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Extension of special tourism panel keeps summer debate hot

For the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee, this was supposed to be the week for handshakes, high-fives and smiling farewells.

Instead, it will be a week when committee members evaluate, deliberate and compromise.

If they’re lucky, they may eliminate a few of the nine sites under consideration for a 65,000-seat domed football stadium that could someday house the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders — a project that now has a price tag of $1.7 billion to $2.1 billion.

There’s still a long road ahead before any of us can go out and buy a silver and black wardrobe because, after all, what the committee delivers by the end of September is still only a recommendation.

Gov. Brian Sandoval did the right thing when he revised an executive order and extended the life of the 11-member committee.

It was supposed to finish its work this month, but the panel absolutely needs an additional two months to evaluate all the information provided at its July 11 meeting.

Two weeks ago, representatives from Las Vegas Sands, Majestic Realty and the Raiders said they needed 30 to 45 days to make contact with the owners of properties pitched as stadium sites. The developers may be able to update the site list by Thursday, but they’ll likely need more time to reach any conclusions that could lead to recommendations.

While the committee now has until the end of September to deliver recommendations, the developers said July 11 that they’d like to get everything wrapped up sooner.

Let’s say that happens and the committee is close to having its work done by the end of August. What happens next?

I consulted with the RJ’s political columnist, Steve Sebelius, and asked him how long it would take to call a special session of the Nevada Legislature, which seems to be a necessary next step in the process. His assessment: If a session is anticipated, it could be called quite rapidly, probably within a day or so. The key would be determining how long it would take to draft the necessary legislation, and the committee has already begun composing some of the verbiage.

By the way, I asked Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter whether it’s essential to have a special session to enact the legislation needed for the $1.4 billion Las Vegas Convention Center expansion and improvement project. The committee has recommended increasing the room tax by 0.5 percentage points and establishing a seven-member oversight panel to manage that project.

Ralenkotter said the sooner the legislation is enacted, the better in terms of keeping costs down. But it isn’t essential that lawmakers meet before they’re scheduled to convene in February.

The stadium developers don’t have that luxury of time. They’re hoping for a development package in place before the National Football League owners convene in January to consider the Raiders’ proposed move to Las Vegas.

That means the stadium developers would hope for a special session sometime after Labor Day. And, of course, if the committee needs all of September to reach recommendations, a session would fall into October, awkwardly weeks before the November election.

Imagine how the election could be swayed if voters get to see how incumbents vote on the convention and stadium issues.

To the public, the question of how much, if any, public money should be used for those projects is a huge consideration.

There’s been some scuttlebutt that Northern lawmakers would do whatever they could to torpedo a domed stadium, not so much because it would house the Raiders but because it would become the new home of the Rebels as well and that doesn’t sit well with die-hard Wolf Pack fans.

But I’d contend that it would be Southern lawmakers who stand to lose the most. If they vote for the use of tax dollars for a stadium, they’d be accused of supporting corporate welfare. If they vote against the stadium, they’d be assailed for blocking a once-in-a-lifetime economic development opportunity.

The extension of the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee has guaranteed that the summer will stay hot awhile longer.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas 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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