The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meets this week as it studies building a $1.4 billion domed stadium that could lure the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas.
Supporters of the stadium insist it will bring much needed jobs and cash flow to Southern Nevada not just with football games but with large-scale events and concerts. They also point to the fact that it would give the UNLV football team an upgraded place to play.
However, skeptics of the plans say the stadium won't be the big money maker supporters say it will.
A skeptic of publicly financed stadiums said Nevadans need to be wary of the promised benefits of the domed stadium.
Brooklyn-based journalist Neil deMause, known for the book “Field of Schemes,” said tax-funded stadiums always fall short of expectations.
The stadium might generate “a little bit of money,” deMause said, “but nothing anywhere close to $750 million,” which is the proposed amount the public would pay for the stadium.
He said the initial proposal from billionaire Sheldon Adelson, Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis, and their business partners seeks the most generous tax subsidy of any stadium deal ever.
“Anything of that scale is going to raise a lot of red flags with me,” said deMause, who said stadiums rarely if ever deliver hoped-for increases in sales taxes or tourism.
deMause said the people behind the proposal need to show why public funding should come up from zero.
“The people purposing this Sheldon Adelson, Mark Davis, Majestic have to prove that there is any kind of benefit to the public and justify what they’re asking for, even a portion of what they’re asking for,” he said.
Infrastructure Committee Chairman Steve Hill is leading the blue-ribbon panel that is developing recommendations for Gov. Brian Sandoval on the stadium as well as the expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Hill, whose day job is executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, told KNPR’s State of Nevada that the committee hasn’t taken a position yet.
He said many of the details have not been hammered out, and they have until July to make a recommendation to the governor.
Hill said discussions about a stadium have been going on for eight months, long before the Raiders moving to Las Vegas became more of a possibility. And the real reason for the stadium is not the prestige of having an NFL franchise here.
“Economic development, which is the real reason you would build a stadium like this, is bringing money into the region from out of the region,” he said.
Hill said the stadium could increase tourism traffic and jobs. The estimated impact on those aspects are expected to be discussed in the committee’s June meeting. Although, Hill did agree with deMause that stadiums are not big money makers, he added that it is the indirect impact that can make money.
“You build the stadium to allow events to be there for the indirect impact – the tourists coming, the jobs that are created – that’s really where the benefit for the public would come,” he said.
He also said that the public money that would be used, if the project went forward, would be from an increase in the room tax, not from an increase in property taxes. Under the current proposal, the $750 million in public funding would be paid back over 30 years with $50 million bond payments a year.
Hill said on Thursday the committee will look a splitting any excess revenue between the investors, which would include the public.
For Hill, putting public money towards a stadium is investing in Nevada’s tourism and hospitality industry, just like what has been invested in the city’s convention infrastructure.
“The convention center doesn’t make money either,” he said, “It is built to provide a platform to attract people to Las Vegas. The stadium is really the same thing.”
Steve Hill, chairman of the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee; Neil deMause, journalist and stadium skeptic
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