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Depending on the poll, Nevadans say yes, and no, to competing stadium and convention center plans

Would Southern Nevadans prefer to spend room-tax revenue on a domed football stadium and a potential National Football League team, or a convention center expansion boosters say would keep Las Vegas the leading convention and trade show host?

It depends on whom you ask, as two resort companies on opposite sides of a tourism infrastructure debate found after commissioning polls that apparently asked different questions and collected supportive answers for their own positions.

Las Vegas Sands, which commissioned Washington-based Morning Consult for its poll, said 70 percent of Nevada voters support relocating an NFL team to the Las Vegas area, with 60 percent supporting construction of a retractable-roof stadium funded by room taxes.

MGM Resorts International, which hired Global Strategy Group for its poll, said it found that 67 percent of Nevada voters support a Las Vegas Convention Center expansion plan, and 51 percent would rather see room-tax revenue devoted to a bigger convention center than a stadium. Thirty-eight percent favored the stadium.

The two companies are expected to elaborate opinions during a public meeting today at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gov. Brian Sandoval’s 11-member Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee will hear more about the collaborative project between Las Vegas Sands and Majestic Realty Co. to build the $1.2 billion, 65,000-seat stadium on 42 acres near the UNLV campus. The partners have said the project could include $780 million in public funding and $420 million in private investment, though their figures are preliminary and likely to change.

The Las Vegas Convention Center plan was outlined for the group in February.

The committee isn’t expected to decide today which proposal it may prefer. Other infrastructure needs involving road and highway construction, transit systems and improvements at McCarran International Airport also will be in the prioritization mix, with final decisions expected in May or June.

The Sands poll, conducted by Morning Consult and released on Sands letterhead, asked:

“Do you support or oppose an NFL football team relocating to Las Vegas?” and “If you knew the following, would it make you more or less likely to support building a new stadium for football and other events in Las Vegas? Much of the funding for the new stadium would likely come from the room tax that is charged to visitors and guests at Las Vegas hotels.”

Some of the highlights from the Sands-commissioned poll:

■ Morning Consult surveyed 795 registered Nevada voters March 16 to 22. The survey was said to have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

■ Attracting an NFL team received across-the-board support in all demographic groups. Overall, 67 percent support attracting a team; 11 percent oppose. Seventy-seven percent of respondents between the ages of 30 and 44 want a team, while 6 percent oppose. Among Democrats, 71 percent favor, 7 percent oppose. Among Republicans, 66 percent favor, 10 percent oppose. Sixty-eight percent of men favor, 13 percent oppose. Sixty-five percent of women favor, 9 percent oppose.

■ Nevada voters believe the stadium has significant benefits, with 71 percent saying it would create jobs, 70 percent saying it would increase tourism and 64 percent believing it would improve the economy.

MGM Resorts would not disclose its poll questions — in fact, it released only a summary of results through OnPoint Communications, a local public relations firm that acknowledged MGM’s sponsorship only when asked. An OnPoint employee said MGM instructed him to leave its name out of a press release but to direct any questions to the company.

Among the highlights of MGM’s summary:

■ Global Strategy Group polled 800 likely 2016 general election voters in Nevada between March 9-13. The survey was said to have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

■ Sixty-three percent of respondents viewed the Convention Center plan as a “safe investment” of taxpayer funds, MGM said.

■ After hearing about the plan to modernize and expand the convention center, including the fact that it would be funded through Clark County room tax revenues, 67 percent statewide and 71 percent in Clark County said they supported the plan, MGM said.

■ Nevadans are skeptical about using public funds for a privately owned stadium. MGM said its poll showed respondents identify the convention center plan as having “clear public benefits,” with 57 percent choosing it while 25 percent favored the stadium.

Neither Las Vegas Sands nor MGM would comment on either their own poll or the other’s.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority unveiled the expansion and renovation plan last year, initially indicating all improvements would cost $2.3 billion. The authority later outlined a four-phase program totalling $1.4 billion for two phases of construction. The authority already has budgeted $250 million to buy and eventually demolish the now-closed Riviera Hotel to make way for the expansion.

Phase 4 is considered a back-burner plan for future projects, including development of the Riviera site. There are no definitive plans or cost estimates for that phase.

The Review-Journal is owned by a limited liability corporation owned by the family of Sands chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Find him on Twitter: @RickVelotta

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