Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 | 2 a.m.
CARSON CITY — Nevada made a bold play Friday for the Oakland Raiders, officially offering $750 million in taxpayer funds to help build a Las Vegas football stadium that team owner Mark Davis said will be a "proud new home for the Raider Nation.''
Legislation to provide public funding for a 65,000-seat, $1.9 billion domed stadium off the Strip passed both the Assembly and Senate on Friday and now heads to Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, who praised the deal. The governor's office said Sandoval plans to sign the bill in Las Vegas, probably on Monday.
Davis issued a statement shortly after the votes, calling Friday a "historic day'' and expressing gratitude to Sandoval, Nevada's tourism advocates and the state Legislature.
"All parties have worked extremely hard to develop and approve this tremendous stadium project that will serve as a proud new home for the entire Raider Nation,'' the owner said.
In the Bay Area, Raiders supporters said their fight to keep the team in Oakland is not over, even though there is no concrete plan in California to provide public financing for a new Raiders stadium.
"This vote changes nothing. We're not giving up on keeping the Raiders in the Bay Area,'' said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, a business advocacy group.
The move comes as efforts to keep the Raiders in Oakland repeatedly fizzled before they ever firmed up, with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf vowing never to spend a public dime on a new stadium. The city and Alameda County, joint owners of the Coliseum properties that house the Raiders, Oakland Athletics and Golden State Warriors, are still paying an estimated $95 million debt on 1990s-era renovations that lured the Raiders back from Los Angeles.
The Las Vegas stadium is backed by billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson and supported by business groups that said Las Vegas needs more big-ticket entertainment options to drive tourism to the state. Adelson would contribute $650 million and Davis has pledged $500 million. The stadium would also be home to UNLV football.
Still, the Raiders need three-quarters of NFL team owners to approve a move to Las Vegas — a vote that could happen in January when team owners meet.
Scott McKibben, head of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, which runs the Coliseum and Oracle Arena, said that by the time NFL owners meet, Oakland will have a plan to offer to compete with Las Vegas.
"At the end of the day we don't spend a lot of time worrying about what's happening in Las Vegas,'' McKibben said, insisting that Oakland will come up with a stadium proposal. "We need to get this done in the next couple of months, (before) the owners meeting.''
Schaaf, however, did not offer an immediate response to the news out of Carson City. She has repeatedly said she is working on a deal that protects the taxpayers while providing options for the Raiders.
The prospect of a team moving to Las Vegas was once rebuffed by all major professional sports leagues due to concerns about gambling. But former Raiders CEO Amy Trask said those concerns are "antiquated.''
"Anyone with the Internet or cellular connectivity can gamble from any location,'' Trask said. "The NFL now understands this.''
Trask said the Raiders are better suited than many other teams to do well in Las Vegas, a relatively small market by NFL standards, due to the Raiders' large fan base that extends far beyond the Bay Area and often travels to see the team play. Trask, however, said that doesn't mean she thinks the team should move.
"I believe that there is a deal to be made in Oakland ... if the team chooses to commit its resources to pursuing such a deal,'' Trask said. "I also believe that it is a distinct possibility that the team will instead opt to move to Las Vegas.''
Bay Area Raiders fans were taking the news hard, saying it was particularly bittersweet that after supporting the team for 13 years of mostly losing seasons to now have an exciting team with a 4-1 record that may leave.
"Every time I get momentarily excited watching a game, then I am brought to reality when I realize 'Oh, this is the team that wants to move to Las Vegas,''' said Jim Zelinski of Save Oakland Sports.
Zelinski said Save Oakland Sports will press the NFL to keep the Raiders in Oakland by showing it's the best place for the team financially. He said the group is asking fans to sign a petition saying they won't travel to see the franchise play in Las Vegas or buy its merchandise.
"It's a false narrative that the Northern California fan base is OK with the move,'' Zelinski said. "It's absolutely false. We will let the NFL know that.''
The vote in the Nevada Assembly came after the house spent 17 hours debating the bill beginning Thursday. Some lawmakers said there was not enough in the deal for taxpayers, who would be liable for the $750 million public bond issue that would be repaid with new revenue from a Las Vegas-area hotel tax.
However, many lawmakers said the promise of much-needed jobs influenced their decision.
"This was a very difficult vote for all us,'' said Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, who voted for the bill. "I listened to all the men and women who testified about being out of work for so long, about the loss of medical care and pension benefits and the economic shot in the arm this project could provide.''
Critics of the deal said taxpayers could be on the hook if the hotel tax does not meet expectations and questioned why a public subsidy would be given to Adelson, one of the richest men in the world.
"In my household, you address your needs before you address your wants,'' said Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson, D-Reno. "You don't go out and spend money on big luxury items before you pay the rent, before you pay the mortgage, before you keep the power on. I don't let that happen in my home and I'm not going to let that happen in my (legislative) house. We are funding wants — luxury items — before we are taking care of our needs.''
The bill also included funds for the Las Vegas Convention Center, which supporters say is losing business to other cities because it does not have the capacity for large-scale conventions.
The bill originally passed the Senate on Tuesday. An amended version came back through on Friday.
Meanwhile, in Oakland, the Athletics — which have wanted a new ballpark and now share the Coliseum with the Raiders — vowed to stay in the East Bay city.
"We wish them the best of luck in their quest for a new stadium,'' Oakland A's team president Michael Crowley said of the Raiders. "We remain focused on our efforts solely in Oakland.''