Back in April, I expressed my dissapproval of the Raiders plan to relocate to Las Vegas. At the time, my primary objection was to the idea of building an NFL-size stadium adjacent to UNLV's campus. But as time has moved on, the plans have shifted, and the city has come up with new location proposals for the $1.9 billion stadium, as well as new financing plans. Last week, the Nevada State Legislature, on the order of Governor Brian Sandovall, convened a special session to vote on the proposed stadium financing plan. The successful vote was a win for the Raiders' plan to relocate, but was a major loss for the city of Las Vegas and state of Nevada.
Here is a video of the proposed stadium, which appears to be located near Russel Rd, west of the I-15.
The finance plan requires the city of Las Vegas to raise $750 million in funds from a hike in room taxes for its hotels. This leaves taxpayers supposedly off the hook by passing the bill onto tourists. Critics have complained that this takes money away from Las Vegas schools and other public infrastructure and services, but this criticism is a bit of a red herring, as there were no plans to collect such revenues and spend them on schools or other services to begin with. Critics are valid in pointing out, however, that this does take that money away from potentially being collected for the purposes of funding education or services in the future.
The city, tourists, and UNLV all get screwed
I would be fine with this $750 million price tag if the plan guaranteed some degree of revenue or profit-sharing for the city of Las Vegas. It would be an up-front investment with the potential of paying for itself over the long-term. No such fortune for us Vegas residents. This is a bum deal for the city of Las Vegas, however, as the plan does not allow for any revenue or profit-sharing from the proceeds that the stadium may gain. So public money is being spent on the project, but no money is going back to the public. Sheldon Adelson and Mark Davis are both billionaires. If they really wanted the Raiders to move to Las Vegas, they can afford to build their own damn stadium.
Mark Davis and Sheldon Adelson are both billionaires. They can afford to build their own damn stadium.
What really sours this deal though is that it also presents some other "screw you"-s to the city of Las Vegas. The plan to build a new stadium started out as a plan to build a new stadium for UNLV's football program. But UNLV gets screwed by this deal, as they will actually have to pay approximately $250,000 per game to the stadium's owners in order to play their home games there! They'd have to pay $250,000 per game to "rent" this facility! "Public stadium", my ass! If Las Vegas is raising tax money to pay for this stadium (and we're paying for almost half of the entire bill), then it should belong to the City of Las Vegas or Clark County. If it belonged to Las Vegas, then our public university (UNLV) should be able to use the facility, and should get revenue from ticket sales. Not so, apparently. Make no mistake, this is not Las Vegas' stadium; this is Mark Davis and Sheldon Adelson's stadium.
We don't get the stadium; we only get the debt. NFL teams have a long, sad history of screwing cities with stadium deals. As far as I know, the NFL, the Raiders, and Adelson's company aren't investing in any public infrastructure improvements to help get people to and from the stadium. No light rail, no commuter shuttle services (a cost that hotels will probably end up paying), no money for road widening or a freeway bypass, nothing. I'm not aware of their being any commitment from the Raiders to actually relocate, nor is there any commitment that they would stay in the city long enough for the stadium to be paid off.
On the wrong side of history
Supporters say that this stadium will boost Las Vegas' economy and that it will create jobs. Well, only 15% of the subcontractors are required to be local businesses (as per an amendment that was added last minute), so much of the labor could end up being outsourced to companies outside Nevada. There may be some economic benefit from such a stadium. But it could also be harmful to the economy as well. It will create some temporary jobs during construction, and may create some part-time jobs for event staff. But these will be relatively low-skill jobs. It won't bring in many (if any at all) permanent, high-paying technical or skilled jobs the way that, say the subsidized Tesla factory is expected to do (though even that is questionable). It may bring in more tourists in the form of football fans coming to watch their team play against the Raiders. But there's no guarantee that they'll spend much (if any) money outside of the game itself. it could also clog our streets and take business away from smaller casinos and businesses, as local residents may decide to stay home on Sunday afternoons (or Thursday nights or Monday nights). The increase in property values could even drive up rental cost and force small businesses and tenants to walk away from their leases - and that's assuming that your business isn't shut down and demolished altogether by eminent domain. And as the cost of visiting Las Vegas continues to grow more expensive (due, in part, to taxes such as this), tourists may start visiting other locations that compete with Las Vegas, such as Macau and Atlantic City.
St. Louis Taxpayers are still paying for the Edward Jones Dome since the Rams moved to Los Angeles last year.
Unfortunately, history doesn't seem to support proponents' apologetics. In every case (that I'm aware of) in which a city put up public funds to build a private stadium, the city ended up losing money in the long run. There is wide consensus amongst economists that stadiums do not pay for themselves. So if you think that this stadium will boost the Las Vegas economy and create jobs, then you are in direct opposition to historical trends. And worse yet, Las Vegas is about to spend even more money than any of those cities did! That's what happened with St. Louis when the Rams moved there from L.A.. The city financed part of the stadium. The team stayed in St. Louis for only 21 years before leaving last year to go back to L.A.. The stadium still wasn't paid off, and city tax-payers are still the ones paying for it, as it sits un-occupied.
As someone who grew up playing city-builder games like SimCity, I admit that I have a bit of a bias regarding the relationship between sports teams and their host cities. I kind of think of stadiums and sports teams as being less of a private business and more of a public service. I'm used to being the one (as a city "mayor") who plops down a stadium. It's not a business that pops up on its own in my commercial districts. It's more along the lines of a park or museum. So the idea of a private business being able to just up and move the team out of that city is almost offensive to me. That city, that community, supported your team. It's where all your fans are. They're the ones who put their butts in your seats. You owe it to them to stay in that city. This applies to Oakland now, and it applied to St. Louis last year (when the Rams left and moved back to L.A.), and it may apply to Las Vegas in 10 or 20 years when the Raiders get sick of being here and decide to high tail it back to Oakland (just like they did back in 1995 when they moved from L.A. back to Oakland, after less than 15 years in L.A.).
Las Vegas has its own problems to deal with
The National Finals Rodeo occupies UNLV's
parking lot every year during finals week.
Heck, the Raiders can't even fill their own current 56,000-seat stadium. I'm not sure if there's other events that would use the Las Vegas stadium. Maybe the National Finals Rodeo can use the new stadium instead of occupying UNLV's Thomas & Mack parking lot every year during final exam week. But that's assuming that the Rodeo can pay the rental fee.
The stadium could still be stopped if the Nevada State Assembly does not approve it, or if the NFL votes against the Raiders' relocation during their annual owner meetings in January.
Nevada ranks dead last in education. Las Vegas has an epidemic of homelessness. Las Vegas has one of the highest rates of underwater home mortgages in the nation. Our mental health care programs are so chronically underfunded that treatment facilities have been caught loading mentally ill patients onto one-way bus trips out of state. We should be solving those problems; not chipping in hundreds of millions of dollars so that a couple of billionaires can build a football stadium that would stand to make an estimated $129 million in revenue in the first year - none of which goes back to Las Vegas.
I'm OK with the Raiders moving here, as long as the deal is fair
I'm not opposed to the idea of the Raiders moving here. I don't care for the Raiders, and so they're not my first pick of NFL teams. If they moved here with a fair deal for the city, I'm sure that my dad and I would probably go to games, just like we go to UNLV football games. I just don't want the city to have to pick up the bill - at least not without the guarantee of getting money back. If this deal included profit-sharing for Las Vegas, and if it included an exit clause that prevents the Raiders from leaving until the stadium is completely paid for (or forcing them to pay the difference if they do leave), and if it allowed UNLV to play at the stadium at no cost to the university, and if UNLV could receive a share of ticket sales for its own home games in the stadium, then I'd probably be in favor of the plan, assuming that a decent site was selected to build the thing. Without all of those conditions, I am vehemently opposed to this plan, and I don't intend to buy season tickets and give the Raiders a penny more of Las Vegas money.
In case it influences your election plans for this coming November, here's a list of senators who voted yea (along with their party affiliations):
- Kelvin Atkinson (Democrat)
- Mo Denis (Democrat)
- Patricia Farley (Republican)
- Aaron Ford (Democrat)
- Scott Hammond (Republican)
- Joe Hardy (Republican)
- Becky Harris (Republican)
- Jesse Haw (Republican)
- Ben Kieckhefer (Republican)
- Mark Lipparelli (Republican)
- Mark Manendo (Democrat)
- David Parks (Democrat)
- Michael Roberson (Republican)
- James Settelmeyer (Republican)
- Pat Spearman (Democrat)
- Joyce Woodhouse (Democrat)
I will be at the polls in November, and I don't plan on voting for a single one of them if they are running for re-election.
And here's a list of senators who voted nay:
- Ruben Kihuen (Democrat)
- Pete Goicoechea (Republican)
- Don Gustavson (Republican)
- Julia Ratti (Democrat)
- Tick Segerblom (Democrat)
And finally, here's a list of Nevada state assembly persons, in case you want to express your support or displeasure with this stadium plan: Nevada state assembly members
Las Vegas doesn't get the stadium. We only get the debt.
If you don't believe me, then maybe you'll believe John Oliver.