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NFL Stadium: A Good Deal Or A Sucker Bet?

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Manica Architecture

KNPR's State of Nevada is taking a closer look at the $1.9 billion plan for an NFL stadium in Las Vegas. You've heard what casino owners, business leaders and some politicians think about the idea. 

Last week, a committee with many of those people recommended this mix of money to pay for the stadium: $750 million in room taxes, $650 million from billionaire Sheldon Adelson; and $500 million from the Oakland Raiders and the NFL.

And competing polls have since been released. A Rasmussen poll found more than 50 percentof those polled are against public funding for the stadium. Another poll by WPA Research found voters by a two-to-one margin supported taxpayer funding for a stadium.

KNPR News talked with supporters and foes of the idea. But it's also going to include listeners.

Do Clark County residents really want the stadium built? If it's built, will they vote for or against politicians who support it? Will any of the benefit reaped by developers and the Oakland Raiders trickle down to county residents.

And does Clark County need a stadium to maintain its edge in its number one industry, the service economy?


Clark County Commissioner Chris Guinchigliani 

Why are you against the stadium?

"Because no tax payer funded stadium, if you look at the actual documentation and the history and the economics reports, has ever panned out or panned out for the public."

"I still think that subliminally this is an attempt to stop that expansion and or remodel [of the Las Vegas Convention Center] at the expense of having this debate about whether or the not the NFL is coming here. That is my argument: if you really believe they’re coming, then let them do their due diligence and in February or end of January and they choose to vote to come that way at least you have something solid to take a look at."

“This was all written by the ‘stakeholders group.’ The stakeholders group were the developers. Even the makeup of the stadium authority is frightening to me. It’s not a public body. They can call it what they want. They’ve only got two elected on it.”

“It’s not going to be owned by the taxpayers. It is going to be owned by the stadium authority board made up of a majority of people that are unelected. So there’s no real accountability and it’s not even delineated what background those folks would need to have. I know Steve Sisolak has said that, but I’m sorry it does not belong to the taxpayers. The debt will belong to the taxpayers”

"I think it was the mayor who brought up the issue of the infrastructure. Who is paying for that? They will pay for on site not any of the off site."

Andy Abboud with Las Vegas Sands Corporation: 

Do you think people support the stadium?

"I think the support for the stadium is overwhelming. Every bit of data that we have ever gathered and seen, that is done objectively… but from the polling that we have done the support for the stadium has been pretty overwhelming."

What kind of events are going to draw thousands of people to the stadium?

"Let’s look at what we could do with neutral site college football games. There has been tremendous interest from a variety of sources and people with background in promotion and college athletics in having neutral site college football games."

"We have interest from the Premiere League, from Manchester United and pre-season friendlies. We have interest in some of the top names in soccer being here in the very slow summer months, drawing people from all over the world to watch Premiere League soccer."

"There is nothing wrong with investing public dollars in infrastructure projects that will continue to make the city grow. That will increase visitation. That will create almost 9,000 jobs, bolstering the economy, bringing more people to the city, bringing more residents to the city and increasing our tax base."   

Robert Lang with Brookings Mountain West 

Is it magic that Las Vegas will benefit from the stadium when other cities have not?

"It’s not magic. Think about this intuitively for a moment. If you think about a stadium in Phoenix, Arizona and when they built the stadium in Glendale, the majority of people in attendance in a stadium in Phoenix… are residents of the region. Therefore the stadium is just a place for the consumption of the internal region product… If you have a stadium – and we see this in our live entertainment sector – the majority of our live entertainment sector is not directed at the residents of the region. The majority of our $150 million a year… live entertainment sector that is mostly generated from tourism."

"Once you get them in the city what can you do with them. You can cross sell this city better than anywhere else. When you get someone into Orlando, they’re basically in chain hotels and formula restaurants. You get somebody in key game like a PAC 12 championship and you’ve got the rich alumni of Stanford and USC parked in our city and consuming – my God! What else can we sell them?"

"We’ve never had a problem building big buildings, charging people to get in and then programming what goes on in the big buildings. That is pretty much what we do."   

John Diaz editoral page editor with the San Francisco Chronicle:

Are the people in the Bay Area unhappy that the Raiders might move to Las Vegas?

"There is one thing that there is almost unanimous consensus on in the Bay Area is that there is no way  on earth that Oakland or the Bay Area would offer anything remotely close to what Las Vegas is offering in public subsidies to keep a football team."

"We have a lot of experience in the Bay Area with sports stadiums, good experiences and bad experiences, and there is one thing that we have found that the rest of the nation has found that is public subsidies for stadiums are not a good deal over all. This one is a doozy even by those standards. A staggering amount of public money." 

"It is hard to believe that if this deal is really such a good deal that it doesn't work with private development. We've seen that with the 49ers new stadium." 

John Howe former Minnesota state senator: 

What did NFL commissioner Roger Goddell say while the Minnesota Legislature was discussing whether to use public money to fund the new Vikings stadium?

"This isn’t exactly what he said but I’ll just kind of give you the essence of what he said, ‘Nice little team you’ve got here – The Minnesota Vikings – would be a shame if something happened to it.’"  

"That’s not exactly what he said but that was the message. It was the fear. It instilled a lot of fear and I think the governor at the time, Gov. Dayton, was very fearful that we were going to lose the Vikings." 

What message do you have to your legislative peers in Nevada?

"Transparency. Take your time. Do the due diligence that is required of you. Don't be manipulated and keep your principals." 

Mitch Moss host ESPN Las Vegas:

Are most of your listeners in support of the idea?

Yes, most of the fans that listen to our station are going to be die hard football fans for the most part, or big sports fans in general.

I would say that of the listeners we have talked to and the polls that we have done, unofficial polls obviously, I would say it’s at least 65-35 that are in favor of spending $750 million on the tourism tax for the stadium.  

If the Raiders continue their years of losing, do you expect Las Vegas fans to support them?

I have my questions about that to. Here’s the thing you have to remember, the people who are so fired up to bring in this stadium and this team… that is going to be their second team. Because so many people that live in Las Vegas are not from here. They’re fans of the Steelers and the Packers and the Dolphins and the Cowboys… so then they’re going to make the Raiders their second team.

But let’s say we got the Raiders when they fell off the map after their Super Bowl appearance in the early 2000s and they had a 10 year run when they were eight and eight or less. I don’t think people in this town are going make that a sell out every single Sunday – no!   

Jeanette Mott Oxford former Misssouri legislator:

Why did you work against the St. Louis Cardinals stadium?

From 1991 to 2000, I was director of a statewide anti-poverty organization and I was aware that we could not get money for a wide variety of things that pull people out of poverty or feed hungry kids. We were constantly being told there wasn’t enough money… and yet we were willing to come up with over $400 million for 17 millionaires and billionaires who owned the St. Louis Cardinals. That just seemed so unfair to me.

What are your feelings now about the NFL?

I do think they make unreasonable demands and that one rich owner will back up another rich owner basically in order to have their way.

From Desert Companion: Sudden Death: How to rush a stadium deal


Chris Giunchigliani, commissioner, Clark County Commission;  Andy Abboud, Sands Corporation; ​ Robert Lang, Brookings Mountain West;  John Diaz, editorial page editor, San Francisco Chronicle;  Former Minnesota Senator John Howe; Former Missouri legislator  Jeanette Mott OxfordMitch Moss, commentator/host, ESPN Las Vegas

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.