Las Vegas Sun

May 23, 2019

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Wild Wild West site looks like ideal place for NFL stadium

Welcome to your new home, Oakland Raiders.

OK, that’s more than a bit premature, but Las Vegas appears to have come up with an ideal site for a stadium to house the team.

It’s the so-called West Tropicana site, a 100-acre piece of ground a stone’s throw from Interstate 15 and now anchored by Station Casinos’ Wild Wild West property.

News that the site had emerged as a potential stadium location was worthy of a touchdown spike. The Tourism Infrastructure Committee should push for it as hard as possible, and here’s why:

• It’s close to the Strip but far enough away from McCarran International Airport that it shouldn’t interfere with airline operations, unlike the Trop-42 site directly across Tropicana Avenue from the airport.

• It offers quick and easy access to I-15, unlike many of the other eight sites that have been brought to the table.

• It’s plenty big. For comparison, the Dallas Cowboys’ massive AT&T Stadium complex covers 72 acres. Few other potential Raiders sites in Las Vegas offer that much ground, especially cramped properties such as the old Wet ‘n’ Wild lot south of SLS Las Vegas and the Riviera acreage now being cleared by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

• Speaking of the LVCVA, the West Tropicana site wouldn’t hinder the expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center. And that’s important because the expansion is a crucial need.

• It’s bigger than MGM Resorts’ festival grounds at Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. The festival site definitely has its appeal, given its proximity to Strip resorts and the Las Vegas Monorail route, but the West Trop location offers abundant room for game-related activities — tailgating, game-day entertainment, festivals and so forth, which are a huge part of the NFL fan experience. It also would ostensibly be cheaper — at least on a per-acre basis — because it’s not a piece of prime Strip-front real estate.

• Although it’s not on UNLV’s campus, it’s close — definitely closer and in a much more attractive location than Sam Boyd Stadium, the Rebels’ home field. But with all due respect to UNLV, the two sites it has brought to the table aren’t nearly as good as this one. They’re small, and the Trop-42 site is just too close to the airport. When Southwest Airlines is telling you a site would disrupt its operations, it’s time to look elsewhere.

So logistically, it would be hard to come up with a better option than West Tropicana.

The various business interests would have to hammer out a deal for the property, but the site certainly raises the possibility of a creative partnership involving Station and stadium developers Sands Corp. and Los Angeles-based Majestic Realty Co.

Station, with its focus on serving local consumers, would be a fantastic partner in such a venture. Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, Station has become part of the fabric of the community through a series of massive investments in Las Vegas.

Granted, finding a property is only part of the work needed to bring the stadium to life. The stakeholders and decision-makers will need to craft a funding package that relies on tax revenue to some extent, but not nearly to the tune of the $750 million that has been floated in other proposals. Public funding should definitely be part of any package because the community at large will benefit from the NFL coming to Las Vegas, but it should be more in the 20 to 30 percent range rather than more than half of the total cost — as was the case with an earlier cost estimate of $1.4 billion. That estimate has since risen to $1.7 billion to $2.1 billion, meaning the $750 million in public funding represents a smaller percentage of the overall cost.

And with an NFL stadium would come an even greater need to unsnarl the valley’s punishing traffic problems. It’s crucial for leaders to speed up development and funding for public transportation improvements that would include a light-rail system connecting McCarran with the Strip and beyond — including the stadium site.

Still, the emergence of the site offers a strong ray of hope that Las Vegas can pull off a stadium project and, in one triumphant year, not only land an NHL franchise, but attract an NFL team too.

So let’s go, committee members. To steal some football slang for a score, take the West Trop site to the house.

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