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The Raiders and Las Vegas announced months ago that the deal to move the Raiders to my hometown of Las Vegas has been finalized. I didn't write about it at the time because there was still a lot of unknowns. As you all may know, I was not initially receptive to the stadium financing plan. The city of Las Vegas went all in and basically gave the Raiders almost everything they asked for. Las Vegas would raise room taxes on tourists in order to pay for the largest portion of the stadium's construction budget. The Raiders looked like they'd be given numerous tax breaks (including tax-free bonds and property tax exemptions). It looked like the Raiders would even get out of having to pay rent for the stadium (which is supposed to be owned by the Las Vegas Stadium Authority, rather than by the Raiders themselves).

Being a UNLV alumni and a UNLV football season ticket-holder, a lot of my early frustrations were with the Raiders' (and the city's) insulting treatment of UNLV's football team. UNLV had been unsuccessfully lobbying for years with the city of Las Vegas to get funding for a new stadium. That UNLV stadium came close to happening. It was hoped that having a shiny new stadium on or near campus would increase attendance, allow UNLV to recruit higher-caliber ball-players, and maybe even potentially attract an NFL team (like the Raiders, Rams, or Chargers) to relocate to Las Vegas. Those plans fell apart, as the city simply couldn't afford such a project, and the Rebels didn't help matters by continuing to disappoint with two-win seasons. Then the Raiders come along, and not only does the city give them virtually everything they ask for, but the Raiders also tried to screw UNLV out of even being able to realistically use the stadium that was being mostly paid for by public funds.

UNLV had been unsuccessfully lobbying for a new stadium [LEFT] for years,
then the Raiders [RIGHT] show up and the city bends over backwards to accommodate them.

The Raiders initially wanted UNLV to pay a $250,000 stadium rental fee per game! This is despite the fact that the largest chunk of funding was supposed to come from public money generated by Las Vegas taxes, and that the stadium was to be technically owned by the LV Stadium Authority. If this were a public stadium (as proponents often insisted it would be), then the local public university shouldn't be paying a private corporation for use of the property. In addition to wanting money from UNLV, the Raiders also didn't want to allow UNLV to paint the turf or have any permanent UNLV branding in the stadium. Essentially, the Raiders didn't want to share this stadium that was being paid for with public funds.

A final concern was with parking and traffic infrastructure. Las Vegas' highways are already over-taxed (and perpetually being torn apart and expanded), and the stadium was supposed to be built in an area of town that already suffers from a lot of congestion. The original funding plan did not require the Raiders to pay for any transportation infrastructure improvements. No road upgrades. No traffic lights. No highways ramps or bypasses. No commuter shuttles. No light rail (which is something that I feel this city, being so spread out, desperately needs).

As a resident of Las Vegas, I was furious that a multi-billionaire was being given so many tax-payer handouts by a city that is struggling to sustain its own growth, has a limited water supply, has a growing homeless problem, has schools that are underfunded (with one of the nation's highest teacher turnover rates), and numerous other problems. All this, and the city wouldn't earn any direct revenue from event ticket sales, rent, or property taxes. Let alone get any money for highways expansion and road upgrades that would be necessitated by the presence of the stadium.

The Las Vegas highways are perpetually under construction.

And then the Raiders rubbed salt in the wounds by going on to have a terrible year (not as terrible as the Bears though), miss the playoffs, and have their head coach get fired. The city is throwing all this money at them and letting them bum in our city virtually rent-free, and they couldn't even field a competitive team?

I didn't want to write on this topic again until at least some of these concerns had been resolved or cemented. And now some of them have, and the prognosis isn't all bad.

The Raiders are picking up some of the slack

The good news is that the Raiders have made some seemingly-good-faith deals with UNLV and the city of Las Vegas in the tail end of 2017.

Back in late December, the Raiders and UNLV reached a deal. UNLV will be charged $100k to $175k per game to play in the stadium (exact cost still to be determined). However, UNLV will be able to keep revenue from parking fees, concessions, merchandising, and advertisements, which is expected to cover the cost of the rental fee. The Raiders are also keeping the rights to sell luxury suites, but UNLV can sell any remaining luxury suites that go unsold by the Raiders, and UNLV can keep that money. UNLV is also going to get its own branded turf, permanent signage, and even their own independent locker room. Good, so it looks like the Raiders are willing to share the stadium after all. The deal still seems a bit one-sided, but it's better than the early offers.

A week later, the Raiders also announced that they would be putting up $1.4 million for transit and infrastructure improvements. They haven't agreed to help expand Las Vegas' highways, but they have agreed to make some road upgrades near the stadium, to pay for some emergency service infrastructure, and to finance the construction of pedestrian bridges from the Las Vegas Strip to the stadium.

The Raiders initially expected UNLV to host parking and shuttle fans to the stadium -- at no cost.

The biggest ongoing concern (as of the time of this writing) is parking. There is currently, as far as I know, no plan for how to handle parking. The Raiders had initially proposed that UNLV let them use the university's parking and then shuttle fans to the stadium -- all for free. Fortunately, the final draft shut that obnoxious request down.

Without sufficient on-site parking, however, tailgating would be virtually impossible, and a big part of the game-day experience would be lost. On top of that, many locals from the west side of town (myself included) probably won't want to drive all they across the Strip in order to park on UNLV's campus and then shuttle to the stadium. Maybe if they provided a shuttle service from places like Downtown Summerlin, that would be a bit more appealing (in lieu of having rail services). Considering that Las Vegas is a commuter town with virtually no viable public transit options, the Raiders and the city are going to have to find some way to deal with the vast amounts of parking that will be required. If you're building a 65,000-seat stadium in Las Vegas, you pretty much need to assume you'll need 65,000 parking spaces. I wouldn't be surprised if nearby businesses get seized by eminent domain or something like that in order to make room for parking.

Will the team be worth all the trouble?

In the 2017 season, the Raiders ended with a measly 6-10 record (still better than the Bears) and missed the playoffs by a long-shot. considering that the team was expected to be a shoe-in for an AFC playoff spot, that finish is pretty disappointing. So disappointing, in fact, that head coach Jack Del Rio was fired basically as soon as the final game of the season ended.

Raiders are pulling Jon Gruden out of retirement.

The Raiders have tried to right their foundering pirate ship by hiring retired coach Jon Gruden to lead the team, and he's almost certainly going to be the head coach when the Raiders arrive in Vegas. Although that hiring hasn't been without controversy. Gruden had formerly coached the Raiders, and lead them to an AFC Championship game in 2000. He also spent some time coaching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and actually lead the Bucs to a decisive victory against the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII only a couple years later.

Gruden brings a lot of coaching clout to the team, but I am still skeptical of the talent of the players. There is a lot of raw talent on the Raiders, but they just aren't very disciplined or consistent. A good coach can potentially fix that, and I hope (for the Raiders' sake) that Gruden brings the fire and passion that helped him lead the Raiders and Buccaneers to the post season in the past. I'm just not convinced in this team's ability to make the playoffs -- at least not consistently.

So in addition to overspending on a stadium, Las Vegas may also have gotten in bed with an over-valued franchise. At the time the move was first proposed, the Raiders were expected to be regular playoff contenders for the foreseeable future. Unless Gruden can turn things around, Las Vegas may be stuck with a team that is mediocre at best.

But hey, at least we have the Golden Knights!

The Raiders may turn out to be a bust, but at least the Golden Knights look pretty good!

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