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John L. Smith On Adelson's Pussycat Legislature

Associated Press
Associated Press

The costs keep moving, but give the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee credit: It finally has appeared to distill a few painful facts from the developers pitching a $1.9 billion domed football stadium.

Brought by Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson and promoted by two of his top executives, it has been described as a family project and something of a gift to the community. And what a contribution it is. The family is willing to put up $650 million of its own money to see the stadium come to fruition. Why, there’s practically a big red bow tied around it already.

All that’s needed, they say, is approval of $750 million in hotel room-tax revenues. And, of course, the approval of NFL owners to allow the Oakland Raiders to move from the Bay Area to the Strip.

But not only has that $750 million become a sticking point, it was clear from Thursday’s meeting that the stadium’s actual cost is an even more elusive number. It’s why some committee members pushed to make sure the taxpayer investment in the project wouldn’t exceed 39 percent with a maximum investment of the $750 million.

The developers didn’t like that.

Committee member and County Commissioner Steve Sisolak noted the estimated cost of the project has been floated at from $1.3 billion to $2.5 billion.  That’s a lot of wiggle room. For some reason, the developer bristles at the provision that public funding not exceed 39 percent of the project. Does it know something lowly sports fans do not?

Lowly sports fans with the ability to Google search can find innumerable stories of public-private stadium boondoggles socked with many millions in cost overruns.

Another area that ought to concern all taxpayers: The still-unknown cost of improving the infrastructure -- roads and off ramps and flyovers and sewer and water systems -- leading to the stadium’s front door. A few million is one thing, but what if the infrastructure costs $100 million or more? Don’t expect the developer to pick up the tab.

Here’s another issue that ought to be better appreciated: While Sands executive Rob Goldstein on Thursday said the developer might see just 3 or 4 percent return on its investment, his fellow Adelson acolyte Andy Abboud on a local talk radio broadcast said the number could be double that. Is it a 3 percent profit, or a 6 percent profit?

The one thing we know for certain is, the developer has absolutely no interest in the taxpayer seeing a dollar profit from its $750 million buy-in. That was, how do they say it, a “nonstarter.”

Another issue that’s sure to make those numbers shift again: All parties now appear in agreement that the estimated 46 major event dates submitted by the developer is completely unrealistic in the near term.

The infrastructure committee is tasked with analyzing the proposal and making its recommendation to Governor Brian Sandoval, who is responsible for deciding whether to call a special session of the Legislature to hammer out details and likely approve the project.

They may be fighting in the court of public opinion and finding some skepticism on the infrastructure committee, but the developer is likely to find itself herding pussycats at a special session. Adelson’s political contributions and clout are legend in the Silver State.

But remember, it’s essentially a gift to the community.

Consider the stadium proposal the gift that keeps on taking.

For KNPR’s State of Nevada, I’m John L. Smith.

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