It should be quite the moment, with all the glitz and glamour the NFL can provide, when the Las Vegas Raiders open play in their state-of-the-art domed stadium off Russell Road next week.
What, too soon?
If the process of the Raiders securing votes from NFL owners needed to relocate from Oakland to Southern Nevada and, in turn, coming to terms on building a new stadium to house the team has taught us anything, it’s not to sleep on much of anything the league wants.
On Thursday, the same day that Stan Kroenke’s palace in Inglewood, California, hit a rain cloud, a nine-member Stadium Authority Board unanimously approved a lease agreement with the Raiders.
“I didn’t know much about the NFL before this, other than how games play out on Sunday,” said Steve Hill, chairman of the SAB. “I learned they have a very consistent set of rules that are not arbitrary, and there is a reason behind what they want.”
It wanted the lease agreement completed before the league’s spring meetings in Chicago on Monday and Tuesday, so it was. The next step is for owners to approve the document, which seems more of a slam dunk than anything LeBron James has offered in these NBA playoffs.
From the outside, the stadium process with the Raiders has traveled at a speed known only to NASA scientists, from a Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee recommendation to a legislative vote that appeared certain in its conclusion before a special session gathered in Carson City to the lease being settled.
Wasn’t it just this week when Mayor Carolyn Goodman almost inspired a prep rally at the sight of David Beckham during one of those really stimulating Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meetings?
Those on the inside saw things occur at a more deliberate pace, meaning while they were absolutely pressured by the NFL to move swiftly when brokering a deal with the Raiders, they insist attention to detail was not compromised through the stress of demand.
“Having deadlines is helpful and certainly understandable in this case,” Hill said. “The Raiders have already invested tens of millions of dollars in this project. They needed to know an agreement is in place.
“A year and a half is a fairly long period of time. I know other stadium conversations have taken longer, but we had the opportunity in front of us and a group of people who were fair. It’s just not time in number of days. It’s the intensity of work along the way. There hasn’t been much sleep at times during these 17 months.”
It’s done and yet it’s not, meaning important details such as UNLV agreeing to terms of its shared use of the stadium to community benefits to the Raiders securing all necessary studies and permits still must be finalized. But it’s done to the point NFL owners should approve in Chicago and the 30-month timeline to build the stadium will move forward.
Marc Badain wouldn’t breathe a full sigh of relief Thursday, the Raiders president obviously happy with the lease agreement but perceptive enough to know these sorts of projects are often interrupted with unforeseeable hurdles.
The Rams and Chargers know all about that, given it was announced Thursday the $2.6 billion stadium to be shared in Inglewood has been pushed back one year to 2020 because of delays caused by an unusually wet winter.
Which means if things go as scheduled in Las Vegas, the Raiders could be kicking off in their stadium before either team does in Los Angeles.
“I’m hoping we are open in three and a half years,” Badain said. “We’re going to stay on that timeline until someone tells me we are not on that timeline. The pace at which this community works, the cohesiveness, we see the breadth and talent on the (SAB). From the get-go, from the (Sheldon) Adelson family through the SNTIC committee and the governor, the support has been overwhelming.
“We’ve been looking forward to getting a stadium project done for the better part of a decade, and we took a big step (Thursday).”
The rocket continues its ascent, to the point Badain says the stadium’s design has been finalized and talks concerning naming rights have commenced with interested parties and that he followed Thursday’s vote with meetings alongside Clark County officials regarding those permits and studies.
This thing has moved at breakneck speed from the outset and doesn’t appear to be slowing down, meaning the only thing that might impede progress now is if Los Angeles suddenly sends Las Vegas its bad winter weather.
“Now, let’s go build a stadium,” Hill told those gathered.
“I’m sure we will see you all at our budget meeting Monday.”
For his next act, he will be appearing at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club.
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.