vegas stadium, subject to negotiations that would probably result in $2.5 million to $3 million for 10 games each season.

The state’s modified business tax would be levied on NFL players’ salaries. Hill estimates it could conceivably be $1 million to $1.5 million per year.

Room Tax Increase

S.B. 1 calls for a 0.88 percentage-point room tax increase in the Clark County, Nev., room tax to finance $750 million in bonds over 30 years for the stadium.

Another 0.5 percentage-point room tax increase would finance $400 million of a $1.4 billion upgrade and expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The family of Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands Corp. chairman and chief executive, pledges $650 million toward the deal. The Raiders have committed $500 million. The Adelsons would cover any cost overruns.

S.B. 1 would require a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers.

Casinos for, Citizens Against

During the Oct. 10 hearing, the plan also received support from some of the state’s casino operators.

Steve Wynn, chairman and chief executive of Wynn Resorts Ltd., and Jim Murren, chairman and chief executive of MGM Resorts International, were among the big names testifying in favor of the multibillion-dollar projects.

An influential group, the Nevada Taxpayers Association, changed its position on the stadium deal from opposed to no official position.

The project has gained visibility—and controversy nationally—over the use of public financing.

Indeed, criticism of the project appeared to run high among the public in two days of hearings. Citizens showed up to voice their opposition during a video conference between the Legislature in Carson City, the state capital, and participants in Las Vegas.

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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