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Las Vegas And San Diego: Two Stadium Ripoffs?

Image Courtesy: Manica Architecture/all rights reserved
Image Courtesy: Manica Architecture/all rights reserved

It isn’t only the residents of Las Vegas that are wondering about the wisdom of building a new football stadium.

San Diego is faced with a lot of the same questions. That city is considering a new stadium for the Chargers.

Las Vegas is trying to woo the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas…and a stadium would be part of the package.

Michael Hiltzik is a business columnist with the Los Angeles Times. His column “What else is new? NFL, billionaires prepare two new stadium ripoffs”was in the August 29, 2016 edition of the paper. 

 “They’re a ripoff when they involve public financing,” he said, “That’s because a benefits of having a brand new stadium and of course an approved franchise always go into the pockets of into the owners of the team or the owners of the stadium.”

Hiltzik said the NFL will talk about civic pride but it really is about money and the money "flows to a very narrow segment of beneficiaries."   

Hiltzik agrees with the argument that many opponents of the stadium have made, which is the money could be put to better use.

"If the powers that be think that there is still room to raise the hotel rate in Clark County, then the question is why raise it just to put money into the pockets of the owners' of the Las Vegas Raiders or Sheldon Adelson? And the answer is there really is no rationale for that," he said.

Hiltzik said history is on his side. He said these kinds of projects do not improve the economy.

"We know from the history of public and privately financed stadiums all across the country for decades and decades that they do not produce an overall increase in economic activity," he said.

Many supporters of the stadium idea say Las Vegas is an exception to that rule, because the city is unique. It is a tourist destination to begin with and the stadium will bring even more people here to see games, concerts and events.

Hiltzik said in all likelihood the stadium will actually "cannibalize all of these other entertainment opportunities." 

He said Las Vegas should look to San Diego as an example. Voters in that city, who already have a team they're very loyal to, are reluctant to give the team and its owner another deal because of how they have been burned in the past.  

Hiltzik also disputed the idea floated by Sheldon Adelson in a Las Vegas Review-Journal article that a stadium would boost hotel occupancy rates during the city's traditionally slow month of December.

"Do you really want to put $750 million of public financing into a stadium because two weeks out the year in December occupancy dips?" he said.

The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee must give its recommendation about the stadium to Gov. Brian Sandoval at the end of the month. It will then be up to the governor to decide whether to call a special session. To increase the hotel room tax to help pay for the stadium, two-thirds of both the Assembly and the Senate must vote yes. 




Michael Hiltzik, business columnist, Los Angeles Times

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Since June 2015, Fred has been a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada.