Published Thursday, April 28, 2016 | 9:26 a.m.
Updated Thursday, April 28, 2016 | 3:57 p.m.
Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis said today he was serious about moving his team to Las Vegas and offered a half-billion-dollar pledge for a proposed $1.4 billion, 65,000-seat domed football stadium.
Davis told an influential tourism committee gathered at UNLV that the Raiders would put up $500 million toward the stadium if Nevada legislators approve public funding for the project and other NFL owners allow the team to relocate.
Those significant obstacles would remain in the way of the stadium project, even after it’s been thoroughly vetted by the tourism panel.
“We do want to be your partners. We’re not coming in looking for a free handout,” Davis said. “I want to tell you what I told Gov. Sandoval a few weeks ago: Together, we can turn the Silver State into the Silver and Black State.”
Overall, the stadium would be paid for with $750 million in public money and $650 million in private funds, backers told the 11-member committee of leaders from Nevada’s public and private sectors.
The public portion of the stadium cost could come from taxes on hotel rooms. Some $200 million of the Raiders’ contribution would come from an NFL loan.
Davis appeared alongside soccer star David Beckham, as well as executives from casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Majestic Realty Co. and others, to make the case for the proposed stadium.
Sands and Majestic would most likely build the facility on 42 acres owned by UNLV on Tropicana near Koval Lane. The group that met today, the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee, could help them secure some public money for the project, though it does not have the final say.
While the idea of the Raiders moving to Las Vegas has been met with some skepticism about whether NFL owners would allow a team in the U.S. gambling capital, Davis said he would make the league an “offer they can’t refuse.” He also said a move to Las Vegas would be a “lifetime commitment” for him.
If built, the stadium would host UNLV football games and other large events, but its most-discussed use would be for an NFL team — specifically the Raiders. Beckham, who has had a professional relationship with Sands in Asia, also addressed its potential to host big soccer matches.
“To bring a great organization like the Raiders to somewhere like Vegas is incredible but...it’s bigger than that. It’s a bigger idea. It’s about the MLS coming here; it’s about bringing the biggest European teams here,” Beckham said.
Committee members — including elected officials and resort executives — pressed for more details on such areas as the project’s funding and the timeline for getting NFL approval to move the Raiders. Among the members, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and UNLV President Len Jessup appeared to be particularly enthusiastic supporters.
Steve Hill, the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, who chairs the committee, said he wants to meet with stadium backers soon to develop a separate analysis that the panel can consider at a later meeting. That would resemble the approach the panel has taken to another big-ticket proposal — the expansion and renovation of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The stadium proposal took a big step forward today with Davis’ appearance at UNLV, but it is by no means a sure thing.
Even if it receives a favorable recommendation from the infrastructure committee, the project will likely require a special session of the state Legislature to secure funding in a timely fashion. And a relocation of the Raiders would need approval from 24 of the NFL’s 32 team owners.
Supporters today were confident those hurdles could be overcome.
Sands and Majestic have proposed the creation of a Clark County Stadium Authority that would be in charge of designing, financing, building and operating the new stadium. The authority would be made up of five members — two appointed by Sands and Majestic, two appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval and one appointed by the Clark County Commission.
The companies would also want a tax increment district in the area around the stadium. Details would still need to be ironed out, but Majestic executive Craig Cavileer said the district would help the stadium’s private backers get a return on their investment.
“We invest $650 million, and in return we have a stadium that we operate. And we also have the tax district which gives us a refund, if you will, on an annualized basis for whatever increment we create,” Cavileer said at a news conference.
“We created the increment; we’d like to have that in order to create a revenue stream to fund the property,” he said.
Even before Davis and Beckham came into the meeting today, a contingent of Raiders fans were on hand nearby to show support for bringing the team to Las Vegas. One of them, local resident Richard Cervera, 47, stood outside the meeting room holding a sign that showed the Raiders logo surrounded by the outline of Nevada in black.
Cervera said the Raiders “would do a lot for Las Vegas,” including offering another attractive activity for tourists. But he wasn’t convinced the team would actually move here.
“It’s a coin flip,” he said. “I’m hoping.”
The stadium wasn’t the only item on the agenda for the infrastructure committee today. The meeting began with a discussion about the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s $1.4 billion plan to expand and renovate its convention center.
The authority wants to build a new convention facility at the site of the shuttered Riviera and renovate its existing facility across Paradise Road.
Hill introduced a proposal for funding that work. The proposal, as fleshed out further by Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis, involves a 0.5 percent to 0.6 percent increase in the room tax rate and capping the local government room tax collection allowance at $25 million annually.
Backers of the convention center and stadium projects have clashed at times, as both have indicated they may need room tax money.
MGM Resorts International has been a vocal supporter of the convention center, with CEO Jim Murren arguing forcefully against diverting any room tax dollars from that project toward the stadium plan.
A spokesman for MGM Resorts emailed a statement after today’s meeting saying that the infrastructure committee had “unanimously signaled a consensus” that the convention center project should move forward.
“We are as excited as everyone in having David Beckham and the leadership of the Raiders come to our town, but we are even more pleased and excited to witness the commitment to the convention and trade show industry that supports tens of thousands of jobs and opportunities for everyone in our community,” the statement said.
The infrastructure committee can’t give final approval to either project, but it will send recommendations on those and other proposals to the governor in July.