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June 28, 2017

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Group against stadium proposal because it ‘contains unacceptable level of risk for residents’

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Courtesy of MANICA Architechture

An artist’s illustration of a stadium on Russell Road and Las Vegas Boulevard was revealed during a Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meeting at UNLV Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016.

Renderings of Proposed Stadium

An artist's illustration of a stadium on Russell Road and Las Vegas Boulevard was revealed during a Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meeting at UNLV Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. Launch slideshow »

A local group made up of faith-based and nonprofit organizations has aired concerns about the proposed stadium plan that it says would privatize the profits and socialize the risks.

Nevadans for the Common Good — a grassroots-style, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving the lives of residents — first voiced opposition to the stadium plan last week. On Wednesday, the group went a step further: Outside a Las Vegas school and church, members outlined their objections to the public’s $750 million public contribution.

Proponents say the stadium could bring the Oakland Raiders here, giving the city its first NFL team and mega-events center, while providing a new home for the UNLV football program.

“We have studied the stadium plan, and we have concluded that it is a bad deal,” the group’s president, Marta Poling Schmitt, said. “We are not opposed to the building of a stadium; however, we are opposed to this stadium plan because it contains an unacceptable level of risk for the residents of Clark County.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval intends to call a special legislative session in October to consider tourism-related improvements, including construction of the estimated $1.9 billion stadium project put forward by Las Vegas Sands Corp. Earlier this month, an advisory committee recommended a plan that involves a $750 million public contribution and no profit-sharing provision.

Under the proposed plan, the public funding would be achieved this way: Clark County would issue up to $750 million worth of general obligation bonds, and that money would be paid back via an 0.88 percent increase to the county hotel room tax in the gaming corridor.

Members of Nevadans for the Common Good say the use of general obligation bonds leaves taxpayers on the hook to cover payments if room taxes prove insufficient.

Room tax revenue could easily drop, members said, if the country experiences another recession, forcing would-be visitors to tighten their wallets. When visitor volume dipped during the most recent economic downturn, room tax collections followed suit — falling roughly $66 million from 2007 to 2009, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

“Anybody wanna bet that we’re not going to have a recession in the next 33 years?” group member Carl Scarbrough said, referring to the proposed length of the bonds.

The group also took issue with the bond length, saying it will cost millions more in interest, and the touted economic benefits of any stadium. Some of the economic impact predictions are built on the assumption that the stadium will host 46 events a year, which Schmitt called “rosy speculation.”

“If we are being asked to swallow this nasty pill,” she said, “then we need many additional community benefits attached to it.”

The money could be better used, the group said, if put toward other community needs like schools, parks, roads and hospitals.

Nevadans for the Common Good has sent a letter to Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of Sands, requesting a meeting. Group member also say they’ve been sharing their concerns with state lawmakers and plan to attend the special session in Carson City.

It’s not the only group critical of the stadium proposal. The Nevada Taxpayers Association also expressed opposition to the current plan for similar financial-related reasons.

Sands officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Members of Nevadans for the Common Good did not attend the public Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meetings, where the developers and community leaders discussed the project before a recommendation was sent to the governor.

The organization chose to speak out now that more details are known. Group members say a better stadium deal would consist of less public funding, a profit-sharing provision and bonds that place the risk on developers.

Schmitt urged others to get involved.

“If you are a taxpayer here, you call your representatives. You call your assembly representatives. You call your state senators,” she said. “You tell them what you think about this idea.”

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