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Cheering for Las Vegas Raiders is easy; funding stadium a tad less so

Star power.

It’s intoxicating to some.

I’m not certain the entire Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee is completely on board with the proposed construction of a $1.4 billion domed stadium that could house the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, but Carolyn Goodman on Thursday was a pompom and marching band short of starting a pep rally inside the Stan Fulton Building at UNLV.

Her peers appeared as excited, but in a more reserved manner.

The mayor and her fellow committee members listened as the likes of Raiders owner Mark Davis and soccer legend David Beckham offered opinions about what building such a stadium could mean to Las Vegas. Davis said that his franchise would contribute $500 million and he believes the NFL would approve relocation with “an offer they can’t refuse.”

There were questions from the committee about the proposal, but none you would describe as 95 mph fastballs to the chins of those answering. Goodman at one point raved about knowing Davis’ parents in another time and later joked with Beckham by asking, “How does Manchester United Las Vegas sound to you?”


At one point, thankfully, Steve Sisolak interjected to say he needed to ask some “substantive questions,” earning the Clark County Commission chairman my unofficial Regent Trevor Hayes Award, given to the one person in the room with legitimate points to cover.

This much is obvious: As proposed, it is a really, really good deal for Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Majestic Realty.

Numbers: The $500 million from Davis would include a $200 million loan from the NFL, with the remainder of the bill being paid by the Las Vegas Sands-Majestic Realty partnership ($150 million) and public money ($750 million in tourism taxes).

It’s that last part that predictably has many rolling eyes.

The size of the public subsidy would be among the largest in history for an NFL-ready stadium and would absolutely buck the present trend of private developers and teams funding such facilities at much higher percentages. More and more nowadays, the ones actually building stadiums are paying large chunks of the freight.

If it’s true the cleanest source of incremental revenue is the hotel room tax and that Las Vegas, at 12 percent, is one of the lowest such taxed cities across the country, raising it to 13 percent doesn’t directly affect you or your neighbor. But it always does indirectly, because if the public voted to support such a hike, the money could go to a general fund that might improve public safety and roads and, most important here, schools.

That won’t happen, even though it’s usually the surest way to gauge true feelings about where tax dollars should be spent.

This just in: There are people — a majority of the population, by the way — who don’t exist within the insulated sports bubble many of us call home.

I understand why a mayor and her legacy and those building the stadium and Davis want this fast-tracked to shovels in the ground, and by the tone of Thursday’s meeting, that has a better chance of happening than not.

But there is, as with any deal with a price tag ending in the B word, risk.

One way to limit it and actually come close to creating the revenue streams being projected by Las Vegas Sands and Majestic — $2.7 billion from the tax over 30 years — is to put a significant number of events into the stadium as compared with other cities nationally.

In other words, if they build it, they need a ton of people to come.

“This will be unlike any other stadium on the planet,” said Craig Cavileer, senior vice president of Majestic Realty. “Most stadiums will see a calendar between 12 and 18 events (annually), leaving out things like the home and garden shows. Las Vegas alone can generate 30 to 40 mega-events a year forgetting the NFL. Now you add the NFL and its dates.

“When we designed Staples Center (in Los Angeles) in 1996, we did so to accommodate up to 300 events a year. People didn’t believe we could do it. Well, it was run up to 300 events a year. There are events we’ve never thought of that will come to Las Vegas that you couldn’t do anywhere else. We’re going to have 60,000 hotel rooms within walking vicinity, infrastructure that nowhere else in the country has.”

Think of the project today as second-and-7 from, say, the 40-yard line.

There is still much to decide and do: Sites other than the 42 acres owned by UNLV along Tropicana Avenue for the 65,000-seat stadium (with room to flex into a larger facility to perhaps host events such as the Super Bowl and Final Four) are being considered; it’s still unknown if a special session of the Nevada Legislature can be called in August to approve diverting room-tax funds for the stadium; and there is that incredibly important potential vote of NFL owners on relocation.

But if you thought this was a punting situation six months ago, think again.

While it’s far from an open field of natural grass to the end zone, the idea that a domed stadium could within four years feature the Las Vegas Raiders is hardly the long shot once imagined.

You can question the amount of public funds being sought, and it’s absolutely a valid argument. You also can’t fiscally quantify what having an NFL team could mean to Las Vegas. There is no known price tag for that.

Either way, this project is moving forward.

I can see the mayor leading a marching band now.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be a heard on “Seat and Ed” on Fox Sports 1340 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Twitter: @edgraney

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