Las Vegas Convention Center vote as pivotal as stadium

CARSON CITY — The irony is this: While the idea of Las Vegas perhaps one day housing an NFL team inside a $1.9 billion domed stadium has made the most headlines and absolutely drawn the most interest during a special legislative session to consider public financing, the second major part of Senate Bill 1 is arguably as or more important to the future local economy.

It’s just not as sexy as talk of Super Bowls and massive college football games.

Up to this point, it seems as though the projected expansion and renovation of the Las Vegas Convention Center has been viewed by many here as more middle child.

It’s like the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is playing the role of Jan Brady.

“In terms of discussion, the (convention center) has gotten lost,” Democratic Assemblywoman Dina Neal said. “It hasn’t been equally discussed with the stadium. Obviously, putting both projects on the same bill was a political vehicle in order to make sure we voted. Everyone knows that. I would have preferred they were separate, because the financing of the LVCVA is different.”

As the Assembly worked into Thursday night, going over sections of a bill the Senate passed by a 16-5 count the previous evening, questions from legislators about the convention center paled in comparison to those on the stadium and the potential of the Oakland Raiders relocating to Las Vegas.


 


The number of direct comments on only the convention center from the public over 2 hours, 20 minutes: zero.

“They are trying to kill off two birds with one stone,” Democratic Assemblyman Harvey Munford said. “I think a lot of citizens are a little disturbed about that. But I also think a (stadium) could move Las Vegas forward.”

Late Thursday, the race to win the two-thirds supermajority required for passage was too close to call.

“The golden rule around here is he who has the gold rules,” Republican Assemblyman Ira Hansen said. “Come Nov. 8, depending on how this vote goes, there are going to be some people not coming back here, I guarantee that.”

The stadium-convention folks have said the massive scope of both projects, which would be funded by increasing the Clark County hotel room tax, demanded they be part of the same bill. That each side has the same issue of putting heads in beds by creating tourism. That each will lead to thousands of jobs.

Perhaps. But there is no question that tying them together strengthened the chance of a stadium being approved with $750 million in public funds, because introducing them separately probably would not have been good for the pursuit of bringing the NFL to Las Vegas.

It’s a precarious spot for the LVCVA, which says other cities have taken events from it in recent years while others await the outcome of SB1 before deciding whether to move their business elsewhere or remain a Las Vegas customer.

Some within the Assembly wondered aloud Thursday why the convention center project couldn’t be brought forward during the 2017 regular session. Others claimed that by putting the projects into the same bill, it offered those Republicans who pledged no new taxes but support SB1 protection in that they can explain a need for jobs being created through the LVCVA.

“We really started this (expansion and renovation) project back in 2006, and then were impacted by the recession and had to delay it,” LVCVA President/CEO Rossi Ralenkotter said. “We need this under construction as soon as possible. We could lose up to $50 million in costs by delaying it for a year and a half.

“If we can get it approved now, we can start the process the first part of the year, start going after our architects and engineers and pick up six months on the project. If everything fell into place, we could be in the ground in late 2017. Our customers are looking for us to do it now. Our competitors are, too. If we don’t move forward quickly, they’re going to use that as a way to take our business.”

It was a central theme of Ralenkotter and others when addressing the Assembly on SB1 about the convention aspect, the fact Las Vegas is closer than many believe to losing its status as North America’s leading trade-show host, that customers such as the Consumer Electronics Show would choose to go elsewhere if the expansion of a 3.2 million-square-foot space isn’t approved through the bill.

It could be enough of a push for some legislators who might not otherwise vote merely for a stadium, but understand the need for the convention center project.

Make no mistake: There is a reason the bill includes both.

“It is a partnership between us, the resort industry, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas,” Ralenkotter said. “When our resort partners said, ‘This is what we need to do and where we are going,’ we were right there with them.”

Jan Brady has never played a bigger role.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson, who are partners in the stadium project.

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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