What once was considered a long-shot improbability became reality on Wednesday.
Las Vegas Stadium Authority Chairman Steve Hill and Raiders President Marc Badain made history when they finalized the unlikely Las Vegas stadium deal — unlikely because the National Football League has a lengthy history of criticizing Nevada’s sports-wagering industry and punishing Southern Nevada by not allowing it to advertise its resorts during football broadcasts.
Two years and nearly three months ago, the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee began talking about a plan to bring the Raiders to Southern Nevada as a tenant in a facility designed to boost Las Vegas’ greatest economic driver, tourism.
It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen quickly by most accounts. The plan evolved in meetings among the key players. There was give and take as representatives discussed what they wanted to see.
For the Raiders, it was a home they could call their own. For more than a decade, the team negotiated with officials in Oakland, California, and Alameda County for a new, modern stadium, but they couldn’t strike a deal.
For Southern Nevada, the driving forces were boosting economic development, providing jobs in an economy that was still trying to get to where it was before the Great Recession and building a new facility for the UNLV football team.
The stadium represented an opportunity to solve all three problems. Getting the Raiders as a partner and bringing the prestigious NFL to the desert was icing on the cake.
It took several months for both sides to feel each other out.
The Raiders long ago cemented their reputation for being quick to go to court and uprooting for greener pastures when things don’t go their way after leaving Oakland for Los Angeles and going back 12 years later. Badain admitted last week the Raiders had no idea how rapidly the wheels of government could turn in Nevada when people are motivated and deadlines are in play.
The tipping point seems to have occurred when Gov. Brian Sandoval had a heart-to-heart talk with Raiders owner Mark Davis and point-blank asked him if the team was using the prospect of a move to Las Vegas as leverage to get what he wanted in Oakland. No, Davis said, he was sincere in wanting to move. His father, Raiders legend Al Davis, had even considered Las Vegas as a prospective destination for the team.
From there, the wheels turned rapidly. A special session of the Legislature was called. Lawmakers were lobbied. Presentations were given. The Stadium Authority was formed with Hill, easily the most qualified person to drive the effort forward, appointed as chair. Lawyers were hired. Agreements were hashed out so that both sides could get most of what they wanted.
The long journey ended Wednesday.